How to Get the C-suite on Board?

Now is the time to invest in leadership development

Cost control efforts, including layoffs, are increasing across multiple industries. Leadership development initiatives can be an easy target. However, this is often the best time to invest in your organization’s leaders, when even more is going to be asked of them. So, how do you get the c-suite on board?

Some of your CEO’s top areas of focus for 2024 are likely to be: attracting and retaining top talent, continue with digital transformation and drive growth – and, you guessed  – reduce costs at the same time (source:  Conference Board 2024 CEO Outlook Report). And, they need leaders who can support these priorities. 

This opens the door for you to guide the c-suite on how to invest limited resources in leadership development that will be most impactful. How do you get the  C-suite’s crucial support for leadership development?

Frame it up: 2 Questions to ask yourself

Start by framing your conversation to address their biggest concern – positively impacting business results.

What is the business case for your organization?  Thinking like a CEO is critical to winning their support.

  • What are executives most concerned about in 2024?In a nutshell, it’s Growth, Technology, and Talent. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the 2024 CEO Outlook survey from the Conference Board, and the most recent Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey Insights

  •  Find out not only what is most critical to your c-suite, but how they are talking about it. Be conversant in your company’s mission, business strategy, KPI’s / OKR’s and financial performance. Have direct discussions with senior leaders about what’s critical to them. Be prepared to provide relevant data (employee engagement, client satisfaction, attrition and talent acquisition, absenteeism, etc.). Business strategy documents, annual reports, and formal communications to leaders and employees are also good sources to prepare for discussions.
  • Create a direct link between your organization’s pain pointsand how the leadership development will help ease it. See more below.

What is the ROI / Impact?  If you have been able to demonstrate a strong ROI of past leadership development initiatives at your organization, that’s gold. If you don’t have that data, you can point to studies from reputable organizations that show a link between leadership development and business performance. Use this kind of data sparingly and targeted to your C-suite’s biggest concerns. This graphic from joshbersin.com provides compelling high-level support:

A diagram of a company Description automatically generated

Or some of these statistics could pique their interest:

Talking with the C-suite

In addition to data and framing it up, positioning your business case is critical. Here are some ways to talk with your c-suite about leadership development.

Alignment:“We need to improve our leaders’ ability to align with the organization on business strategy, goals, and culture.”

  • Alignment needs to be regularly reinforced at all levels of the organization, from the most senior leaders to the most junior employees. For example, innovation is one of our core business imperatives. Leaders at all levels need to create environments on their teams where people will share new ideas and step out of old ways of thinking, Strong leadership development can show them how to do this and apply it in their real work.
  • Better aligned leaders make better decisions. They are also faster at adopting new technology.Our business’s innovative strength will be a direct byproduct of helping our leaders and their teams to better align with our business strategy and goals.
  • Leadership development is best when customizedso that critical skills are taught and practiced in ways that reflect our strategy and values. And I will ensure any development program does that.

Engagement:“We know from our engagement surveys, leaders and managers want the organization to invest in them” (if you don’t have engagement surveys, use some of the statistics discussed above). Opportunity for development is one of the top motivating factors listed in virtually all studies and surveys on engagement.

  • The bottom line for better engaged managers and employees is better performance. Teams that are engaged work more productively; they’re more likely to got the extra mile to achieve organizational goals, and they collaborate across teams more willingly.
  • In our continually changing business environment, leaders are desperately looking to boost their ability to stay on top of their people challenges.
  • Developing our leaders has a trickle-down effect on the teams and employees. They will be better led and therefore more engaged themselves. That results in better retention, lower hiring costs, and increased productivity.
  • Showing our leaders how to build empathy and trustwith their team members builds connection and embeds engagement more deeply in the organization.

Performance:  “When our leaders have their teams better aligned and better engaged, they will perform better.”

  • Our leadership development will emphasize effective communication and collaboration, which leads to better working relationships and less operational friction. That means fewer misunderstandings, mistakes, and wasted time and resources.
  • We also need to improve team and individual accountability. That includes mutual accountability amongst team members and their leaders. When leaders share more accountably with their teams, it drives engagement and performance.
Growth:  “When our leaders are better aligned with our strategy, and have more engaged and productive teams… they will be better able to help grow the business. Their professional growth helps drives team and organizational growth.”
  • Leadership development hones skills like adaptability and continual learning. That helps create an organization that is agile in the face of constant change.
  • Over time it builds muscle-memory for how to shift gears quickly and effectively from one business imperative to a more urgent or critical one.
  • Well-developed leaders are also better at identifying organizational growth opportunities and mitigating risks that threaten that growth.

Of course, you will find language and examples to make this framework more specific to your organization. That will make it resonate more with your senior leaders.

The value of effective leadership development is that it supports and accelerates the business strategy. It helps create a culture of adaptability and innovation. All of which helps your organization stay competitive in relentlessly changing markets.

All of which makes leadership development a wise investment, and not merely a cost.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you build leaders who enhance connection, performance and growth in your business.

A Better Way to Motivate

Dynamic Alignment works in any performance management process

 

We recommend Dynamic Alignment to leaders at all levels as we train or coach them. It starts quite easily by setting expectations a bit differently. And it relies on engaging with team members in simple, but essential ways — to build a sense of engagement and collaboration. It’s designed for the way we work today, as we face constantly shifting priorities that require ever more agility.

The whole idea behind performance management is to align effort, achieve results, and, at its core, motivate your team members.
 The problem is, the old models aren’t nearly as effective anymore. They don’t work when an organization needs to adjust to rapidly changing circumstances, because many of our performance management processes are built for stability and static alignment. Traditionally, it’s based on the carrot and the stick principle.  Goals are set. Progress is tracked over time. If you perform well, you’re rewarded. If not, rewards are withheld. The tension with a process that rewards alignment when agility is needed, is often demotivating. Goals are not connected to results because of shifting priorities, and people feel their efforts are wasted.

No matter what your formal performance management process, you can still use Dynamic Alignment to get more out of it. 
 The techniques manage the tension between alignment and agility, reducing frustration from wasted effort, which increases motivation – and engagement.

 

4 Ways to Build Dynamic Alignment

  • Dynamic Alignment still starts with setting goals. But the first step to support a motivating process is to ensure that your team members understand the goals are creating clarity, not certainty. From the beginning set the expectation that these are the goals AND they will most likely change in priority, scope, etc. This aligns expectations and builds trust because they aren’t caught off guard or frustrated by priority shifts when they invariably happen. Let your team members know that opportunities and challenges will arise for the business and the team. You may find that a particular path is not taking them where the team needs to go. Encourage your team members to discuss opportunities and challenges they see over time that may indicate a course correction is needed. This gives them the opportunity to be a co-creator in priority shifts. The shifts are done with them, not to them.
  • When priority shifts happen, it’s essential to explain why and check for deeper understanding.  Why is this more important than our previous priority? How will it create bigger, better, or more critical impact? Why is it a good thing for our customers or clients? Explain that it’s not personal. It’s not because the individual is doing a poor job or was focused on the wrong thing. When a person understands the why, it allows them to connect to their personal why, increasing their engagement and motivation.
  • When a project or work deliverable is deprioritized, have a conversation about what can be used from the work that has already been done.  Frustration increases and motivation decreases when we make progress against a goal, only to have it be deprioritized — especially when it happens repeatedly. It’s like rolling the boulder up the hill and having it roll back down. People begin to see less and less value in putting in the effort when they perceive it’s just going to be for nothing. How can it be applied to the new priorities? What did we learn along the way that could have a positive impact on the new priorities? What skills did they hone? Recognize the value that the effort to-date has created.
  • Dynamic Alignment must be horizontal as well. When your team’s priorities are being realigned, demotivation is still a threat if alignment doesn’t exist with the people they need to collaborate with to make things happen. Cross-boundary misalignment often leads to conflict, confusion, and isolation. When left unresolved, collaboration is seen as a punishment, not engaging and valuable.
Motivation, especially amidst continually shifting priorities, is critical to success. Creating dynamic alignment makes it easier for employees to understand why things are changing and how their role is important to making that change happen. Ultimately, you help them recognize how this priority affects their customers’ satisfaction, their team’s accomplishments and their own success.

 

And it can be leveraged within whatever performance management process your organization uses.

Contact us for more information on how we help your leaders apply dynamic alignment and better motivate their teams.

How Organizational Capital Boosts Financial Performance

Companies have significantly better financial performance when they create a culture of consultative and challenging leadership, skill development, and collaboration. These factors also support bottom-up innovation, and positive and inclusive work environments, that McKinsey referred to as building “Organizational Capital.”

Sustained Excellence

McKinsey’s Global Institute looked at the impact of investing in human capital and skill development on company performance. Looking at 1,800 large companies across 15 sectors they assessed how much these companies focused on human capital and whether they financially outperformed their sector peer.
It turns out there is a significant impact.  The study identified what McKinsey calls People + Performance Winners. These companies excel at creating opportunities for employees to build skills, which they measured by looking at internal mobility, training hours, and organizational health scores. They also consistently clear the highest bar for financial performance. P + P Winners achieve more consistent results and have greater earnings resilience, along with the ability to attract and retain talent.
McKinsey asked, ‘How did they succeed on both fronts?’ The additional key element for these companies is what McKinsey calls Organizational Capital – their management practices, systems, and culture. It’s not enough to simply hire and train the great talent, it’s essential to create the environment where they can thrive. Think of it as the car that surrounds a driver. Even the best drivers are able to perform at higher levels when they have the best steering, braking, engines, and safety features in their cars.
As McKinsey noted in their report, “P+P Winners have a distinctive signature characterized by consultative and challenging leadership styles; bottom-up innovation and collaboration; positive and inclusive work environments; and rewards and advancement opportunities for employees.”
This research is important for all HR professionals and leaders who care about performance. It reinforces the view that we at NextBridge have always held:  People and company performance are a “both/and”conversation. Investing in one while not investing in the other will move the needle on some indicators of company success, but it won’t create sustained, consistent success in a variety of economic environments. Those companies that have the highest success are those that excel at balancing their investments and building organizations that thrive.

 

The Case for NOT Being So Busy

Some people are busy but not productive.  That’s because they’re not the same thing. For that matter, the most productive among us are not always the most effective, which is a higher level of performance than productivity. Here’s the case for not being so busy.

The most recent Harvard Business Review magazine’s cover story is The Busyness Trap.  It warns us to not conflate activity with achievement. Almost simultaneously, Sunday’s Boston Globe featured an article about how family life slowed down during the pandemic – and how many parents hope to maintain that slower pace.  Lately, we’re seeing two ends of the spectrum; one is that feeling that we’re supposed to be busy, all the time, and the other that says, slow down.

I was very lucky early in my career to work at a small firm where our president focused on the results we achieved. He was part of a movement at Ford Motor Company in the 1970’s to share profits based on outcomes. He was very clear that our performance was viewed on the impact we made for our clients, not on working the most hours. After that, I went to a global firm that was all about how many hours you worked. So, you saw a lot of busyness that may or may not have been tied to an outcome that benefitted the client or the person working the long hours. As a matter-of-fact, clients were often suspicious about why we stayed around long after they left for the day. I knew the reasons for this philosophy – increase billable hours and/or impress your boss – but, right or wrong, it seemed ridiculous to me because of my previous experience.

Are you or your team getting caught in the busyness trap?  Are you focusing out activities? Or, are you more focused on outcomes? Obviously, there is frequently a connection between the two. You need a certain level of activity to achieve outcome. But there often isn’t a one-to-one relationship.

Why busyness can be counter-productive.

Busyness has become a badge of honor, a status symbol. Our worth seems to be defined by how busy we are. The problem is that, in today’s complex, rapidly changing world, we really won’t create the innovative breakthroughs by always being so busy that we’re at risk of burnout. Instead of doing a good or okay job on a whole lot of things, it’s usually more effective for the organization if you do fewer things exceptionally well. We need time to think, experiment, and reflect. When I am working with leaders to build resilience, I’ll ask them to be silent for 30 seconds to check in on how they are feeling. Too often they tell me they couldn’t shut off their to do list or the many things ahead of them. My question is then, what if you took one or two things off that list, how would it make you feel? Would you be able to be more productive, efficient, and effective at the other things you’re doing?

The person with the longest list doesn’t win.  Let’s let go of being so in love with busy. Start by setting aside a few minutes each day to slow down – to think, to connect, to invent, or just be quiet and rejuvenate. You’ll be amazed at what a few minutes of unbusy can do.

Who’s Going Back to the Office? Who *Should* Be Going Back?

It’s usually not a simple choice – for companies or for individuals. Companies are making very different decisions. If you’re unsure who should go back to the office, how many days per week, and to do what type of work… here’s a bit of help.

Companies are making very different decisions.

Many people are thinking about being back in the office and what post-pandemic work life looks like. They’re asking questions like “why do I need to be in the office? When do I need to be back in the office? Why aren’t we all back in the office?”

The answers seem as varied as the people asking them. We are hearing weekly what different companies are doing, and the decisions are far from consistent.

  • The largest 4-day work week pilot to date is underway in the UK. For six months, 3,300 people, in 70 companies, across a wide variety of industries are testing the feasibility of a 4-day work week. During the program, workers receive 100% of their pay for working only 80% of their usual week, in exchange for promising to maintain 100% of their productivity. Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global says “More and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, productivity-focused working is the vehicle to give them that competitive edge,”
  • Elon Musk made news because of a leaked internal memo to Tesla workersin which he says “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla… not a remote branch office unrelated to the job duties.’ His reasoning seems to be that by not being in the office at least 40-hours per week, you are “phoning it in.”
  • Akamai went in the opposite direction. Full disclosure – I’ve had the privilege of working with them several times. They announced that as of May 2022, 95% of their nearly 10,000 employees around the world have complete flexibility to decide whether they work at home, in the office, or both. In making this decision, they analyzed all roles in the company against the same criteria, regardless of location, and determined 95% could be done with complete flexibility. Flexibility has been part of their culture for years but never to this extent. The analysis bolstered their belief that employees should decide what is best for them.
So, who’s doing what?  A Robin survey of more than 10,000 offices globally found that:
  • Nearly 20 percent of American office workers are back one day a week
  • About 10 percent are back two days a week
  • Just five percent are back three days a week
  • Even fewer are back four or five days a week
  • More than 50 percent do not use the office consistently every week.

The idea of everyone needing to be in the office or at the same site goes back to the industrial and pre-digital work environment. Materials were most efficiently used in a single location. Communication happened face-to-face or by phone. In my early consulting career, I worked for a firm where a large percentage of the consultants coded all day – onsite, in person. The technology was different then so there really wasn’t another option. However, these people spent 90% of their time in their cubes, working individually. With today’s digital environments, you could easily see that being in-person would probably be of little impact on their work.

Recent research finds that working collaboratively face-to-face (F2F) has an impact on creativity. A study of nearly 1,500 engineers in five different countries were randomly paired to create product ideas F2F or via video call. The study showed video conferencing had a negative impact on idea generation but did not make a difference in the ability to critically evaluate creative ideas. Since creativity begins with new or adaptive ideas, face-to-face could be critical to your innovation and problem-solving strategies.

What’s the right model for how we work? Different companies will have different needs, jobs will have different needs, people will have different needs. And, that’s a new way of thinking.  Many roles are much more nuanced than the coder example I shared above, so the choice is not that simple. It will take months, probably years before we understand the benefits and drawbacks of any model. At the end of the day, the answer will probably be, it depends.

“It depends” is not a great response for people seeking answers.  So, here’s a little help figuring things out. If you and your team are still deciding how to manage the Great Transition, you may want to start with looking at the nature of the work. Even if your organization is committed to a consistent hybrid model (i.e., everyone in the office 2 days per week), it may help you determine how to use those in-office days vs remote days.

You can start with a simple 2×3 matrix that allows you to map tasks to three task categories – creative, analytical, or transactional/process — and the degree of interactivity associated with the task – is it primarily individual or collaborative, and the amount of your time you spend on each task.

For example, if I am analyzing the data in a spreadsheet, it is primarily an individual task. If I am one of several people brainstorming a new solution, working collaboratively on this analysis will generate better results. Analyzing different solutions may work as well remotely as FTF depending on the nature of what’s being analyzed.  Also, creative and analytical processes can be co-dependent and concurrent, so working collaboratively, FTF on this analysis might generate better results. Think of this as a continuum between Creative and Transactional.

Here’s an example, below:

We’re working with leaders, teams and organizations right now helping them be successful in the new world of work through customizable programs and consulting engagements.  How can we help you?

5 Minutes. 5 Days. (Re)gaining Joy at Work

Joy and happiness are two different things. Both impact things like creativity, individual productivity, and the company’s bottom line (yes, it’s true). But joy is more sustainable.  Here’s a 5-minute per day, one-week plan for kickstarting your path to getting more joy out of work.

Are you missing joy at work?  Or maybe, you’ve never even put the two words joy and work together in the same sentence.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Joy is important to mental health. Finding it at work is very challenging for many of us. However, finding it may be more important than ever.

Isn’t joy just another word for happiness?  Not really. According to Merriam Webster dictionary joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune. Joy comes from being connected to our uniqueness, authenticity, to others and to something meaningful. Joy is something we create and more intrinsic. Happiness is sparked by an external event or situation. Research shows both joy and happiness impact our creativity, energy, productivity, health, ability to handle stress, and the company’s bottom line. Joy is more sustainable.

Interested in (re)gaining joy at work? After all, we do spend most of our days working. Creating joy needs to be an active pursuit made up of small steps we take every day. I challenge you to take the 5-minute, 5-day challenge to (re)gain joy at work. It works best when you implement it over 5 consecutive days and jot your answers down somewhere so you can look back on them.

Day One: 5 minutes:  Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big why?  Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work connect with other important things in your life? What about it is driving you right now?

Day Two: 5 minutes:  What is one thing you can influence or change at work that will allow you to align with your North Star more completely – even if it’s a small thing. What is one task you could do? Or stop doing? What is one opportunity you could take to give yourself a few minutes to focus on something more meaningful? Or to laugh? Or to take a deep breath?

Day Three: 5 minutes: What colleague could you help?  Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have time to help a colleague because you have so much on your plate.  What if you grabbed them a cup of coffee when you go to grab one yourself? Could you have a walk and talk to help them think through a challenge while you both go to pick up lunch (that you may be eating at your desk so you can keep working!)

Day Four: 5 minutes: What are your strengths?  What energizes you?  What is one way, in the next week, you could more fully use that strength? How could you craft your job so that you are able to do this more consistently and frequently?

Day Five: 5 minutes.  Reflect and reward yourself.  What accomplishment are you proud of this week? How did you live your big why? What one thing did you influence or change? Who did you lend a hand to? How did you use your strengths more fully? Do you feel more joy today than you did 5 days ago?

Integrate this challenge into your daily routine every week. Assess the impact at the end of 3-weeks and 3 months. Let me know what happens.

What’s Going On With You? A Little Introspection Can Improve Personal Performance

Recently, I’ve been talking with leaders, including mid-level leaders, about the challenges they are facing with staff shortages, continued ambiguity from COVID, and end of year pressures. In these conversations, the underlying theme is the toll these issues are taking on their emotions and their continual effort to push those emotions away or to simply plow through them.

The context for these conversations is a broader discussion about leading with emotional agility. Susan David and Christina Congleton, in their Harvard Business Review article, define emotional agility as the ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings in a mindful, productive way. When most of us get hooked by our negative thoughts, especially at work, we have one of two reactions. We buy into them (“I always do something stupid that gets in the way of my success.”) and avoid the situations that may evoke them. Or, we rationalize them away (“I shouldn’t have these thoughts. Just get on with it.”)

When we get hooked and choose one of these two common reactions, we are not giving ourselves the opportunity to respond effectively and intentionally. To choose to respond rather than react, the first step you must take is to recognize what is going on with you.

When I talk with these leaders, I ask them how many times a day they check in with themselves to assess what they are feeling. The overwhelming response is never. Some will say rarely. A very small fraction will say regularly. Then we do the following exercise:

First, we pause the conversation right there and I give them 30 seconds to just stop and check in with themselves.

Before the pause, I encourage them to work hard to accurately name what they are feeling. Don’t just tell themselves they are feeling stressed. Rather become more granular in the assessment. Are you angry? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Constrained? To respond, rather than react, the first step is to accurately identify and understand what you are feeling. You can’t create an effective response or strategy if you are unable to clearly define what you are responding to.

At the end of 30 seconds, I ask them about their experience. They often say it makes them feel more centered, have more clarity, and are better able to manage those emotions than have the emotions manage them. It provides them the space to choose a response.

We then discuss how pausing 1-2 times a day – taking 1 minute out of an 8, 10 or 12 hour workday– can significantly impact the ability to become more emotionally agile and the impact of that agility on their ability to lead in challenging times.

Over the next few weeks, take a moment or two throughout the day to check in with yourself. What are you feeling? How are you reacting to those emotions? What opportunities do you have to pause to make the choice of how you will respond?

These are stressful times. You’ll find that this technique also works quite well at home.

When Your Team Needs to Redefine Itself

Most organizations are either operating in a permanent hybrid model or they’re planning to go there early in 2022. That means redefining who you are as an organization and as a team. How will you do that successfully?

Lots of Questions

How’s your team adjusting to hybrid work or planning for a hybrid future? This next-new-normal way of working will be most successful if you start the transition by deeply reflecting on who you are now and, often, redefining who you will be 

 –as an individual and a team. What goals are a priority? How will you prepare for the inevitable shift in priorities? How will people really work together? How will you navigate and build our relationships? Even in ‘normal’ years, these questions take center stage during the business planning cycles many of you are immersed in right now.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with two executive teams. Their businesses are very different. One is over 20 years old with almost 4000 employees. The second is a start-up driving towards commercializing its first product. While different, both of them were exploring a common question…

Who are we today and who do we want to be?

In both cases we started with who the team wanted to be so we could frame that sometimes more difficult conversation – who are we now?

Answering this question requires that these executives become aware of and more comfortable with the answers to several other, deeper questions about themselves and the team:

  • Do we fully understand who each of us is?  Do we understand how each of us filters information, makes decisions, and communicates?
  • Are we aligned around a common vision of where this company or department is going? And how are we, as a team, are leading it? This may seem obvious, but misalignment amongst leadership is a common cause of organizational dysfunction and average performance.
  • Are we role-modelling the characteristics we want this organization to exhibit?
  • How are we pushing each other to step out of our comfort zones in a productive and effective way? Innovation doesn’t happen when everyone is comfortable.
  • How do we provide impactful feedback to each other so that we increase the team’s effectiveness rather than diminishing it?
  • What about when the inevitable happens – when we’re sometimes annoying each other? Are we avoiding certain people? Aggressively confronting them? How well is it working? Is there a another option that gets better results.
Why so many questions? Because good answers require good questions… and these are all stones that need to be turned over.  In today’s environment, personal and organizational curiosity is a prerequisite for leadership and business growth. And if you’re not digging deeply enough, you’re limiting the depth and speed of your growth.
Want some guidance on asking the right questions and ensuring you get meaningful answers? We’ve been helping individual leaders, teams and organizations do just that for over 20 years.  Let’s talk.  978-475-8424 or e.onderick-harvey@NextBridgeConsulting.com

 

Unintended Consequences of Hot Desking

Is your company considering hot desking as it returns to the office in a hybrid model? Hot Desking is a flexible workspace arrangement similar to hoteling. It saves companies a lot of money. It can also have unintended consequences.

As companies are planning their back-to-work hybrid models, hot desking is becoming an idea that’s being explored again. I say again because it’s not completely new. I first experienced it in the early 90’s when I worked for a global consulting firm. Colleagues of mine experienced something similar when their companies developed broader telework options over the past decade or so. Hot desking is similar to hoteling. In a hoteling model, individuals reserve space prior to coming to the office. Pure hot desking removes the reservation system. Individuals choose a workstation that best meets their criteria when they are in the office.

There are benefits to hot desking. On a macro level, it provides flexibility and cost-savings for the company from a facilities perspective. Optimally, space will be used based on what kind of work needs to be done that day. If a team needs to do highly collaborative work, they could grab a collaborative workspace. If someone needs to do work that requires more individual focus, they would choose an individual workspace. Facilities costs are adapted to the hybrid model, saving the company money and leveraging the desire for flexibility.

On the flip side, it can have unintended consequences on engagement, productivity, and team performance – all predictors of increased revenue and higher returns. When I think about the execution of this model, based on my 30+ years exploring how to create organizations that allow people to be as engaged and impactful as possible, I wonder about potential unintended consequences:

  • Is it detrimental to diversity, equity and inclusion? Humans are naturally social creatures who tend to think of the world as groups we belong to and groups we don’t. When given a choice, most people will gravitate towards people they are familiar with or who seem, in some way, to be like them. Will this natural propensity actually get in the way of great diversity, equity, and inclusion? Even putting aside the most obvious forms of diversity, could hot desking make it easier to exclude the team member who is shy or difficult to get along with, or allow certain people to choose those workstations that give them greater visibility to senior leaders or decision makers just because they got to work first?
  • Will hierarchy undermine the model? Even the flattest, most egalitarian organizations have a degree of hierarchy. In the hot-seat model I experienced in the consulting firm, partners and managers had dedicated offices. Consultants were able to use one of the manager offices when we were in the office, which was somewhat infrequent. Of course, if all the manager offices were full that day, there was a problem. Let’s fast forward to 2021 and a purely hotseat model.  What happens if a senior leader arrives at the office to find that the type of workspace they need is already filled? If you modify the hot-desk approach and have advanced reservations for space, is it first-come, first-serve or do some people get priority? If hierarchy influences the decisions too much, does it lower trust and feel unfair? These are two key components of high performing organizations.
  • What impact will the need for confidentiality have? Some people in organizations have highly confidential information and highly confidential conversations. Think HR or Finance. It is reasonable that these roles would require dedicated spaces of their own. People managers also often need to have confidential conversations. Do they also get dedicated spaces? If not, how will your model account for that need? Will managers be expected to schedule space based on planned confidential conversations? That works some of the time. Does your model have enough private space for unplanned confidential conversations that can pop up at any time?  Otherwise, it forces managers to choose between delaying important conversations and having them in a semi-public setting.
  • Does it penalize those who can be less flexible? If someone chooses a space when they get to the office, the ‘prime’ spots typically go to those who arrive earlier in the day. Does that penalize those who are tied to a particular train schedule or need to drop a child at school or simply prefer to come in later and work later? Does it create a less equitable model for some, at least on the days they are in the office?

These are just a few potential unintended consequences that need to be considered if hot desking is part of your hybrid model. We can help you think through your model and get your team ready for Day One.

What other potential consequences could you see?

Tell the Truth – Are You Bored at Work?

It’s the dreaded phrase all parents hear that makes them want to pull their hair out –“I’m bored.”  Boredom isn’t just a complaint of many an eight-year-old.  It’s emerging as a key contributor to what people are calling “The Great Resignation.” Proactive leadership can make a difference.

Chances are, You’re Not Alone

The BBC recently had an article about the rise of a condition they call “boreout.” We’re much more familiar with its fellow work ailment, burnout. Boreout is defined as being bored by your work to the point that one feels it is meaningless. It can be created by an environment that feels demoralizing, by feeling underchallenged for a prolonged period of time, and, yes, from being confined to Zoom and the same four walls for months on end.  Burnout and boreout have very similar impacts. Among them are higher turnover, checking-the-box behavior, lost productivity, decreased strategic thinking and innovation, and lost opportunity.

The difference between the two is that burnout can be seen as a badge of honor.  You suffer from it because you’ve really been driven and making things happen.  Suffering from boreout is perceived as not being motivated enough.

We probably can sense boreout quickly when (or if) it happens to our high performers and we will jump into to help them re-engage. For our poor performers, we assume they lack motivation. It can go unrecognized in the core of our team – those 60-80% who are good, solid performers who are less likely to actively voice what they are experiencing. Boreout among this group is going to have the most significant impact. That’s because of the sheer volume of that segment of our workforce… and because it goes undiagnosed for a longer period of time. But make no mistake, if you miss the signs of boreout with your top tier talent, or don’t address it effectively, it’s impact is obvious and has long-term leadership consequences. Top performers are more likely to leave because they know they have more career mobility.

We shouldn’t assume that boreout only happens to front-line team members. Senior leaders sometimes confide in me that they feel a strong need to find something new because they aren’t challenged by their role anymore. Our conversations then focus on how we can make that happen within their organization.

No matter what level of leader you’re managing, making it okay to talk about prolonged boredom or lack of challenge has to be the first step in addressing the issue. It’s not a sign that they are unmotivated. Actually, quite the opposite. Boredom means they’re motivated to do more. So, create relationships built on high levels of trust.  Make sure there is the safety to talk about tough issues – boredom being only one of them.  Let people know that you don’t see boredom as their failing, but as an opportunity to expand or change their role so that they have new challenges. The organization gains from their increased engagement, productivity and impact. Some people will still perform well, for a certain period of time, when bored. But don’t wait to check in until you see a drop off in performance, or worse, see talent walking out the door. Be proactive about it.