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Why Can’t We Talk?

Why Can't We Talk?
Communication matters. Organisations are networks of relationships – individuals interacting in pursuit of hopefully shared goals, aims or objectives. Even departments of one must interact with others to be able to clearly identify what others require – or what they require from others – and how best this can be achieved. No desk is an island, not matter how big or deep the metaphorical moat around them might sometimes feel, but when things go wrong or mistakes are made it is common to hear ‘communication’ being singled out as the diagnosis.

But perhaps something else needs to be said here: that communication – or a lack of it – is more likely to be a symptom than a cause. Think of communication issues as the organisational equivalent of post-adolescent acne or obesity: yes, they’re something to tackle, but they have arisen for a reason. What needs to be addressed is the underlying cause, of which there could be several. The following are only a few examples – the list is potentially lengthy.

Unclear Goals or Roles

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Why measure management effectiveness?

Why measure management effectiveness?
Because it matters, of course. You’re probably familiar with a business management cliché first uttered by Peter Drucker – ‘What gets measured gets managed’ – but how to measure? The question of management effectiveness becomes more burning when you consider it in the contact of training: while a basic question – “Was is worth it, and what did it achieve?” – should matter to every organisation, few know or attempt to discover the answer.

When it comes to training evaluation, organisations hunger for evidence of two often elusive factors: return on investment (ROI), to prove that their expenditure was not wasted, and increases in productivity. Training and learning that doesn’t increase performance wastes not just money but time, energy and optimism. Despite this, many organisations limit evaluation to satisfaction scores: a record that the training took place and was ‘enjoyed’, but its impact remains elusive.

One reason that more meaning evaluation is rarely undertaken is the perception that it is difficult to do. Management performance, after all, is typically assessed using not one but a number of yardsticks: ASK’s own Management Development 360 Degree Feedback tool includes sixty individual competences. No training programme could aspire to address and improve managers’ performance in all of these, and we typically gather and facilitate feedback on the 6 – 10 competences most relevant to the scope of the training.

We use this 360 degree instrument at the beginning of our programmes as a diagnostic tool, identifying areas for personal development and providing insights that can drive self-awareness. Re-deploying it after training allows us to measure how far participants have travelled and supports future development activity, but it is also another starting point: the beginning of a measure of their effectiveness.

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Hunting, Fishing and Trawling for diversity: the net benefits of promoting women into leadership

Trawling for Diversity
Leadership pipelines, succession planning and talent development are on-going organisational headaches. A recent McKinsey Insights article agreed, arguing that “Organizations should learn to hunt, fish, and trawl for the best talent.” The problem seems to be one of diversity: where they cast their nets – and what or who they are aiming to catch.

Most organisations (or at least those that don’t recruit inward, despite the costs and risks associated) rely on in-house programmes with pre-determined selection criteria. But are they looking for HiPos when they should try a different kettle of fish? Few organisations, McKinsey argue:

[…] scan systematically for the hidden talent that often lurks unnoticed within their own corporate ranks. Sometimes those overlooked leaders remain invisible because of gender, racial, or other biases. Others may have unconventional backgrounds, be reluctant to put themselves forward, or have fallen off (or steered clear of) the standard development path.

That selection and promotion are areas of life where (un)conscious bias is a contentious and troublesome issue is not news, even if that does not necessarily translate into corrective action. But the tendency in many organisations to base criteria on ‘tried and tested’ leadership attributes may also be a growing issue, especially in times of rapid change and rising turbulence.

Echoing the findings of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer (which we have previously commented on), the 2016 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor reports dismal levels of public support for the effectiveness of leaders. Unlike Edelman, it also explores the type of leadership that would be more appreciated – and finds that a higher percentage believe that leadership would be more effective coming from the company/organization overall and everyone within it than would place their faith in either the CEO or senior management.

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Truth matters

Truth Matters
I wrote recently on this blog about Radical Candor (sic). I’m still as English as I was when I wrote the original, where a degree of sarcasm may not have escaped your attention. But a lack of not just candour, but something closely related – honesty – is really not a laughing matter.

You may have noticed a strapline on this website. Truth matters. Without truth, there is no credibility, no trust, no faith. Lies are quick, cheap and easy, but the bill can be pretty big when it does arrive. And it will. Have a read of a recent article from the US press, and ponder for a few seconds the impact on the credibility of Kellyanne Conway. If you’ve not glazed over yet, bear in mind her job title. Counselor to President of The United States. Her job is to speak on his behalf. And if she’s not credible…

We may live and work in an era when examples or allegations of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ – a phrase that Ms Conway herself ‘popularised’ recently – seem to be everywhere, and where echo chambers digitally amplify them at the speed of whatever it is the Internet travels at. (The extent to which people may believe fictional news stories has led Facebook to introduce revised software in Germany ahead of this year’s elections.) But we are also in the age of the camera-phone, the server log, the CCTV camera, key capture software and many other little technological wonders that track and monitor a remarkably percentage of everything we do. If it happened – or if it didn’t happen (the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowd, anyone?) – there’s a very high chance the evidence exists to prove or disprove it.

Dishonesty has never been the best policy: in 2017, it’s also very stupid. With such a high chance of evidence being available, there is only so far that truth can be stretched before it not only becomes dishonest but transparently so. Remember the Emperor’s New Clothes? You might think you’ve got everything covered so to speak, but other people’s view could be pretty off-putting.

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Result Type: Post

The antidote to a toxic culture is better behaviour


They say culture eats strategy for breakfast, and they may have a point. But, like breakfast, culture has ingredients: the behaviours that create the atmosphere and patterns that everyone works within. Think for a moment about your morning muesli, and contemplate that old adage – “One bad apple…” It seems the staff at Business Grapevine might be thinking along similar lines, judging by their recent article, 5 warning signs of a TOXIC company culture.

For those that might be concerned, here’s the summary checklist:

  • A lack of employee motivation
  • Inauthentic leadershipHigh turnover rates
  • Absenteeism
  • Lack of communication

While culture can – indeed, should – be managed, it’s only reasonable to assume that the decision to create a culture with these characteristics is rarely that any intelligent organisation would take, but how many are mindful that these symptoms can arise surprisingly swiftly when behaviour goes either awry or unchecked?

No matter what our staff handbooks and codes of conduct might say, organisations are composed of people, and a degree of irrationality comes with the turf. But that does not mean all is lost. A recent Strategy & Business article profiling Maryam Kouchaki, an expert in the causes of unethical behavioural, included an important reminder:

[…] although we humans may be hardwired to react and behave in certain ways that may not always make us proud, we are by no means a lost cause.

This is just as well, given some of the findings of a recent McKinsey article, The hidden toll of workplace incivility, which charted some of the impact of toxic behaviours:   […]

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