AMA Quarterly Spring 2016

Page 1



Interview with

Jason Wingard

Mastering Continuous Learning Page 10









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SPRING 2016 Volume 2 • Number 1



16 Recipe for Success


Mastering Continuous Learning

AMA spoke with Jason Wingard, PhD, dean of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, about the issues companies are facing

22 Leadership in One Word

as they implement continuous training and learning programs, and how employers can close skills gaps.




The Leadership-Communication Connection Effective communication is the most important leadership skill that managers—from the C-suite to the front lines—can possess. By Tracy Benson

Eliminating the Four Flaws in Leadership Development Given the allegiance to investing in leadership development, why aren’t these investments in talent development working?


By Michael A. Roberto

The Big ROI in Recognition and Rewards As the economy grows stronger, you may be in a position to decide where to invest a few extra dollars to improve your company. You might get the biggest return on your money by investing in training and employee recognition. By Kim Shepherd


Leadership in One Word What’s the one characteristic that is most crucial to leadership? Here are the picks of leadership development executives. By Andi Baldwin and Jacob Parks


Tech, Recognition, Millennials, and Analytics: Training for the Future For any company that wants to build brand equity in the technology-driven marketplaces of today and the future, it is extremely critical to train executives and managers in the use of this technology. By Robert M. Donnelly


Are You the Reason Your Employees Are Leaving? Poor leadership doesn’t just cause people to quit. It leads employees to resist (or derail) change efforts. Low enthusiasm and engagement means no innovation and no “above and beyond” behavior at work. It ratchets up workplace stress to the breaking point. And it costs companies billions of dollars each year. By Phillip B. Wilson


How to Become a Master Learner The key to success, here in the 21st century, lies in developing the ability to acquire new skills and knowledge quickly and continuously. By Erika Andersen


The Price of Bullying in the Workplace If not stopped, bullying is in danger of weakening and destroying the foundations of organizations. By Joan Kingsley



Learning Never Stops at the Top


Recipe for Success Foodservice giant Compass USA cooks up an innovative leadership training program crafted for the modern learner. By Sam Davis


Content and Process Every training event is composed of two intertwined elements: workshop content and group process. Content and process are always present in a workshop, and the quality of each greatly affects participants’ learning. By Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton


The Awesome Power of Recognition Here are lessons learned from inspiring a diverse, global workforce. By David Novak


The Need for Learning Agility To help your company become a high-performing, sustainable organization that meets its objectives, you need to continually assess training needs and respond quickly to repair your shortcomings. By Edward T. Reilly



Learning Never Stops at the Top T

here’s the old adage that “the day you stop learning, you die.” That applies to your career as well as your everyday life—if you believe you have learned all the skills you can for your job, your career is probably at a dead end. Executives and company leaders not only have to concern themselves with keeping up with or acquiring new insights and skills, they have to make sure everyone in the company is learning as well. But overall corporate training remains inconsistent, as described in our cover Q&A with Jason Wingard, PhD, author of Learning to Succeed: Rethinking Corporate Education in a World of Unrelenting Change (AMACOM, 2015) and co-author of Learning for Life: How Continuous Education Will Keep Us Competitive in the Global Knowledge Economy (AMACOM, 2015). Wingard has found that companies will train in good times but let that training go when profits are down and markets are squeezed. The problem is that while investing in employees is one of the best ways a company can spend on itself, the returns aren’t immediately apparent. So companies shy away from establishing the continuous integrated learning systems that can create better employees and more successful organizations. David Novak, the founder and executive chairman of Yum! Brands, has found that in management training, consistent recognition of achievements helps elevate that knowledge across the company and boost overall success. Novak, who is retiring soon, shares these thoughts in the CEO Insights column on page 26. How do you know whether the training you’re getting is actually good? Training, of course, starts with the trainer. And AMACOM authors Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton, in an excerpt on page 19 from their book What Great Trainers Do: The Ultimate Guide to Delivering Engaging and Effective Learning (AMACOM, 2016), outline how a good trainer integrates the content and the group process—how the training group is functioning—into every workshop. If you’ve ever sat in a training course and wondered why you’re there, irritated at the exercises being done, the group process is failing, and has failed you. Learning should never stop, at the top and across a company. And this issue of AMA Quarterly contains many insights on how to make that happen.




Christiane Truelove CREATIVE DIRECTOR


Eugene Pupak COPY EDITOR


Tony Serio


Laura Grafeld


Christina Parisi PRESIDENT & CEO

Edward T. Reilly

AMA Quarterly © (ISSN 2377-1321) is published quarterly by American

Management Association International, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420, SPRING 2016, Volume 2, Number 1. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to American Management Association, 600 AMA Way, Saranac Lake, NY 12983-5534. American Management Association is a nonprofit educational a­ ssociation chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. AMA Quarterly is an independent forum for authoritative views on business and management issues. Submissions. We encourage submissions from prospective authors. For guidelines, write to The Guest Editor, AMA Quarterly, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420 or email Unsolicited ­manuscripts will be returned only if accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Letters are encouraged. Mail: Letters, AMA Quarterly, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420; email: AMA Quarterly reserves the right to excerpt and edit letters. Names and addresses must accompany all submissions. Subscriptions. Executive and Individual Members of American Management Association receive AMA Quarterly as part of their annual dues, a nonrefundable $50 of which is allocated for the ­subscription to AMA Quarterly. Single copies are available at $25 plus shipping and handling. Requests should be sent to Rights and permissions. ©2015, American Management Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written ­permission. Requests should be sent to Joe D’Amico, at Editorial Offices 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420 Tel: 212-903-8075; Fax: 212-903-7948 Email:

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The LeadershipCommunication


Effective communication is the most important leadership skill that managers—from the C-suite to the front lines—can possess.


Conventional wisdom says that people join companies and leave bosses. And there’s plenty of data to support this view, from the initial 1999 Gallup study that yielded the book First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (Simon & Schuster, 1999) to many more recent such studies. An April 2015 study by Gallup revealed that about half of adults surveyed left a job “to get away from their manager.”

95% Communication between employees and senior


Echoing these findings is the April 2015 Gallup study, which found that employees want to know that they can approach their manager with “any type of question,” indicating the importance of an environment of communication openness and employees’ clear understanding of what is expected of them.

As employees, we’re attracted to organizations that provide an environment that matches our values and priorities, much as we choose a community in which to live. We may look for a collaborative environment that promotes learning, development, and progressive levels of responsibility, and an organization built on authenticity. Or perhaps we’re motivated by an organization that promotes healthy internal competition and rewards stretch goals. All things being equal (such as analogous jobs with similar scopes of responsibility, compensation, and benefits), we are likely to choose the job with the company that best fits our values and priorities. If we fast-forward a couple of months, we will find rich networks of relationships formed with supervisors, managers, and other employees based on shared challenges, opportunities, and accomplishments. These relationships can be energizing or they can be demoralizing, much like those we form with neighbors once we’ve lived in our communities for a while. At work, it turns out that these relationships—particularly the ones we form with our supervisors and managers—are a significant indicator of what workplace psychologists call “intent to stay.” As links in the chain that stretches from the corner office to the front lines of any organization, managers and frontline supervisors are uniquely positioned to leverage influence, for better or worse, on everything from the organization’s purpose to reasons for major changes.

WHAT DO EMPLOYEES WANT? So what is it exactly that workers want from their managers? They want timely, respectful, and relevant communication. Seven of the eight indicators of employee satisfaction with management identified in the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey tie to the way senior and immediate management communicate issues ranging from respect of employees to the organization’s goals and strategies. These indicators, along with the percentage of respondents citing them as very important or important, are:

98% Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels

96% Trust between employees and senior management

96% Immediate supervisor’s respect for employee’s ideas

95% Relationship with immediate supervisor 4 I AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016


94% Management’s recognition of employee job performance

94% Management’s communication of organization’s goals and strategies

THE LINK TO EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT Much has been studied about the links between employee engagement and business outcomes. Perhaps the most intuitive explanation comes from a review of the “serviceprofit chain,” described in a July 2008 Harvard Business Review article by James L. Heskett, Thomas O. Jones, Gary W. Loveman, W. Earl Sasser Jr., and Leonard A. Schlesinger. In this model: • Profit and growth are driven by customer loyalty • Loyalty is the result of customer satisfaction • Satisfaction is largely the product of the value of services provided to customers • Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees • Employee satisfaction derives from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers More recently, data from a variety of sources reveal at least a correlative, if not a causal, relationship between employee engagement and outcomes such as increased profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and quality metrics, safety gains, retention savings, sales growth, and even improvements in wellness dimensions.

THE “SECRET SAUCE” FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION Decades of study are leading researchers to understand that emotional processes, called “affective processes,” play a much greater role in our mental lives than previously thought. The link between the head and the heart is not exactly a new idea, though. As early as circa 25 B.C., Cicero, the Roman philosopher and politician, was quoted as saying, “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.” More than 2,000 years later, Starbucks founder and chairman Howard Shultz said in the Spring/Summer 2005 edition of Know magazine, “People want to be a part of something that they can believe in…. Companies that are serving these emotional and human needs of the customers will really stand out…. People want to be part of something that touches their hearts.”

Employees who are high on the engagement scale are vested in the business, its customers, and their outcomes. Employees who are at the low end of the engagement scale are in a poor position to produce positive outcomes for the business. At most, they can complete the immediate responsibilities within their job description. At worst, they can become a distraction to their peers, reducing the team’s or department’s focus and productivity. Employees who are high on the engagement scale are vested in the business, its customers, and their outcomes. These folks are natural ambassadors for the company, internally and externally.

employees in conversations about the vision and their role in achieving it. A Towers Watson study found that companies that invest in developing the communication skills and practices of their managers perform better than those that don’t.


• Learn and hear things they would not otherwise be exposed to by their peers and direct reports

Organizations can initiate an engagement boost by inviting employees to actively share a compelling sense of purpose, through candid communication and motivating reward systems. However, managers and supervisors must sustain engagement through connection. That’s because connections are nourished over time between people. Practicing clear, consistent, and open communication is one of the most powerful, and least expensive, tools that leaders have in their arsenal for engaging their employees. This involves mastery in three key areas: • Telling the big-picture story, which includes explaining the roadmap (how the company expects to achieve the vision) and clearly making the connection for employees about what all this means to them and their jobs • Establishing and reinforcing expectations around behaviors, values, culture, and outcomes for next-level managers and employees through their own leadership style and approach • Investing time to listen to employees Tell the story. The most important job a leader has is building and sharing a vision that stirs employees’ passion. The first step is to articulate a story that inspires employees and explains where we’re going, why, and how—and importantly, what employees can do to help achieve the vision. Managers need to make this connection both real and clear. Establish expectations. Next, leaders must provide managers and supervisors with skills and tools so they can engage their

Invest time to listen. Listening for understanding requires us to set aside our own thoughts, agendas, and ideas in order to fully attend to those of another. Authentic curiosity is listening’s most powerful fuel. Leaders and managers who practice this art find that they:

• Glean important insights about whether or not the story is clear deep down into the organization and how employees understand their role in the story • Discover a trove of ideas and suggestions for both simple and innovative ways to improve product and service delivery The act of listening is a powerful leadership and communication behavior. It tells employees that you think highly enough of them to be interested in what they say.

SHUTTING DOWN THE REVOLVING DOOR Compdata Surveys estimates the voluntary turnover rate across all industries was 11% in 2014. The Society for Human Resource Management calculates the typical replacement cost at 50% to 60% of an employee’s annual salary. This means that if 11% of a business’s workforce leaves and the average pay is $35,000, it could cost a 1,000-person firm more than $2 million a year to replace employees. Teaching your managers how to communicate to engage is one of the most practical, highest ROI activities your organization will ever undertake. Your employees, and your customers, will thank you for it. AQ Tracy Benson is the founder and CEO of On the Same Page, a business consultancy that works to develop and implement customized communications strategies and change management strategy and execution to support companies’ business plans.





As the economy grows stronger, you may be in a position to decide where to invest a few extra dollars to improve your company. A systems upgrade? More marketing? A new copier? In fact, you might get the biggest return on your money by investing in training and employee recognition. Both are difficult to quantify, and that can make it difficult to justify hard dollars. But in my opinion, if you are a true leader who cares about your company’s performance, you should devote a huge chunk of critical thinking to both recognition and training/development. They are major factors in employee engagement, and employee engagement is essential to a thriving bottom line.

ENGAGEMENT PAYS According to Andrew Graham, author of “The Five Most Important Employee Engagement Needs” in TD Magazine, two of these needs are recognition and training (the others are belonging, enjoyment, and alignment). Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace report found that


employee engagement not only is an important predictor of organizational performance, but also may be a more important predictor than earnings per share. Another critical reason why employee engagement is important is that it helps you keep your best people. The job market is more competitive today than it has been for years or even decades. Top talent is in demand, and recruiters are becoming more adept at luring employees away from their current jobs. I know this because that’s what my company does! And that’s where some hard money does come into the picture: According to a report in Bloomberg BNA (Bureau of National Affairs), it costs about 1.5 times a position’s annual salary to recruit, train, and onboard a replacement. That turnover costs U.S. businesses $11 billion annually, so it’s hard to

overstate the importance of keeping your good people in this market. Lots of people believe it’s all about the money the business makes. But success really is all about the people. If they ever remake Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jr. is going to have to get Tom Cruise to chant “Show me the engagement!” The way I see it, my job as CEO is to do whatever I can to build engagement— so my company can meet and surpass our goals. By the way, it is possible to quantify and measure training and development as well as employee recognition programs. Before you buy a training program or hire a training professional, make sure that post-training measurement is part of the package. It should be.

THE VALUE OF TRAINING? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS An investment in training will pay off in lots of ways. For one thing, the availability of training opportunities figures big in employee retention. The National Research Business Institute reports in “Ten Things Employees Dislike Most About Their Employers” that 23% of resignations are driven by a lack of training and development. The author, Jan Stringer, also identifies lack of training among the top 10 things employees dislike most about their employers. If money talks loudest to you, consider that in a competitive job market, it’s less expensive to train and promote existing employees. True, at some point there will be an open position to

be filled. If you train and promote a manager to director, you’ll need to fill that manager role. Your goal should be to fill openings at the lowest pay levels rather than high ones. You should be training a supervisor to step up into that manager role, and an associate to move up to supervisor. Instead of spending 1.5 times a $110,000 salary, you’ll spend 1.5 times a $35,000 one. On the people side, training even a few people tends to raise the bar for everyone. If you’re like me, you get a genuine sense of satisfaction from helping others learn and grow. To maximize impact, consider generational dynamics in training. Online training is cost effective, and Millennials will take to any kind of digital training. But there is still value in classroom training for Boomers. In fact, learning styles tend to transcend generations, so a blended learning program may have the broadest impact. Another advantage of training is that it’s a chance to empower people to be autonomous and independent. This empowerment will free you up to take care of what’s on your plate. This takes a little effort, but it’s worth it. I call it “micro-training” and “macro-managing.” Instead of spending a lot of time managing employees, invest quality time in coaching them. In addition to teaching people about the job, your products and services, and your processes and systems, you need to make sure they understand and embrace your company’s values and ethics. That knowledge will serve as a compass as they continue to learn and grow in your organization. It allows them to make decisions independently. Hire smart and train right, and you’ll be a mentor rather than a boss. AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 7

Training and recognition complement each other. Offering training opportunities is a way to recognize performance and potential. At Decision Toolbox, we put everyone (executive leaders included) through Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 course, and we did it together at our annual all-staff meeting. The great thing about StrengthsFinder is that it focuses on building on one’s strengths rather than correcting one’s weaknesses. Based on the Gallup organization’s wealth of data, it helps each participate identify their core strengths. Any training is going to help your organization. But employees want it. The feedback we got from our team was extremely positive; one person called it “liberating” to stop focusing on the negative. The training helped people in other areas of their lives. We offered it as a reward for solid performance, and as a way of sharing our sincere desire that everyone live a fulfilling life. Training also can help improve your employment brand. If you develop a reputation as an employer with a learning-rich environment, it will be easier to attract top talent. As Gary M. Stern writes in “Company Training Programs: What Are They Really Worth?” on, “a culture of learning can help both attract and retain employees.”

• Critical learning opportunities that cover essential content, such as regulatory changes In addition to on-demand and regularly scheduled training, some ideas for promoting learning are: • Tiger teams, or sessions focused on troubleshooting a specific issue. No idea is bad, and ideas leapfrog until a solution is found. • Chitchats, or trend discussions in which a small group discusses the latest trends in the industry. The team can create a summary and share it with the larger organization. • Pod teams, or small groups that meet weekly and allow participants to share challenges and successes. The pod helps resolve the challenges, and everyone benefits from the successes. Training is also a great reason to recognize a star: As employees complete training milestones, celebrate them. That brings us to my favorite topic here: recognition.

YOU’VE GOT TO RECOGNIZE There are huge returns on recognizing and rewarding employees. In their book Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness:

exponential energy

“ Take the time to build into your recognition events. It’s worth every minute of planning because the buzz will last long after the event is over.” Willingness to train can also help you fill open positions faster. It’s always ideal to find someone who can “hit the ground running,” but I’ve seen hiring managers leave a position open for nine months until they found a hit-theground-runner. But they might have found someone with the skills and potential and had them up to speed in three months. And think about it: Your competitors may offer training. The key is to look for motivated people with a track record of translating learning into action. Entice them with the opportunity for initial training as well as ongoing learning. You’ll soon stand out as an employer of choice. One training module does not a learning-rich environment create. To get the richness, you need different formats covering multiple topics. Some formats, such as on-demand learning, can be optional but include some live, attendancerequired events, such as a regular weekly session. Whatever the format, make sure it is fun and engaging. Characteristics of a robust learning environment are:

Solution-Focused Strategies for Satisfied Staff, High-Performing Teams, and Healthy Bottom Lines (BPS Books, 2015), Sarah McVanel and Brenda Zalter-Minden share that “studies have found a significant correlation between employee recognition and employee engagement, and with employees’ intent to stay.” It should be clear by now that a small investment in recognition can save a lot of money and time in replacing someone. But there are other benefits as well. According to McVanel and Zalter-Minden, “Employees who were the most highly recognized report they are more: • Engaged in their job overall • Engaged with the broader organization • Involved with and in decision-making • Satisfied with senior leaders • Trustful of the organization

• Access to learning regularly

• Involved in improving how work was done (as was their whole team)

• Participative learning opportunities that promote engagement

• Satisfied with communication


• Innovative (as was their whole team)

• Aware of performance feedback and feel performance is managed • Satisfied with opportunities for advancement • Likely to stay with the organization” What employees say they want actually costs nothing and takes little of your limited time. In the same research, more than 85% of employees said their most desired forms of recognition were a verbal thank-you, personal words of praise, and a written thank-you note. Gifts were important for less than 60%. Why? People want to know their talents are valued and they matter. Since it’s important to follow the platinum rule—recognize others how they want to be recognized—let’s take counsel from the many articles on how to recognize employees, both monetarily and non-monetarily. You don’t have to spend a lot to effectively recognize strong performance, although sometimes it’s deserved. Some rewards and recognition that cost little include: • Offer paid training • Give flowers or gift cards • Provide an extra paid day off • Sponsor a year’s gym membership • Give tickets to the movies, a show, or a game • Have a “fun day” to recognize teams—treat them to an afternoon at Dave & Buster’s • Take the employee and his or her spouse to lunch; after all, the spouse probably put up with some longer hours or high stress levels • Upgrade the employee’s computer or smartphone to the latest model • Create a letter of recognition for the employee’s file • Hire a mobile car wash service to come and wash your stars’ cars Some that are free include: • Offer flexible work schedules; if your company has expectations around hours and attendance, let your star performers work from home one day a week • Recognize top people at monthly meetings • Send a handwritten note “out of the blue” • Allow an employee to contribute in a different area, one in which he or she has always been interested • Empower top performers with greater autonomy or decision-making authority • Create a prime “employee of the month” parking spot and display the employee’s name there • Create a wall of fame and post your top people’s pictures and accomplishments There’s an art to recognition. Like anything else, if you’re going to do it, do it well. One way to do it well is to do it differently, in ways that an employee might not expect.

I experienced the power of this point personally some years back. I had been promoted up from middle management, and that meant a new bonus plan based on company performance. At bonus time I was expecting a check, as the company had done well. Instead, I was delighted to see a large chunk of money appear in my bank account. What made the biggest impression was finding that money already in my account. They could have sent me a check in the mail, but then it would have been all about the money. They wanted my first bonus to be meaningful. They handled it so that I was surprised to see it sitting there—I even wondered if it were some mistake. But my surprise turned into appreciation for their clever way of making the gesture. A surprise can be the best recognition there is. I think the element of surprise trumps money. It takes forethought and planning, but it doesn’t cost anything. In recognition, both the human touch and the reward itself (money or something else) are important, and they should create “exponential energy.” In my example, the extra thought that went into adding the surprise element was the exponential energy. Anyone can pull an employee into a cubicle and say “good job” or even give that employee a raise. That’s a lost opportunity. You need to make the gesture so meaningful it infuses energy into that person so he or she can do even more of what is clearly already working. It’s not absolutely essential to share recognition with the whole company. The most important thing is to communicate to specific employees that you recognize they went above and beyond. At the same time, company-wide recognition is a great opportunity to share the excitement and ensure that the honorees get lots of pats on the back. It can also motivate others. Importantly, it sends the message that you care about your people. Whether your organization is large or small, private or nonprofit, this industry or that, you need to be deliberate about creating exponential energy. Take the time to build exponential energy into your recognition events. It’s worth every minute of planning because the buzz will last long after the event is over. I believe that the most important thing a CEO can do is to develop a great culture and keep it thriving. It pays measurable dividends, it’s a hallmark of top-performing organizations, and it’s just plain more fun to work in that kind of environment. Training and recognition are both excellent ways to reinforce and nurture your culture. AQ Kim Shepherd joined Decision Toolbox, a 100% virtual organization providing recruitment solutions, in 2000 as CEO. Today, she leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships and alliances, and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources communities. Shepherd authored The Bite Me School of Management (Perfect Paperback, 2010), a book journaling her business journey and the challenges she has overcome, and co-authored Get Scrappy (, 2015), a business book that provides a new perspective on personal and corporate growth.




Jason Wingard


AMA Quarterly spoke with Jason Wingard, PhD, dean of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. He is the author of Learning to Succeed: Rethinking Corporate Education in a World of Unrelenting Change (AMACOM, 2015) and co-author of Learning for Life: How Continuous Education Will Keep Us Competitive in the Global Knowledge Economy (AMACOM, 2015). Wingard addressed the issues companies


are facing as they implement continuous training and learning programs, and how employers can close the skills gaps they’re finding with graduates in today’s workforce.


You’ve written about how companies need the continuous integration of learning and strategy to analyze their learning needs. Is this happening now, or is this something that even the top companies are still struggling with? JW: I think the top companies are still struggling with it. What happens is that they do it in good times; when the financial markets are strong and financial performance within a company is good, I think they prioritize developing their people, to attract them, to retain them, to invest in them, to measure and evaluate, and to assess what they need and how well it works. I think that works better in good times. But the last several years, post-recession, have been relatively unstable for large organizations in particular, so it’s been hard for them to adopt this relatively new practice of investing in people. I think people talk about it, senior leadership knows about it, they’re aware of its perceived benefits. But it hasn’t been able to catch on because it’s a relatively new concept. It hasn’t been able to be fully adopted just based on what I write about in the book, which is that one of the barriers is that they take their money and reinvest it in something that has a more direct and immediate impact.

There always seems to be a gap in training. When you get out of college and get hired, you’re then set adrift. JW: Or you follow a traditional, rather stagnant stepladder approach to your career. First you do this, then you do this, then you do the other. Millennials, in particular, want to have the opportunity to learn in a different way so that they can advance in nonlinear ways in their career. You have to develop people in order to do that. You have to communicate with them, you have to provide them with on-the-job learning opportunities, and you have to provide formal, outside-of-work learning opportunities. Sometimes it can be online and blended, sometimes it’s in traditional classroom settings. You need mentoring. So there are a lot of things that can be done for the younger people, in particular—if that’s an audience you’re asking about. Sometimes when companies are putting their nose to the grindstone and just trying to get through the quarter,

they’re not investing in those quote-unquote kids anymore. “Just do your job in the way you’re supposed to do it, wait your turn. You’ll advance when your time comes, just like it was for me.”

Then there are the people who switch careers or their jobs change, and they are also left in the lurch. JW: That’s right. They are also left, and that’s a second audience for training. There are all these segmented audiences. You have new hires, and you have people who are trying to shift into managerial roles. They’ve been individual contributors, what I call producers, so they’re shifting into managers. It’s the producer/manager dilemma. They need help to be able to shift from being really good at their jobs and producing at an individual level—to translate that experience and scale it to managing other people to do that work as individual contributors. So those individuals need development on how to make that transition. Often what happens, though, is that they don’t get that support. They get rewarded for their work as an individual producer, and they are now supposed to manage people. They don’t know how to manage people; they just know how to do the work themselves. It’s like asking Michael Jordan, who was a great player, to be a coach. All he can say is, “Do it like I did it.” But it’s not that easy. Then there are other target audiences, like affinity groups. One could be women. You could say, “How is it that women can transition into leadership roles given the maledominated culture of many organizations?” So there is learning and development that needs to be done for that group. Or minorities, people of color. There are people who are already in managerial roles who want to break into the C-suite. They need more development on things such as board governance or executive negotiation and persuasion. You can break a whole company into these micro-groups. Each one of them needs a different form of learning and development, and they need it consistently and continually. In order to identify which groups need what, you have to start with a big assessment process. That’s why it’s a continuous loop. It starts with the assessment—assess what you want

“ Millennials, in particular, want to have the opportunity to learn in a different way so that they can advance in nonlinear ways in their career. You have to develop people in order to do that.” 12 I AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016

to do strategically—and find out what your people need in order to execute on this strategy. Now you break them down into groups, finding out what each group needs, and then it folds back into the results and the return for the company. So then you have a cycle, a nice, positive cycle. If you don’t invest in the people in that cycle, you’re trying to squeeze out of them performance that they may not be able to do and they probably can’t, given the changes in the global marketplace.

Why is there a shortsightedness in investing in people? JW: There are a couple of things. One, the business environment has changed. You used to be able to have a very strong product. I’ve written about four quadrants of businesses in a quadrant analysis. In one quadrant, you could have a company that had no strategy and no learning initiatives, and they could still be successful because they had a monopoly. For example, a glass manufacturer in the Upper Midwest, where no one else was making glass. So, “We make glass and we sell it and we make money.” No strategy there, just, “I have a product that people want and I sell it, and I don’t have to develop my people because it doesn’t matter how fast we produce it or if the quality is any better, or even if we brand it. None of those things matter because we’re a monopoly.” So that’s one quadrant.

Another one is that you have a strategy but you don’t have any learning initiatives. So take this same glass company. It wants to reach into other markets in the country, but it’s not going to develop its people to be able to move into those other markets. So that strategy isn’t going to work well. Or you can flip it and say, “I don’t have a strategy, but I am going to invest in my people.” So you develop the people, but what is it you want them to do? What is the strategy? “Well, we don’t have a really good strategy, but we’re spending a lot of money developing people because that’s what they want.” But if you don’t have an outlet or a channel for that development, it falls flat. So the last quadrant is you have a strategy and you develop people. If you have both of those things, you can see how you can really push the limit on what you want your company to be able to do. Strategically, you can align that and tether that to the increase and advancement of your people through a continuous development process. And then you’re able to be more competitive and you have that advantage. So back to your question, why is it that companies are not investing in people? It’s because a lot of people are still rooted in the old model, where you used to be able to just come to work and work hard and you could be successful in the business. You didn’t have to do all of this other training. But that was before businesses and products AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 13

began being more global, so that you have competition. That glass manufacturer, for example, now has competition from a company in Scandinavia, or somebody in Peru, or somebody in California, for that matter. Technology is changing the way people do manufacturing and the speed in which they can go to market. The talent pool is more international. So there are a lot of reasons. Because the world is so different now, you have to change. But a lot of companies aren’t making that shift because they don’t understand or realize that we are in the middle of this dramatic shift in the normal way that people do business and businesses do business. They haven’t adopted or bought into the change. It’s business as usual as a barrier.

If you look at the global multinational companies, why isn’t the emphasis on training and learning there? It seems to be a struggle all over, not just in domestic manufacturers. JW: Well, those big multinational companies are just a series of small units that may be all over the place. Part of the answer is that these companies are large enough so that they could be moderately successful by not developing their people. They’re also large enough so that people can indirectly or informally develop themselves in certain ways. Just because they have a very large or very broad organization, there are some channels that if you are the kind of employee that is a little bit aggressive, you can find resources. And many of these companies do baseline training. They do have someone like a chief learning officer who is responsible for learning and development in most cases. So they do some things—some classes, some workshops, they bring in some speakers. But what I write about, which is the whole continuous integration loop, they don’t do. And the reason is, quarter by quarter, the pressure to produce results, to react to changes in the marketplace, and to compete for talent, and all the other operational pressures that come up. Many still have not looped in that continuous learning approach because they don’t understand it, they don’t know about it, or they haven’t yet seen how that actually does contribute to the bottom line.

I just prepared them to be a competitor of mine somewhere else.” However, my argument is that the real research and the data show that if you invest in people and if you invest in talent, then they will actually stay. So the attrition rate slows down when you invest in your people. People want that development, want a culture of learning, continuous learning and assessment and feedback, and new knowledge. But when you look around at other organizations, it’s very clear that most don’t do it. If you do it, though, that’s a dramatic tool for attracting and retaining talent. So you really don’t have to worry about losing people, as far as the data shows, if you do that kind of investment. You have to worry about losing them if you don’t do it. But the perception, you’re right, is that “if I am going to spend money on them they are just going to leave anyway.” But you won’t know that it’s actually different until you do make the shift. So it’s a false perception.

The companies that you have talked with, the ones that did do more training or more continuous learning than others, what were the things that they observed happen? JW: The ones that have done continuous learning, they have become the market leaders in their industry, they have attracted the best talent, they’ve retained the best talent. They have seen increased rates of productivity, and they have created a culture where people are happy, they are proud, where they are brand ambassadors, where it’s a best place to work. They have been able to grow at astonishing rates and in multiple geographies. And they’ve gained the respect of not only their peers and competitors but also consumers and clients, who see that they are investing in their people. It’s actually having an impact on the way in which they run their business. You feel better in buying a service from them or buying a product from them because you know that they’re running their business the right way.

In Learning for Life, you talk about the misalignment of education and work in this country. What exactly do you mean by that, the misalignment?

The last thing I will say about that is, even if they are willing to do it, the time that it takes to show that return on investment is not immediate. It’s hard to see. If I invest time, resources, and capital into a CILS [continuous integrated learning systems] approach, you’re not necessarily going to see that return on investment in this quarter or the next quarter. But once you get going on it, you’re going to be able to survive as an organization, as you’ll have the competitive advantage. And then you’ll be able to enter a new routine where you are going to be able to see it, quarter by quarter.

JW: In the early part of the book, I talk about how we have shifted from the agrarian age, which was farming, to the industrial age, which was manufacturing. And now we’re in the information age, where it’s much more digital and global. And so the education for us in the United States, particularly K-12 and also a lot in higher education as well, is aligned more to that second stage, the industrial age. You go to school, you sit in rows, you take your math, you take your science, you complete your subject areas. The education looks much the same as it did 30, 40, even 50 years ago.

Does the attitude of “why should I train an employee to go ahead and leave me?” also come into play?

But the business environment has changed dramatically. The level of critical thinking, the types of analysis that are required, the level of technology adoption, whether it’s

JW: Sure, one of the barriers is that “if I develop this talent,


“ There is a skills gap. We’re being handed people that have been educated in all the right places, but there is a gap between what they know coming out of school or what they’ve learned, and what it is we need.”

coding or any of the other types of skills required—they have not evolved in the same way that our traditional schooling system has evolved. And so it doesn’t leave our workers, once they’ve gone through the system, with the skills that they need to be able to match what the job requirements are now. The job requirements now call for a global perspective and experience in a variety of cultures, with different people and different languages. And that you have a really strong utility with technology and can use everything from social media to statistical modeling, in addition to being able to use a variety of different tools. If that is what the job market is requiring, but the school is still preparing us for much more traditional, industrial age employment opportunities, then there is a disconnect there. The challenge is, what is it we need to do in education to help align people with the job and close that gap? That is what companies are saying. There is a skills gap. We’re being handed people that have been educated in all the right places, but there is a gap between what they know coming out of school or what they’ve learned, and what it is we need.

It also seems to be that, at least in elementary school and high school, the emphasis in education is on standardized testing and passing the tests. JW: That’s exactly right. Standardized testing, particularly in K-12 but even in higher education, has become the de facto metric for evaluating whether students have learned something. But there’s been a lot of research done that says, actually, if you use a competency-based approach, where you say what is it somebody needs to understand in order to do and learn, we need to showcase this in more of a portfolio evaluation, as opposed to just answering A, B, C, or D. But we’ve focused a lot more on standardized testing. That’s how schools get funded, if their test scores are high, whether certain institutions are better than others based on how well the students do on the test. So the curriculum and the instructional design are based on teaching to the

test as opposed to teaching to what students need to be successful in the marketplace.

Is there something that can be done now with the people who have grown up with this need to test and have come out of school? What can companies do to address that? JW: There has to be a partnership, like a three-legged stool, between educational providers, coordinating agencies, and employers. So if you’re Boeing, for example, or JP Morgan Chase, you’ve coordinated with an agency and coordinated with a university. And they say, “OK, these people who are coming out of school, what is it we can do before they come out of school?” That university can partner with Boeing, which can say, “We’re going, before you graduate from school, to allow you to go into an internship or mentoring experience at Boeing so you can learn what work is like and what kind of skills you’d need. So before you graduate from college, you can try to close those gaps yourself, between what it is the real world needs and what it is you have access to here at the university.” And the faculty can align their content to that as well. In addition, you can partner with a coordinating agency, whether it’s the National Urban League or Jobs for the Future, where they are doing a lot of the coordinating and finding students and finding employers. [They are trying to find] where’s the disconnect, where’s the overlap. They can be helpful in identifying students who are at risk of not being able to satisfy [employers] and putting them into these special programs. They can consult with the universities to help them revise their curriculum to be better at getting market-driven content. They can talk to the companies about the kinds of training they should be doing. When you have a partnership between those three types of organizations, there can be a best-in-class case of making sure that adults, whether they’re in college or out of college already, can be developed to meet the best needs of the companies. AQ AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 15


Recipe for Success Foodservice giant Compass USA cooks up an innovative leadership training program crafted for the modern learner. BY SAM DAVIS


ith more than 220,000 employees in all 50 states, Compass Group USA dominates the foodservice management and support industry. The company serves 8 million meals a day in restaurants, schools, sports venues, transportation hubs, healthcare facilities, and numerous other places, but Compass USA isn’t just about the food. Recognized as one of America’s top employers in 2015 by Forbes, the company is as committed to preparing employees for great careers as preparing great meals. One lively demonstration of that commitment is the company’s management training program at company headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The popular program, known as Meridian, started 10 years ago in response to rapid growth triggered by acquisitions and expansion into


new business segments. Functional managers needed to master higherlevel competencies so that they could move into leadership roles. “We needed to build bench strength,” explains Larry Trn, Meridian program director.

Meet the modern learner The program has proven exceptionally effective over time, with a high graduation rate, numerous promotions, and an impressive retention of graduates in the company. Those measures of success indicate that the program is both strong and agile, evolving to align with corporate goals despite dramatic changes in the workplace and the world in general: • Today’s workers report feeling distracted, overwhelmed, and impatient • The average worker checks his or her inbox 30 to 40 times per hour

• The average attention span is 8 seconds, compared with 12 seconds in 2000 “Most learning development organizations have not kept up with this new reality, or even thought about it,” says Trn. Modern learners want engaging instruction delivered over multiple platforms, such as online and video, and accessible on multiple devices. Workers seek an informal, collaborative learning environment in which they learn as much from peers as from managers. They find all of that, and more, in Meridian.

Superstars in a cross-functional cohort The Meridian program works on a cohort system, in which managers from diverse departments such as HR, finance,

Team Spirit Workers promoted for excellent performance in a functional job often stumble as they try to cross the threshold into senior management positions, which require a more strategic, whole-company perspective. Experts say experience in a cross-functional team can help overcome this hurdle. In fact, more than 500 studies show increased achievement for students of all types when they work together in small groups. Other studies say 80% of learning happens through on-the-job interactions with peers, teammates, and managers. accounting, and IT move through the twoyear training together, bonding like classmates. Trainees are called delegates, but Trn has another word for them: superstars. “These are really smart folks who are excellent at their jobs,” he says. “A lot of them are handpicked by our highestranking executives, even if they’re four levels down.” Each delegate is assigned a fostering manager, a senior leader who acts as mentor and coach for the program’s duration. (Check off another modern training requirement: access to senior management.) Compass and American Management Association share the instruction. Daylong workshops at the Charlotte training center are led by AMA instructors using AMA course content. Online electives are from AMA as well. Trn facilitates the Connections component, which challenges delegates to apply general principles to specific situations and develop action plans based on fictional (and fun) case studies with titles such as Cosmic Pizza, Jet Purple, Really Great Grub, and Rooster of the Sea.

Swimming with the (friendly) sharks Trn also leads the Capstone Project, a foundational piece of the program that delegates start working on from Day One. Collaborating in cross-functional teams, they brainstorm new revenue sources and work up a solid business plan to present to senior managers. The project is modeled on ABC TV’s hit reality show Shark Tank, in which entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a panel of billionaire investors.

These “sharks” may not be quite as famous as the ones on TV, but some delegates get nervous pitching to someone who may be their boss’s boss’s boss. “At the beginning I was a little nervous too, about what kinds of projects would emerge,” admits Trn. “But I’ve been amazed at the quality.” One project he describes with pride is My Assets. “If we close or move an

account, sometimes there are surplus items, like a slicer or a cooler,” he explains. “There wasn’t a really good method of dealing with all this stuff. Some class members decided to put together a combination database and Craigslist-type classified. They locate surplus items, take pictures with their phones, then upload. Department managers can browse the list and fill out

Success by the Stats The Meridian program has the support of Compass USA’s highest-level executives. These stats show why:









In addition to these results, thousands of dollars have been generated or saved through the implementation of action plans. AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 17

CASE STUDY some paperwork to claim an item they want, instead of buying something new.” The team successfully lobbied key stakeholders for funding, and the project is making money. Trn says it could eventually bring in more than a million dollars.

Bonding and a built-in retention tool The Meridian experience doesn’t end with graduation. Some alumni come back and become mentors or sponsoring managers. High-ranking VPs have moved through the program. “Success stories are all over the place,” Trn says. “Topnotch people share this common language and common background.” Speaking about the high retention rate of graduates, he adds: “This may be an unintended part of the program, but when people are told they’re emerging leaders, that they’re special, they have a tendency to stay. When we lose them, it’s painful.”

What’s next? The Meridian program will surely continue to evolve, keeping pace with new learning needs and corporate objectives. In 2015, AMA shortened the workshops and added the online electives. Trn says the program’s time frame may shrink to as

Leadership Training in 16 Days Over the course of two years, Compass USA’s Meridian program offers 16 days of leadership training. Here is a breakdown of the major components: 10 days: Workshops of core content led by American Management Association instructors at Compass USA headquarters in Charlotte, NC. Workshops cover four modules: • Management Skills for Managers •M oving from Functional Manager to Strategic Thinker •L eadership Skills and Team Development • Developing Executive Leadership 2 days: Electives chosen from AMA’s Express Skills Series, which includes such topics as coaching a virtual team, confidence-building skills for women, prioritizing and decision making, presented in 90-minute virtual experiences 4 days: Connections, active learning units based on industry-specific business challenges, led by Compass/Meridian program director

little as a year. “If I’m really going to build bench strength, I have to think about how long it takes to get someone through the program,” he says. Trn describes AMA as “a partner like no other” for its role in this training success story. Judy Alden, AMA’s sales director in charge of the account, says her organization’s formidable instructional resources and ability to

align the program with continually changing corporate goals prove AMA is “not a cookie-cutter vendor.” Even for a program that is turning out excellent managers like, well, hotcakes. AQ Sam Davis is Vice President at American Management Association. He can be reached at, or visit


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Content and Process These two elements are intertwined in dynamic training. BY ROBERT BOLTON AND DOROTHY GROVER BOLTON


very training event is composed of two intertwined elements: workshop content and group process. Content and process are always present in a workshop, and the quality of each greatly affects participants’ learning. “Content” is what is taught. It is the subject matter of the workshop—the knowledge, concepts, methods, and skills that are to be learned. Participants are attending the workshop to learn new content or to develop more mastery in an area in which they already have some competence. Since the content is what people are there to learn, a dynamic trainer needs to be a subject-matter specialist in each course he or she teaches. That’s a major challenge for many trainers because the organizations they work for may not provide the time or resources needed to help them master the content they’ll be teaching. “Group process,” the other component of training, focuses on how the training group is functioning. It is composed of two related aspects of group experience: (1) the emotions the individuals in the group are experiencing, and (2) the ever-fluctuating interaction between participants as they encounter one another, the workshop content, and the trainer. Process is always present in training and inevitably contributes to or detracts from learning. When managed well, group process supports participants’ learning of the workshop content. And, as you might expect, mediocre or dysfunctional process undermines learning. The good news is that process can be observed, analyzed, and managed to serve the learning goals of the workshop. Good process kindles the want-to-learn part of people that makes

In your interactions with others? • What discomfort do you see? • How safe do people feel? With you? With one another? With the material? • What are you doing that’s helping them learn? • What is getting in the way?

the learning experience more enjoyable and far more productive. When looking at a workshop from a process point of view, you put the participants and their frame of reference first. You ask yourself: • What dynamics are occurring in the room? Among participants? In an individual?

Confluent: flowing together; blended into one. — The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

The content–process distinction, like the brain–mind dichotomy, is conceptual rather than actual. Thinking about content and process as separate but related entities enables us to discuss them independently as we do here. And it helps us to more skillfully observe, understand, and manage the interactions in the workshops we lead. Powerful training occurs when content and process flow together and blend seamlessly to foster peak learning. We use the term “confluent training” to designate workshops in which sound content and quality group process flow together, and are blended into one integrated process. Robin Montz, a ninth-grade social studies teacher, had always used a traditional, strictly content-centered approach to teaching. In time, however, he was trained in confluent education. Robin applied the educational methods that integrated high-quality group process with the teaching of the same content that he had taught the previous year. He then compared the grades with the previous year’s grades that were obtained when he used traditional methods. He also checked the average intelligence level of the two classes and, as expected, they were virtually identical. AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 19

OFF THE SHELF Following is a comparison of the results of each approach to teaching essentially the same content with basically the same caliber of student.






















Wow! Of course, the results aren’t always this dramatic, but for most training situations a confluent approach delivers far better results than the traditional content-centered approach. As in numerous public schools, many training organizations have taken a traditional content-oriented approach to teaching and learning, with predictable dismal results. The most commonly cited estimate is that a mere 10% of learning from training is applied on the job. Although there are multiple causes of this depressing finding, a major factor is that so much training is still conducted in the traditional content-centered/ process-deficient manner.

Successful trainers focus on content and process Both content and process require continual attention. Most trainers stay focused on delivering the workshop content, but many are much less attentive to group process. However, without ongoing management of group process, a workshop is likely to soon flounder, and when it does, learning inevitably plummets. This essay is concerned primarily with group process (which is sometimes referred to as “process,” “group dynamics,” or “dynamics”). When trainers are not tuned in to the interpersonal dynamics of the group, the process aspect of training is invisible to them. Yet, as we’ve emphasized, process is always present and always contributes to or detracts from the outcome of the training. So the trainer who is out of touch with group process is flying blind. A group’s process inevitably changes over the course of a training session. When a training group meets for the first time, it will feel very different from that same group later in the day or on a subsequent day. We’ll describe three types of responses to group process when it’s threatening to get out of control.

Dealing with deteriorating group process A large corporation decided to extend its sales training to all customer service representatives in its largest division. The rationale was that since customer service reps are constantly in contact with customers, they have many opportunities

for selling additional products to existing customers. The rollout of this training involved several corporate trainers delivering the same course, often in adjacent training rooms. Here’s what happened in three of the rooms.

Room 1 Lynn is an experienced trainer who has delivered this same course to salespeople eight times in the past year and a half. She knows the material cold; she tells her husband she could do the training in her sleep. But this group is not made up of salespeople; it’s made up of customer service representatives who are largely unresponsive. They don’t respond to her humor, so she cuts back on humor. That’s OK; sometimes you get a serious group. She asks questions. They don’t answer her questions. She tries asking the same thing another way, with no luck. Eventually she answers the question herself and moves on. Just before the break she tries a little motivational speech. “Sales skills are going to be useful to you in all parts of your life, not just as customer service reps but at home too.” She puts her heart into it, but the participants look disengaged. They straggle in late from the first break. And after the break, more than one set of eyes drift off.

Room 2 Alex noted some hostile vibes within the first 15 minutes of the training, and he’s spent an hour listening to the group

A group’s process inevitably changes over the course of a training session. When a training group meets for the first time, it will feel very different from that same group later in the day or on a subsequent day. 20 I AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016

“Emergent redesign” — restructuring a workshop while you’re in the process of leading it. members express their anger and frustration. Because he’s listening attentively to them, they’re not angry with him, but they sure are angry with the company. They feel betrayed. If they wanted to be salespeople, they tell him, they would have gone into sales, where the big money is. But they don’t want to be salespeople, with all the stresses of cold calling, presenting the same products over and over again, struggling to close the sale. They want to be customer service reps, with the customer coming to them with problems that they know how to resolve or can pass on to a supervisor. Alex has heard in detail from most of the group. He knows that Vince once held a sales position and hated it, and that Sue is worried about whether she can succeed at selling. He knows about the stress levels most of the participants are experiencing just from handling irate customers—and what little energy they have for selling products. What he doesn’t know is how to get back to presenting the material he’s supposed to teach.

Room 3 Like Alex, Herm could see that there was enough trouble in the room to make forging ahead a bad idea. And he realized that pretending nothing was wrong wasn’t going to make anything right. He pulled a chair into the center of the front part of the room, sat down, and invited the group to tell him what was going on that made it hard for them to be there. Like Alex, he got an earful. Unlike Alex, though, when the participants’ tensions had been lowered by his open-minded listening, Herm returned the focus to the group’s training needs. He looked around at the group and asked, “What ideas do you have for addressing the problem?”

After receiving their ideas, he summarized their input. “It sounds like some of you can see an advantage to learning sales skills and the rest prefer to focus on customer service skills. We’re fortunate that the same basic skill of listening, which I was about to teach, is essential in both sales and customer service work. I’ll go ahead with teaching the listening skills, but instead of using sales examples and role plays exclusively, I’ll also teach customer service applications and use some customer service role plays. You can choose whether you want to practice customer service skills or sales skills. The difference will be that I have role plays for sales prepared, but we can create the appropriate customer service role plays together. If this makes sense to you, I’ll move right into teaching listening skills. How does that sound?” The group was amenable to the idea.

Distinctions among the trainers Lynn, Alex, and Herm were all experienced trainers who knew their material so well that they could pay attention to what was happening in the room. Most trainers, if confronted with these group process difficulties, would, like Lynn, be tempted to tough it out, make small adaptations in their presentation style, and try to motivate the group by selling them on the usefulness of the skills. As with Lynn, these trainers might not realize they were making a choice to focus on content at the expense of process—although they might well recognize that what they were doing wasn’t working. When a trainer focuses primarily on content and pays scant attention to group process, participant learning soon suffers. Few trainers take Alex’s route, which was to focus on process to the exclusion

of content. But it’s worth noting that this strategy also neglects one of the two dimensions of training, which thereby thwarts the group’s capacity to learn. Even though Alex resolved the process issues well, he was at a loss about how to get the group refocused on the content that they were there to learn, and the group would soon become impatient with his inability to help them learn how to fulfill their new sales role. Herm managed, even in this relatively difficult situation, to combine effective group process with teaching the course content. His suggestion to the group is an example of what we refer to as “emergent redesign”—restructuring a workshop while you’re in the process of leading it.

Restoring process When a workshop is running smoothly, trainers need to keep alert to the evershifting quality of group process while devoting their major attention to teaching the content that the participants came to learn. However, if group process worsens, learning plummets. And when group process heads south, as it did in the three examples just discussed, restoring positive process becomes the trainer’s first order of business. AQ Robert Bolton, PhD, and Dorothy Bolton, EdM, are known for their expertise in training trainers. They are the cofounders of Ridge Associates, a training and consulting firm that serves many Fortune 500 companies. Adapted, with permission of the publisher, from Chapter 2 of What Great Trainers Do: The Ultimate Guide to Delivering Engaging and Effective Learning, by Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton. Copyright 2016 Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton. Published by AMACOM.




What’s the one characteristic that is most crucial to leadership? Here are the picks of leadership development executives. During the fall of 2015, American Management Association asked more than 300 leadership development executives to pick the one word—that is, the one characteristic or trait—that they believed to be most important to successful leadership. We reasoned that for leadership development efforts to be successful, it would be useful to know what traits to hire and train for. This survey took place across 10 U.S. cities during a series of in-person breakfast briefing events. These AMA-hosted events provided an opportunity for leadership development executives to network with one another and learn from a panel of experts. AMA then spoke with breakfast series panelists (who also participated in the survey) to find out why they define leadership the way they do. The most common one-word responses were “trust,” “integrity,” and “authenticity.” More surprising was the belief among panelists that while these three traits are necessary, they alone are insufficient to define leadership. They are “table stakes,” and successful leadership today requires more. Leadership is not one-dimensional; strong leaders today embody a matrix of characteristics that drive themselves, their colleagues, and their organizations forward.

TRUST, INTEGRITY, AND AUTHENTICITY Trust, integrity, and authenticity were—unequivocally—the most commonly chosen words to describe leadership. They combined to account for nearly 30% of total responses and showed the highest numbers in 8 of the 10 cities in which surveys took place (in both Santa Clara and Los Angeles, “courage” was the most frequent response). Bobby Quinten, director, training and development, Greyhound Lines, was one of many who values trust above all, and he has acquired certification as a Franklin Covey Speed of Trust facilitator to help spread this trait throughout the organization. However, many leadership development executives recognized that training for these traits is a challenge and emphasized the importance of screening for them from the start. Robin Busse, now talent management organizational development specialist at Exelon Generation, suggested that there is no perfect test for authenticity. But during Busse’s tenure at McDonald’s, it was valued as a critical enough leadership trait that the company invested in behavioral assessments, psychological interviews, and other techniques when hiring executive-level talent. These types of exhaustive interviews also allowed McDonald’s to solve for a proper

cultural fit. “A person can be an excellent performer and a great hire…until they don’t fit in with the culture,” said Busse. This type of screening reduces misguided hires based not on competency but on the likelihood of thriving in an organization’s culture. This is especially critical at the senior levels, where missteps can be costly. Another executive shared that their company let go of a senior leader who delivered strong results but lacked the integrity defined in their leadership profile. According to Andrea Procaccino, vice president and chief learning officer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, these traits are critical because of the resulting behavior they drive in employees. “An authentic leader shows you who they are as a person, and they focus on engaging others…capturing the hearts and minds of employees to give that discretionary effort,” said Procaccino. Also interesting is what was not mentioned by the group. Words like “expertise” and “competency” did not appear once in the survey responses. As Busse said, “Leadership and competency are very different. Being an excellent engineer does not make you a leader.”

CAN IT BE TAUGHT? How these traits are defined is perhaps just as important as the traits themselves. Clearly defining the trait allows it to be screened for—or even taught—which is a critical part of building a deep bench. “I believe anything can be taught,” said Patty Beard, vice president of leadership and organizational development at Dick’s Sporting Goods. “It just boils down to the choices people want to make in particular situations.” Jo Chiti, director of leadership and people development at Chegg Inc., agreed. In determining whether something is “teachable,” Chiti looks at whether “you can define it as a behavior and figure out if someone values that behavior.” Define what trustworthy, authentic behaviors look like in an organization, find out whether the people in that organization value those behaviors, and if they do, you can help them drive toward those behaviors. Hogan Assessments and 360 reviews were often suggested as ways to screen for and measure these various characteristics. Jennifer Underwood, vice president of learning and organizational development at PVH, is less certain about the ability to teach these traits. AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 23

She underscored the importance of defining and screening for them from the beginning. “Start first by asking what does success look like for a given role or level, then clearly articulate the attributes, attitudes, behaviors, skills, knowledge, and experiences required for success,” she said. “Next, be sure to integrate these traits and skills in all of your talent management processes from selection to succession. Behavioral interviewing is a critical tool to ensure you have the right people from the beginning.” From there, suggested Underwood, “assessing, developing and promoting leaders who have these essential qualities” helps reinforce the company’s leadership framework and drive associated behaviors. Of the three words, “authenticity” proved the most difficult to understand and put in practice. Michael Schrage, research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, raised the question in his recent Harvard Business Review article: Is authenticity actually a good thing if “honesty” or “transparency” in certain situations leads to inferior results? When this question was posed to leadership development professionals, the answer was a resounding “no.” As Alan Brewer, director of leadership development at the Coca-Cola Company, explained, “A leader can’t gloss over being a jerk with a veil of authenticity. Followers can see right through that.” Procaccino agreed. For her, displaying authenticity is being real, showing who you are as a person, and knowing that you don’t have all the answers.


Chiti suggested defining authenticity by breaking it down into behaviors: “humble, willing to admit mistakes, and admitting how you’re thinking and feeling about something.” Importantly, she added, “You can define, encourage, and teach those [behaviors].” “Everyone filters,” pointed out Kellie Crantz, EMC’s vice president of talent strategy and development. “As human beings we’re wired to know when someone is being disingenuous.” Using a “normal filter” allows you to be effective in the workplace. Not “over-rotating” by trying to project an image that is not your own is what makes you authentic. That said, Crantz added that while “authentic” is a word we often point to when discussing leadership, “the way we talk about leadership now, maybe we’ve outgrown it…”

“TABLE STAKES” Is being trustworthy, authentic, and having integrity enough to make you a successful leader? Crantz thought not. “Those are table stakes.” As Crantz explained, “That expectation for me is just entry into the game of being a leader—not necessarily something that will make you a successful leader. Those are just good human things to be.” Crantz pointed out that a successful leader is able to demonstrate—or project—these traits, which is a skill that can be developed. For example, being constructive and supportive rather than critical when issues arise shows employees that you are trustworthy and have integrity. But today’s leaders need to be more. They need to be agile and visionary, humble and courageous. “Agility” was the

“ Being a leader in a global company requires agility to adapt, embrace changes, and shift accordingly. It’s like cross-training, where you are constantly training with a mindset to anticipate change so that you can perform at your best—before, during, and after the game.” —Jennifer Underwood, PVH word chosen by a number of our panelists—Procaccino, Crantz, and Underwood included. In addition to being trustworthy, leaders today need to be able to “rapidly adapt to a new set of circumstances,” said Crantz. They need to be not only “willing to jump,” but also “willing to put in the effort to adapt and be rapidly successful.” Jo Chiti agreed: “Leadership is really fluid and is far less defined than in the past.” While noting that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what good leadership looks like, she said, “The one thing I can say with consistency is that learning agility is super important.” Procaccino reported that it is important to be able to handle a world that is “VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Things change daily. Our focus is building leaders that not only have the depth of knowledge, but have agility and breadth so that they can stretch when faced with new experiences or challenges. The more agile the leader— the more successful.” Underwood compared agility and corporate endurance to fitness: “Being a leader in a global company requires agility to adapt, embrace changes, and shift accordingly. It’s like cross-training, where you are constantly training with a mindset to anticipate change so that you can perform at your best—before, during, and after the game.” In a global corporation, something unexpected will come across your desk every day, and performing in this environment requires constant agility. Agility and endurance, noted Underwood, bring into balance the short-term and the long-term. Agility is the “quick spurt” that allows you to navigate changes now, and endurance prepares you for all the unanticipated changes ahead.

GOING WITH A VISION AND HUMILITY Beyond adapting to new situations, leaders should see— and drive toward—a better future. The word “visionary” resonated strongly with Ryan McGowan, manager of global talent development at Terumo BCT. “Great leaders pull

people towards something to inspire performance.” Brewer painted a picture of how a successful leader once described a “big ego” and a “small ego”: “Leaders have to be constructively discontent and aggressive enough to change things, but humble enough to reverse their position when confronted with new information.” Humility was underscored by many as another critical trait in the leadership matrix. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’ve got a problem,” said Beard, reflecting on a saying she strongly supported. “Either you haven’t hired smart enough people to surround you, or you think you’re the smartest and then you’ve got an ego problem.” Defining leadership in one word is not easy—even, or especially, for leadership development professionals. The definitions evolve as companies evolve, and various executives or organizations may build their leadership matrices differently. But the key is to define what leadership looks like. Define the traits that make up your leadership matrix—agility, trust, humility, and vision. Build hiring, training, and advancement processes around these defined leadership traits to see your company’s culture—and the leaders within it—flourish. AQ Andi Baldwin is an associate director at Profitable Ideas Exchange. In this role, she manages peer networks of heads of innovation, heads of corporate real estate, and heads of tax. Baldwin facilitates by-phone and in-person interactions on behalf of a variety of clients, including KPMG, Slalom Consulting, JLL, and AMA. Jacob Parks is chief operating officer and partner for Profitable Ideas Exchange, and he is responsible for day-to-day operations including service delivery, workforce management, and business development. He has led groups of chief operating officers, chief marketing officers, chief financial officers, chief information officers, and others on behalf of a variety of clients including Accenture, CSC, Protiviti, SAP, Thomson Reuters, McKinsey, Deloitte, Pfizer, CapGemini, and 3M. Parks is also responsible for overseeing PIE’s research and thought leadership division, which contributes to premier publications throughout the globe.



The Awesome Power of RECOGNITION Here are lessons learned from inspiring a diverse, global workforce. BY DAVID NOVAK


’ll soon retire from Yum! Brands, Inc., one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with more than 1.5 million associates in 125-plus countries and category-leading restaurant brands— KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. I’ve had the privilege of leading Yum! for nearly 15 years as chairman and chief executive officer and most recently as executive chairman. As I start the next chapter of my life, many people are eager for me to impart “words of wisdom” or “lessons learned” based on my experiences over the years. While there are business school theories and leadership platitudes galore


on the best way to move a business forward through executive trainings, I can best summarize what I firmly believe is the secret to moving an organization of any size forward in one often overlooked and vitally important word: recognition. If you think recognition is merely the kind of fluffy, feel-good stuff businesses talk about to try to make their employees happy, I hope to inspire you to think about the power of recognition differently— and how it can lead to big successes. I saw firsthand, through a management program I developed called “Taking People With You,” how recognition can not only teach managers to help

people reach their full potential but also contribute to the bottom line. It sometimes surprises people when they hear how much time I spent personally training managers around the globe on why recognition is vital to getting team members to work together, blowing past business targets and celebrating successes.

Why recognition? No more “Bobs” Earlier in my career, I had an experience that changed how I thought about my own role as a leader and inspired my passion and belief that recognition is a key to success both personally and professionally.

Prior to Yum!, I was working my way up through the ranks at PepsiCo and had recently been named head of operations for Pepsi Bottling. Before then I worked primarily in marketing roles, so operations was not only new to me but something I needed to learn more about quickly. One of the first things I did was to travel to various plants and meet with people to learn more about what was working and where we could improve. During a visit in St. Louis, I met with a group of route salesmen and asked what I thought was a pretty straightforward question about merchandising—the displays and visibility Pepsi sought in convenience and grocery stores. Right away I was told, “Bob is the expert. He can tell you how it’s done.” Then someone else chimed in, “Bob taught me more in one day than I’d learned in two years on the job.” Everyone in the room agreed—Bob was the expert and the best in the business. When I looked over at Bob, thinking he’d be thrilled by all his colleagues’ praise, I instead saw tears running down his face. When I asked Bob—who was only two weeks shy of retirement after decades on the job—what was wrong, he shared that he never knew anyone felt

that way about him. The rest of my visit went well, but I felt uneasy after hearing what Bob shared and couldn’t shake it from my thoughts. It was a shame that Bob felt underappreciated. And, it was a missed opportunity for the business too. Many people could have benefited from his expertise and many more learned from him. While I had always believed in people making a difference in business, I became even more determined to be the kind of leader who would champion recognition as a driver not only for employee satisfaction but for business growth. As I started in my role leading Yum!, I thought of the “Bobs” of the world and made it one of my first priorities to create a recognition culture in which everyone is counted and to do it successfully so that our company would be renowned for it. And I knew I couldn’t do it alone—I needed others to buy into what I was selling. That’s why “Taking People With You” focused on bringing other managers throughout the system on board to make sure recognition was something everyone championed. So how did we implement a culture of recognition across Yum!, with people from all corners of the earth, differing

cultures, dozens of native languages, and the variety of experiences people brought to the business? We first built a foundation on trust. Trust that everyone has a chance to contribute great things and that it takes the entire team to make big things happen. Below are some principles you can use to help show people in your organization that you believe in them and you care: Know people want to contribute. Realize that 99.9% of people come to work wanting to do well and try hard. So you have to go to work every day thinking about your people that way and appreciating them for it. If you don’t trust people, why should they trust you as their leader? Demonstrate that everyone counts. The most successful companies have a culture where every person feels valued. For example, a Yum! team in India had made corporate social responsibility a priority, and one of their initiatives was to have at least one KFC in every major city run by teams who are hearing and speech impaired. During a visit to one such store in Bangalore, I was amazed to see how the kitchen works with lights replacing buzzers and bells to tell staff when food is ready. At the counter, there are special



If you can help an entire organization of people reach big goals, then there’s no telling what you can accomplish together. menus customers can point to in order to communicate orders. The restaurant even provides table tents to teach people basic sign language, which the customers love. This ability to see the potential in every person and to provide a place where potential can be utilized has been a huge success. What’s more, it has served as an inspiration to the entire organization as to what people are capable of. Understand that the more they know, the more they care. One way to show people you trust in their abilities and intentions is to share with them what you know. No one understood this better than Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. Early on, he established Saturday meetings, where he’d gather people together for the sole purpose of sharing with them everything he knew about the business. He once wrote the following: “The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know you really don’t consider them partners.” Ask questions to promote insight. To find out more about who people are and what they think, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “What would you do if you had my job?” Getting inside people’s heads is important. Don’t ask questions just of the people you work with every day. Spend some time with those who report to your direct reports. Extend this idea even further, to customers or clients or anyone connected to the goal you want to achieve.


Take responsive action. Once you’ve found out what people think, you’ve got to show that you’ve taken them into account. John Calipari, the University of Kentucky head basketball coach, told me how in 2009 he recruited top high school player John Wall. It was soon clear this guy was about to go pro, and Calipari could see the other team members were growing jealous of all the attention Wall was receiving. Calipari could have just let his star player be, but that would have destroyed the spirit of the group and trust they needed in each other to be a great team. So he took action. He pulled Wall aside and said, “John, you are definitely the star of this team and you are definitely going pro. I want you to take as many of your teammates as you can with you. You need to help them be great too.” Wall took his coach’s words to heart and set his sights on improving not only his own performance but the performance of everyone around him. The power of all that collective talent was unleashed. If you’re one person getting big things done, that’s pretty good, but it will only take you—and your business—so far. If you can help an entire organization of people reach big goals, then there’s no telling what you can accomplish together. It’s vital for leaders to demonstrate “extraordinary authenticity,” not only in company trainings but also as part of the culture of day-to-day recognition. It is important to admit when you don’t have the answers and recognize others who impart their insights. Through the management training program, we encouraged people to cheer for first

downs, not just touchdowns. Publicly recognizing and rewarding small wins keeps everyone motivated over the long haul and through challenges. Another key realization for managers engaged in our training is that it is not only OK to get rid of cynics, but preferred. In many teams and organizations, there is that one person who will reject the value of recognition and spread negative energy. Moving those people out will show everyone you’re serious. Regardless of whether you participate in, lead, or are looking for a more formal leadership training program, it’s important to know that no matter who you are or what your current role is in your organization, you have the power to use recognition to make a difference in people’s lives and your organization’s success. AQ David Novak, founder and executive chairman of Yum! Brands, Inc., one of the world’s largest restaurant companies (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), shares leadership lessons learned and imparted through a management training program he created during a successful nearly 15-year run as the company’s chairman and CEO. In addition to building Yum! into a global powerhouse, Novak is renowned for creating the company’s recognition culture that rewards for performance, and for coaching and mentoring thousands of executives on leadership skills. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Taking People with You (Portfolio, 2012) and the forthcoming O Great One! A Little Story About the ­Awesome Power of Recognition, to be published by Portfolio/Penguin in May 2016. This year he is also launching OGO, a new brand that will help people around the world benefit from the power of recognition. Visit

Tech, Recognition, Millennials, and Analytics



Technology continues to change the way we work, shop, and live. Online consumerism has empowered customers to shop more intelligently, compare prices, and demand customization for their specific requirements. The “Internet of Things” is becoming such a part of our lives that it is becoming hard to comprehend how we lived without it. We are tethered to our electronic devices, and our every movement is being collected and analyzed in the cloud by sophisticated Big Data algorithms. Predictive analytics are generating more and more accurate data on our next moves and most likely purchases.

Their values are an important consideration in planning for a company’s training needs. More than 60% of Millennials say that opportunities for personal development and training are the primary factor in selecting their current employers. They have grown up with the Internet, so the mobile and social aspects of training appeal to their desire for flexibility, visible progress, and a feeling of community.

Clearly, technology has fundamentally changed the way businesses operate. What does this mean in terms of training for executives and managers? For any company that wants to continue to win the battle for the customer’s mind and to maintain and build brand equity in the technologydriven marketplaces of today and the future, it is extremely critical to train executives and managers in the use of this technology.

Unfortunately, research indicates that only about 10% of all companies surveyed are heavy users of mobile learning functionality. In 2015 alone, almost 2 billion mobile phones were sold globally, compared with only about 270 million PCs. This data obviously indicates the trend toward mobile.

Additionally, CEOs need to build lasting relationships with employees and adapt to their obvious need for better recognition and training that helps them to be more effective in their jobs. Unfortunately, research has revealed that the majority of employees in U.S. companies are “disengaged” and unhappy with their employers and their jobs. For example, as a professor in the graduate business program at Saint Peter’s University, I have seen that many of my MBA students do not receive any recognition from their employers upon graduation, even though the company paid for most of the MBA through a tuition reimbursement program. Why pay for an employee’s master of business administration degree and not even acknowledge it when the employee graduates? This lack of recognition causes many of the graduates to seek a job with greater compensation at another company. So from a business point of view, what is the return on that investment? Zero.

Given Millennials’ desire for a more results-oriented culture and flexibility, more employers will have to transition from one-size-fits-all recorded training presentations and videos to individualized e-learning course content. Companies that fail to adjust their learning management practices and solutions are facing major issues with organizational growth and productivity. Because mobile has transformed the way we work, collaborate, and interact, web-based learning solutions will better engage users, expand global reach, and improve adoption. Companies need to embrace these social media tools and invest in social collaboration tools to engage employees in a learning culture.

ADAPTIVE LEARNING AND ED TECH More organizations need to understand “adaptive learning” methodologies that allow employees to learn at their own pace. The learning processes of the past have to change. In many cases, these processes have operated in the silos of corporations where learning professionals had little or no input from or interaction with other areas of the business.

Management also needs to keep up with advances in technology because they have become a natural part of lifelong learning for employees. Adding to the changing complexity of training requirements is the influx of Millennials who are starting to move up in the management ranks.

Companies must adapt their learning strategies to meet the demands of today’s virtual marketplaces and the workforce. Learning professionals have to become partners with business leaders to redesign the entire learning process for their employees to be more effective in their jobs. Companies have to change the way they view employees and focus on the unique learning needs of individuals.

Millennials, born between 1982 and 2002, are predicted to make up 75% of the workforce in 2025. They already comprise about one-third of all employees in the U.S.

One way to meet these unique learning needs is with “ed tech,” which is the new description for e-learning technologies, job-related training software, targeted to



individuals. The research firm CB Insights indicates that venture capital firms worldwide invested nearly $3 billion last year in ed tech startups, up from about $2 billion in 2014., a pioneer in marketing educational video tutorials to companies and individual professionals, has grown rapidly since its inception. After raising $186 million in 2015, the company was acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. Another new ed tech firm, Instructure, also has been growing quickly as it markets training platforms for corporations. In an interview with the New York Times, CEO Josh Coates said that if a company can improve an employee’s performance by 2% by investing $50 in a corporate training platform, it will do so “in a heartbeat.” Instructure went public in November, and it recently had a market capitalization of nearly $500 million. Other ed tech startups that are developing educational software targeted to corporations—and getting attention from investors—are Schoology (raised $32 million), Knewton (raised $147 million), and Kaymbu. Companies must adapt their learning strategies to help employees meet the changing requirements of customers and the workforce; therefore, it is a strategic imperative for them to embrace new e-learning platforms. The recognition of individual learning styles is driving companies to adopt a variety of e-learning courses. These may include voice-overs for auditory learners, graphics for visual learners, and text for those who prefer sitting through a lecture or reading.

PROFITABILITY AND ADVANTAGES IN TRAINING It’s a fact: Training impacts profitability. Research shows that companies that invest in training report that they have lower turnover of employees and top performers, higher engagement and employee satisfaction results, and higher promotion rates of top performers. Obviously, training is an integral part of a company’s strategic plan to maintain a competitive advantage. Training has a positive influence on employee productivity. Business leaders must keep up to date about new trends in training and e-learning technology. Employees are being propelled into this new level of the digital transformation of business. Winners must be able to continually reevaluate and redefine the strategies required to maintain a competitive advantage.

MEETING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS THROUGH ANALYTICS New digital, social, and mobile dynamics are creating new customer expectations. This allows companies to engage customers as individuals and seize an even greater competitive advantage by treating them in more “personalized” and “authentic” ways.

Historically, customers were segmented along age, income, and geographic parameters. Analytics now allow for analysis of a much broader and more valuable set of dimensions. Psychographic profiles of shopping preferences, product purchases, and lifetime value are now creating highly individualized “markets of one.” Today’s companies also can track online customer activities, which means they are learning to anticipate their online behavior as well. Companies that capture these online patterns of behavior are using them in a more accurate and predictive way. Even smaller tech-savvy companies now have the opportunity to benefit from the petabytes of new information being created every day. The digital transformation of business is the new imperative for competitive advantage. Embedded algorithms are taking over for human intervention. A new breed of knowledge workers needs to be trained to keep up with these advances in analytical technologies, and e-learning technologies will be part of that training. Greater agility in using analytics will be the deciding factor in today’s rapidly changing business environment. The new breed of knowledge workers will be tasked with detecting and analyzing trends and patterns to predict what is most likely to occur next. This presents companies with an entirely new and higher level of training requirements. This investment in higher-level, more sophisticated training has the positive side effect of freeing other employees and management to analyze data and gain insights into higherlevel business strategies. These advanced training techniques will create a new kind of employee specialist—an analytics champion. These specialists will be invaluable because they embody the marriage of their expertise with a deep understanding of the business. All of this is creating a data-oriented culture for those companies that adopt the new Big Data technologies that generate valuable predictive analytics of their customers’ behavior. Companies that reflect this culture excel at innovation and develop strategies that significantly differentiate them from their competitors. In a data-driven organization, practices, behaviors, and beliefs rely on the principle that business decisions at every level of the company are based on the analysis of data. Where is your company in adopting a proactive e-learning strategy that encompasses all that is required to differentiate your business through analytics? AQ Robert M. Donnelly is an author, educator, and brand builder for businesses and individuals. He is the author of Guidebook to Planning: A Common Sense Approach (Xlibris, 2006) and Personal Brand Planning for Life (BT Consulting, 2013). Donnelly is currently developing a new book, The Definitive Guide to Brand Building, which will be published in 2016. He has taught graduate and undergraduate business courses at Saint Peter’s University for more than 18 years.


Eliminating the Four Flaws in


Each year, corporations invest billions of dollars in leadership development and tout mantras supporting their efforts: “We must invest in our best people so that they can grow and develop.” “We have to build the talent pipeline within our organization, rather than rely too heavily on outside hires.” “If we don’t provide good development opportunities for our best and brightest, we will not be able to retain them.” One factor driving this investment is the skills gap—the notion that many key positions remain unfilled for lengthy periods of time because of a mismatch between the skills required for the job and the skills available in the market. Many executives have expressed views quite similar to those above in recent years, and many corporate leaders have put their money where their mouth is. Companies have tried to make up for the job-market deficiency by investing heavily in learning and development. And several thousand companies around the world have established their own corporate universities. Given the allegiance to investing in leadership development, why aren’t these investments in talent development working?


THE POOR RETURN ON LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT According to research from Bersin by Deloitte, companies spent roughly $17 billion on leadership development in 2014. The consulting firm reports that companies have increased their investments substantially in recent years, in part because they are finding it difficult to recruit talented people with the requisite skills and capabilities for their organizations. Unfortunately, the investments aren’t paying off, and many firms are not pleased with their returns. Korn Ferry, a leading executive search firm, conducted a survey in 2015 of more than 7,000 business leaders around the world. The survey found that 55% of the executives were displeased with the results of their firms’ leadership development efforts, rating them “fair” to “very poor.” Furthermore, Gallup reports that a majority of American workers are either not

engaged or are actively disengaged at work. These abysmal employee engagement scores appear to be an indictment of the leadership capabilities in many organizations.

FLAWS IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Leadership development efforts often have four major flaws that make them less effective than they could be: • Many leadership development programs do not start with an effective needs assessment that outlines where the capability gaps are in the organization • These programs consist of a series of one-off programs and events, rather than an integrated system of development activities and opportunities • Many programs do not provide enough opportunities for active learning and application back to the business • Senior executives do not get involved in the programs and do not signal their commitment to the leadership development effort The best leadership development programs address each of the four potential deficiencies. Here’s how:

ASSESS NEEDS, NOT COMPETENCIES Many leadership development programs begin with an examination of the company’s competence model. These models often list the key skills and capabilities that leaders

must possess and deploy to be effective in the organization. The programs then seek to enhance these competencies among a cohort of rising leaders in the firm. What’s wrong with this approach? It presumes that the most pressing development needs in the organization match the competencies in the model. Perhaps they do. But in many cases, one or more of the competencies warrant much more attention at that particular point in time. The competency model may have become outdated altogether; leaders in the future might need a very different set of skills than those identified when the model was created. Crucial new development needs may have emerged recently due to a changing competitive landscape, changes in strategic direction, and/or the sudden departure of key talent. Some firms do conduct a needs assessment before they launch new development opportunities for talented managers. However, they go about this assessment in the wrong way. Leadership development professionals spend time interviewing and surveying top executives about the leadership development needs of managers who are several levels down in the organization. Too often, this research produces a set of quite generic responses from top executives. They want their people to be more collaborative, to be able to think strategically, or to be more decisive. What does that mean? Can we really build an effective leadership development approach based on such generalities? AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 33

This approach also presumes that executives know what their people need. It represents a top-down, paternalistic approach to leadership development. Consider how talented middle managers and high potentials feel when they are told that top executives think many of them are deficient in certain key areas. It does not exactly excite people to participate in development opportunities if they feel as though they are attending remedial training. People generally hate being forced to attend a session or program for which they do not understand the need. A much more effective strategy for assessing development needs combines top-down and bottom-up approaches. It drills down to identify specific needs and it uses data to drive decisions. Leadership development professionals should certainly canvass top leaders about the areas in which they would like to invest. Senior executives understand the future strategic direction of the firm, and hopefully they will have a strong grasp on how competitive threats and opportunities may require the enhancement of certain capabilities. However, we also need to ask the people themselves what they think their most pressing development needs are. What are they struggling with in their jobs? What challenges do they face as they take on increasing responsibilities as leaders of teams and departments? What development opportunities could have the most impact on their performance? If people help craft their development opportunities, they will feel a sense of ownership. As a result, they will be invested in the process and the outcomes. The process of mining data can round out a holistic approach to assessing leadership development needs. Many organizations have rich information that they have not explored fully. This data includes 360-degree feedback, employee engagement surveys, exit interview results, team and individual productivity statistics, and more. The best organizations have even conducted their own studies to identify how the most successful leaders act in their companies. For example, Google, Facebook, and Capital One all have researched the attributes, skills, and behaviors of their most effective people. These extensive studies provide rich information that can be used not only to refine hiring practices but also to craft development opportunities for people in the talent pipeline. The best needs assessments put together what top executives think, what talented junior people desire, and what the data suggest should be priority areas. This holistic approach proves to be a winning formula.

GET AWAY FROM ONE-OFF PROGRAMS Companies must stop creating one-off programs and workshops that are not connected to a broader strategy for leadership development. Hiring an excellent big-name speaker to provide a keynote in front of several hundred employees for one hour might be entertaining and engaging and might inspire people to think differently about their roles


as leaders. The same goes for the outstanding one-day workshops that many companies design and deliver. But these types of one-off events do not achieve maximum impact unless they are part of a well-integrated system of activities. In too many cases, chief executives read an excellent book or view an exciting TED talk and reach out to that speaker. However, they do not think carefully about the particular objectives of the session, the appropriate audience for the message and, most important, the activities that will precede and follow the speech or workshop. Outside speakers play a key role in many organizations’ leadership development efforts, but they must be deployed with care. Furthermore, those speakers can customize their message more effectively if they understand how they fit into the bigger learning picture at the firm. The best companies develop an overall strategy for leadership development. That strategy does not begin and end with classroom-oriented programs. It encompasses a range of activities that fit together. Integrated approaches incorporate methods such as coaching, mentoring, real-time feedback, e-learning, university executive education programs, attendance at outside conferences, action learning projects, and personal reflection. However, these activities have to be stitched together so that people understand the journey they have undertaken. Moreover, an integrated approach means that each activity is reinforcing and enhancing the learning that takes place through other aspects of the journey.

EMPHASIZE ACTIVE LEARNING AND APPLICATION Increasingly, the best companies find ways to help employees customize leadership development. A cookiecutter approach for all employees does not work. Yes, certain cohort-based experiences can be powerful in developing talent. Going through a year-long series of programs and events with a group of peers can have many positive consequences. Still, each of these individuals has slightly different needs. Enabling each employee to customize the elements that complement his or her cohort-based experience can accelerate learning and development. Classroom-based programs and workshops do play a key role, and a cohort of managers can benefit from coming together to hear from top executives and outside experts, discuss challenging issues, share best practices, and learn from the successes and failures of other firms. However, many companies do not achieve any ROI from these training sessions because they do not provide enough opportunities for employees to actively learn and apply what they have learned. Too many programs continue to rely heavily on lengthy presentations or lectures, filled with endless sets of PowerPoint® slides. Future leaders sit passively listening to content delivered by a sage on the stage. Presenters talk at them, rather than stimulating a conversation. Many companies have tried asking participants to work on action

learning projects after a program ends. These projects, if crafted carefully and facilitated well, can deliver positive results. However, talented individuals should not have to wait until after a program ends and a project begins to engage in active learning and apply what they have learned. The best leadership programs engage the participants in a vibrant dialogue. More important, they go well beyond case studies. While that pedagogical approach certainly has great value, it must be complemented with other active learning approaches.

WEAVE THE RIGHT ELEMENTS INTO PROGRAMS The best learning programs incorporate techniques such as role-plays, simulations, self-assessments, experiential group exercises, and others. They do not proceed in a linear fashion from content delivery at the front end to application back to the business near the conclusion. Instead, facilitators weave together the introduction of new ideas with discussions of how those ideas play out in that organization. For example, a case study illustrating a series of decisionmaking biases could be presented in two ways. You could go through the entire case study, discuss all the biases, and then talk about the prevalence of those biases in that particular organization. A better approach moves fluidly between case study and application. When someone identifies the sunk cost bias in the case study, you then move into a discussion of examples of this bias in action at the firm. People can share why they fell into this trap, and then they might brainstorm ideas for how managers can prevent or avoid the sunk cost bias. The facilitator can then move back to the case study to explore other decision biases, returning to application periodically throughout the discussion. This integrated approach makes the relevance of key ideas and frameworks immediately clear to participants and helps them begin to connect the dots to their own leadership experiences at the company. When they see those connections early on, they become more invested in the leadership development program.

GET SENIOR EXECUTIVES INVOLVED Of course, none of these efforts will have much of an impact unless they have strong executive sponsorship, support, and involvement. Korn Ferry’s 2015 study found that a “lack of executive sponsorship” remains the prime reason why many leadership development efforts fail to achieve their potential. People need to know that senior executives care about their development and believe in the importance of investing in future leaders. Here are the ways senior leaders can effectively sponsor these opportunities: Hold managers responsible for their people’s development. Top executives can demonstrate support for learning and development by making it clear to managers that they must

provide meaningful development opportunities to their people. Senior executives must hold managers accountable for more than just financial results. They have to hold them responsible for nurturing and developing future leaders, and they cannot tolerate it when managers stop people from taking part in key development opportunities time and again because of the need to “get the real work done.” Be personally involved in the development process. Senior executives cannot just delegate this work to their chief learning officers. They must be willing to spend time with key people in the talent pipeline, sharing their experiences, imparting knowledge, listening to their concerns, and asking for their input. At companies such as Mars, GE, Union Pacific, and Textron, senior leaders take the time to get involved with the participants in key leadership development efforts. That personal investment shows people that senior leaders care about the learning and growth of employees. It also creates opportunities for mentoring relationships to take root or expand. Most important, it allows for the direct sharing of ideas. When the lines of communication are opened through such direct contact, it often helps talented junior people feel more comfortable about speaking up when they have an innovative idea, or perhaps when they have a concern about product quality or safety. Companies clearly know that they can do better with leadership development, and they want a return on the $17 billion investment they are making. Addressing these four major flaws can improve the efficacy of leadership development efforts. In so doing, they can build the talent pipeline in their organizations, reduce skills gaps, and decrease the need for expensive external searches to fill key positions. More effective leadership development efforts will yield more engaged employees, and higher engagement is linked to the boosting of productivity and retention. Top executives can create better opportunities for their people to develop and grow, but it is also important that individuals partake in these opportunities and invest in themselves. Ralph Cordiner, the legendary CEO of GE who created the company’s management development institute in Crotonville, NY, put it best when he said, “Nobody is going to order a man to develop.... Whether a man lags behind or moves ahead in his specialty is a matter of his own personal application. This is something which takes time, work, and sacrifice. Nobody can do it for you.” AQ Michael Roberto is the Trustee Professor of Management and director of Bryant University’s Center for Program Innovation. He has written more than 30 case studies that are used in virtually every U.S. business school and are published through Harvard. Six are bestsellers, including a case study and interactive simulation of the Columbia space shuttle disaster. He has published two books, including the business bestseller Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer (FT Press, 2005). Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelARoberto



People quit bosses, not companies. You’ve heard this statement a thousand times, but the latest leadership research proves it. A recent study of more than 1,000 employees found that those who rate their supervisor “approachable” are 60% less likely to consider quitting their job. 36 I AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016

A second, smaller sample found that employees of approachable supervisors are 157% less likely to consider leaving. Meanwhile, according to Jeffrey Sparshott at the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, voluntary quits reached a nine-year high in December 2015.

satisfaction. A study by found that more than two-thirds of the observed differences in task and unit performance were explained by organizational citizenship behavior. OCB activity is the tiny hinge that swings the big door of workplace performance.

Poor leadership doesn’t just cause people to quit. It leads employees to resist (or derail) change efforts. Low enthusiasm and engagement means no innovation and no “above and beyond” behavior at work. It ratchets up workplace stress to the breaking point. And it costs companies billions of dollars each year.

Think about suggestion programs. You can walk by the suggestion box your entire career without putting anything in, and it won’t affect you in the least. You would still get raises. You would still get promoted. No one’s ever going to put on your performance appraisal that you don’t make suggestions—in fact, most of the time suggestions are anonymous.

Companies faced with these challenges often turn their focus to making employees happy. We believe if we can just get employee satisfaction turned around that the business will improve.

HAPPY EMPLOYEES = HAPPY CUSTOMERS = BETTER BUSINESS? Have you ever seen this equation? The basic idea is that satisfied employees take better care of customers. This makes the customers happy, increasing the likelihood that they’ll return, buy more, and then tell others about your exceptional service and products. This is what keeps your business humming. The problem is, this formula is wrong. Many studies (especially meta-studies, which look at tens of thousands of respondents and are considered more reliable) find a weak relationship between employee happiness and work performance. Satisfied employees don’t always perform better than dissatisfied ones. Sometimes the unhappy employees are the better performers. Satisfaction is what’s called a mediator; you can’t improve performance just by trying to make people happy. If making employees happy doesn’t lead to better business results, what does?

THE POWER OF ORGANIZATIONAL CITIZENSHIP BEHAVIOR The best research on factors that actually improve job performance focuses on something called organizational citizenship behavior. Organizational citizenship behaviors—or OCBs—are small acts we don’t have to do, but we do anyway to try to make the lives of those around us just a little bit easier. OCBs are all about going “above and beyond” what is expected of you. These OCB activities can be small—picking up around the office or holding the door for someone. They can be bigger— staying late to make sure a customer’s order gets filled on time or covering for a co-worker when he has a family emergency. Whether small or large, OCBs are important. They reinforce each other, creating a snowball effect. Where you find OCB activity, you find high performance and

Does that mean suggestions aren’t important? No way. Companies such as Facebook, Google, and 3M famously invest millions of dollars each year putting time on the schedule for people to just goof around, “hack,” or break stuff and come up with new ways to do things. They invest a lot of time, energy, and money to create more suggestions because they know their next billion-dollar product may be one of those ideas. Another study cited by looked at nearly 3,000 people who engaged in the OCB of making a suggestion at work. Researchers wanted to determine what sorts of things actually motivated people to do this. Among the group: • 29% said they thought they might get a reward or some sort of recognition for making the suggestion • 45% said they thought their suggestion would improve the company or make their job better or easier to perform • 80% said their supervisors were doing a good job That last finding is powerful. Leaders are valuable. When they’re doing a good job, their people will do good things, such as make suggestions. But there’s even more to it. The researchers also found that 88% of the people who made suggestions said that their supervisor was approachable. Two things stand out about this. First, just consider the number: 88%. Almost 9 of the 10 people who made a suggestion said that their supervisor was approachable. That kind of correlation is astounding in social research. Not even 9 out of 10 dentists agree that patients should chew sugarless gum. Also consider this: Nearly 10% of the people who engaged in the OCB of making a suggestion thought that their supervisor wasn’t that great. But they did agree that their supervisor was approachable. They then went ahead and engaged in the organizational citizenship behavior.

WHY APPROACHABILITY MATTERS Some people have no problem talking with their boss. They are direct and don’t seem to have any fear. But this is rare. Most of us are more cautious when talking with someone in power. We tend to let their vibe determine our own speech AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 37

Approachability creates

a space where employees feel safe and comfortable coming to leaders with issues or ideas. It feeds engagement, innovation, and self-motivation.

and actions. This is called a “power distance” relationship. This power-distance gap causes major problems in companies. Wide power-distance gaps cause terrible safety and quality problems. On the other hand, shrinking the gap quickly fixes the disconnect between the people who “run the business” and the people who “keep the business running.” Approachable leaders shrink the power-distance gap. Their employees feel informed. These leaders know the issues employees struggle with or why changes aren’t working as planned. They know because employees feel comfortable enough to bring them up. Unapproachable leaders don’t know what’s going on. They are kept in the dark, sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of spite. Either way, the organization suffers. Approachability creates a space where employees feel safe and comfortable coming to leaders with issues or ideas. It feeds engagement, innovation, and self-motivation. In fact, studies have shown that employees of approachable leaders are 86% more likely to engage in “above and beyond” behavior at work and 177% more likely to report satisfaction with their work.

THE APPROACHABILITY CHECKLIST The book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metropolitan Books, 2009) tells the story of how the author, Dr. Atul Gawande, helped develop medical safety checklists for the World Health Organization. These operating room checklists are now used by surgical teams all over the world, helping them avoid medical mistakes that kill thousands of people each year worldwide. Care to guess the very first item on the surgical checklist? It has nothing to do with insurance or even checking the patient. Instead, it is the simple act of having each person introduce him- or herself to the rest of the team. This one, basic act serves two important purposes. First, it is a core behavior of approachability—it shrinks power distance. The highest-powered surgeon is on the same level as the newest physician’s assistant. Second, this behavior also emphasizes that the whole team agrees that they are following the list. It breaks down barriers and makes it much


easier for someone in a low-power position to bring up a problem to the rest of the team. If you want to be a more approachable leader, here is your checklist. Focus on three key behaviors: • Are you open and available? Do you create a space where people feel comfortable approaching you? Your goal here is openness. Think open doors and open body language. • Are you warm and welcoming? Do you make employees feel comfortable and understood? Being open and available is not enough. You also must make sure your employees feel like you truly seek to understand and connect with them. Think about being “neighborly” or how you might treat an old friend. • Are you receptive and responsive? Do you follow up and follow through? Many leaders can check the first two boxes. But availability and warmth aren’t enough. You have to actually listen to employees and take action based on what you discuss. Your action shows that you take their feedback seriously and encourages them to come back again.

ASK BETTER QUESTIONS E.E. Cummings once wrote, “Always the beautiful answer/ who asks a more beautiful question.” There are numerous things leaders can do to improve their approachability. The most important is to ask better questions. Here are three simple questions that emphasize the key principles of approachability.

Do you have what you need? When you ask someone this question, you make an important assumption: People want to be great (or as I often say, nobody is the villain in their story). This question is about resources. You are telling co-workers that if they have the right resources, you know they will perform great work. If someone is struggling, asking about resources tells the person you understand this isn’t a personal failure. Asking this question lets your employees know you believe in them. You expect them to do amazing work. When you make this assumption, it changes your behavior. Your assumptions become the expectations of your employees; they become

self-fulfilling. This is called the “Pygmalion Effect,” and it can powerfully change the way your co-workers perform.

million pages. I haven’t read them all, but they are full of “helpful” tips such as:

To paraphrase Henry Ford, whether you assume people want to do great work or crappy work, you’ll be right.

“Be trustworthy.”

What would make work better? The assumption here is that it is the job of a leader to reduce friction. I call it the PITA principle. PITA is the friction your employees have to deal with every day. (In case you’re still wondering, PITA stands for “pain in the a--.”) The job of an approachable leader is to be a heat-seeking, frictionsmoothing machine.

“Match your style to the situation.” “Start with why.” “Focus on crucial conversations.” “Learn the 7 habits.” None of this is wrong. It’s all great advice. I just think it’s too much. Leaders are busy. What we need is one thing to focus on that is fundamental to all the other stuff that’s out there. Approachability does that.

PITA factors have a big negative impact on performance. Another meta-study cited by (this one covered 169 studies with more than 35,000 different observations) looked at all the main factors that negatively impact work performance. More than 75% of such factors in this massive sample fall in my PITA category. They include role ambiguity, conflict, overload, and situational constraints.

Approachable leaders create the right space for employees. They shrink power distance, which transforms their relationships with employees and positively impacts their work. Approachability increases enthusiasm and cooperation. It reduces turnover and workplace stress. People work harder for approachable leaders. This directly improves your bottom line.

How many of these challenges could be improved by asking the simple question “what would make work better?” Every last one. This isn’t just about making things easier. These conversations also create opportunities to make the work more enriching and engaging.

Here are three simple steps you can take to improve your approachability now:

Where are you going? The third question is based on exciting research from a new branch of study called Positive Psychology. The assumption is that people want to make progress. The school of Positive Psychology is only about 20 years old. Before then, psychologists mostly studied what makes us unhappy—things like depression and psychosis. The problem with that is the more we studied dysfunction and disability, the less people seemed to get well. Some psychologists decided to take another approach. One of the most valuable findings from this research is the Progress Principle. People are motivated when they see they are moving forward. This progress feeds their primal (some say genetic) desire to continuously improve. The Progress Principle triggers the internal motivation of employees. If you help create opportunities for your employees to make progress, you won’t have to do much leading. Their internal motivation will catch fire and your employees will lead themselves. Focusing on progress increases productivity, enthusiasm, engagement, and innovation. It also makes you look like a pretty terrific leader. After all, developing people is what leadership is all about.

SOLVING THE LEADERSHIP QUESTION We’ve been trying to solve the leadership question for a long time. A quick Google search on leadership brings up 640

Shrink the gap. Consider power distance in all your relationships. Think about what you can do to make others, especially those in lower-power positions, feel comfortable and safe. Seek (carefully) to engage those who may avoid you because of your position. Remember to focus on the availability, warmth, and receptivity behaviors. Ask more beautiful questions. Ask the three questions we discussed above: • Do you have what you need? • What would make work better? • Where are you going? Also think about ways you can ask the questions that fit your style and organization. Keep asking them and make them part of your regular conversations with employees. Expect pushback at first (especially if you haven’t been the most approachable person in the past). The first reaction isn’t always positive, but if you keep it up you’ll see progress. Check your assumptions and remind people they are great. Remember, people want to feel like they are growing and making progress. It ignites self-motivation (the only kind of sustainable motivation). Also assume that your people want to be great. It changes how you behave, shows you believe in them, and creates a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. If the positive impacts of this aren’t enough, understand that if your people don’t see growth opportunities in your organization, they will look to grow somewhere else. AQ Phillip B. Wilson, president and general counsel of Labor Relations Institute, is a national expert on labor relations and creating positive workplaces. He is regularly featured in the business media including Fox Business News, Bloomberg News, HR Magazine, and the New York Times.


How to Become a



Ask any 10 executives whether their job has changed over the past five years. Nine of them will say yes, and if the 10th says no, I’ll bet you he won’t be in his current job for much longer. Even if your job title is the same as it was five years ago, and even if you have the same team and work out of the same office, I’m nearly sure your job has been affected by new ways of doing business, new technologies, and new consumer behavior and expectations. No one can rest on the laurels of past experience and skills these days and hope to thrive—professionally or personally—into the future. Each of us has to become the best learner we’re capable of being. In fact, I’ve come to believe that the key to success, here in the 21st century, lies in developing the ability to acquire new skills and knowledge quickly and continuously. Unfortunately for us, learning new things means we have to explore areas of skill and knowledge in which we’re not yet expert—and we really don’t like being bad at things. When we become adults and are good at a number of things, it’s uncomfortable and disorienting to go back to that state of being a novice: having to ask I-don’t-know-what-that-means kinds of questions, being slow and clumsy, and knowing less than others—especially those who work for us. So how do we overcome our aversion to being beginners and, worse yet, to being beginners in public? We have to develop the skills that will take us through our hesitation and doubt to become high-payoff learners. We must become “masters of mastery.” Through my firm’s experience with coaching and training leaders, we‘ve discovered four mental skills that great learners use to do just that. We call them ANEW: Aspiration, Neutral Self-Awareness, Endless Curiosity, and Willingness to Be Bad First. Fortunately, these “master learner” skills are simple, learnable, and completely within your control.

EXECUTIVE COMES TO GRIPS WITH “ANEW” Recently, an executive came to me very much in need of learning these skills and applying them in her job. Let’s call her Emily (she is actually a composite of three separate clients in similar situations). Emily had grown into her position as general counsel of her organization, a personnel consulting company, without ever having to know much about how business is conducted globally. She had worked almost exclusively in North America, and her team was based in the United States. However, over the past few years her company had expanded its operations into Europe and South America, and her team grew to include lawyers and support staff in those areas. She recognized that

her job had changed dramatically, but she didn’t know how to respond. She had avoided doing anything about it, focusing instead on the part of her job where she felt most comfortable—managing the U.S. team and offering organization-level legal advice to the senior leadership team. (Pretending it’s not there is a fairly common response when people are confronted with something they don’t know and may not feel capable of learning.) Finally, Emily’s boss, the CEO, sat down with her and let her know that even though they had good, strong people in the regions, she was going to have to “up her game”—his words—to be an effective global general counsel for the future of their organization. He was clear that he expected her to manage her international team more actively and to increase her own knowledge of global legal issues so that she could provide the insights his team needed. When she shared her situation with me, I told her about the ANEW model, and she was willing to explore it. Here are the components of what we reviewed: Aspiration. Put most simply, aspiration means wanting something you don’t now have. We quite often don’t want to learn the things that are necessary to our success (my new client was a good example of this). The very good news, though, is that we can increase our own level of aspiration— we can make ourselves want to learn things. The secret is to focus on the personal benefits to us of learning the new skills or knowledge, and then to envision a future where we’re reaping those benefits. I started out by asking my client what she might gain from expanding her capabilities as a global leader. She said, “I know Jack [the CEO] wants me to do this, but I don’t really see how it’s possible. It’s not like the U.S. part of my job has gotten any smaller. And why have we hired these international folks, if I now have to do their jobs?” Emily was doing what most of us do when confronted with something we don’t want to learn: We tell ourselves all the ways in which it will be difficult or convince ourselves that’s it’s not really needed. “It’s going to be tough,” I acknowledged, “and you’re not even sure it’s needed.” She sighed and nodded. “OK,” I said. “Bear with me for a minute. If you were able to increase your global expertise, how might that benefit you?” AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 41

Great learners are objective and neutral assessors of themselves, and that allows them to be accurate about what it will take for them to improve. It took a bit of conversation, but eventually she came up with three benefits that I could tell were motivating to her: She would enjoy being able to advise the senior team more holistically on legal issues with global implications; she was excited by the idea of building a truly global team (they were operating in U.S. and non-U.S. silos at this point); and she was intrigued by the idea of traveling more and becoming familiar with other cultures through her team members. I asked her to envision herself in a couple of years: successfully heading up a strong, worldwide legal team; being seen as a more valuable partner to her peers and boss; and building her knowledge of the global business scene through personal experience and deeper relationships in the regions where the company was doing business. As she shifted her focus from difficulties and obstacles to the good things that might happen for her as a result of this new learning, her aspiration started to increase. Soon she was ready to move on to developing the other ANEW skills. Neutral self-awareness. Most of us aren’t very accurate about our own strengths and weaknesses. Some of us tend to think we’re more skilled or accomplished than we actually are—and some of us are unrealistically tough on ourselves, believing we’re less skilled at things than is actually the case. Great learners are objective and neutral assessors of themselves, and that allows them to be accurate about what it will take for them to improve. If, for instance, someone thinks he’s an excellent manager but really is not,


it’s unlikely that he’ll be open to suggestions about how to be more effective. This support might include offers from his company to attend training or get a coach and tips from more skilled managers. On the other hand, if someone is more “fair witness” about his strengths and deficits as a manager, he’ll be more likely to accept support to improve in the areas where he knows he’s lacking. The best way to become more neutrally self-aware is to notice, and change, how you talk to yourself about yourself. Being able to recognize and manage your self-talk in this way is a powerfully useful skill (and is, by the way, at the core of the remaining three ANEW skills). To support Emily in learning this skill, I asked her what she was saying to herself about her knowledge of global leadership and legal issues. It turned out she was being unnecessarily hard on herself. Her mental monologue included statements like “I don’t know anything about international law” and “I’m clueless about how to manage lawyers in other countries.” I encouraged her to ask herself, “Is my self-talk accurate?” As soon as she questioned her negative assumptions, she realized that they were too extreme. She was able to then ask herself a second question: “What facts do I have about myself in this area?” When she reviewed the facts, she acknowledged that she had some experience with and knowledge of international law, especially in her specialty of employment law, that she

was a skillful manager of her U.S. team (and had gotten lots of feedback to that effect), and that many if not most of those management skills were probably transferable to the international team. She was also able to become more specific and accurate about the areas of international law where she had very little experience and knowledge, and to acknowledge the lack of cultural understanding that would make it more difficult for her to manage her European and Latin American team members well. By recognizing and questioning her self-talk, she built a much more accurate picture of her current strengths and weaknesses: She became more neutrally self-aware. Whenever you’re approaching a new area of learning, “vetting” your own self-talk about it—by asking yourself whether it’s accurate and what facts you have in this area—is a great, simple way to help increase your neutral self-awareness. Endless curiosity. Each of us is born curious. At the start of life, we all have such a deep urge to understand and master our environment that many scientists consider curiosity a drive in babies and young children, just as hunger and thirst are drives. Sadly, most of us get largely socialized out of our curiosity by the time we’re teenagers. The endless “Why…?” and “How…?” and “I wonder…?” questions of early childhood turn into “I know that already” and “that’s boring” by the time we’re about 14. Fortunately, we can reengage our childhood curiosity. And that’s great news because curiosity—that drive to understand and master—is like rocket fuel for new learning. The key to reigniting our curiosity lives, as with neutral selfawareness, in our self-talk. When we’re not curious about things, our self-talk sounds just like our teenage selves: “whatever, dude” and “yeah, yeah, yeah.” It’s disinterested and dismissive. But when we are curious about something, our self-talk consists of those same questions we asked as children: “Why does that happen?” “How can I do that?” and “I wonder if that’s anything like…?” We ask those questions, and then we want to find the answers. As my client Emily was getting clearer about the areas where she most needed to learn, I encouraged her to start asking curious questions in those areas as a way to direct and accelerate her learning. After some thinking, she came up with, “I wonder if my international team members would be willing to teach me about their cultures in exchange for learning more from me about the company?” and “How can I find out more about IP law in Europe and South America?” (This was an area where her peers and boss really needed to be more knowledgeable.) As she asked the questions, I could actually see and feel her becoming interested in finding the answers. Curiosity was doing its job of moving her toward building new understanding. Willingness to be bad first. As I noted at the beginning of this article, this is the toughest skill for most of us. We rely on and identify with our hard-won expertise, and it can be deeply

uncomfortable to have to venture into areas where we’re not experts at all. It can be especially awkward when we’ve reached a senior level in our organizations and think that others expect us to be experts in every aspect of our job. Yet again, the way out of this conundrum lives in how we talk to ourselves. Most often, when we are faced with having to be a novice—especially when it’s in the very public setting of work—our self-talk is just awful. We say things to ourselves such as, “I’ll look like an idiot. Everyone will think I’m a loser,” “My employees won’t respect me,” and “I might even lose my job.” No wonder we don’t want to go there! However, as we discussed earlier, you can change the way you talk to yourself. In this case, it turns out that the ideal self-talk for being a novice balances an acceptance of “notgood” with faith in your ability to become good. That sounds something like this: “I’m going to bad at this to begin with— that’s just the way it is. And then I’ll get good at it over time, just like I’ve gotten good at many, many other things.” I shared this approach with Emily, and after some work on her internal monologue, she found that she was able to accept her novice state without beating herself up for it and to believe that she would be able to build skills and knowledge in her target areas. In her case, because she had the discomfort of being “not-good” in front of her employees, she added this self-talk statement: “They already know this is an area of learning for me—so they’ll probably see me as being confident and open in acknowledging that and asking for their help.” In fact, this turned out to be true. Her international colleagues were relieved and pleased by her honesty and were happy to help. Over the next year, I watched as Emily increased her knowledge of key aspects of international law and built a much more collaborative and mutually supportive team. It turned out that all of her team members felt they had important things to learn from each other, and Emily’s increased curiosity and willingness to “be bad” was a great model for them. Emily is well on her way to becoming a master of mastery. If you, like her, want to build this key capability, I encourage you to explore ANEW: to become willing and able to increase your level of aspiration; to be realistic about where you’re starting from; to unleash your innate curiosity; and to be willing to be not-great on the way to becoming great. The results are powerful: As a master learner, you have the key to becoming the best leader you can be and to staying ready to meet the future as it unfolds. AQ Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness. She is the author of Leading So People Will Follow (Jossey-Bass, 2012), Being Strategic: Plan for Success; Outthink Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), and Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers (Portfolio, 2006). She also is the author and host of Being Strategic with Erika Andersen on public television.




Sofia’s career plans were right on track. But then the unthinkable happened. Her company was sold to a multinational organization. Sofia was transferred, and her new boss seemed to actively dislike her and not value her. Nothing Sofia did was good enough. She was yelled at, ridiculed, and humiliated. She was browbeaten, threatened, and intimidated. Her work was sabotaged. Sofia went from being a motivated, selfsufficient self-starter to being nervous, anxious, and depressed. She lost her self-confidence and found herself constantly watching her back. Once energetic, Sofia could barely drag herself to work every day. She tried pulling herself together and turning the situation around, but after a year of things going from bad to worse, she finally handed in her resignation. Sofia’s story is an all too familiar one of bullying at work.

BULLYING TAKES ITS TOLL Bullying is a big, bad deal in all manner of organizations, and things are getting worse. If not stopped, bullying is in danger of weakening and destroying the foundations of organizations. Bullying is present in all areas of work. In June 2014, Forbes reported that in a study of 2,863 workers, 96% reported they had experienced workplace bullying. According to a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, more than 25% of Americans say they have experienced bullying at work. It was reported that men make up two-thirds of bullies, with women being the targets of bullying by men and women. More than half of bullying was reported to be done by a boss. Bullying can involve a variety of techniques and strategies. Some are obvious while others are subtle. It includes intimidation, ostracizing behavior, verbal and physical aggression, psychological harassment, unfair treatment, hostility, social isolation, language or behavior that is demeaning and malicious, gossip and the spreading of rumors, sabotage, and using someone as a scapegoat. A group may band together and target a coworker with the aim of ousting that person from the organization. People who are bullied quickly lose their sense of self, their confidence, and their self-belief. They feel excluded, frightened, unsafe, ignored, and not trusted. While the effects of bullying are long-term and difficult to overcome, the impact is immediate and devastating.

BULLIES ARE: • Controlling • Autocratic • Abusive

• Aggressive • Antagonistic • Abrasive

• Manipulative • Unkind • Secretive

Bullying always does damage, and leaders and managers should develop zero tolerance for bullies. Many organizations have guidelines that describe and offer suggestions to combat bullying. But,within a culture, the way things are done often is the polar opposite of what is set forth in wellmeaning guidelines. Antibullying policies do not have an impact on an organization if bullying has no consequences.

CULTURE CAN SUSTAIN BULLYING Culture refers to the implicit standards and values that underpin an organization. Although mission statements explicitly state what’s important and how things get done, the actual rules of the game are implicit and unwritten. There is a common and unspoken understanding throughout an organization about what really matters. This often is in direct contradiction to policy and mission statements published by the organization. When fear defines the culture of the workplace, people spend the majority of their time working out selfpreservation strategies. In my book written with Paul Brown and Sue Paterson, The Fear-Free Organization (Kogan Page, 2015), we present neuroscientific research showing the damaging effect fear has on the brain. Fear is corrosive for people and for organizations, breaking down people’s morale, destroying relationships, and breaking down trust. Pervasive and persistent fear changes the brain. Any in-depth discussion about fear and bullying in the workplace needs to consider the big picture—the context or culture—of the organization. Bullying is able to thrive when the culture of the workplace is full of fear.

FEAR IN THE WORKPLACE Fear is one of the most powerful forces in the workplace. Many organizations run on fear in the belief that fear motivates. That belief is misguided and mistaken. The reality is that fear tactics weaken individuals and damage the structure of organizations. People who experience high levels of fear at work are drained of energy, suffer from stress-related psychological problems, and are susceptible to becoming physically ill. Prolonged stress and anxiety weaken the immune system. In common with all mammals, human beings have evolved with eight basic emotions. These emotions are hard-wired into the brain. Five keep us safe and warn us of danger; two encourage us to draw close to people, places, and things; and one pushes us in either direction. AMA QUARTERLY I SPRING 2016 I 45


The Human Function Curve Good stress

Various strategies can be used to deal with workplace bullying, from the perspective of the manager and the person being bullied. Here are several things you can do as a leader to deal with bullying. Or, if you are the target of a bully, here’s how you can handle incidents and get the bullying to end.

Distress THE HUMP Fatigue


Comfort zone

Exhaustion III health

Health tension

Be intolerant of aggression: • If you are a leader, make it clear there is zero tolerance for aggression and be clear about the consequences • If your line manager is a bully, create a petition with co-workers • Be assertive, not aggressive, when working with an aggressive, abusive person

Breakdown Arousal stress SOURCE: Adapted from Nixon (1982)

Fear, anger, disgust, shame, and sadness are the flight/fight/ fright/freeze emotions related to escape/avoidance; they prepare us to deal with danger. Love/trust and joy/excitement are the two emotions having to do with attachment and belonging. Surprise can take us in the direction of either escape, avoidance, or attachment. Of all the emotions, fear is the most primitive and the easiest to trigger. That’s because fear is necessary for our very survival. But when fear becomes pervasive, it overrides and overtakes our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can cause untold damage. Fear has a devastating impact when used as a management tool. When people are in the grip of fear, they focus on surviving and are unable to thrive. Managers and leaders readily use fear to command and control because they generally don’t know any better. There is nothing easier than tapping into another person’s fear system. What leaders and managers fail to recognize or understand is that excessive and persistent levels of fear create changes in the brain. These changes then interfere with the ability to work, make decisions, and think with clarity and purpose. When the fear system in the brain is triggered, the brain sets off a flurry of signals and a flow of neurochemicals that cascade through the body evoking fear responses. Emotions happen to us physically as well as psychologically; emotions underpin all our thoughts, feelings, and actions. And emotions happen before we have time to think about them. Emotions are sensed and felt by everyone in an environment. Emotions are catching—and none more so than fear. In a fear-driven work environment, there is little or no value placed on honesty, openness, or trust. A person working in a fearful work culture will not feel safe, will constantly have his or her guard up, and will not know who to trust. This person will tell managers what they want to hear rather than the truth. There are negative implications and consequences for organizations that run on fear. Once fear takes hold in an organization, it can spread like wildfire. Organizations suffused with fear are breeding grounds for bullying.


• Confront bullies calmly, clearly, and safely • Stick to facts and don’t get sidetracked by emotional outbursts • Keep your emotions in check, and walk away if it gets too much As a last resort, seek drastic solutions: • Avoid toxic people when you can • Forge allies, including with your boss, to help you deal with toxic people • Record every instance of bullying • Raise a grievance or formal complaint • Transfer to another team or quit your job

THE ANTIDOTE TO FEAR IS TRUST One of the main components of good relationships is trust, which is essential to cooperation and efforts to achieve common goals. Good relationships at work profoundly affect the well-being of co-workers and thus the wellbeing of the workplace. Love/trust, human kindness, and care are the currency of emotional stability, well-being, self-confidence, and self-belief. Building strong, resilient relationships builds a defense against fear and bullying in teams, departments, and the organization overall. The key ingredients of a fear-free work culture are honesty, openness, and trust—what we call HOT cultures. Leaders and managers ultimately must create a safe environment for co-workers to speak up about issues without fear of reprisal. In such an environment, trust is built and maintained. There are no shortcuts to building strong, trusting relationships. But the alternative is allowing fear and bullying to tear people and organizations apart. AQ Joan Kingsley is a psychotherapist and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine. She is registered with the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Kingsley has a private practice in London, is Honorary Consultant Psychotherapist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and is on the psychotherapist register at the School of Life. She practices as an executive coach and divides her time between London and her native New York City.

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f you paid attention to the last World Economic Forum, you know there was a lot of debate about how to lead the dramatic technological changes happening worldwide—what some people are calling the fourth industrial revolution. Rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and radical changes to business processes inevitably lead to discussion over whether people are equipped to operate effectively within all this change. As Erika Andersen puts it in her piece, “How to Become a Master Learner,” even if you’re in the same job with the same team as five years ago, chances are that your job (and the skills you need to be successful) have changed. Learning agility—on the personal level and the organizational level—has become vitally important. Learning agility in a VUCA world is as much about quickly identifying needs as it is about addressing them. To help your company become a high-performing, sustainable organization that meets its objectives, you need to continually assess training needs—both where you fall short and how you compare to the competition—and respond quickly to repair your shortcomings. What’s more, you can’t change behaviors and get better outcomes from a one-size-fits-all training solution. You need to target your training and development to specific needs as they arise. Training should reflect your brand and address your customer’s needs as well as the changes in your industry. And you need to do all of this with an eye to the future. As Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton point out in What Great Trainers Do (an excerpt can be found on page 19), the two intertwined, dynamic elements of training are content and process. Powerful training happens when content and process flow together and blend seamlessly to foster peak learning. AMA believes in a targeted approach to talent management, and training that takes into account not only the content but the process. We’ve deliberately developed a broad management training curriculum that carefully targets programs to specific needs to ensure effectiveness. We have proven delivery capabilities for every stage of talent management. From new talent acquisition and onboarding, to skill and behavior development, to performance management, we can help you align your training to ever-shifting needs. Give us a call and find out how we can quickly assess your staff and benchmark them against more than 8,000 individuals around the world and across industries.

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