Why Leadership Teams Need Healthy Disagreement

Archos Diane Brown.png

Much has been written about team building and the importance of being a cohesive team in creating and maintaining a successful organization. The research team at RHR International has even confirmed the value of teamwork in relation to specific team performance.

Often, when people hear “cohesive” and “strong teamwork”, they presume that manifests as consensus in approach or high harmony. At the enterprise level, though, we see something different. In fact, the RHR research shows that at the highest levels, a leadership team’s ability to have healthy disagreement and manage conflicting tensions is most predictive of top team performance.

In our work with teams, we have also anecdotally found this to be true. Leadership teams function much more effectively, make better decisions, and spark innovation when they can entertain various perspectives with healthy debate. It doesn’t mean that all team members must finally agree, but rather at the end of the day, viewpoints have been heard and vetted. To that end, these teams are highly effective at “mining for conflict” if they feel that a contrary view or opinion is held but not being put forth.

In order to have a healthy vs. debilitating disagreement, make an effort to see the customer’s point of view and keep it central in the conversation to ensure that what is best for the company vs. what is best for a specific team member is guiding the discussion. Be sure to also hold team members accountable for innovation and new ideas.

To increase the level of effectiveness in your teams, reflect on the actions, along with the interactions, within your meetings and projects. Are you always hearing affirmation of your ideas, or are dissenting viewpoints being offered? Are all viewpoints being heard, or are there some that need to be drawn out? Are you hearing enough input to truly sharpen ideas or simply to execute them?

Workplace Debate.png

Your answers will provide insight into whether or not you are tapping into all possibilities. To improve, the best place to start is to set the tone and expectation that all views are not only welcome, but also vital. Then take steps to ensure all perspectives and opportunities are being offered. For it is through the views and actions of your team that you will create the strongest results.

Stopping the Epidemic of Poor Managers

Archos Diane Brown.png

Archos Advisors’ David Graham asked an audience of nearly 200 people, “Have you ever left a job because of a bad manager?” It seemed like a simple enough, non-controversial question, yet the response was shocking. At least 80% of the people raised their hands.

Later in the session, I asked the same group what percentage of their current managers they would consider to be “high performance managers”. One person in the room responded 80%! I got excited – momentarily thinking this crowd might be different. Unfortunately, she was alone in such a positive response. As I continued to poll the room, the majority of the participants reported 50% or below.

Unfortunately, our anecdotal statistics are reinforced by national research that shows similar results. In a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams, Gallup Inc. found that one in two people have left a job because of a poor manager. Gallup also discovered that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement across teams. Additionally, the same research shows that, through their impact, managers who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually*.

Based on these statistics alone, it is safe to say we have an epidemic of poor management that must be cured in order for us to achieve the greatest potential in our organizations. Not only does poor management have a significant impact on employees, it also has a very real influence on business results.


The good news is that companies can take concrete steps to shift from having poor managers who cause people to leave to having great managers who are the number one reason people stay. These steps include:

  1. Defining and communicating expectations for. This may seem simple, but too often these expectations are weak. Does your organization expect project or workflow management or development and growth of people? Perhaps both? There are different expectations and outcomes depending on the answer to those questions. Both roles are important and necessary, but they aren’t always owned by the same person.

    Organizations must consider what is most effective for the business and what meets the needs of employees. Clear expectations and ownership of these different areas can create specific roles that can then be appropriately filled.

  2. Selecting for managerial talent. Determining who to put in the role of manager is one of the most critical decisions an organization will make, especially the manager who will “own” the role of people development and growth. Research shows that only one in 10 people have natural managerial talent, and an additional two in that 10 have functional talent that can be developed into effective managers1. When placing individuals in a manager role, companies should screen rigorously for managerial talent to make the most informed decisions.

  3. Educating and training managers on what it means to be “high-performance” and supporting them within that role. Companies need to train their managers on the needs of the current workforce and help them build skills to meet those needs. As managers execute this training in their new role, supporting them with coaching and reinforcement for their own professional growth is critical. For managers to be highly effective in their role, they personally need to be engaged, particularly through ongoing employer support.

          Three fundamental areas that require focus include:

  • How to be strengths-based to leverage talents.

  • How to be engagement-focused to build employee commitment.

  • How to be performance-oriented by setting clear expectations, coaching continuously, and establishing accountability.

How do we know these strategies work? Remember the professional who said 80% of her managers would be considered "high performance managers"? I asked how they were able to accomplish this high percentage.  She shared two specific company actions:

  • The company treats every manager role as an external hire and applies the same rigorous selection process to candidates for the position (i.e., assessments, behavior-based interviewing, etc.).

  • Once a manager is onboarded and clear on expectations, the company enrolls them in a specific, multi-level, mandatory training program that is executed over a significant length of time.

This company gets it.

What percent of your managers would you say are high-performing managers? What is the impact of that current percentage, and what if you improved it by 25%? Do you think that could impact your employee metrics or improve your bottom line? What is the impact long-term if you do nothing?

Be proactive to stop the epidemic that could be occurring within your own organization. Apply a critical eye to the steps described and identify one or two immediate actions that can help you improve your percentage. Remember, great managers make a difference not only in their influence on other employees but also on the bottom line, so it is worth the investment!

* Source: State of the American Manager Report, Gallup, Inc. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Are You Empowering “Builders” to Unlock Economic Energy?

Archos Diane Brown.png

What is a “Builder”? A Builder, as defined by Gallup, is one who creates economic energy where none previously existed. Builders start new ventures or create something within an existing organization: a business line, product or service, strategic initiative, or a new team. These creations all come with the goal of driving the new or existing organization forward and creating a fresh economic reality.

We have Builders all around us, but are we supporting them and empowering them effectively to harness their talents? Furthermore, do we all truly engage in the role of “Builder” to develop, grow, and sustain organizations?

As our world changes, having a more entrepreneurial culture and being able to create organic growth and seize opportunities are critical competitive advantages in business.This edge helps start-ups beat the odds to survive and succeed. It helps small and medium sized businesses retain their independence and sustain profitability, and it helps large businesses continue to be relevant. We need Builders to embrace building, create positive change, and not just work "in" the business, but “on” the business as well!

To identify what characteristics and traits are most important for building, Gallup studied 4,000 successful entrepreneurs over five years. Their research discovered 10 specific talents required for building (also known as the Builder Profile 10™):

  1. Confidence
  2. Knowledge
  3. Delegator
  4. Profitability
  5. Determination
  6. Relationship
  7. Disruptor
  8. Risk
  9. Independence
  10. Selling

Interestingly, we all have these talents that are distinctly measurable and correlate to economic outcomes. In the book Born to Build by Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Badal, some of these correlations are shared. Here are a few examples of dominant traits of entrepreneurs and the findings:

  • Those with "Risk" talent are 5x more likely to have a business with $1 million in revenue.
  • Those with "Profitability" talent are 4x more likely to plan to grow their business significantly.
  • Those with "Determination" talent are 3.5x more likely to plan to increase their employee base by more than 5%.
  • Those with "Disruptor" talent are 3x more likely to file for or receive a patent.

The research also shows that each of us approaches building through lenses with varying intensities in each talent, and, when building, we all lead with a different role: Rainmaker, Conductor, or Expert.

Discovering our specific building talents and the unique way we tend to lead not only helps us know how to develop and direct others toward what we are building, it also helps us ensure we are building the right team around us to succeed. Thus, if you are investing in someone to build, knowing and helping them understand how to maximize their Builder talents is a powerful way to set them up for greater success.

Beyond raw talent, Builders who are equipped with a thoughtful process can channel their talents in a highly productive way. Assessment and enhancing self-awareness of Builder talents are the first steps of the process, but applying those talents to the other steps (recognizing opportunities, generating customers or users, activating the ideas/services/products, and building the team) is where the true value is created.

Every company has Builders. They might be the founder or founding partners, or anyone that has been asked to build something or lead a division/practice in an existing organization. If we aren’t harnessing and developing the natural talents they bring to building, we are leaving a critical aspect of economic energy to chance.

Help yourself and your Builders. Start to assess Builder talents by using the BP10™, and work with your team to discover, develop, and direct those talents to build your organization for the future.  

The Importance of Practicing Compassion

Archos Diane Brown.png

It is not uncommon for leaders who have held positions of power for a long time to start to feel more distant from employees.  This does not mean that they don’t care about employees or understand the importance of people to their business.  

Rather, it means that due to the function of their role, they start to emotionally disconnect, causing the ability to be empathetic to begin to erode. Leaders can simply become desensitized to employee issues due to the scope and criticality of the responsibilities and decisions they face in their own leadership role. 

To be an effective leader, you do not have to always be empathetic (i.e., feel the emotions that others feel in the way they might be feeling them), but you should show compassion.  As defined in an article from the Harvard Business Review, compassion is the intent to contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of others.  It is a leadership quality that is noticeable and can be cultivated. 


Compassion is also a leadership attribute that makes a significant difference for your employees and their engagement, which makes a significant difference to the success of the business.

Is Cognitive Dissonance Hurting Your Team Development?

David Graham.png

Cognitive dissonance: The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

This describes the current state of American management.  It’s become universally accepted among leaders across the planet that people are an organization's greatest asset.  In the course of our practice, we have the opportunity to talk with all types of business leaders and can attest that they universally agree with this modern-day mantra - so do we!  

This begs the obvious question, if people are truly our greatest asset, how are we doing in terms of our stewardship?  The most recent numbers aren’t encouraging. According to Gallup’s research, only 33% of the US workforce are engaged. What this also tells us is that a staggering 67% of US workers are not engaged, which means they are simply putting in their time for a paycheck, or worse, they are actively undermining their organizations from within. 

Imagine growing a business and competing in your industry with a team operating at 1/3 capacity. With an estimated 2017 US payroll of approximately $10 trillion dollars, it’s not hard to extrapolate the cost resulting from this engagement deficit and its ultimate impact on our economy and standard of living. It’s also not hard to see the absolute potential in investing heavily and thoughtfully in your people. 

Our work experiences lead us to the conclusion that while most leaders profess people to be their greatest asset, far too often they treat them as their biggest expense. Organizations invest heavily in recruiting and onboarding talented people, providing them with competitive pay and benefits. They build modern workplaces, and then when it matters most they saddle them with a manager who doesn’t have the talent and skills to effectively engage and develop them to perform at their best.  It’s not that leaders don’t care about their people, we know for a fact they do. It’s that the needs of the workforce have outpaced the practice of management, and organizations are struggling to catch up.


The dilemma is that you can’t build an engaged workforce without great managers. However, you won’t have great managers unless you are diligent about selecting those with the right talent for the role and investing in them to develop the right skills to cultivate an environment of engagement, accountability and high-performance.  Of course, it’s much easier said than done.

How can you avoid the cycle of cognitive dissonance? Here are a few ways to start:

  • Measure your organization’s overall level of engagement annually.
  • Be intentional about curating your culture daily.
  • Develop a rigorous process for selecting and developing your managers to be effective coaches, NOT bosses.
  • Coach your people continuously and empower them to do what they do best as often as possible.

In short, treat all your people like you’d actually treat your greatest asset and performance will follow.  It’s easy to say, it’s much harder to do!

-David Graham

Cultivating and Using Curiosity

Archos Diane Brown.png

When I started consulting seventeen years ago, I asked one of my mentors who was a very successful businessman to share with me what characteristics he felt made a successful consultant.  One of the qualities on the list was "intellectual curiosity: the ability to abstract".  While this is a critical aspect of being an effective consultant, we find it to be just as important to apply to being an impactful leader in any industry today.   
Signals of change are occurring all around us – sometimes in our industry and sometimes not.  Part of cultivating intellectual curiosity is preparing your mind to be observant.  It’s about being interested in what you are seeing in how clients/customers, employees, vendors, students, or people in general are interacting with or trying to interact with their environment in life or at work. To gain the most, it’s important not to limit your observations to your own bubble. Some of the key ways we can see beyond are: 

  • Look outside your industry and your situation. 
  • Pay attention to innovations, regardless of type or source, to explore new possibilities. 
  • Study work habits and communication of students or future generations of workers or customers. 
  • Explore emerging products or services in other markets or geographics. 

Evolving in how we work, serve, sell, or grow starts with cultivating intellectual curiosity personally and within our teams. But it doesn’t stop there. 


What I find most interesting about my mentor’s note is that it’s not just about being curious (new ideas or interesting things you see, read, or experience) it’s also about what you do with it.  How do you take the next step to draw abstract value from the learning?  Once something draws your attention, take the next step to ask yourself  how it might impact your organization, industry, customers, and people. Better yet, challenge yourself to discover how positive change can be brought to your organization and beyond. It’s invigorating to explore the art of possibilities, even if it feels a little “out there”.  Some of the best ideas emerge when you collaboratively explore the space between what exists and imagining what’s possible.
Beyond leading by example by being intellectually curious and abstracting, great leaders also cultivate curiosity by creating a culture in which it can thrive.  They hire people who are curious. They inquire about the observations of others, regardless of level or role. They encourage and are open to thoughtful questions. They challenge assumptions and welcome others doing the same, and they recognize and reward curiosity.
To capitalize on opportunities to evolve, consider how you are leading by example to cultivate, use, and promote curiosity both within and outside your world.

The Importance of a Purpose-Driven Organization


A significant change over the past few decades is the shift of employees looking for work that offers a solid pay check and stability to employees seeking meaningful work and purpose. While purpose and meaning has always been part of the equation, it is a much higher priority for team members now.  Beyond the importance of the organization’s purpose, employees also want to be able to see that their role in the organization is contributing to that purpose.  When employees can make a connection or have that line of sight, they find true meaning in their work. 

According to research conducted by Gallup, Inc., providing that line of sight makes a difference for the organization as well.  “When a company's mission or purpose makes employees feel their job is important, they are more likely to be engaged and, ultimately, to perform at higher levels. Business units in the top quartile of Gallup's engagement database on this element average from 5% to 15% higher profitability than bottom-quartile units.”


As leaders and managers, regardless of our level or role in the organization, we have two obligations:

  • To know the organizational purpose – not just what we do, but why we do what we do.  What is our purpose? What difference do we make in the world?
  • To be able to help others around us, no matter what their role is, understand and connect to that purpose. What is the difference they make? How do they contribute?

If we are successful executing these obligations, there are multiple benefits. First and foremost, employees will be more engaged, which leads to greater energy, higher productivity and lower turnover. Second, the more employees find meaning in work, the stronger the organizational culture becomes and the ability to be resilient in times of change is greater.  Finally, both of the first two benefits can help raise the organization’s brand as a great place to work and attract talent. 

Be diligent in identifying and sharing your organizational purpose.  It can truly make a difference for everyone!

Cultivate Elastic Thinking to be "Future Relevant"

Archos Diane Brown.png

In the business environment, change is constant and future readiness is essential. To compete and be ready, we must develop new knowledge and skills to stay current with globalization, new applications of technologies, and the rapid pace of innovation in business models and products/services.  However, to maintain relevance, we must also promote and engage in elastic thinking.

There are two types of thinking: analytic and elastic.  When we are faced with everyday obstacles – business or other challenges with which we have familiarity or even facts to which we can relate, our brains naturally resort to analytical thinking. Processing data points and drawing upon regular and pre-existing frameworks we have previously relied on to make decisions are the foundation of analytical thinking. Using your analytical or logical mind to solve the “normal stuff” is easy and feels natural.

The most effective way of thinking to deal with the complex, unexpected, or new challenges is elastic thinking. Elastic thinking emerges from the subconscious when the brain is in a relaxed and often unfocused state, or when it is out of its element.  It’s the level of thinking that unleashes innovation, creates new products or approaches, or identifies unique paths or niche markets. It is a powerful ally in the war for survival and sustainability that companies face.

Elastic Thinking.png

Elastic thinking can be cultivated through:

  1. Space and time: Creating space and stepping away from an issue can break focus and allow the subconscious mind to intervene.  This can be as simple as walking away for a short amount of time or scheduling “blue sky time” to free think or create. It can also occur by slowing the pace of a decision process and allowing for more contemplation or reflection.

  2. Reframing: Often reframing an issue by looking at it through a different lens or asking questions in a different way can create new possibilities. If the issue is internal, try looking at it through a customer’s point of view. If it is a customer complaint, flip it to see what a positive opportunity might lie within.

  3. OpennessIn certain cultures, new or different ideas or even hard questions are frowned upon, made light of, or met with rigidity of thought. All of these reactions can inhibit creativity and ultimately send a message to team members that it’s not worth exploring new ideas or innovation.  For elastic thinking to flourish, leaders have to have a willingness to hear it and stamp out cultural elements that are limiting.

To be competitive, to thrive, to be a disrupter and not the disrupted, are you changing how you think? Are you moving from analytical thinking to elastic thinking when needed and necessary?  

Elastic thinking is essential for any organization to be future ready and "future relevant".  Make sure you are both by setting an example for promoting and engaging in elastic thinking today.

The Best Leaders Know It's Not About Them

Archos Diane Brown.png

One of the best pieces of feedback I ever received was, “It’s not about you, it’s about them.” It came when I was rehearsing for a workshop.  During my preparation, I was laser-focused on my performance – what I was doing and how it would be perceived. Was I making my points clearly enough? Was my body language right to emphasize key points? Was I coming across as an expert on the topic?

Unfortunately, my mindset and focus were all wrong.  In the practice run debrief, my coach reminded me that I could give the perfect presentation but completely miss the critical outcome: helping the participants learn and succeed!  I needed to put myself in their shoes, and if I did, my success as a presenter would naturally follow. She said simply, “Remember, it’s not about you. it’s about them.”
Over the years we at Archos Advisors have seen leaders fall into the same trap.  When it happens, leaders start to focus on their own attributes and how people view them in their role.  How do I come across? What do people think of me? What do I need to do next? How can I make sure people respect me?  While these things can be important, shifting the mindset and looking at leadership from a different point of view can enhance how leaders personally improve – in these areas and many more.  Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your people.


 In his book The Score Takes Care of Itself, Bill Walsh, former coach for the San Francisco 49ers, shares how wins come from daily steps and processes.  He also reinforces that leadership actions are an essential.  Walsh states, “Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.”  To be the best leader, the focus should be on the quality of actions related to employees. Some of those include:

  • Ensuring employees have a line of sight and connection to the purpose and mission of the organization.
  • Helping employees understand expectations and navigate priorities.
  • Making sure employees know you care about them as individuals and recognize the unique value they bring.
  • Ensuring employees feel connected and part of the team.
  • Meeting employee needs for growth and development.
  • Removing barriers and knowing that if the team succeeds, you succeed!

What’s your mindset?  Is it people first? As leaders, each of us can be short-sided in our own growth if we don’t first value our people.  Putting a focus and priority on meeting their needs will naturally lead to being a better leader and success!

Are you Growing or Dying? 5 Key Ways to Grow and Develop

Archos Diane Brown.png

Every day presents an opportunity for growth.  “Are you growing or dying?” It’s a question Coach Lou Holtz often asks during his presentations, and I’ve been very fortunate to see him speak several times.  Each time I am inspired by the personal examples he shares and his stories of how continuous growth propels success.  I am also challenged by that question:  Am I growing or dying?

Growth is a choice, yet, as the quote would infer, it is essential for “new life”. For leaders and employees alike, growth revolves around being open to new ideas, experiences, innovation, learning, feedback, new knowledge or skills, or something else that stretches you.  It’s an openness, an understanding that complacency is not an option and coasting can lead to stagnation.  Growth is recognizing that what is comfortable is often easy, but what is uncomfortable can lead to breakthroughs and new horizons.

So if you appreciate the importance of growth, how do you ensure at a practical level that members of your team are growing in a focused and productive way both individually and collectively? There are five key ways we grow and develop:

  1. Experiential Learning – Having learning opportunities while on the job and stretch assignments to promote skill building and new thinking.
  2. Feedback – Getting regular, timely, positive and developmental feedback that is given in tandem with the performance to ensure behavior change.
  3. Coaching – Receiving personalized performance coaching targeted to continued improvement and results within the role.
  4. Formal Training – Attending formal learning and development events to build competence and confidence in knowledge and skill sets.
  5. Self-Development – Proactively investing as an individual in personal development through reading, study, or other activities.

These five keys to growth can be used as a screen to see how effective you are, your team is, or your organization is at prioritizing growth.  A true learning organization ensures that these five levers are in play to promote development at all levels. In addition, a company focusing on growth is attune to different learning styles and employs multiple methods for development.  These proactive efforts not only make a difference in performance, but also in engagement, both of which lead to greater employee and organizational success.

Choose to propel your success and your company’s success. Choose growth!

Two of the Most Important Questions You Should Ask When Starting a Change Process

Archos Diane Brown.png

Organizations make decisions that create change every day, from structure, mergers, acquisitions, processes, technology, service models and methods, etc.  It is what comes after the decision to change that determines the difference between success and failure.  

To lay the foundation for success, start any change process with two questions:

1. From a business perspective, what specifically are you trying to achieve with the change (e.g., enhanced top line revenue, bottom line revenue, deeper relationships, expense control, quality, etc.)?  

The leader or the leadership team heading up the change must define and agree upon the desired business outcomes. As they move through the change, these outcomes will be used to assess progress, and in the end, they will serve as the measurement of the ROI.

2. What percentage of these outcomes depend on people changing behaviors or actions as a part of their job?

To answer this question, we must first identify the impacted people or groups – anyone impacted by the change in any way. Second, consider what the individuals will have to change and how that relates to the desired outcomes.  What happens if no one changes or very few do?  

Change Diane.jpg

The answer to #1 provides the context – the WHY.  Why are the change being made? If you can’t answer #1, it’s not clear, or leadership is not committed, stop right there. If the reason why a change is being made cannot be articulated, save any further time and effort until it can be defined.

If the "why" is clear, then #2 is critical.  If the change is one where business outcomes are highly dependent on people changing behavior (i.e., 60, 80, 100%), then consideration of how to implement intentional change management must be made.

Change management proactively addresses the people side of the change, helping people move from the current state, through a transition state, to the desired future state. It includes applying a scientific approach to the psychology involved in change.  When coupled with project management (i.e., technical processes, project charter, timelines, budget, resources, etc.), change management promotes higher realization of business outcomes.  

The next time you are embarking on an organizational change, set yourself up for success.  Ask these two questions, and use the answers to guide to your strategy.  If you do, you will have a solid foundation for change, and it’s much more likely that you will achieve your desired results.

Handling Adversity

Archos Diane Brown.png

We’ve all heard the old adage “Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you react!” That is especially true for leaders in times of challenge.  When things don’t go well and we experience lost clients/customers, budget overruns, turnover, bad PR, negative customer or employee feedback, slow sales or other adversity, how we react can make all the difference.  Leaders not only need mental strength to personally handle a challenge, they also need it to serve as a role model. Their reactions and behaviors will be noticed by others.  Thus, a leader’s reaction to adversity can have a significant cascading affect – positive or negative – which is why being skilled in this area of leadership is so important.

Handling adversity effectively starts with a candid, self-awareness of how you immediately react in challenging situations (e.g., when you or the company get criticized, fail, fall short of expectations, experience resistance to ideas, have conflict with others, etc.). Do you get emotional? Do you take things personally or internalize them? Are you defensive?  Second, you must understand how you are impacting others. To get additional data and gain perspective, ask for feedback from peers or team members on their perception of how you handle adverse situations. What do you project? What do they see or hear from you?  Finally, it helps to consider your mindset or the “way you think” about adversity.  Do you cringe at the thought of it? Do you avoid dealing with it or try to have others take care of it, or do you feel compelled to step up to own it?  

Adversity Social.png

Those leaders with innate managerial talent “lean in” to adversity and find ways to overcome it.  They take challenges or obstacles head-on, take action to remove barriers, and promote forward movement. They recognize these situations sometimes require compromise, creative solutions, and working with others, not against them.  In addition, true leaders recognize the need to take charge of a significant factor that is within their control – their own reaction.  That control comes from a strong, positive mindset (i.e., understanding that adversity is normal and is quite often a growth opportunity) and a desire to minimize the potential negative impact on their team or others.

We all face adversity in our careers and our lives. Our success and the success of our team depends on how we address it to overcome it.  The next time you experience adversity, what will you do to “lean in” to it in a positive way?  

When Winning Overshadows Performance

Archos Diane Brown.png

Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach at Duke University, is known to be a great leader, demanding coach, and a stickler for performance.  One of his quotes that resonates in both sports and business is “When you win, sometimes it overshadows a poor performance.”

Today, I see companies face this challenge, perhaps without even realizing it.  There are companies who strive to be a best place to work or employer of choice; thus, they put a huge focus on employees, creating a “win” culturally.  They are attracting and retaining employees and people are happy, which is critically important.  However, some of these firms are experiencing poor performance. They aren’t growing or aren’t as successful as desired financially, and they wonder why.

Companies that focus on creating a great culture without holding people accountable or aiming at performance miss the mark.  Don’t get me wrong, building a positive culture is essential to success, but if it lacks the context of performance, potentially the only “win” is having a happy place to work.

Winning and Performance Social.png

Performance is about delivering, whether it be on goals, on quality, on customer engagement, with excellence on the required results (financial or other).  When you are a performer, it’s about owning these outcomes and being accountable.  When you are a manager, it’s about how you are helping your employees leverage their strengths, enhancing their engagement, and holding people accountable with a performance-orientation. When you are a leader, it’s about creating a great place to work AND fostering high-performance.

You can win through culture initiatives, but you can only achieve your best as an organization if you integrate a focus on performance.  One without the other limits potential.  How effectively are you doing both in your organization?

Unlocking and Unleashing Strengths

Archos Diane Brown.png

One of our Archos team members, Tom Porter, often says, “You do best what you like to do best!”, and the research on strengths proves he is right.  So, why don’t managers and employers take advantage of innate talents or strengths? The data is actually quite surprising on how often they don’t.  Gallup’s research has found that only 20% of US Workers feel their jobs use their talents.  In other words, 80% do not feel like they have the opportunity to do what they do best! What companies don’t realize, however, is the potential and financial impact being “left on the table”.

According to Gallup, strength is "the ability to consistently produce a positive outcome through near-perfect performance in a specific task." Employers who focus on strengths generate greater profitability and experience less turnover.  Those financial impacts come from improved results and an enhanced employee experience.  Employees whose managers allow them to use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged and 8% more productive.  Beyond the individual, teams who have managers that focus on strengths every day are 12.5% more productive!

As you can see, managers have a major impact on how employee strengths are leveraged. Too often, managers fall into the trap of being more “task-focused” – getting the work done or meeting a deadline – than “performance-focused”. Those two may sound like the same thing, but they are not.  Being performance-focused not only takes into consideration the task, but it also takes into consideration the human nature that is inherently part of work.

To help organizations and people achieve their greatest potential, leaders and managers must understand and influence behavioral economics (i.e., “the mathematical description of the role human nature plays in just about…everything” Jim Clifton, CEO, Gallup).  Strengths and how people use them is one of the key factors in the behavioral economic equation that drives performance.  So, how does a manager unlock that part of the equation and translate the awareness of strengths behavioral economics into their day-to-day actions?  



A manager must adopt a strengths-based approach that includes:

  • Understanding and investing in their own talents. Strengths-based development starts with the leader or manager.  By becoming aware of your own talents and investing in them to develop strengths, you will put yourself and your team in the best position to achieve success.
  • Identifying and understanding team member talents. Whether it is done using an assessment or informally, managers must prioritize inventorying the talents they have on their team and contemplating how those fit with team roles or elsewhere in the organization.
  • Support team members in turning talents into strengths. Investing in talents means providing space for team members to use them at work, assigning team members to activities that enhance and develop their innate talent, and providing positive reinforcement through feedback and observations when strengths are being applied.

By doing these three things regularly and consistently, managers will start to make a difference, employees will start to feel the difference, and the performance impact will start to be realized.

To tap into the best of your people, put them into positions where they can do what they like to do best and help them develop their strengths. You will unlock and unleash their potential and your own!

Promoting Learning by Combatting the Forgetting Curve

Archos Diane Brown.png

Training and development is critical for every organization, and most invest heavily in learning each year. Training topics can include technical, technology or process updates, leadership or “soft” skills, and revenue generation (e.g., sales, innovation, practice development, etc.) just to name a few.  With the current dynamic work environment, new requirements for learning are almost ever-present, and the learning curve is clearly evident. Not as evident is that the learning curve is quickly impacted by the forgetting curve, and the forgetting curve can rapidly deplete the ROI on any learning investment IF the organization is not proactive.

The forgetting curve is a concept that was first researched by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885.  Ebbingaus studied the effect of the passage of time on memorization and recall of information.  The result of his research, which has been subsequently validated through additional studies, is “the forgetting curve”.  The forgetting curve shows that, on average, individuals forget about 70% of what we learn within about 24 hours! 70%! While that makes it sound like training is a wasted investment, let me be clear: it is not.  In fact, it is one of the most valued aspects of the employee experience.  However, because the forgetting curve is real, companies need to be smart about how they approach learning to get the greatest ROI.

Training_Development Social (1).png

To maximize ROI, learning strategy and design should include three things:

  1. The original training design should be experiential and hands on. “…Involve me and I learn” is not just a quote, but also a sound learning principle. Participants who apply concepts in a “safe” environment have greater recall and success in execution following a learning event. Solid training design can slow the process of forgetting, but it must be coupled with other reinforcement methods for maximum impact.
  2. Reinforcement and active recall (especially spaced repetition).  Learning must be recognized as an ongoing journey, not an event.  A “training” session can be part of the journey, but greater change will happen if the training is reinforced with spaced “boosters” of content reinforcement.  This could be questions, concept refreshers, or application exercises. Regardless, training should always be coupled with follow-up over a period of weeks and months to optimize behavior change and learning.
  3. Applied examples.  At an appropriate time after initial training, asking the participants to periodically share examples of how they are applying the learning is powerful reinforcement.  It brings content to life and ensures the intended learning is translated into action.

To become a learning organization, you must embed these concepts within your culture.  In addition, make sure that training in not promoted as or seen as a “check the box” exercise or a one time event, but rather is understood as a process.  Finally, make sure learning is about more than just knowledge, it is about true development, behavior change, and sustainability.  If you achieve these shifts, both your employees and your company will benefit!