When NOT to Solve a Problem

Many leaders and consultants pride themselves on being problem solvers. In fact, many job profiles name problem solving as a required skill. But is there a scenario in your organization when you should not try to solve a problem? The answer to that is “Yes!”

Problems vs. Tensions

Now that I have your attention, let me backtrack on that answer a little. Many people attempt to solve “problems” that are not really problems. Sometimes we mislabel a tension as a problem, which gets us into trouble because you can’t solve a tension. A problem, by definition, has a solution, or at least a possibility of a solution. A tension, on the other hand, is something that will never get resolved. Instead, it needs to be managed. Leaders and consultants get themselves into trouble when they spend time and energy trying to solve a problem rather than manage a tension. Barry Johnson provides a very detailed and excellent description of the differences in his book Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. He calls tensions, polarities.

Cultural Values in Tension

Let me give you an example that affects most organizations. Cultural values are often in tension with one another in any given organization. Cameron and Quinn discuss four major cultural values: Collaborating, Competing, Creating, Controlling. Every organization has and needs these values to a certain degree; yet, it is clear to see how they can be in tension. For example, the values of collaboration and competition sometimes oppose one another. How a leader manages that tension is a critical issue when it comes to developing a healthy organizational culture. Imagine a highly collaborative organization that has a department leader who prizes competition as a value. She might see the competition/collaboration tension as a problem to be solved, desiring to overcome the collaboration with good competition, but such an approach would be a disaster. If she tries to solve the “too much relationship and not enough healthy competition problem,” she will not only fail, she will also do damage to the climate of the entire organization. On the other hand, attempting to manage the tension more effectively could lead to a more effective balance of the two values, improving the organizational climate and performance.

Managing Tensions

The ability to effectively manage tensions in an organization is a great skill for leaders and consultants to have. Here are three tips for developing that skill. 1) Learn to recognize the difference between tensions and problems. Problems are temporary and have possible solutions. Tensions are usually more permanent and can’t be “solved.” Problems have pretty clear upside and downside components. Each side of a tension has both upside and downside elements. Going back to our example, one upside of collaboration is people developing friendships and enjoying working together. A downside of that value may be that people are unwilling to point out poor performance. A downside of the competition value could be co-workers undermining each other’s efforts, whereas an upside could be that it spurs everyone to perform at a higher level. 2) Develop a common language. As with many other areas of organizational dynamics, quality shared language can perpetuate healthy culture. Carefully define and use phrases like “problem solving” and “managing tensions” throughout the organization. Language around values (which is often ground zero of tension management) should also be very clear so that everyone knows what positive and negative examples of each value look like. Don’t forget to define what too much of a good thing can be as well. That’s the point at which a positive value becomes toxic. 3) Get clarity on the right balance for your organization. Every organization has a unique balance of the competing values named above. Do you know what your current state is? Do you know what your desired balance is? There are tools available that can help you answer those questions. It is worth the investment of time and money to gain clarity. Doing so will help you devise strategies to ensure your best chance for organizational health.

Want to learn how to find and achieve the right balance of cultural values in your organization?

Attend “Tuggs” interactive lunch and learn on Thursday, Feb 18 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. CultureWorkshopGraphic CultureWorkshopGraphic About Tuggs Tuggs has over 20 years experience leading and developing people and organizations across a variety of industry sectors. His practical experience, coupled with his research expertise in cutting-edge learning theory and performance management, uniquely positions him to aid organizations in diagnosing performance gaps and opportunities, as well as in designing, developing, and delivering custom performance solutions. He holds an earned Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership with a Human Resource Development concentration. Mark is an experienced public speaker, learning facilitator, and researcher.

CEO, Cathy Light, gets hacked at a famous coffeehouse in New York

While on a recent business trip in New York, I took a break to visit my daughter, who lives in Manhattan. I hadn’t seen her in several months and was excited to hear about her work at PWC and other mother/daughter catch-up talk. To begin our day, we met at a trendy (highly rated by Zagat) coffeehouse just around the corner from her apartment. As we made our order at the counter, we were laughing and chatting to one another. The clerk must have taken our preoccupation with one another as a sign that I wasn’t paying attention. Wrong. Watch the video to see what happened.

As the CEO of Assessment Leaders, an organization that provides best-in-class talent assessments, background checks and surveys to hire, promote and retain the best employees, I couldn’t help but take this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to talk to this Coffeehouse’s leadership about the power of our tools… and what could be fixed in their hiring process. Come to find out, they do use background checks as part of their hiring process. That’s great news but, unfortunately, background checks just aren’t enough to filter out the bad eggs…as this situation clearly illustrates. Not just a bad hire, but one that commits fraud! Assessment Leaders Spot the Bad Eggs There are three things a hiring manager can do to increase their chances of a good hire, beyond a strong background check.

  1. Ask the candidate to take a low-cost (as little as $30), highly effective and validated pre-hire assessment to measure their personal integrity, attitude towards substance abuse, reliability and work ethic. This assessment also includes an interview guide based on the results of the individual assessment. To learn more about this best selling pre-hire assessment and view a sample report click here. Another pre-hire assessment that is popular is the Job Fit, which ensures the applicant has the necessary basic experience and possess the core traits and attitudes that you have found to be predictive of success in that job. To learn more about the Job Fit and view a sample report, click here.

Pre-hire assessments aren’t 100% foolproof, but they will compliment a background check and aide in the hiring process.  It’s worth every penny! If anything good can come of this story, I sincerely hope hiring managers will make a small investment in ensuring new hires not only pass all the required background checks but also possess the core traits and attitudes that they found to be predictive of success in that job.

  1. Gauge the candidates’ problem solving skills and past performance by using behavioral-based interviewing. Ask situational questions on how she/he would handle (or would handle) certain circumstances that reflect the position and company specifically. For example, an upset customer, team assistance, honesty, or good vs. bad decisions.
  1. Ensure that the hiring manager covers the core values of the company and ask the candidate to respond on how they would model each value. You are trying to ascertain whether the candidate is aligned with the company’s values.

Experts estimate that the cost of a bad hiring decision—measured in high turnover, lost opportunity, damaged reputation, and more—can range from 20 to 200 percent of a year’s salary (depending upon the position). The stakes are simply too high to rely on gut decisions or traditional methods alone. Use Assessment Leaders’ scientifically developed and validated assessments to:

  • Reduce the risks associated with hiring
  • Weed out poor candidates before the interview process
  • Reduce turnover and absenteeism
  • Minimize employee theft and dishonesty
  • Reduce training costs
  • Achieve higher productivity
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Improve teamwork

To learn more about why and how to utilize assessment tools to attract, retain, advance and develop employees at all levels, click on the link below to view the slides. Assessment Leaders – Measure the Total Person  

Creativity at the Workplace – It Is Possible

Creativity at the Workplace – It Is Possible

Ben Losman, Jun 17th, 2013

Innovation is an elusive ideal, prized as the secret ingredient in economic growth, social progress, and technological acceleration. Unlocking American innovation is the first step to “winning the future,” according to President Obama. The stakes are high.

The cross-sector scramble to out-innovate our rivals has given birth to an entire industry, one that breaks innovation down into its composite elements and analyzes them for clues and patterns. Countless case studies, TED talks, and biographies point to a single element – individual creativity – as perhaps the most crucial in sparking innovation.

The connection to innovation has helped transform creativity into a commodity. Soaring demand for creative talent has fueled the growth of the “creativity-promoting sector.” Writer Austin Kleon sums up the sector’s core message in his book Steal Like an Artist:

“Anyone can be creative if they surround themselves with the right influences, play nice, and work hard.”

It’s a philosophy that is appealingly accessible, and it leads to an exciting conclusion: if every individual is born with creative potential, then every individual is an asset in the race for innovation.

Therefore, every company, organization, and institution is doing all that is possible to harness employee creativity. Right?

Read the rest on dowser.
(Assessment Leaders is not responsible for content on third-party websites.)

6 Ways To Create A Culture Of Innovation

6 Ways To Create A Culture Of Innovation

By Soren Kaplan, Fast Company

Every organization is designed to get the results it gets. Poor performance comes from a poorly designed organization. Superior results emerge when strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies, tools, and reward systems fire on all cylinders in symphonic unison.

Savvy leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. They know that it’s culture—the values, norms, unconscious messages, and subtle behaviors of leaders and employees—that often limits performance. These invisible forces are responsible for the fact that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail. The trick? Design the interplay between the company’s explicit strategies with the ways people actually relate to one another and to the organization.

Read the rest on Fast Company.
(Assessment Leaders is not responsible for content on third-party websites.)

How to Innovate in Business

How to Innovate in Business

By F. John Reh, About.com Guide

We all know how essential innovation is to business success. If Apple Corp. had not innovated, we would not have iPhones. If Microsoft had stopped innovating when they released DOS, we never would have seen Windows operating systems. If manufacturers had stopped innovating, we would all be driving Model T’s and calling each other on candlestick phones that need operator assistance; there would be no television to watch and you wouldn’t be reading this because the Internet would never have been created.

Innovation is Essential

So if innovation is so important, why do so many companies spend all their time making tiny process improvements and watching their competitors steal their customers with innovative new products and services? Clearly the problem is not that business owners and managers don’t see the need for innovation. Many just don’t know how to encourage innovation. However, most actively discourage innovation – not on purpose, perhaps, but very effectively. Let’s look at two small companies. One is an example of how to discourage innovation. The other is an example of how to encourage innovation.

Read the rest on About.com.
(Assessment Leaders is not responsible for content on third-party websites.)

How Assessments Drive Decisions

Do people make better choices with more information?  Absolutely. “Gut” feelings are important, but making decisions without actual data to support them can lead to costly mistakes. Assessment tools provide the objective information you need to make key hiring decisions. Taking the time to gather, evaluate, and compare and contrast assessment data can dramatically increase your hiring success rate—and decrease turnover costs. In today’s leaner business climate, budgets are tighter, and there’s less room for error. But companies still don’t invest enough time, thought or resources in their hiring processes to avoid wrong hires. Assessment tools are nothing new. Since the 1940s, there have been processes to objectively identify and describe individuals’ job-related characteristics, skills, and abilities. These tools have evolved significantly over the years, but many people still don’t realize how powerful they can be. The proper use and implementation of assessment tools can provide data to assist managers in making better decisions, thus yielding better organizational results in the following areas:
  • Sourcing Talent
  • Managing/Coaching
  • Promotions
  • Building High-Achieving Teams
  • Sales Optimization
  • Learning Development
  • Succession Planning
  A well-designed assessment process identifies qualities in potential hires—as well as current employees—that can make a difference to the organization:  
  1. Are they the right person (with the right skills and talents) for the job?
  2. Do they fit into the environment (culture) of the company?
  3. Do they have the potential to grow?
  Henry Ford reportedly once complained that all he wanted from a worker was a pair of hands, but that he had to deal with the whole person instead. Given that we all need to hire “whole people,” we might as well learn as much as we can about their attitudes, personalities, and abilities ahead of time. Assessments give us the information we need to make smarter decisions.  

Is it Time for a Culture Check-Up?

A company’s culture is the unique personality behind a business. It’s “the way we do things around here.” A healthy culture provides meaning, direction, purpose, and clarity. These unifying forces stimulate the collective wisdom and energy of everyone in an organization and are the key to building a successful and fulfilling enterprise. Business leaders today know they need to cultivate a company culture of shared values, compelling vision, and common purpose. But that’s much easier said than done. The real challenge lies not simply in articulating values and putting a plaque on the wall, but in making those ideals come alive. Most leaders, after all, strive for the same kinds of “winning” values: integrity, honesty, openness, and trust are near the top of everyone’s list. And most employees want to work for an organization that promotes teamwork and mutual respect while delivering quality, service, and innovation. Working together towards shared goals can foster strong feelings of personal effectiveness and high levels of company loyalty. This isn’t just touchy-feely stuff, though. There are real payoffs for organizations that are able to implement a positive, healthy culture. According to a 2002 study conducted by The Leadership Challenge, firms with a strong corporate culture outperform other firms by huge margins:
  • Their revenue grew more than 4 times faster
  • Their rate of job creation was 7 times higher
  • Their stock price grew 12 times faster
  • Their profit performance was 750 percent higher!
  So how can you be sure you’re providing a healthy environment where your people believe in their leaders and the organization as a whole? That’s simple: get a culture check-up. The Cultural Health Indicator™ (CHI™) is a validated survey that provides a clear understanding of an organization’s culture. By measuring seven key dimensions of culture, this powerful tool can help businesses assess their current culture, identify the kind of culture they’d like to have, and determine solutions to help close the gaps between the two. The CHI™ is a secure, anonymous, user-friendly Internet-based survey that takes only about 20 minutes to complete. Everyone in your organization should participate. Results and recommendations are generated within 30 days after the start of the survey, and focus groups can be conducted to validate the findings. Unlike conventional employee surveys, CHI™ integrates results into an action plan that provides you with specific steps to improve your operations. AL clients who have used the CHI™ report a wide range of benefits, including increased management collaboration and teamwork, improved employee retention and attraction, better customer service, and higher productivity levels. Are you overdue for your checkup? Don’t delay any longer. Taking care of your company’s cultural health really is critical to your long-term success. As Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., former CEO for IBM, once said, “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

The DISC® Profile: It’s All About YOU!

In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s hard to keep up with all the latest trends, newest tools, and most current buzzwords. But newer isn’t always better. And in the world of assessment tools, it’s hard to match the lasting legacy and usefulness of the long-respected “DISC®” personality profile. The foundation for the DISC® assessment tool was established way back in 1928, when psychologist William Moulton Marston described four basic personality styles in his book, Emotions of Normal People. (You’ve got to love that title!) Over time, the terminology has evolved into the styles we know today: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Using today’s technology, it’s easy to quickly assess an individual’s profile and determine where they fall on the DISC® grid. People with high “D” (Dominant) scores are direct and assertive, and tend to try and fix, change, or control things. High “I” (Influence) individuals are enthusiastic and sociable and are more likely to try to persuade or influence others. The high “S” (Steadiness) person is generally soft-spoken, calm, and cooperative. A high “C” (Conscientiousness) score indicates that an individual is analytical and focused on accurate, high-quality results. Of course, it’s always interesting to take the test and see well how your “score” matches your own perception of yourself. It’s often quite illuminating when the test results suggest you might not be exactly the person you think you are! At Assessment Leaders, when we implement the DISC® tool with our clients, we always encourage them to spend time reflecting on their own primary and secondary DISC® styles. Sometimes we have to remind them that there are no “good” or “bad” styles: each one has strengths that can add value to a company. Better understanding your own strengths can help you learn how to use them – and how to avoid overusing them. For example, a high “D” individual might overuse his strength of confidence and become boastful and vain, which makes him less effective in the workplace. This kind of self-DISC®overy is very important, and the quantitative results from the DISC® tool really do help people focus on what they do best. The DISC® profile also helps team leaders and managers better understand and manage their employees. A full DISC® assessment includes a number of valuable reports for management. For each individual employee, the General Characteristics Report provides the following information:
  • A quick overview of the individual’s basic behavioral strengths
  • A graph of the DISC® profile results
  • A narrative overview of the person’s behavioral style
  • Detailed descriptions of the person’s tendencies
    • Motivating factors
    • Preferred environment
    • Strategies for increased effectiveness
    • Demotivating factors
    • Behavior in conflict situations
  • A graphical representation of the “behavioral tendency continuum,” showing the respondent’s range of intensity for certain behaviors
  • Worksheets to prompt DISC®ussion and determine which action strategies would be most effective
As if all that weren’t enough, you can get even more Supplemental Reports that look not just at individual profiles but at the distribution and combination of personality styles on the whole team. That’s where it really starts to get interesting! So yes, it’s true: the DISC® assessment tool is an oldie but a goodie. But it’s still a fantastic first step for employees, managers, and companies toward better understanding the strengths and personalities of the unique individuals that make up their workforce.

How to build a Rockstar Sales team?

What makes a great sales person? You might not know it yet, but the answer is actually right in front of you. Start by taking a close look at your current sales team. You probably know without even thinking about it who your “star” performers are. But what is it exactly that makes them so successful, while others struggle? Taking an objective approach can help you find out. Stars, So-Sos, and Passengers First, identify your “performance tiers” by making a list of all your salespeople, ranked from top to bottom by total sales per year. Add all the sales and divide by three. For example, if your team’s total sales were $6 million, then that would break into $2 million per “tier.” Now go back to your original list and assign salespeople to their respective tiers. If your top two sales representatives account for a combined $2 million in sales, those two would make up your top tier of “Star” performers. The next $2 million might come from three different sales reps, so those represent the middle, or “So-So” tier. If the last $2 million comes from five different salespeople, these become the bottom tier, which we call “Passengers” (because they seem to be just along for the ride!). Once you’ve quantified the sales output and performance tiers of your team, you need to consider the overall impact of each salesperson. If you can move members from the “So-So” level up to “Star,” or even from “Passenger” up to “So-So,” you can make dramatic increases in your bottom line. On the other hand, losing just one “Star” performer and having to replace him or her with a “So-So” can be very costly. However you slice it, you really cannot afford attrition. Profile the Stars So how do you actually go about moving salespeople from the bottom tiers up to the top? You first need to know what your Star performers are doing right. That’s where assessment profiles come in. There are a number of effective tools that measure the critical behaviors of successful salespeople. One profile that we use at AL takes considers seven such criteria:
  • Prospecting
  • Closing Sales
  • Call Reluctance
  • Self-Starting
  • Teamwork
  • Building & Maintaining Relationships
  • Compensation Preferences
The online assessment is easy to administer, and takes just one hour. By profiling your Star performers first, you can establish a benchmark so you can see which combination of traits works best for your business. Now you can measure your other employees against the “target” profile set by your Stars. The assessment tools make it easy to see exactly where the middle-to-low performers are falling short, and you can address those specific areas of improvement with each individual. Before you hire new salespeople, have them complete the profile as part of the interview process, so you can see ahead of time if they are a good match for the job. Studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review have shown conclusively that success in sales cannot be predicted by experience or college degrees, but “hinges on fit with the job.” Using these powerful assessment tools, you can easily determine each individual’s job match percentage and make better-informed hiring and management decisions. So, just by taking a closer look at the “stars” you already have, you can hire and develop the best talent and increase your overall sales. And you don’t even need a telescope!  

Which Door Will It Be?

On “Let’s Make a Deal,” contestants have to choose between Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3. If they choose wisely, they could drive home in a new sports car, or pick up a big pile of cash. But an unlucky guess sends them home empty-handed. In today’s workplace, there are also three “doors.” Each one represents an opportunity for your company to impact the performance and retention of your people. You have to understand what’s “behind” all three doors to better attract, retain, and advance employees at all levels. Door #1: The Selection Process Naturally, your first opportunity to evaluate a job candidate is during the selection process. Doing this right takes time. According to an SHRM Study reported in USA Today, 63% of all hiring decisions are made during the first 4.3 minutes of an interview. But there’s no need to rush this process! In fact, the most thorough selection process imaginable costs less than hiring the wrong person for just one day. For recruiting, we always recommend using a benchmark tool like Profile XT for Job Match. You can use your top-performing employees as benchmarks to identify the skill sets and personality profiles that will be a good fit for your company. Door #2: The Right Fit Even after an employee is hired, it’s essential to regularly evaluate their “fit” with your company. According to the Harvard Business Review, “It’s not experience that counts, or college degrees, or other acceptable factors…success hinges on a fit with the job.” Ongoing assessments, employee training, coaching and development are all critical to long-term success. It can take time before any problems become apparent. But time really is money, and too many companies waste valuable opportunities and resources on employees who are not performing.   Door #3: The Back Door “Chances are good that up to 66% of your company’s hiring decisions will prove to be mistakes in the first twelve months.” —    Peter Drucker, Management Consultant Unfortunately, sometimes an employee simply doesn’t work out. You may try to redeploy a marginal performer to another department and hope for better results. However, the best way to frustrate your top performers is to keep your weak employees. And when top performers leave, you are dealing with another set of problems. Either way, having to show an employee the “exit” door is a difficult and expensive way to train yourself out of a bad hiring decision. In fact, statistics show that corporate America loses $11 billion a year to employee turnover.   Don’t let your company become a statistic. From the moment a potential candidate walks in Door #1, use all the tools at your disposal to hire right the first time and create a culture of excellence. That way, everyone’s a winner!