Karin Winner, former editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, produced seven videos on innovation for the ASNE convention, interviewing local medical and bio-sciences entrepreneurs. Look for those videos at ASNE.org next week.
Advice from today’s video: “Find the very best people and hire them.”
Sounds simple, but it’s not so much. Money is tight. And many managers hire the best of the lot that apply to them. That’s not enough in this competitive market (don’t think “competitive” with other newspapers or news outlets; think competitive for the best talent, period. A lot of non-news-centric companies are hiring some of the best in news away from us). Go out and find the best and hire them away from wherever they are. That’s how to compete. That’s what Google, Yahoo, Facebook, IBM, Sprint and the rest of highly competitive companies do. To do less is to risk stagnation or (continuing) downward spiral.
If it’s not about finding and hiring the best, we should be concerned about keeping our best, and motivating and energizing them. How best to do that?
Daniel Pink, author and columnist, suggests the 200+ year management philosophy of using carrots and a stick hasn’t kept up with our changing values, challenges and complexity. Fifty years of research, he says, shows the carrot and stick approach doesn’t work, or works only in the most elementary non-complex tasks … not for today’s complicated, complex and integrated business environments.
Money is a motivator, yes, but it’s a baseline motivator, not a motivation to excel. Sounds counterintuitive. We might think that paying more would result in better performance. Not exactly. Read his book “Drive” and learn why.
Money can be a distraction that hinders productivity, innovation and excellence. If someone feels underpaid (compared to others inside and outside the company with similar skills and responsibilities), it will be a de-motivator, or at the very least a distraction that hinders their ability to focus on what’s important to the enterprise.
His advice: Take money off the table. Pay enough that it’s no longer a concern. That may mean paying above average. Then move on to other tools that can and will produce results.
AUTONOMY – MASTERY – PURPOSE
According to Pink, “management” is a technique or a technology, and an outdated one that dates back more than a century. He notes that it’s a technology that’s older than anything, including the presses, in use in the newspaper industry today. He says management is designed to achieve compliance. “We/you need more than compliance,” he says. “We want and need engagement from our colleagues and employees.”
How do we achieve engagement? Pink says self autonomy and high standards.
Ask your best employees to describe their best former boss, Pink suggests. “You won’t hear: s/he told me what to do, when to do it, how to do it and constantly looked over my shoulder.” The best bosses explain what the goal(s) is/are and WHY it’s important to reach those goals. The what and how are usually best left to the team or employee … sometimes even the when.
Example #1: Zappos.com, the online shoe company, operates a website and phone room for sales and customer service. Most phone rooms in America experience 100% staff turnover annually, Pink says. Phone rooms are typically soul numbing factories where staff follows a script, their calls are monitored and timed, and they are penalized if they don’t get off the phone quickly and handle a certain volume of calls each hour. Not at Zappos.com. No micromanaging. They have one directive: solve the customer’s problem. And with that Zappos.com has one of the highest customer service ratings in the world.
Example #2: Netflix. The carrot is to let employees take as much vacation as they want. They’re adults, they can figure out what they can accomplish, how fast, and how to schedule their time … so let them. You can build a culture of trust … or one of control. Employees are given Thursdays “off” (but still at work) to work on anything they want … but they have to come in Friday and share it with everyone. That has actually spurred more innovation and productivity than handing out goals and tasks and deadlines.
Example #3: Intuit, the makers of Quicken and other financial products. They allow employees to spend 10% of their time working on whatever they want. It has produced new products and patents for the company much faster than a structured program.
Not mentioned by Pink, but by almost everyone else in this field: Google lets employees take 20% or a day a week to work on their own self-directed projects.
Are all these companies doing it just to make their employees feel good? No way. These strategies have produced new products, services, strategies, patents and more, far faster than structured programs, for their companies. Feeling good is just a nifty byproduct that turns out to be very motivating, energizing.
Mastery. Most people desire to get better at whatever they do, says Pink. And they are most engaged when they feel or believe they are making progress.
How do we see or celebrate progress? Feedback. Pink says that under the “management” umbrella, feedback most often takes the form of an uncomfortable 45-minute annual evaluation. Do you water your lawn once and then wait a year to see if it turned and stayed green? If you wait a year to tell someone they could have achieved better results, with even a slight adjustment, you’ve missed the opportunity to engage the employee, improve results and keep ahead or at least even with your competition. Better to give constant or regular feedback and opportunities for improvement. If you wait until a project is completed to evaluate it, it’s too late to improve it: you either reject it or start over. Wasted time and energy, and it’s a morale and motivational killer. Help identify improvements or fixes before the project is broken. Your staff will appreciate it, and so will your customers.
Better yet, Pink proposes, encourage your team to conduct ongoing self performance reviews, identifying what has gone right, what’s holding them up, what they need to do better, what they need to learn or resources they need access to.
Purpose. Pink says people are starving for context. It’s not about HOW, it’s about WHY. If your team understands and buys into the why, they’ll figure out the how. Try it. You may be surprised.