Category Archives: Brad Wolff

Change Your Mindset or Suffer the Consequences

5 Steps to Thrive in Our Unstable World

By Brad Wolff

Brad Wolff-mindset shift

We live in a world of unpredictable and uncontrollable change. How can we survive and even thrive when our environment turns against us?

Bill Evans was the CEO of Shifting Rocks Corporation, the dominant regional player in providing rocks for road construction. After thirty great years, they suddenly dropped behind two competitors. Due to a combination of unforeseen changes, sales plunged from 50 million dollars to 25 million dollars. They went from 5 million dollars profit to a loss of  2 million dollars only two years. Bill hired a firm that helps companies thrive in a changing environment. After one year of working together, Shifting Rocks reached break-even. In two years, they climbed to a 6 million dollars profit. Their engagement levels are now higher than the “good years,” and Bill enjoys his job more than ever.

Become a Flexible, Adaptive, Learning Organization

The turning point was when Bill’s mindset changed with the realization that what led to success in the past often doesn’t work today.The primary characteristics needed to thrive now are:1.

  1. Flexibility—The willingness to change or compromise.
  2. Adaptability—The ability to utilize flexibility to meet the demands of new conditions.
  3. Learnability—The ability to quickly learn new knowledge and skills that are required to meet the demands of new conditions.

When you implement these traits, you become a Flexible, Adaptive, Learning Organization (FALO). A FALO provides a unique competitive edge in an unstable environment. A key element is the mindset shift to focusing on the things that lie in your area of control rather than constantly reacting to things out of your control. Instead of things getting easier, you get better!

How do you develop a FALO?

Focus on the things that lie in your area of control rather than constantly reacting to things out of your control. Click To Tweet

 Below is a five-step process to creating a FALO:

1. Shift your mindset from solving problems via processes and technologies to solving people problems first.

All business problems (including process and technology problems) are people problems at their root since people select, develop, operate and manage your processes and technologies. The perfect processes and technologies with the wrong people or with people who are not using them properly will never work. A process and technology focus is a convenient distraction away from the more challenging arena of human beings. However, starting with processes and technologies is treating the symptoms, not the cause. Your solutions will always be suboptimal with this approach.

Step 2: Create a personal development mindset as an organizational strategy.

The key to your professional growth is your personal growth and development. We take ourselves with us everywhere we go, and your self-awareness, skills and character traits are your only tools. It’s critical to realize that these elements of personal growth are developed not inborn. Certainly, you have inborn gifts. However, none are very useful until they’ve been developed over time.

History’s most successful CEOs such as Jack Welch of GE, Lou Gerstner of IBM and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater shared a common philosophy. They recognized that as people work on their personal development, they contribute far more productivity, collaboration, and positive energy/engagement as benefits. Each of these benefits enhances the others to create a multiplier effect throughout the organization. As people develop, they also adapt much better to ongoing life challenges. The organization’s knowledge and skills (learning) increase while becoming more flexible and adaptive.

Step 3: Develop a culture that supports ongoing personal development.

Developing a strategy of personal growth requires that you develop a culture that supports this strategy. Organizations frequently fail to execute their strategies due to lacking a culture that supports these strategies. Peter Drucker said that “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Google provides one of many examples of an organization that focuses on culture as a key driver of its success. Here are their “three principles for a top-notch culture”:
  1. Mission that matters—A clear mission and vision statement to motivate and unify employees.
  2. Transparency of Leaders—A crucial element to build safety, trust and collaboration that requires openness and vulnerability.
  3. Giving everyone a voice—Aperspective that values everyone’s opinion and point of view.

Do these principles apply to other companies? Yes, in fact, it’s more difficult to apply these principles in large organizations like Google due to increased layers of complexity

Step 4: Starting with upper management, take an open, honest inventory of weaknesses: A weakness is any habitual behavior that impairs your effectiveness, which prevents you from becoming who you want to be. Having weaknesses is an unavoidable part of being human. The key is to deliberately identify and acknowledge these habits rather than trying to hide or cover-up. Your weaknesses are obvious to others anyway, so attempting to deny or hide them impairs our growth and relationships.

The authenticity of leaders about their weaknesses builds trust and respect and creates a culture where people feel safe to do the same. Research and experience consistently demonstrate the importance of people safe feeling safe. People won’t allow themselves to be open about their weaknesses until they feel safe from ridicule or punishment.

Step 5: Commit to a process of ongoing improvement.

The key is that the leaders’ commit with both their hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts). Developing new habits that serve you better than the old ones requires committed effort over time. Demonstrating this commitment helps develop a culture of people committed to their personal and professional growth.

It’s also important to develop a culture of constructive feedback and encouragement since you often don’t realize when you revert to old habits. Ongoing improvement is difficult without a culture that supports people making a consistent effort.

Developing a FALO is not complicated. It starts with a mindset shift from focusing on the external environment to focusing on the source of your success and power—the ongoing development of human beings. You can try to control your external environment or adapt to meet (or exceed) the demands. Which approach will you choose?

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.

It’s All About the People

7 Steps to Turn Employee Potential into Performance

By Brad Wolff

Brad WolffImagine on Monday, you discover that your meticulous, rule-following accountant and creative, eccentric marketing person have switched positions. How’s this likely to work out? In truth, some variation of this misalignment is common in most organizations.

The Waybeloe Potential Corporation was operating at the breakeven point for the past five years. The CEO, Harvey Waybeloe was frustrated. Another CEO told him about an employee-alignment process that was delivering amazing results for other companies. Out of desperation he decided to try it. Within two years, profits increased from breakeven to 3.2 millior dollars! The fix? Putting the right people in the right seats!

Most business leaders say that 80 percent of the work is done by only 20 percent of the workforce. This 20 percent are the top performers. They usually produce three to four times more than the others. The main reason is due to job alignment rather than attitude or drive. Here’s evidence: It’s common for top performers to be moved or promoted and then become poor performers. Likewise, many poor performers become top performers when moved to appropriate roles. Bottom line: everyone can be a top or poor performer depending on how well the work aligns with their innate characteristics.

How do you deliberately create an organization where people’s work is aligned with their innate characteristics (abilities)? Here’s an overview of a proven process that was used above.Everyone can be a top or poor performer depending on how well the work aligns with their innate characteristics. Click To Tweet

1. Shift Your Mindset From Focusing On Skills, Experience, And Education To Innate Characteristics First

It’s common for people who are “great on paper” to get hired and become poor performers. In that same vein, many top performers started off lacking in the “required” skills experience and education. When people’s work aligns with their innate characteristics, they can utilize their natural abilities and unleash their passion for their work. Also, the best training and management will not turn poorly aligned employees into top performers.

2. Select The Right Assessment Tool

Many organizations use personality assessments in the hope of gaining more objective information about people to set them up for success. However, the results are usually disappointing due to four inherent pitfalls:

a. What you think of as personality is mostly surface-level, observable behaviors; not what’s underneath, driving these behaviors. The drivers of behavior are more accurate, predictive, and stable.

b. Assessment-takers usually provide different answers based on which of the following they consider: how they actually see themselves, how they believe others see them, and how they want to see themselves.

c. Assessment-takers use a specific context or situation to answer the questions. For example, answers to questions related to “extroversion” (sociability and talkativeness) may vary depending on context differences: small vs. large groups, familiar vs. unfamiliar people, level of interest in the topic of conversation, etc.

d. If an assessment is used for a job application, the applicant often has an opinion on what traits the employer is looking for and skews the answers accordingly.

What’s a better option? Select an assessment that delves beneath the personality into what is more core or innate with people. This eliminates the biases of personality assessments and provides more valid and reliable data.

3. Establish Trust With The Employees

Inform the employees about the company’s commitment to align their work with their natural gifts. Don’t hide things or surprise people. People want to do work they’re good at and enjoy.

4. Develop An Understanding Of The Innate Characteristics Being Measured

Before you can align people’s innate characteristics with their work, it’s essential to understand what these characteristics mean. In other words, how each one impacts the way people think and behave. Now you have the basis to identify which characteristics are needed for different types of positions within your organization.

5. Develop Clarity On The Job Duty Break-Down

It’s important to know what people will do on a day to day basis in each job. The hiring team (direct manager and others with a major stake in position success) meets to gain clarity on the percentage of time spent performing each job responsibility. Group together duties that are very similar in nature (family of duties). Estimate the percentage of time spent working on each job duty family.

6. Determine Which Innate Characteristics Are Critical And Where They Need To Measure

The hiring team determines which innate characteristic is critical for each job duty family. They also agree on the desired range for each characteristic. For example, on a one to ten scale the range for creative thinking should be between seven to nine. Now you can develop an optimal range for each critical characteristic.

7. Administer Assessment & Align Employees With Job Functions

Assess both current employees and potential new hires and compare to the desired ranges. Take the appropriate action based on how strong the level of alignment is. Top performers almost always fit into desired ranges for each critical innate characteristic. If this is not the case, you need to adjust your desired ranges based on the data. Here’s more information on aligning employees:

  • When current employees don’t align with their jobs evaluate other positions within the company that do align well.
  • Openly discuss available options with employees who are misaligned. Develop a plan to shift roles or tweak job descriptions when this is feasible. Frequently, there are other employees who’d be thrilled to trade positions or some duties that better match with their own innate characteristics.
  • For applicants applying to open positions, only interview the people who align well with the desired innate characteristics. When you interview people who don’t align, you may be tempted to discount the assessment results. This rarely ends well.

In the end, the most important job of management is to maximize the ROI of its workforce. Peter Drucker said “The task of a manager is to make people’s strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. The most important thing you can ever do as a leader is to put people in a position to excel rather than get by or fail. How are you doing in your most important task?

 

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.

The Truth About Employee Disengagement

By Brad Wolff

Brad Wolff-employee disengagement Most companies struggle with employee disengagement. It’s costly in productivity, profitability and stress. Gallup’s engagement survey data published in 2017 found that 2/3 of U.S. workers are not engaged. American companies have invested billions of dollars per-year for many years to solve this problem. The results? The needle still hasn’t moved. How much has your experience been similar? Could this data simply reveal a general misunderstanding of the true causes of disengagement?

The Acme Corporation was suffering a 41 percent turnover rate. A recent survey showed that 85 percent of their workforce was disengaged. The general attitude of apathy, complaining and cynicism permeated the culture. This was puzzling to management since they attempted multiple efforts to improve engagement. These were well planned and executed programs such as team-building exercises, social events and pay raises.

All showed early enthusiasm and positive survey results that generated optimism. Unfortunately, the magic always wore off within a few weeks. In despair, Acme engaged a firm with a very different philosophy than their other advisors. This firm focused on helping executive leadership understand the root causes and solutions. Within nine months disengagement improved from 71 percent to 26 percent and turnover dropped to 19 percent.

The door to solving this dilemma opened when Acme management acknowledged that since their previous solution attempts were ineffective, their current way of seeing the problem must be flawed. This wisdom, humility and openness paved the way to learn the true root causes of their disengagement. Once root causes are clearly understood, the solutions usually become obvious. Addressing personal challenges that make you human will increase your effectiveness and fulfillment in every area of your life. Click To Tweet

Fixing engagement issues: What works?

The first step is for the company leaders to take an honest, objective view of the company culture (beliefs and behaviors that determine how people interact and do their work) that impacts and drives the way people think and behave. That’s why lasting change occurs when focusing at the culture level rather than specific individuals.

Below are the relevant human psychological needs that are the actual root causes of people’s engagement level. Examples of mindsets/philosophies that effectively address these needs follows each need. Engagement will improve when management’s actions align with people’s psychological needs.

  1. To feel valued and understood. Management earnestly listens to employees’ concerns, opinions and ideas with the intent to understand and consider their merits before responding. This replaces the common responses of defending positions or punishing employees for expressing contrary viewpoints. Management isn’t required to agree with the employees. What’s important is the sincere effort to listen, understand and consider their inputs.
  2. To express our gifts and talents. Management puts a focus on aligning roles and responsibilities with the gifts and talents of the individuals. We all bring a substantially higher energy and engagement (and productivity) when we do work that we like and are good at. As legendary management consultant Peter Drucker said, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses”
  3. Meaning/purpose in what we do. This means that employees have a clear understanding of how their work impacts the mission and vision of the organization. Don’t expect them to figure this out on their own. People are much more motivated when they realize that their efforts truly matter.
  4. Internal drive for progress or development– Employees are at their best when there is “healthy tension” (not too low, not too high) to meet clear and reasonable standards. This means fair and consistent accountability and consequences based on performance relative to agreed-upon standards. Being too nice and lax harms engagement since people inherently desire growth and realize that standards and consequence help them do this. People are motivated when they focus on: “What did I achieve today?” What did I learn today?” How did I grow?”

What Doesn’t Work

In short, anything that doesn’t authentically address the root causes of disengagement is doomed to fail. If the message is “look at this nice thing we just did for you” rather than “this is how we value you as human being,” it’s highly likely to fail.

Examples of the “nice thing we just did for you” include most team-building events, social mixers, company newsletters, upgraded office environments, etc. Even pay and benefit increases have an initial rush soon followed by the familiar “right back where we were” rebound effect. That’s not to say companies should not do these things. They’re nice add-ons after the day to day essentials of human psychology are authentically addressed.

In summary, it’s understandable that we gravitate towards easy, quick-fix solutions to our problems. There are plenty of people to make these suggestions and sell them to us. They also don’t require us to identify our own personal contributions to the problems which we’d prefer to avoid. However, as in most things in life, there is no substitute for working at the cause-level and creating new habits of thinking and behavior. If you’re serious about creating the high engagement level lead to more profits with greater ease and personal satisfaction, this is what it takes. As a bonus, openly addressing personal challenges that make you human will increase your effectiveness and fulfillment in every area of your life.

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, visit www.PeopleMaximizers.com.

Stop Falling Behind Your Competitors

Seven Steps to Gain a Competitive Advantage

By Brad Wolff

Brad WolffDoesn’t it seem that business is more competitive and difficult than it used to be? ABC, Inc. experienced this challenging business atmosphere firsthand. A building materials manufacturer that previously dominated their marketplace, ABC suffered staggering losses in the previous fiscal year. It became blindingly apparent that what had worked in the past was no longer effective, and the company president had no idea how to fix things. It was time to use proven techniques for achieving a competitive advantage.

ABC engaged a firm that identified the root causes of their problems. After two years, sales and profits dramatically increased—even with the same leaders. The results came from a seven-step process based on sound principles that put a focus on leveraging their internal talent. If you find your business falling behind, you can follow ABC, Inc.’s lead by putting these seven steps into practice.

1. Employee alignment

When a significant percentage of duties performed by employees don’t fit their innate characteristics or core nature, they won’t perform well. For example, people low in detail orientation doing work that requires high detail. Training and development, management encouragement and other well-intended efforts will not fix alignment issues. As Peter Drucker said, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”Personal growth results in professional growth. Click To Tweet

2. Creating a competitive advantage through a culture of personal growth and development

In truth, personal growth results in professional growth. It results in a greater capacity to handle life challenges, accomplish long-term goals and work well with others. Personal growth and development includes an increased awareness of self and others, the ability to manage one’s ego, ability to manage emotions and development of innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness. Most performance issues that managers complain about relate to one or more of the above. These are fundamental character traits of success.

3. Aligning employees with the mission and vision of the organization

Human beings have an innate need for meaning and purpose in what they do. This means that they care about how their efforts affect the world outside themselves—people, the environment, animals, etc. For example, take assembly line workers that produce incubators for premature babies. In one scenario the workers are only told to mechanically perform the prescribed duties. In the other scenario they are crystal clear about the importance the quality of their work has on the survival of infants. Which workers do you think are more motivated? Engagement and performance are directly affected by people’s connection to the outcomes of their work.

4. Aligning employees with the culture and values of the organization

People need to feel that they fit in with their social groups. Employees who are significantly out of sync with an organization’s culture and values will never make their highest contribution. Having perfect alignment is not the goal, since diversity of thought and behavior allow a culture to adapt and thrive. However, significant misalignments are damaging. It’s also important for leaders to consider whether they should change their culture. Examples of this would include a culture that they know is toxic and when there’s shrinking population of workers who fit the current culture. In both cases, without the ability to attract and retain needed talent, organizations will fail.

5. Aligning roles and responsibilities with organization’s strategies and goals

In today’s environment, organizational goals and strategies must change to adapt. Frequently, roles and supporting job duties don’t adequately change to align with these shifts. When this occurs, some or much of employee work efforts are out of alignment and can impair the ability to achieve the desired outcomes. For example, a company changes strategy to shift most customer communications from telephone to online, yet the employees’ duties and training continue to focus on telephone communications.

6. Assessing personal and professional weaknesses, starting from the top

Weaknesses are the negative side of strengths. It’s impossible to have a strength without its vulnerable side. We’ve been taught to hide or deny our weaknesses despite them being obvious to others. Our ego’s impulse to protect our self-image is normal but counterproductive. It hinders our true potential from being realized—a loss to the organization and ourselves. When leaders openly and honestly acknowledge “challenge areas,” this sets the example for others. The organization opens the door to growth and development.

7. Committing to work on the personal and professional challenges discovered in the assessment process

Studies on human potential and positive change demonstrate that self-awareness is the first step—but it’s not the last. Committing to take steps (starting with baby steps) and taking them allows for the development of positive habits that create lasting positive change. Deliberate change intended to meet the needs of your environment creates a flexible, adaptive organization—one that is poised to thrive despite the torrent of unpredictable/unwanted change that defines your world. Thriving in an unpredictable world is about you. Your willingness to acknowledge change that you don’t like, openly discuss it and consistently take the actions required to adapt and emerge stronger.

At the end of the day, leaders are simply making choices that define the present and future of themselves and their organizations. There’s nothing magical about the most effective leaders. They’re just making more effective choices. These choices encompass how they decide to see the world, their openness to challenge their beliefs and their willingness to experiment with innovative ideas that can capture breakthrough advantages. Equally important choices include their willingness to objectively look at themselves and take actions to grow in areas. They choose to become a greater, more effective version of themselves. They know that what they demonstrate (not what they say) is what has the greatest impact on the entire organization. As a leader, the question is, what choices are you going to make?

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.