Friday, March 29, 2019

One Fix for All That's Wrong: Better Managers

[Editor's Note:  When I read this article in The Wall Street Journal, I was struck by how relevant it is to many of the questions and issues facing companies today. It also should cause us to ask two questions: 1)How effective are our managers at "infecting their teams with a sense of purpose and function." and 2) How effective am I at "infecting my team with a sense of purpose and function." I hope you find the article thought-provoking.  -dpm]

One Fix for All That's Wrong: Better Managers

This article by Sam Walker appeared in the March 23, 2019, print edition of The Wall Street Journal 


In 2018, the U.S. economy benefited from historically low unemployment, brisk spending, an aggressive tax stimulus and hordes of game-changing advancements in technology. This singular combination of tailwinds yielded a growth rate of 2.9%.
That's not terrible, especially compared with many wheezing economies abroad, but it's not even in the ballpark of historic highs.
For the better part of three decades, economists have worn out their chalkboards trying to map a path back to the glory days of 7% growth. So far, the only point they agree on is that we must be doing something wrong.
If it's a superior team you're after, hiring the right manager is nearly three-fourths of the battle. Here's a crazy idea: What if it's something simple? What if companies could fix the problem by hiring better middle managers? Five years ago, the Gallup organization embarked on one of the most ambitious deep dives it has ever conducted; an analysis of the future of work based on a decade of input from nearly 2 million employees and more than 300,000 business units. The results confirmed something Gallup had seen before: a company's productivity depends, to a high degree, on the quality of its managers.
What no one saw coming, however, was the sheer size of that correlation-something Gallup calls "the single most profound, distinct and clarifying finding" in its 80-year history. The study showed that managers didn't just influence the results their teams achieved, they explained a full 70% of the variance. In other words, if it's a superior team you're after, hiring the right manager is nearly three-fourths of the battle.
No other single factor, from compensation levels to the perception of senior leadership, even came close. "That blew me out of my chair," says Jim Clifton, Gallup's chief executive.
The study's conclusions, laid out in Gallup's forthcoming bookIt's the Manager, struck a particular chord with me. I, too, had exhaustively studied teams-although my subjects were the top dynasties in sports. I'd reached a similar conclusion: The overwhelming driver for sustained excellence in sports was another kind of middle manager, the team captain.
Only a third of employees in the U.S.are highly engaged. Gallup's favorite metric for rating business teams is "engagement," or a belief among employees that they're doing meaningful work in a climate that supports personal growth and development. Gallup and others have shown, over many years, that highly engaged teams have significantly lower turnover and higher productivity and profitability, among other things. 
Roughly a third of employees in the U.S. are highly engaged, Gallup found, but inside successful businesses that figure can run north of 68%. It's not surprising that many companies have started measuring internal engagement and tinkering with new perks and initiatives to juice their scores.
Gallup's deep dive reconfirmed all of this, but it also pointed to something many companies don't fully appreciate: why engagement is so important.
In previous decades, when Gallup asked people to order their priorities, they ranked family, having children, owning a home and living in peace above having a good job. Starting in 2002, around the time millions of people started comparing their lives on social media, the order shifted. Today, Gallup found, having a rewarding job ranks first.
Put simply, having a great job means having a great life.
This finding, which Gallup's Mr. Clifton calls "seismic," suggests that some portion of the vast number of people who feel disengaged at work experience an inspiration gap. While many jobs haven't changed, the expectations we bring to them have metastasized. The wider that chasm becomes, the unhappier we are.
In theory, then, a shortage of good jobs and inspiring bosses might explain why some companies struggle to recruit and retain purpose-driven millennials. It could also explain why lavish perks don't always produce the desired effect on worker engagement.
It's also conceivable that this inspiration deficit helps explain America's stubbornly stagnant levels of worker productivity and, if you game it out, why the economy isn't growing faster.

There are human consequences of feeling unfulfilled at work.To state the obvious, dreadful bosses are not the sole barrier to growth. In this newspaper, we've explored the shortage of bold, innovative ideas and a lack of genuinely transformative business models. Some theorists say the gains promised by radical innovation haven't kicked in yet because the technology is still too costly and complex for many businesses to adopt. Nevertheless, those explanations don't address the emotional, illogical human consequences of feeling unfulfilled at work. It's fair to wonder whether this problem explains recent polls that suggest 70% of Americans would support a presidential candidate who promised to reform our economic system, or the growing number of young adults who hold an unfavorable opinion of capitalism. If you have a bad boss and a purposeless job, Gallup's Mr. Clifton says, you might conclude that "whatever this system is, it doesn't work for me." 

In any event, when it comes to hiring managers for the modern world, there's no question business can do better.
Promoting superstar individual contributors is part of the problem. One highly questionable tradition is the persistent urge to promote superstars into management roles. A growing body of evidence suggests there's a weak correlation between an employee's isolated talent and their leadership ability, and that quiet, selfless, middling performers often would be better choices. Gallup advises companies to seek out managers who infect their teams with a sense of purpose and function more like "coaches" than conventional top-down bosses.

It's also important to understand what engagement really is. Some companies try to measure it by asking employees to rate their "satisfaction" on a five-point scale. But the threshold for feeling satisfied is pretty low-decent pay and reasonable hours might accomplish that for most people. Today's workers aren't truly engaged unless their jobs generate feelings of purpose and personal growth.
Finally, there's the problem of "culture." It's fine for companies to embrace a set of values and impose a culture of positive engagement. But for most workers, the real company they work for is the team they're on. The only way to make a culture stick is to install middle managers who transfer it to their teams.
What sort of return can businesses expect from doing this? According to Gallup, the top 10% of companies, ranked by engagement, posted profit gains of 26% through the last recession compared with a 14% skid at comparable employers.
As for the future of free-market capitalism, it's impossible to say whether hiring more superstar middle managers will provide the rocket fuel we seek. In December, U.S. officials issued a gloomy forecast calling for three straight years of declining growth. It's possible that future economists will unearth this column someday and laugh at its naiveté.
Then again, maybe they won't. Maybe they'll marvel at how simple the fix turned out to be.


Mr. Walker, a former reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, is the author of "The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams" (Random House). 






To read the complete article: 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

2019 Colorado Mentoring Summit Leadership Luncheon - May 17th

The Leadership Luncheon explores the value of partnerships in mentoring.

The Leadership Luncheon  features keynote presentations, discussions and networking opportunities and will focus on the role of corporate community partnerships to achieve significant community impact, advancing relationships for young people in Colorado. Discover how to get your employee group engaged with mentoring.

Join other corporate leaders, government officials, and nonprofit agencies on May 17th.

Help make a lasting impact in Colorado by expanding quality youth mentoring. 
Get engaged!

For more information on sponsorship or tickets, please contact Executive Director, Hannah Krieger or Dave Mead

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Why every company should be doing scenario planning: How well are you prepared for what you don't think will happen?

[Editor's Note: Happy New Year! I recently listened to several economic forecasts for 2019 and was struck by an interesting caveat made by the economists: When the economy is continuing to go up month after month, optimism about the momentum and duration of the economic upturn tends to blur our vision. History tells us that most of us tend to ride on our optimism and miss the turns in the economy until they are upon us. (Think the tech bubble of the late 1990's or the big surprise in 2008).
 
Do we really know how this is going to play out over the next few years? There are a number of different views of where the markets and economy may go. But, we all need to chart a direction for our companies. What is universally true is uncertainty. With great uncertainty and multiple different views of the future, a company needs to do scenario planning, so that it thinks about the different possible views of the future and how it would move or adapt to best position itself for success.

The Mead Consulting Group utilizes scenario planning to help clients build flexibility into planning and execution and to help leaders think "broader." This last recession was a game-changer. While scenario planning was once conducted primarily with our larger clients, today, over half of our clients (owner-operated, strategic, and private-equity- backed) have discovered the benefits of scenario planning. Contact me for more information,  - dpm]
 

Why every company should be doing scenario planning: How well are you prepared for what you don't think will happen?  
 
Why every company should be doing scenario planning 
If your business or industry is predictable, you need not continue reading. If, however, there is uncertainty about the future of your markets or industry, then your company should examine the way it plans. It isn't just healthcare companies, either. I would submit that there is little real predictability in most industries.
 
Making assumptions gives us a false sense of security and puts blinders on us. What is the old line about the word "assume" making an "ass out of you and me?" Not to be profane, but traditional strategic planning totally botched the economic downturn/recovery of 2008 - 2018. Traditional strategic planning is based on assumptions. The planning group makes certain assumptions about the future - about variables such as economic, political, social, technological, regulatory, environmental, etc. Making assumptions is just another way of saying we are attempting to predict the future.
 
Really? I would suggest that there are situations where economic, social, political, technological, regulatory, and environmental factors will drive fundamental change in every business and industry of every person reading this e-Letter. It's really only a question of degree, pace, and timing.
 
Various organizations/industries could have avoided significant market pain by utilizing scenario planning. Without being overly critical, these organizations/industries were complacent - and they made assumptions about the future that proved to be very wrong. Each was overtaken by disruptive forces that were not within their traditional industry competitive analysis.
 
Have the courage to consider the tough questions. How will your business be impacted by the following?    
 
*  Technology - How much will technology change your industry?
  • Example: Efficient visibility and management of supply chains (from end user order entry - directly impacting each step of the supply chain - think blockchain.
  • Amazon ....everywhere...
 
*   Geopolitical - Where to start - the list is endless. Tariffs, Refugees, Immigration, Changes in international influence....
 
*   Social/Environmental
  • Power moving to the consumer (away from institutions)
 
*    Changes in culture, attitudes (Millennials and i-Gen or Generation Z vs. Boomers and GenX)
 
*    Demographics - Is your customer base affected by demographics?
  • Aging population in certain markets
    • What does the negative birth-rate and aging population mean for European economies like Greece, Spain, Italy, or Iran and Iraq. What about Japan?
    • Baby boomers retiring, selling businesses, eldercare, etc.
 *    Economic
  • Is the U.S. facing a period of long-term labor shortages?
  • Will increasing labor rates continue to make China less competitive? How will outsourcing look in 5-10 years?
  • What will happen to Europe after Brexit?
  • Impact of trade wars
  • Impact of Cryptocurrencies 
*    Regulatory - This list is also endless...
  • Healthcare / Affordable Care Act
  • FDA
  • EPA
  • Trade
  • Future of taxation)
 Companies can no longer ignore uncertainty or try to assume it away. Some organizations will say scenario planning is too difficult and elect to take a simpler course.  Most organizations perform traditional strategic planning or business planning/ budgeting because it is comfortable and addresses a short timeframe. However, we now know that the world is uncertain and interconnected. Companies can no longer ignore uncertainty or try to assume it away.  As author H.L. Mencken is quoted, "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

That is your opportunity. Since the 2008 downturn, the number of our clients that are doing scenario planning has more than tripled.  Companies that are scenario planning are examining different possibilities of the future and determining their competitive response. They are modifying the trends and information that they monitor so that they can develop "early warning" signs. These companies are building flexibility into their planning and adaptability into their leadership and culture.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Did you accomplish your goals in 2018? What's your plan for 2019?

Did you accomplish your goals in 2018? What's your plan for 2019?

As we begin a new year, it might be a good time for reflection. Did you accomplish your business and personal goals for 2018?  If not, what will you do differently in 2019?
 
What changes are you planning for 2019? 
Is your plan for 2019 just another financial plan? Is your plan merely a rehash of last year's? Are you taking new steps to ensure solid execution?
 
Do something bold and different. Does your plan for 2019 position your company to take advantage of competitive advantages and opportunities? Does your plan allow you to be successful without depending on a rising economy? (Many believe the next recession may start as early as the 4th quarter.) Do you have the right people and resources in place to execute the plan? Have you broken the plan into actions with specific metrics, dates, and responsible people? Have you subjected your plan to the reality test? Have you thought about both positive and negative scenarios of the future and what steps your company should take in each case? Is there an element of fun and adventure to your plan? Does your plan make your company more valuable at the end of this next year?
 If you can't answer YES to each of these questions, perhaps you are planning more of the same in 2019. As the saying goes: What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. 
 
Think it's too late to affect 2019 -2020? Don't you expect more from yourself and your company? It's not too late to put a different approach to work that elevates your company and its prospects. It's not too late to act to maximize the next couple of years. Uncertainty makes many of us uncomfortable - but it also brings opportunities to those who can get in front of the market disruptions.
 
Perhaps 2019 should be the year you start planning to sell? Many knowledgeable people expect that 2019 will continue to be among the best years of any over the next few years for business owners to sell at greatest value. The dynamics of many potential buyers, low inflation, lots of available private equity capital, higher valuations for performing companies - all bode well for sellers over the near future. These dynamics are expected to change for the worse during the next few years as inflation rises, recession looms, and the stock market adjusts causing lower valuations, etc. One veteran of many company sales explains it this way: "If you are planning to possibly sell over the next 5 years, you should be planning to sell in this market - or you may wind up missing the window."
 
Start preparing now - run your business for value. Whether or not you plan to sell, it always makes sense to run your business to increase value. If your business in recent years has become more of a lifestyle business than a growth/value business, make 2019 the year to change that. Learn what adds value to prospective buyers, and reduce or eliminate the discounters of value. How ready is your business to maximize value?  

  to set up a no cost conversation. We have coached many businesses to achieve better market positioning and greater value.   

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Why every company should be doing scenario planning: How well are you prepared for what you don't think will happen?

[Editor's Note: I recently listened to several economic forecasts for 2019 and was struck by an interesting caveat made by the economists: When the economy is continuing to go up month after month, optimism about the momentum and duration of the economic upturn tends to blur our vision. History tells us that most of us tend to ride on our optimism and miss the turns in the economy until they are upon us. (Think the tech bubble of the late 1990's or the big surprise in 2008).

Do we really know how this is going to play out over the next few years? There are a number of different views of where the markets and economy may go. But, we all need to chart a direction for our companies. What is universally true is uncertainty. With great uncertainty and multiple different views of the future, a company needs to do scenario planning, so that it thinks about the different possible views of the future and how it would move or adapt to best position itself for success.

The Mead Consulting Group utilizes scenario planning to help clients build flexibility into planning and execution and to help leaders think "broader." This last recession was a game-changer. While scenario planning was once conducted primarily with our larger clients, today, over half of our clients (owner-operated, strategic, and private-equity- backed) have discovered the benefits of scenario planning.  - dpm]
 

Why every company should be doing scenario planning: How well are you prepared for what you don't think will happen?  

Why every company should be doing scenario planning 
If your business or industry is predictable, you need not continue reading. If, however, there is uncertainty about the future of your markets or industry, then your company should examine the way it plans. It isn't just healthcare companies, either. I would submit that there is little real predictability in most industries.

Making assumptions gives us a false sense of security and puts blinders on us. What is the old line about the word "assume" making an "ass out of you and me?" Not to be profane, but traditional strategic planning totally botched the economic downturn/recovery of 2008 - 2018. Traditional strategic planning is based on assumptions. The planning group makes certain assumptions about the future - about variables such as economic, political, social, technological, regulatory, environmental, etc. Making assumptions is just another way of saying we are attempting to predict the future.
Really? I would suggest that there are situations where economic, social, political, technological, regulatory, and environmental factors will drive fundamental change in every business and industry of every person reading this e-Letter. It's really only a question of degree, pace, and timing.

Various organizations/industries could have avoided significant market pain by utilizing scenario planning. Without being overly critical, these organizations/industries were complacent - and they made assumptions about the future that proved to be very wrong. Each was overtaken by disruptive forces that were not within their traditional industry competitive analysis.

Have the courage to consider the tough questions. How will your business be impacted by the following?    
*  Technology - How much will technology change your industry?
  • Example: Efficient visibility and management of supply chains (from end-user order entry - directly impacting each step of the supply chain. Think blockchain.
  • Amazon ....everywhere...
  • AI, Machine Learning, 
  • Electric Vehicles
*   Geopolitical - Where to start - the list is endless. Tarriffs, Refugees/Immigration, Instability of certain governements...

*   Social/Environmental
  • Power moving to the consumer (away from institutions)
*    Changes in culture, attitudes (Millennials and i-Gen or Generation Z vs. Boomers and GenX)
*    Demographics - Is your customer base affected by demographics?
  • Aging population in certain markets
    • What does the negative birth-rate and aging population mean for European economies like Greece, Spain, Italy, or Iran and Iraq. What about Japan?
    • Baby boomers retiring, selling businesses, eldercare, etc.
 *    Economic
  • Is the U.S. facing a period of long-term labor shortages?
  • Will increasing labor rates continue to make China less competitive? How will outsourcing look in 5-10 years?
  • What will happen to Europe after Brexit?
  • Impact of trade wars
  • Impact of Cryptocurrencies
   
*    Regulatory - This list is also endless...
  • Healthcare / Affordable Care Act
  • FDA
  • EPA
  • Trade
  • Future of taxation)
Companies can no longer ignore uncertainty or try to assume it away. Some organizations will say scenario planning is too difficult and elect to take a simpler course.  Most organizations perform traditional strategic planning or business planning/ budgeting because it is comfortable and addresses a short timeframe. However, we now know that the world is uncertain and interconnected. Companies can no longer ignore uncertainty or try to assume it away.  As author H.L. Mencken is quoted, "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

That is your opportunity. Since the 2008 downturn, the number of our clients that are doing scenario planning has more than tripled.  Companies that are scenario planning are examining different possibilities of the future and determining their competitive response. They are modifying the trends and information that they monitor so that they can develop "early warning" signs. These companies are building flexibility into their planning and adaptability into their leadership and culture.

A number of companies are so concerned that they are doing scenario planning in Q1 of 2019 because they did not get to it in 2018. If you want to discuss scenario planning or want more information on the Mead Consulting approach to scenario planning, please 
contact me at meaddp@meadconsultinggroup.com.  

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Business Case for Youth Mentoring -- The Value of Mentoring Youth to the Business Community

The Business Case for Youth Mentoring
The Value of Mentoring Youth to the Business Community

By David Mead
[Author’s Note:  I typically write about the issues facing business owners and C-level executives. While some of you might be confused about the linkage with the topic of mentoring, I maintain that mentoring young people is a critically important business issue! – Dave Mead]
As we enter the season of giving, I thought it might be appropriate to share an article about giving back. Many of us have long been concerned about the lack of role models and adult guidance for many of our youth and it has been demonstrated that youth who have a formal mentoring relationship do better in school, have better graduation rates, have lower incidence of substance abuse, and lower incidence of crime, not to mention an overall better future. As I have become familiar with the statistics about the value of mentoring, I found that the results are compelling. Mentoring benefits not only the individual and the community, but also employees and businesses.

Most successful people know the value of mentors - I know I have been fortunate to have had several key mentors over the course of my life and career.
One of the things my mother used to say: "If something concerns you, stop whining about it and do something to make it better." Years ago, I was a youth mentor for a number of years and it was very rewarding. I saw the impact on my mentee firsthand. But, I also realized that there are far more young people needing mentors whose needs are unmet. In Colorado, almost 300,000 young people aged 5 to 22 need a mentoring relationship. Currently, fewer than 20,000 have an engaged mentor - Less than 7% of the need is being met.

I joined the Board of
  Mentor Colorado (Colorado Mentoring Partnership) in 2014. Mentor Colorado is the support organization for the 65+ youth mentoring organizations across Colorado (like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Denver Urban Scholars, Gunnison Valley Partners, etc.) to help them in scaling their activities with the adoption of best practices in recruiting, training, and supporting mentoring relationships. There are mentoring partnerships in 26 states. Colorado is one of the most recent states to form an organization. The models Colorado is following are the organizations in Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania which have dramatically increased the number of quality mentoring relationships.  
MENTOR (The National Mentoring Partnership) and Ernst and Young sponsored a 2015 report,   The Business Case for Mentoring : Mentoring at the Crossroads of Education, Business and Community, which demonstrates the value of mentoring to the individuals, the community, and to business. As the report states it, "Mentoring is changing the trajectory of thousands of young people's lives." Especially in this period of talent scarcity, there is an increasing need to focus on workforce development – and that starts with making sure our young people are equipped to join the workforce.
 The case for business involvement in mentoring is simple. Mentoring adds value to individuals, business, and the community
  Value to the individual and community.   Some of the benefits to the individual and the community include:
  • Better school performance.  Improved attendance,  higher graduation rates, and more likely to go on to college or learn a trade
  • Less Substance Abuse. Mentored youth are less likely to start using illegal drugs and alcohol.
  • Lower Crime rate. Fewer disciplinary problems and lower incidence of criminal behavior
  • Better jobs. Better jobs and much less likely to be dependent on entitlement programs
 Value to companies and employees Key reasons companies and employees engage in youth mentoring: 
  • Fostering employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. Today's employees are strongly attracted to companies that are purpose-driven and that offer opportunities for engagement.
  • Cultivating and developing the future workforce. Prepare a more productive workforce
  • Supporting vibrant communities (which include your customers) 
  • Branding
    • Improve your company’s image in the community
    • Increase community awareness of your company’s mission
Mentor Colorado can help your company get started. Many companies have a fragmented approach to not-for-profit activities. Other companies may not know how to get started. Mentor Colorado is helping sponsoring companies with the development of mentoring programs, training, and organizing mentoring activities for their employees.

GET ENGAGED!  Become a sponsoring organization and make a difference.
If you would like more information about how you and your organization can get involved, please contact Executive Director, Hannah Krieger or Dave Mead 


Donate - Remember Colorado Gives Day is December 4th. You can make your donation now.