Monday, December 26, 2011

Why Everyone's Working So Hard

In the early 1980s I had the opportunity to work as a consultant in several of America's largest organizations. In those days I often thought that corporate managers and professionals were lazy. In most corporate headquarters buildings I could have shot a cannonball down the hall at 5 p.m. and not hit anyone! Professionals and managers were working 35 to 40 hours per week. They were taking four to five weeks of vacation during the course of the year. They enjoyed incredible job security, great benefits, lifetime health care, and guaranteed pensions.

Those days are gone! Today I am amazed at how hard corporate managers and professionals work. What happened?

Five factors have converged to create a new world for professionals:

1. Increased Differentiation in Compensation

Many studies and reports have highlighted the huge compensation increases of CEOs relative to the average salaries of the general population of employee.

As CEOs have enjoyed massive increases in pay, other C-level officers - the next level down - have also noticed large increases in compensation. This trend has continued throughout the organization, from vice-presidents to directors. While mid-managers and staff professionals have not had the relative increase in compensation enjoyed by executives, they have still been moving ahead at a much faster pace than the general population.

Recently, in a conversation with the CFO of a blue chip company, I observed an example of the impact of this increased compensation. One of his direct reports complained, "I didn't go to work in a major corporation to work this hard. If I had wanted to put in this many hours, I would have worked in a professional services firm." The CFO replied, "You are getting paid as much a partner in one of the top professional services firms. If you don't want to work like one, why don't you either take a demotion or leave?"

Higher salaries come with higher expectations. The bottom-line pressure from shareholders has only gone up. As top managers and professionals are being paid more money, they are subject to greater expectations. Managers expect their subordinate managers and professionals to earn their pay increases.

2. Decreased Job Security

In the early '80s I did a study of dismissals at IBM (IBM). While IBM would always fire employees for ethical violations, almost no one was fired because of poor performance. If you wore a white shirt, showed up, and met minimal expectations, you had a job for your entire career.

As IBM's corporate profits began to disappear, then-CEO John Akers faced increased pressure from stockholders to change the corporation. His hesitation to move away from IBM's full-employment practice was one of the factors that led to his eventual dismissal. IBM's lack of tough performance standards was not that unusual in the U.S from the 1960's to the 1980's. The same story could have been observed at AT&T (T), Eastman Kodak (EK), and many other huge companies during that era.

In today's competitive world, job security for managers and professionals seems a distant dream. Along with the carrot of increased rewards, managers, and professionals live with the stick of losing their jobs. Overall, the professional work ethic has increased in a world where the value of performing can bring greater rewards, while the cost of nonperformance can bring severe and immediate punishment.

There has also been a marked decline in midlevel work - a "hollowing-out" of the middle class. The lack of midlevel jobs has further increased the distance between society's economic "winners" and "losers."

3. Decreased Health Care and Pension Security

The concept of guaranteed lifetime health care and pension has been greatly eroded in the U.S. in the past 10 years. Employees are facing the reality of losing part - or all - of the benefits that they thought were a given. The relative losses in benefits for managers and professionals can be even greater than the losses faced by wage-earning employees. Even companies that are retaining pension benefits are moving away from defined-benefit plans that provide guaranteed, inflation-proof income security during the retirement years.

As the probability of lifetime health care paid for by the company disappears, the cost of health care continues to escalate. The expectations for corporate pensions and Social Security have diminished. These changes have caused many professionals to feel like they are on their own, both now and post-retirement.

4. Global Competition

In the 1950s managers and professionals in the U.S. had a huge competitive advantage. While business was largely conducted in English, relatively few people around the world spoke fluent English. To add to our advantage, an incredibly small percentage of the populations in China, India, or Eastern Europe had professional educations that were competitive with those in the States or Western Europe. Over time this competitive advantage has slowly eroded.

As recently as 10 years ago global outsourcing was largely limited to manufacturing or lower-level service jobs. In the future, many more managerial and professional jobs will be outsourced.

Today millions of highly educated, English-speaking, non-American professionals are flooding the job market. They are willing to work for salaries that are much lower than the wages paid to Americans. They are more than happy to work long hours. Global competition has helped further fuel the job insecurity and job pressure experienced by professionals in the States. The fact that Americans, Europeans, and Japanese workers earn more that workers in developing countries has led to increased pressure to justify their high-paying jobs with significant contributions.

5. New Technology

There was a time when people thought new technology would lead to more leisure time. Instead, new technology has created a "24/7" mindset. Professionals everywhere can be seen using cell phones or PDAs to communicate with their co-workers. New technology has gone hand in hand with globalization to create a world where work never stops. It has also begun to blur the distinction between home and work.

The five changes outlined here have created a new breed of professional employee: more driven and hard-working, yet more insecure, than ever before. Leading these new professionals will be one of the key challenges for the leader of the future. In a future column, I will discuss suggestions for leading this hardworking, yet highly insecure workforce.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, December 19, 2011

You Have to Make Them Love Their Jobs

As corporations' expectations for their professionals have increased, professionals' expectations for their leaders have also increased. Peter Drucker often talked about the importance of effectively leading knowledge workers - professionals who know more about what they are doing than their boss does.

In leading today's knowledge workers, it is important to invert the pyramid and look at leadership vis-a-vis the wants and needs of the professional - as opposed to the skills of the leader. Today's leaders may be judged more by the gifts they provide than the gifts that they possess. Here are some tips for successfully managing knowledge workers:

o Encourage their passion

When professionals were working 35-40 hours per week and taking four to five weeks of vacation, it was not so important that they loved what they did. But when professionals are working as many hours as they do today, it's crucial that they love their work. Professionals need to look forward to going to work in the morning. The leaders of the future need to look for, support, and encourage passion in their professional employees. Leaders also need to "lead by example" and demonstrate this same passion. When I ask high-potential leaders why they stay with their companies, "I love working here!" is a very common response!

o Enhance their ability

As job security has decreased - and global competition has increased - the need to update and refine skills continually has become critical in maintaining professional careers. Leaders of the future will need to look beyond the skills needed for today and help professionals learn the skills that will be needed for tomorrow. One company renowned for educating its professionals has noted: "We cannot ensure your lifetime employment, but we can help ensure your lifetime employability". Top professionals will often be willing to accept less money for more growth. Loyalty will be gained through learning - not just earning.

o Value their time

As professionals have less disposable time, the value of their time increases. When asked to describe the qualities of leaders they do not respect, one of the most common answers from professionals is: "I hate it when leaders waste my time." It is hard enough working 50-80 hours a week and doing what does matter. It is incredibly painful to work that much and then end up wasting time on things that don't. Leaders will need to increase skills in protecting professionals from things that neither encourage their passion nor enhance their ability.

o Build their networks

Professionals in the future will realize that their only security will come from their abilities and their networks. By enabling professionals to establish strong networks both inside and outside the company, organizations can gain a huge competitive advantage and the loyalty of their workers. Professional networking enables people to expand their knowledge and bring back new knowledge to the organization.

As multiple job - and even career - changes become the norm, companies will begin to experience professionals who leave and then return. A role model for providing positive networking is strategy consulting firm McKinsey. McKinsey goes out of its way to provide a network for former employees. Many ex-McKinsey consultants go on to become leaders in major corporations - and customers of McKinsey. Their loyalty to former employees helps lead to loyalty from future customers.

o Support their dreams

The best professionals are working for far more than money. They have a dream of making a meaningful contribution in their field. I heard Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google (GOOG), explain why he was not afraid that many of their best people would leave after the initial public offering, which would make them very rich. He noted that Google wanted to be the world's leader in providing information - and that any professional who wanted to be the best in the field would want to work there. Leaders in the past have asked: "What can you do to help our company achieve its dream?" Leaders in the future will also ask: "What can our company do to help you achieve your dream?"

o Expand their contributions

Two of the most important needs of hard-working professionals are happiness and meaning. As was mentioned earlier, leaders need to encourage passion to create an environment where people are happy and want to come to work. Leaders will also need to show how the organization can help the professional make a larger contribution to the world. When people have "24/7" lifestyles, they may not have much of a chance to find meaning - and the opportunity to make a contribution - outside of work. If this is the case, their major opportunity to find meaning and make a positive difference will come from inside of work. No one wants to put in endless hours on trivia. Leaders will need to help professionals make a real difference in their professions and in the world.

Leading the managers and professionals of the future will be a challenging, yet rewarding, job. Leaders will need to go beyond looking at the work to be done and consider the human doing the work. They will need to understand the incredible pressures that have been brought about by globalization, technology, and competition. They will need to appreciate the hard work and sacrifice needed for professional success in a much tougher world. Leaders will need to realize that as work becomes even more important, and organizations become even more important, they will become even more important in helping to shape the quality of life and the futures of the professionals they lead.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, December 12, 2011

Girl Scouts: Creating 21st Century Leaders

Kathy Cloninger, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA since 2003, is in the process of transforming the venerable U.S. organization to ensure it remains as relevant to girls today as when it was founded in 1912. (I consider one of Kathy's predecessors as CEO, Frances Hesselbein, to be the greatest leader I have ever met.) The organization recently released a fascinating study on girls and their aspirations to leadership, so I invited Kathy to discuss what she sees for the next generation of women leaders. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow.

It seems to me women have made substantial gains in terms of leadership positions in Corporate America, in holding public office, etc., over the past 20 years. I would think we have quite a generation of girls who want to scale the highest reaches of power.

It's interesting you use the word power. Our study, which included a nationwide survey of girls and boys between the ages of 8 and 17, found that girls don't want power for power's sake. There is plenty of ambition there, to be sure, but what we found was girls aspire to a different kind of leadership that serves a bigger purpose. I think this both hopeful and challenging.

Challenging in what way?

It's clear from the research that girls care about leadership. However, they're turned off by the kind of leadership they see as prevalent in the culture, the kind of leadership that can be described as command and control. When we asked girls whether they aspired to leadership, more than half were ambivalent, and another 9% rejected it. We need a broader definition of leadership. The current command-and-control style of leadership is too limiting for girls.

If girls have a different conception of leadership, will they be able to compete for those top jobs when they come of age?

This isn't about choosing one leadership or management style over the other. I'd love to see a blended approach that combines decisiveness and action with collaboration and inclusion. Quite frankly, the world that these girls and boys will inherit is going to require it. The best leaders already embrace this approach - we just have to bring along the rest of society.

That's a pretty tall order.

That's true. At the end of the day, however, the research should be a wake-up call for all of us. We must pay attention to what girls are saying because they are our future. It's a competitive imperative as well as a moral one.

What's more, we at Girl Scouts aren't afraid of a challenge. Historically, about 10% of all American girls participate in Girl Scouting. However, 69% of the women serving in the Senate and 65% of the women in the House of Representatives are former Girl Scouts, as are close to 80% of all women business executives and business owners. So maybe the answer is to have all girls be Girl Scouts.

You mentioned you also surveyed boys. I am curious what they had to say about all this.

Well, there's some good news here. A majority of boys and girls believe they are equally capable of being leaders. A few generations ago, that would probably not have been the case. In fact, some 56% of boys said that "in our society, it is more difficult to become a leader for a woman than a man." So it's clear that even at some of the youngest ages, boys understand women face a harder road.

In general, boys had similar concerns about leadership: They want a model of altruistic leadership. But at the end of the day, the study shows making money, being their own boss, and having power is more important to them.

Given what you know about the next generation of women, are you sanguine about the prospects for women in leadership positions in Corporate America and elsewhere? Is that glass ceiling still going to be there tomorrow and the day after?

I am excited about the future. No one could argue that we haven't seen substantial changes in society when it comes to opportunities for women in a range of fields. Are we where we want to be? No. But girls today will have many opportunities for leadership in their lifetimes, and we as an organization are committed to getting them ready for those opportunities. We need those girls; they are 51% of the population. Think of all that talent.

We live in a complex society with a complex, diverse workforce, and we have a lot of very real problems to solve. Managing that complexity and diversity and solving those problems is going to require collaborative, inclusive leadership that focuses on the common good rather than the needs of the leader or chief executive. The good news is girls appear to understand this in very real and intuitive ways.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, December 05, 2011

Does Anyone Ever Really Change?

Are you ready? The million dollar question for anyone in the coaching field is: "Does anyone ever really change?" I was first asked this perfectly reasonable, and for me life-altering, question by a Fortune 100 company executive vice president for whose company I was preparing training sessions. I'm not sure why he asked me this question. Perhaps he had an eye on the training budget? It's hard to say. At the time, though, I had trained thousands of people, received fabulous feedback about my coaching, and I had dozens of letters from people who believed they had changed. I was a successful coach; I had worked with some of the best companies in the world, and nobody had ever asked me this question. Worse than that, it had never even entered my mind. I never went back to these companies to see if my training sessions had had any effect or if people actually did what they had promised to do in the training sessions. I had just assumed that they understood the benefits of my imminent wisdom and would do what they had been told.

I took immediate action. I became Mr. Follow-Up. I scoured all the research and went back to my client corporations, assembling data that answered the question, "Does anyone really change?" My pool of respondents eventually numbered 86,000 participants, involving eight major corporations, each of which had invested millions of dollars a year in leadership programs. As I studied the data, three conclusions emerged:

1. First, not everyone responds to executive development, at least not in the way the organization desires or intends.

Some people are trainable; some aren't. At the eight companies I surveyed, I asked participants at the end of each session if they intended to go back to their jobs and apply what they had learned. Nearly 100 percent said yes. However, a year later, when I asked their direct reports to confirm that these leaders had applied the lessons on the job, 70 percent said yes, leaving 30 percent who said their bosses did absolutely nothing! Why would 30 percent of executives go through the training, promise to implement the changes and then do nothing? Quite simply, most of the time they were just too busy and too distracted by the day-to-day demands of their jobs to implement what they had learned. This led me to my second conclusion.

2. There is an enormous disconnect between understanding and doing.

Most leadership development revolves around one huge, and false, assumption: If people understand, then they will do. Don't believe me? Take a look at the adamant smoker. This person knows that smoking cigarettes is bad for his health, but refuses to quit. However, this insight didn't tell me if the 70 percent who understand and do actually got better. That's when I realized the missing link was follow-up, not only in my training concepts, but also in getting people to change. I rewired my objectives and began measuring people to see not only if they got better, but why. Tracing five of my eight companies to measure the level of follow-up among the executives, I found the results were astonishingly consistent. When leaders did little or no follow-up with their subordinates, there was little or no perceived change in the leaders' effectiveness. When leaders consistently followed up, the perception of their effectiveness jumped dramatically. This led to me to the third conclusion.

3. People don't get better without follow-up.

Leaders who don't follow up aren't necessarily bad leaders; they are just not perceived as getting better. Follow-up shows you care about getting better. It shows you value your coworkers' opinions. Following up consistently, every month or so, shows you are serious about the process and that you are not ignoring your coworkers' input. Think about it. A leader who seeks input from coworkers, but ignores it or doesn't follow up on it, quite logically will be perceived as someone who doesn't care much about becoming a better leader.

My experience discovering the value of follow-up taught me a fourth and final very valuable lesson: Becoming a better leader (or a better person) is a process, not an event. Executive development is more than an event, training program, motivating speech or inspiring retreat. It doesn't happen in a day. It doesn't happen because someone understands the training. Leaders develop over time and the only way to know if someone is getting better by actually doing what they learned at a training program is to follow up. Follow-up turns changing for the better into an ongoing process - for leaders, their people and their teams.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule