Why I Hate Mission Statements—But Love Missions

MissionNinety-nine percent of the mission statements out there are useless. Have you read them? Indeed, some read more like an essay than a statement.

The Global Beauty Leader. We will build a unique portfolio of Beauty and related brands, striving to surpass our competitors in quality, innovation and value, and elevating our image to become the Beauty Company most women turn to worldwide.

The Women’s Choice for Buying. We will become the destination store for women, offering the convenience of multiple brands and channels, and providing a personal high touch shopping experience that helps create lifelong customer relationships.

The Premier Direct Seller. We will expand our presence in direct selling and lead the reinvention of the channel, offering an entrepreneurial opportunity that delivers superior earnings, recognition, service and support, making it easy and rewarding to be affiliated with Avon and elevating the image of our industry.

The Best Place to Work. We will be known for our leadership edge, through our passion for high standards, our respect for diversity and our commitment to create exceptional opportunities for professional growth so that associates can fulfill their highest potential.

The Largest Women’s Foundation. We will be a committed global champion for the health and well-being of women through philanthropic efforts that eliminate breast cancer from the face of the earth, and that empower women to achieve economic independence.

The Most Admired Company. We will deliver superior returns to our shareholders by tirelessly pursuing new growth opportunities while continually improving our profitability, a socially responsible, ethical Company that is watched and emulated as a model of success.

Some say virtually nothing, like this one: “To grow profitably and provide shareholder value.” Who doesn’t want those things?

Most companies use fluffy language provided by a marketing firm or a consultant that sounds polished, but remove anything that makes them stand out as an organization.

What good are these statements? How do they help your business? The short answer: They don’t.

Whenever I walk into an organization and ask employees what the organization’s mission is, I typically get varied responses:

  1. “I don’t know.”
  2. “Let me look that up”
  3. “Let me find that for you.”
  4. The blank stare.

Basically, I get a different answer from everybody.

Mission statements hang on a wall or adorn a website page and that is about all. But a mission has the potential to guide organizations into real action.

For example, during the Cola Wars, Pepsi had one of the best missions. Simply put in just two words the mission was “Beat Coke.” (By the way, it was at a time when Pepsi made Coke a little nervous because they made strides during that time.)

Granted, there is a life expectancy to that mission, and it needs to change or be refreshed when it is no longer relevant. However, talk about, clear, concise and compelling—and real.

  1. Missions are known. Think about it: Would you send a group of soldiers into a conflict without a mission or without them knowing the mission? No way. But most organizations do just that.
  2. Missions are a rallying cry or call to action. Missions give us direction and something for which to shoot. I love St. Jude’s mission, for example. They will not settle until there is a cure for cancer. In fact, they consistently reference their success as the day they will put themselves out of business. They know why they come to work everyday!
  3. Missions are influencers of our work. When a mission is clear, concise, and compelling, it influences the way we work. Take Pepsi’s mission to “Beat Coke.” Every employee could ask themselves each day: “What am I going to do to help us beat Coke today?” What a powerful question. Try doing that with the mission statement at the top of this post.
  4. Missions are bigger than just one person. Missions bind groups of people together for a common goal or effort and help people rise above themselves. When done right, missions create pride and engagement. Homewood Suites, a consistent J.D. Powers Award winner, teaches its employees that their job is about providing a “Home away from home.” A place where extended stay travelers (a.k.a. Road Warriors) feel comfortable. Their jobs are bigger than their roles. Missions are about culture.
  5. Missions are constantly being revisited. Missions are alive and active. Whether you hold shift meetings, monthly meetings, use performance appraisals, or hold coaching sessions, missions are built in the operation and people threads of the business. We should measure how we are doing against our mission, train people on the mission and brainstorm new ways to make our mission stay fresh and alive. We should find ways to help people identify with and personalize their approach to the mission.

Missions are the glue that holds us together as an organization and connects us with our customers. Missions are the vehicle that helps us all drive in the same direction.

Bottom line: I hate mission statements. But I love missions!

Originally published in ATD

Leadership Transitions

If only 34% of U.S. workers aspire to leadership positions, with 7% aiming for senior or C-level management what will that mean for our leadership bench strength? share your thoughts and ideas.

Top 5 Employee Deal-Breakers

What frustrates employees?  what makes them want to look for a new job?  According to HR Manager, Sept 2014 these are the Top 5:

  1. Not feeling trusted and empowered by their boss.
  2. Being expected to work or answer e-mail during a sick day, during vacation or after work.
  3. A boss who shifts the blame to employees when things go awry.
  4. Lack of flexibility for family responsibilities.
  5. Not getting along with co-workers.

Do you agree?  What would you add to the list?

Brad Federman Interviewed by Business Interviews

“In terms of a unique tool or technique used to help create a more sensitive or respective workplace environment nothing beats one-on-one connections and conversations.”

Brad Federman

Brad Federman
F&H Solutions Group
COO

F&H Solutions Group (FHSG) is a national consulting firm specializing in human resources and labor relations matters. Their HR consultants have unmatched expertise and experience in working with all types and sizes of organizations in different industries in both the private and public sectors.

FHSG provides solutions for a better workplace. Clients value their ability to develop strategies that have a positive impact on their organization and save them time and money.

F & H Solutions Group

BusinessInterviews.com: What are some trends in the human resources industry that you’re excited about?

Brad: I’m excited about several trends in the Human Resource industry. One of the first things I find exciting are the millennials. We have such great diversity in terms of generational differences in the workplace. It has opportunity to cause a lot of conflict, yet it also has an opportunity to create change. We have so many tools out there that promote networking and connections that are no longer hierarchical and yet we live in organizations that make it difficult to utilize those platforms in a productive manner because they are focused on hierarchy and outdated policies. When organizations catch up to where society is you have moments when things really work, where people truly connect at a unique level and a great deal of innovation occurs. I think this next generation is going to drive that, they are going to make that happen. They believe in workplace balance, being treated as an adult, jumping in and participating on the frontend. They want to put their imprint on what they create which means that our workplace needs to begin to represent that in the way that we establish our structures, our policies and procedures, etc.

The second trend I really am excited about is globalization. While that trend has being going on for a long time, what’s unique and different is that it is continuing to infiltrate every aspect of business. It doesn’t matter whether you work for a large company such as Microsoft, or you work for a small mom and pop shop, at some point the concept of diversity, globalization and dealing with different cultures is going to impact your business. I know small firms with one or two people in them that work across the globe and respond to clients of different backgrounds and nationalities. This presents a real challenge for a lot of miscommunication, etc. However, what is exciting is that people are getting better at understanding differences, embracing differences, learning about different cultures. We are becoming more mature in the way we view people around the globe.

The last trend is technology in HR. Now, I am not excited about the technology per se, I am excited about what possibilities it presents. You see, the history of HR is it’s an outgrowth of the legal profession so it’s been focused on risks and compliance. The truth is that in today’s world with everything becoming more and more transparent due to technology and because of the type of worker in place it is imperative that HR is focused more on building a strong culture and relationships that drive business success and performance. Focusing on risks and compliance doesn’t allow HR to do that. The idea of risks and compliance are going to go away would be foolish and unrealistic. However, with the amount of technology that is coming into play and the ability to outsource so many of these compliance functions to organizations that specialize in these areas allows HR an opportunity to shed what does not add value to the company and focus their activities on what does. That is exciting.

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you provide an example of a unique tool or technique that you’ve used to help encourage a more sensitive, respectful workplace environment?

Brad: In terms of a unique tool or technique used to help create a more sensitive or respective workplace environment nothing beats one-on-one connections and conversations. People are always more respectful and sensitive to those they understand, that they know personally. They are also more respectful and sensitive to those that they really listen to. So one activity that we do to encourage this kind of situation is called “rant and rave.” We have them stick two flipcharts up in the workplace for their team. One is rant, “What makes you rant about this place?” “What drives you crazy on a day to day basis?” And the other one is rave. “What makes you want to cheer?” “What makes you excited about working here?” And the leader gives people time to write things upon on those flip charts privately and when they are finished we encourage the leader of that team to have a conversation with their team about what is on those two flipcharts. The conversation is centered on two things (1) how do we remove, eliminate or reduce the things that drive us crazy, that make us rant; and (2) how do we increase or keep the things that make us rave, that we love? The wording is key because it is not how can I as the leader do it, it is how can “we” as a “team” do it? This should not be about the leader it should be about the group.

The second technique is that we create interviews for leaders to foster interesting conversations with their employees such as specific questions that we know will generate a conversation centered on personal things. In working with a major retailer, we had them take two or three questions that we supplied them and asked them to incorporate these questions into conversations with their people. They were shocked at what they found out. They learned about hardships and about the fact that many of their people are struggling financially. They realized that some of the things that they did as a leadership team actually caused their people to be frustrated or disengaged even though they had good intent. When they had this new information about their employees they were able to respond in kind and change the way people viewed them in the workplace. Because of this knowledge changes were made to make the workplace more respect oriented and fun. Ultimately it was all because they understood who their employees were and what they were going through.

BusinessInterviews.com: What are some common obstacles you see top-level managers encountering and how can they be avoided?

Brad: Top level managers are encountering a lot of obstacles in their daily work. One of the biggest obstacles that people face is their pace of work. Since technology follows us wherever we go managers struggle to be more efficient and one way is to multi-task. Unfortunately, when we try to get more done more efficiently the quality of our work and ability to problem solve goes down because we need space and time to really reflect. Also, when we multi-task we know that things actually take longer, the quality of our work drops and we wind up sending a message to the people around us that they are not valued because doing things like answering emails while having conversations. Leaders who do a great job of handling this issue do it by knowing what to say “no” to. They do that to free up time and space to tackle complex challenges and problems. Problems that need buy in from different stake holders. The ability to say “no” to different things is what gives you an opportunity to truly say “yes” and commit to others.

The second obstacle that top level mangers encounter is forgetting what it is like to be an employee, a worker on the line, or in an entry level position in today’s work world. They don’t know their employee’s concerns and don’t realize that employees struggle just to make their rent or pay the gas to get to work. They become further removed from their employees by only hanging out with other leaders, creating separate dining rooms, separate bathrooms, putting themselves on separate floors and creating environments where they sit up high and watch over the staff. This creates barriers between themselves and the people with who they work. When those barriers exist even with the best intent we take actions that cause people to disengage and promote significant distance between us and those with who we work. The best way we can avoid making this mistake is reducing those barriers by promoting cross-pollination between different levels of people so people can talk openly and freely and encourage people to build connections with each other, not just professional connections, but to get to know each other personally. The client I referenced earlier, where we had them ask two or three questions of each employee is a good example. One of the “aha’s” they had was they had a lot of people who were struggling monetarily in their company. They had made a decision in some of the charity work they were doing to stop crediting people with giving their time and asking people just to give money. Some of the people they were asking to give money to a food bank were actually spending their time at the food bank because they needed food. The idea that their manager asked them to give money to the very same food bank that they have to go to so they can eat was emotionally distressing. When these leaders realized what they were doing to their people they had a very different perspective about their charitable efforts in the office. They had a very different perspective about the reaction employees had to the charitable efforts in their office and they would never had a sense of humility and a sense of empathy towards their employees if they had never asked such questions.

BusinessInterviews.com: Do you ever find that time-management is over looked as an important component to building a strong leadership foundation?

Brad: I think time management is actually not only over looked, I think it is misunderstood. There are some things you can tack with basic time management such as keeping meetings short, putting some rules in place not to waste time, but time management is a subset of something bigger which I would call choice management. Every day we walk into work and we make choices. Where will we spend or not spend our time and how will we spend our time? I believe it is about choice management not time management. People look at time management as a date book, as scheduling in Outlook and it really is about priorities. The way we spend our time is a reflection of our priorities. Those people that struggle with time management are really struggling with priorities. Being a leader means understanding what has the most impact and then spending time and resources on those impactful activities. That’s our core effort. Anything else either needs to be outsourced or removed, or managed efficiently using a system. The tasks that deserve our time, our efforts, that are truly core and important, those are our priorities and that is where our time and energy should be spent.

BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you pass onto a manager who has been experiencing a long-term, high volume of staff absences?

Brad: The advice that I would give to a manager that is experiencing long-term, high volume of staff absences is to first look at them self and ask them self, what am I doing or not doing that is inherently contributing to the absences? Your team is a reflection of you. We create a shadow that we cast on our departments, our groups, our teams, based on our own behavior. Second they should look at how they are recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding new employees. Are they hiring for job and culture fit, not just skill set? People need to be good, but they also need to feel good (about what they are doing).

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share with our readers why this is such an exciting time to be working for F&H Solutions Group?

Brad: When you ask me why it is such an exciting time to work at F&H Solutions Group, the reason has a lot to do with the trends in the human resource industry going on now. The complexity, challenges, excitement of the change that is happening in our organizations, and in the HR industry as a whole, makes working here fun. We are on the preface of significant shift in the way we operate, the way we think about human behavior and the way we interact with organizations. To me this is an thrilling moment in time and because the transformation in the workplace is creating some stimulating projects and a lot of growth. After all we like to learn and be challenge ourselves.

F&H Solutions Group is a creative, innovative organization that is reflecting today’s organizational needs. I would much rather work for this firm because a lot of firms have not moved forward and are basically are stuck in the 80’s and 90’s workplace and mindset.

Freedom is not free, and neither is engagement.

man-free-signThe 4th of July – Independence day.  It is the day we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  From there, The United States of America went on to form a government and agree to a constitution.

However, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution by themselves are just pieces of paper.  Many other countries that suffer from coups, military control, and sectarian violence have had similar pieces of paper.  If you look beyond the documents and think about history the real work and tests were in the political upheavals and wars such as the American Revolution and the Civil War.  And we are retested throughout our history.

We paid highly for our freedoms.  We paid dearly for those pieces of paper.  And in the end the spirit of “One Nation” won out.  Those pieces of paper reflect work, pain, sacrifice and the choice to rise above oneself or a particular group.

Engagement is no different.  Survey time –  It is the day we commemorate the adoption of the idea that our employees are valued.  Here is the difference between American History and corporate history.  Too many organizations, leaders, and managers see the survey as the work, the pain, the cost.  We are interested in results and fixing items, or as I like to call it, treating symptoms.

The real work and the significant investment come after a survey.  Most companies spend 80 cents on the survey and 20 cents on follow up.  That concept needs to be turned upside down.  An easy way to test my theory out is to look at survey results of companies.  One of the lowest scoring items on any engagement survey is…

“I had an opportunity to discuss the previous organizational survey results with a member of management.”

In fact, in a recent survey we just completed only 21% of employees felt that they had a real opportunity to discuss the previous results with a member of management.  If a company cannot even meet this threshold there is no way they are supporting an engaged culture.

Let’s put a stake in the ground and change our approach to engagement.

  • Start a conversation.  A conversation is a two way dialogue.  Engagement follow ups and action planning needs to be a conversation.  Unfortunately, most managers are held accountable for having a plan not engaging their employees.  Managers comb through the results, diagnose the issues without really understanding them, create an action plan on how to fix engagement levels, and then share that plan and work with their employees.  Employees bless the plan because they do not want to be seen as questioning their manager’s thought process and ideas.  Hey, they are not stupid, and the employees feel less engaged after the survey follow up process then before.
  • Fix the problem.  One reason we talk with our employees or hold focus groups is to better understand the “Why” behind the ratings.  If employees don’t feel recognized it could be for any number of reasons.  Maybe the recognition is not specific.  Maybe you rely too much on programs rather than making it personal.  It could be that you are not providing enough recognition.  Or it could be that you are counteracting the recognition by your ability to find things wrong more than you do right.  I could go on.  The point is, knowing the “Why” is what helps you move forward.
  • Execute a strategic, disciplined approach.  If you want employees to believe that the company truly cares about employee engagement then make sure you have a plan.  When will they hear about the overall results?  How? Will they receive anything in writing?  When will they hear directly about their team or department?  This effort should be run like a military campaign from the top down.  It should be as transparent as possible and ensure that everyone receives the same or similar messaging.
  • Make the invisible visible.  You will not get credit for actions your employees cannot see or connect to the survey feedback.  It is critically important to tie an organization’s, department’s or manager’s decision and actions back to the survey feedback.  Too many times organizations make positive changes, but do not get credit for them.  Marketing is a part of responding.
  • Create a culture.  What happens after 2-3 months when the action plans are finished?  Back to business as usual.  And all that progress is lost because employees see the survey and action planning as an event.  But nothing really changes.  Creating an engaged environment is more about creating a culture that breeds trust, reduces fear, creates connections between employees and the organization, promotes the ability to focus on the right things in the right way and to work with pride toward something that has meaning.  In order to create that culture and maintain it everything changes.  The way we talk, behave, our meeting structure, our organizational structure, who we hire, who we promote, how we hire and promote, the things we measure, the stories we tell and so on.

Surveys tell us how well we did last year at creating and maintaining that culture.  In the end, responding to the survey is not the answer.  Why?  Because those survey results reflect the work, pain, sacrifice and the choice to rise above oneself or a particular group, or our inability to do so.  It is not the paper that matters.    It is price we paid for that culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying out of trouble: the importance of progressive discipline

Progressive discipline is an essential tool for management, particularly when it’s combined with good documentation and communication practices. Progressive discipline systems are designed to help employers apply fair, consistent disciplinary decisions. Proper documentation and communication strengthen the legal defensibility of those decisions and protect the company from false accusations.

Mutually beneficial
A structured system understood by both managers and employees takes some of the guesswork out of the relationship. Employees aren’t wondering what penalties could come next, and managers can be confident in their disciplinary decisions.
The ultimate goal of correcting undesirable conduct requires communication and collaboration, particularly in the early steps of the process. Because each step is progressively more serious, the system starts with mild “penalties” such as coaching or supplemental training. The employer and the employee can focus on what will work best for the employee to improve his conduct and avoid more serious discipline down the road. Employees are often invited to participate in the problem-solving process and can work with the employer to develop a performance improvement plan (PIP). Involving the employee in the process will increase her engagement and likelihood of success.

Typical steps, essential elements
Generally, progressive discipline systems follow five steps: (1) coaching or reviewing expectations; (2) oral counseling; (3) written warning; (4) suspen¬sion; and (5) termination. Throughout all steps, there are certain elements managers must maintain. First, the employee must be informed explicitly of the unacceptable behavior and understand the specific actions that constitute the unacceptable behavior. Likewise, the employee must be made aware of what desirable behavior looks like. Perhaps most important, the employee must be informed of the manager’s expectations moving forward and the consequences of a failure to comply.
While most progressive discipline systems loosely follow the structure above, the specifics can vary. In a unionized environment, the system is usually sub¬ject to negotiation. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) often contains detailed provisions addressing progressive discipline. Therefore, if you have union¬ized employees, your managers need to be acutely aware of the disciplinary provisions in the CBA. A violation of a contract provision will be taken very seriously by the union and could escalate to arbitration or litigation.

Proper documentation is key
The safety net provided by a progressive discipline system is inextricably dependent on proper documentation by management. With proper documentation, the system can successfully establish the employer’s effort to correct misconduct before considering more damaging disciplinary action. Then, if an employee is ultimately discharged, management can be confident in its decision. (For additional advice on the right time to terminate an employee, see Jerry Glass’ “Words on Wise Management” column “Are you really documenting performance” on pg. 5 of our March 2014 issue.)
Effective documentation before, during, and after the process serves as a solid record when facts are called into question, demonstrating that the company acted in accordance with its policies and procedures, and encouraging cooperative behavior.

All documentation not created equal
Illegible shorthand notes cannot be considered proper documentation. For your documentation to be effective, you should use your own words, write chronologically, be specific when possible, date and time stamp all documentation, provide the informa¬tion to all parties involved, and always file a copy.
Documentation should not be tedious or overwhelming. If you make it a habit to maintain simple records and follow the above guidelines, it will become second nature. Just ask around—most managers who properly document the disciplinary process have thanked themselves for it later.

Author: Cassandra Lewis a labor analyst for F&H Solutions Group.

Originally published in Words on Wise

 

Rising Tides or Sinking Ships?

Average CEO pay is now 257 times greater than the average worker’s pay. 

What does this say about the health of our economy? Our society?

Sound off.  Tell us what you think.