Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tap discretionary effort for innovation and success

Learning & Innovation – September 27, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


Tap discretionary effort for innovation and success


It is often said that our people are our most important resource, our competitive edge.  At this critical time, it is our hardworking OFWs (again!) who are keeping our economy afloat.  In business, it is the ability of corporate leaders to tap discretionary efforts that spells success.


Author Casey Wilson (The Cornerstone of Engaging Leadership), describes the engaged individuals as leveraging their strengths and discretionary efforts to help themselves become high achievers.  "They proactively build relationships with others.  They demonstrate commitment to their own development and success, the success of others, and the success of their organization.  Engaged individuals have high aspirations and they work positively and proactively to better understand their assignments and excel in them.  When assignments are not available, they create work for themselves by volunteering for additional tasks.  They foster and facilitate conditions that contribute to their own success and that of others."


On the other hand, we have people who thrive on negativity—complaining and nagging.  Wilson say that these people give the minimum amount of effort possible because they perceive that nobody cares about them or what they do at work.   "They arrive each day, perform a little work—typically work of low quality—and promptly 'check out' of work .  Actively disengaged people are purposely contrary, often going against the grain.  They ignore feedback.  They let everyone knows about their unhappiness and some even try to perpetuate negativity in hopes of getting others to join them—sort of misery-loves-company perspective."


In between, we have the non-engaged individuals (puede na, sige lang, okay lang) who remain neutral whatever happens.  Wilson says that they do not invest much effort in going the extra mile for themselves nor for others.  "While they do not necessarily work against the organization, they do not proactively innovate or work to better it either.   Many just hang out, biding time day-in and day-out, simply riding the work wave.


"Looking at the percentages of people within a given workforce, there are a number of interesting points:

ü      Only about one-fourth of people are passionate, committed, and connected to their work.

ü      About one-fifth are working against their organizations through active disengagement.

ü      Over half of people are simply floating through their work days, not working against their organizations but also not feeling connected and committed.

ü      About here-fourths of people have some amount of discretionary effort they are not giving to their organization and leader.  Discretionary effort is the amount of energy kept in reserves that someone choose to use or not depending on how they feel about their work."


Every one of us has a reservoir of discretionary effort we can leverage deliberately, or not.  One thing amazing is that it is a renewable resource.  What we need are engaging leaders who can inspire our workforce to focus on goals and to achieve more.  Engaging leaders are those who build trust, understand unique personal motivations and differences, manage performance from a people-centric perspective and not simply task-oriented and create emotional connections between workforce and the work.


In Davao and here in Cebu, CD-R King is proving to be a big success.  You have to take a number and wait your turn to be served.  They even refused overflow customers,  "Sorry, we have no more number."  They used to sell only blank CDs and DVDs, now their tagline reads "your one-stop media provider."  They sell all sorts of camera and computer parts, accessories and supplies.  And their products carry their own brand name and logo.  They proudly attach their stickered logo to the packaging of other brands.  Ask any Cebuano or Davaoeno where to buy camera paraphernalia and they promptly lead you to CD-R King.  They must have teams of engaged workforce.  All of them seem to be enjoying their job and liking their customers.  


I must check them out when I get back to Manila next week.,




Thursday, September 18, 2008

Engaged and connection workforce and citizenry

Learning & Innovation – September 20, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Engaged and connected workforce and citizenry


Do you notice that a lot of us have become disengaged and self-centered (makasarili)?  We are thinking of I, me and myself most of the time.  We think that the world, the country (government), the general public, their employer, our family and friends owe us.


Worse is that we seem to think that we are not accountable for anything.


Last week the Rotary Club of Mandaluyong North led by President Jong Vina and the People Management Association of the Philippines' CSR Committee headed by Norilyn Fogata of Ever Bilena conducted a one-day career and employment planning program for graduating college students at the Rizal Technological University.   In all schools this program is given (for free), after all the discussions on life planning, career planning, entrepreneurship, preparing resumes and gearing up for job interviews and other topics, the one big question from the students is "How much is the pay?" 


Speakers and hard-working committee members Virgie Mendoza, Serely Alcazar, Barbie Atienza, Ernie Cecilia, Rex Ressurreccion and Merly Manaloto with Rotarians Lina Aseneta, Manny Sy-peng, Jack Sia, Bert Lomibao, Romy Jaranilla, Ronnie Almestas and Cesar Regala could only shake their heads and observe that the students don't ask about how best they could contribute, they are only interested in how much they could earn.


Very soon these students would join the multitude of individuals that just float through their jobs on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis, not feeling connected to their work or committed to their organization.


This is just one example of how much disengaged we have become.  Casey Wilson, author of "The Cornerstone of Engaging Leadership" defines engagement as having passion, connectedness, motivation, and a willingness to give your best in order to benefit yourself and your organization.  Engagement creates connections with and for others.  Engaging leaders actively and intentionally create an engaging environment by connecting people to their work in meaningful ways.


Thomas Alva Edison once said, "If we all did the things we were capable of, we could literally astound ourselves."


So how do we shift our focus from our personal and material gains to becoming engaging persons, engaging leaders? 


First, Ms. Wilson writes, we need engaged leaders who could raise expectations about the work, the meaning it creates for the workforce (everybody in the organization, at all levels), their sense of connection to it and the harmony it creates in their lives.   People will become engaged when they are rewarded with the ability to contribute and influence. 


Ms. Wilson continues,  "As part of the evolving landscape of leadership in the 21st century, it is important to realize that the traditional command-oriented style of leadership is not engaging today's workforce.  While in some organizations this style brings greater efficiency and consistency, it also marginalizes and shapes the contributions that individuals are willing to make.  People do not perceive this style of leadership as mutually beneficial.  Instead of inciting passion, innovation, creativity and excitement, this approach has leaders trying to mold and shape everyone to be the same, which results in a group of employees acting more like inefficient machines than passionate, involved individuals."


So we have leaders like President Gloria Arroyo who, instead of leading and inspiring our people, has reduced them to mendicancy with programs like Php500 dole-outs, free this and that (after you line up for hours under the punishing heat of the sun).  We have parents who, instead of spending quality time with their children, would rather just give them juicy allowances and pamper them with material things.  The business world is inundated with task-focused leaders, but are not held accountable for cynical, disengaged workers.


The prevailing world situation, that could turn dimmer in the near future, needs leaders who have vested interest in creating actively engaged individuals and teams who will provide the competitive advantage for our country and our business organizations. 


We'll have more next column.  Meanwhile, I am here in Davao enjoying its beauty and bounty.  Will tell you about that, too.,  


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Seven Ages of the Leader by Warrne Bennis

Learning & Innovation – September 6, 2008 & September 13, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


The Seven ages of the Leader by Warren Bennis



is like attending one whole seminar on leadership with leading gurus as trainers.  It tells about Leadership—Warts and All, When Followers Become Toxic, Putting Leaders on the Couch:  A Conversation with Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Managers and Leaders:  Are They Different, What Makes a Leader?, Narcissistic Leaders:  The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons and Understanding Leadership.  And they were written by respected experts such as Barbara Kellerman, Lynn Offerman, Diane Coutu, Abraham Zalesznik, Daniel Goldman, Michael MacCoby and W.C.H. Prentice.  Get a copy and learn a lot about leadership.  What I am missing is some kind of self-assessment instrument.  Well, maybe in a real seminar.


Intriguing is The Seven Ages of the Leader by Warren Bennis.  In this intuitive article, Prof. Bennis, founding chairman of the University of Southern California's Leadership Institute, reflects on his own leadership journey from a young lieutenant in the infantry in World War II, as president of a university and as the mentor to a unique nursing student and also shares the experiences of his fellow leaders.


A leader's life has seven ages and they parallel those Shakespeare describes in "As You Like It."  To paraphrase, these stages can be described as infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, general, statesman, and sage.  One way to learn about leadership is to look at each of these developmental stages and consider the issues and crises that are typical of each.


Infant.  For the young man or woman on the brink of becoming a leader, the world that lies ahead is a mysterious, even frightening place.  The fortunate neophyte leader has a mentor.  The popular view of mentors is that they seek out younger people to encourage and champion, in fact the reverse is more often true.  The best mentors are usually recruited and one mark of a future leader is the ability to identify, woo, and win the mentors who will change his or her life. It may feel strange to seek a mentor even before you have the job, but it's a good habit to develop early on.  Recruit a team to back you up; you may feel lonely in your first top job, but you won't be totally unsupported.


The schoolboy, with a shining face.  The first leadership experience is an agonizing education.  It's like parenting, in that nothing else in life fully prepares you to be responsible, to a greater or lesser degree, for other people's well-being.  Worse, you have to learn how to do the job in public, subject to unsettling scrutiny of your every word and act, a situation that's profoundly unnerving and for all but minority of people who truly crave the spotlight.  Like it or not, as a new leader you are always onstage, and everything about you is fair game for comment, criticism, and interpretation (or misinterpretation).  Your dress, your spouse, your table manners, your diction, your wit, your friends, your children's table manners—all will be inspected, dissected and judged.  Your first acts will win people over or they will turn people against you, sometimes permanently.  And those initial acts may have a long-lasting effect on how the group performs.  It is, therefore, almost always best for the novice to make a low-key entry.


The Lover, with a woeful ballad.  Many leaders find themselves "sighing like furnace" as they struggle with the tsunami of problems every organization presents.  For the leader who has come up through the ranks, one of the toughest is how to relate to former peers who now report to you.  It is difficult to set boundaries and fine-tune your working relationships with former cronies. As a modern leader, you don't have the option of telling the person with whom you once shared a pod and lunchtime confidences that you know her not.  But relationships inevitably change when a person is promoted from within the ranks.  You may no longer be able to speak openly as you once did, and your friends may feel awkward around you or resent you.  They may perceive you as lording your position over them when you're just behaving as a leader should. Knowing what to pay attention to is just as important—and just as difficult.  The challenge for the newcomer is knowing who to listen to and who to trust.


The Bearded Soldier.  Over time, leaders grow comfortable with the role.  This comfort brings confidence and conviction, but it also snap the connection between leader and followers.  Two things can happen as a result:  leaders may forget the true impact of their words and actions, and they may assume that what they are hearing from followers is what needs to be heard.  The scrutiny never really ends.  Followers continue to pay close attention to event he most offhand remark, and the more effective the leader is the more careful he or she must be, because followers may implement an idea that was a little more than a passing thought.  Followers don't tell leaders everything.  A second challenge for leaders in their ascendancy is to nurture those people whose stars may shine as brightly as—even brighter than—the leaders' own.  In many ways, this is the real test of character for a leader.  Many people cannot resist using a leadership position to thwart competition.  Authentic leaders are generous.


The General, full of wise saws.  One of the greatest challenges a leader faces at the height of his or her career is not simply allowing people to speak the truth but actually being able to hear it.  A current example can be seen in Howell Raines, the deposed executive editor of the New York Times.  Among the many ways he blocked the flow of information upward was to limit he pool of people he championed and, thus the number of people he listened to.  Raines was notorious for having a small A-list of stars and a large B-list made up of everyone else.  The two-tier system was unwise and ultimately a career-ender for Raines.  His  attitude and of his managing editor was that their way was the only way.  He should have been a good enough newsman to be able to tell the difference between acceptance and angry silence on the part of those who worked for him.


The Statesman, with spectacles on nose.  Shakespeare's sixth age covers the years in which a leader's power begins to wane.  The leader in this stage is often hard at work preparing to pass on his or her wisdom in the interest of the organization.  The leader may also be called upon to play important interim roles, bolstered by the knowledge and perception that come with age and experience and without the sometimes distracting ambition that characterizes early career.  One of the gratifying roles that people in late career can play is the leadership equivalent of a pinch hitter.  A leader is able to perform an even better job because he or she brings a lifetime's worth of knowledge and experience but also he or she didn't have to waste time engaging in the political machinations often needed to advance a career.


The Sage, the second childishness.  "When you mentor, you know that what you have achieved will not be lost, that you are leaving a professional legacy for future generations.  The reciprocal benefits of such bonds are profound, amounting to much more than warm feelings on both sides.  Mentoring isn't a simple exchange of ideas.  Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky lived among wild baboons and found that alliances between old and young apes were an effective strategy for survival.  Older males that affiliated with younger males lived longer, healthier lives than their unallied peers.  Age is neither end nor oblivion.  Rather, it is the joyous rediscovery of childhood at its best.  It is waking up each morning ready to devour the world, full of hope and promise.  It lacks nothing but the tawdrier forms of ambition that make less sense as each day passes.


Indeed, there is a time for everything and a thing for particular times.  The important take away from this article is that leadership is a journey, not a destination.    Everything changes, in time.  As a true leader, we need to know when our time is up and how to exit graciously.