Read an Excerpt
Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits
Developing Leadership Behavior That Drives Profitability in Your Organization
By LESLIE WILK BRAKSICK
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2007 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Great Execution Depends on—Behavior
"I was CEO almost three years before I really had my arms around the role. I had been deluded into thinking I was doing a good job, because I was directing things. I had no role model for the 'soft stuff' that the CEO was supposed to do.
"The biggest challenges were much less about business and strategy—but rather about providing leadership in the right way; knowing what to get involved in and what not to; and understanding the implications of what I said and did. I grossly underestimated the importance of my own leadership behaviors, and of coaching and encouraging other leaders.
"It became clear that, if I kept doing the same stuff, I would get the same results. I needed to change, to do things differently. It's hard to learn new behaviors when you have a big ego and a strong track record of success!
"Four years ago, I would have called myself a good CEO, because back then, I didn't know better. Today I know better—and can honestly say: I am a very good CEO."
—Chairman & CEO, Fortune 100 Company
Leaders want to be successful—not just through their own eyes, but in the eyes of others. And by definition, the success of leaders is determined by their ability to get things done through others. In the opening quote, what the leader learned that made him a "very good CEO" was that his behavior was the catalyst that could either switch off or turn on the right behaviors in his organization to achieve their key business goals.
If you're like most leaders, you want to make a difference in this world and in your lifetime, and you are likely involved in a variety of important leadership roles where what you do and say really matters. I also imagine that experience has taught you the hard realities of the workplace: leaders do not always lead well. Good people do not always work hard. High performers do not always get paid more. Angry people do not always quit their jobs and go elsewhere. Great places to work may not be profitable and may not survive. And fairness seldom operates at work.
Reading this book and mastering its contents will help you understand why people do what they do—and how to "unlock" and dramatically change your own leadership behavior—to accelerate your progress to maximum effectiveness. This book will help demystify why others do what they do (or don't do what they are supposed to). You will learn how to focus your own leadership behaviors and those of others.
WHY IS THIS LEADERSHIP BOOK UNIQUE?
There are thousands of leadership books out there. What makes this one different? Most leaders have never learned a practical approach to understanding why people do and say the things they do—and how to "unlock" their behaviors to bring out the best in everyone, which leads to superior performance—both individually and organizationally.
And in any organization, nothing can improve until people change their behavior. There is a science devoted to behavior, and that science underlies what is taught and described in this book. It will seem simple and it is easy to learn, but when put into practice it becomes a profound, life-changing approach to leadership.
THE SCIENCE OF BEHAVIOR—AND THE LINK TO RESULTS
The science of behavior relies on honest, direct, useful communication, based on objective observation. It is very much a teaching and coaching approach, in which the leader's goal is the success of every employee. The science is easily learned and is replicable.
While many leaders may find the idea of "soft" people skills too squishy, the empirical nature of Behavioral Science provides the tools to cut through many soft factors, such as personality and motivation. For a so-called "soft" people skill, the science of behavior is really quite hard.
Part of the rigor of Behavioral Science is that it gives you an early indicator (leading indicator) of whether you are on target. When you select the right behaviors to measure, you gain the ability to predict—early—whether you will achieve results, and if not, Behavioral Science helps you correct the course.
When you implement an organizational change, you need measures of success. In business, the dominant measure is P&L, but P&L comes too late—you need the early indicator that behavioral measurement enables. The unlocking of specific behavior that is linked to end results clearly correlates to the unleashing of profits, as our company has shown in decades of client engagements.
SO, WHY THE TITLE: "UNLOCK BEHAVIOR, UNLEASH PROFITS"?
In so many organizations, people's behavior is "locked." This means that their behavior is constrained by cultural norms and people systems. These constraints act to keep people doing their jobs at minimum acceptable levels of performance. People in such performance-constrained organizations—whether a team, a department, or the entire corporation—feel "locked" or stuck, and their performance is compromised as a result. Often, this minimum performance becomes acceptable and expected, and so the organization chugs along—adequately.
However, locked behavior becomes an insurmountable problem when the organization goes to implement a new strategy or to make a big change that requires people to alter how they work—to exhibit new behaviors to get new performance. These locked behaviors become big obstacles to implementation, keeping people from embracing the new way.
But there is good news: anyone who heeds the lessons in this book can become one of those great leaders who implements change well. You can help your people become completely engaged in "new ways" if you understand behavior, and care enough to lead your people well and coach others to success.
So, the purpose of this book is to reveal how to unlock behaviors in your organization, so you can unleash profits—not only monetary, but also the vast wealth of talent and capability that is trapped within the people in your organization.
HOW DOES "LOCKING" HAPPEN?
Behaviors become locked as the result of unintended consequences—despite leaders' good intentions. Many organizations unwittingly reward the wrong behaviors and discourage the right behaviors, thus undermining their hard work for success. For example:
One client needed strong teamwork across salespeople in different business units to drive top-line growth, cross-selling, and meet the new purchasing and distribution requirements of their largest customer. But, the company did not alter its sales incentive system—which was tied to individual performance only—thus discouraging any acts of teamwork or collaboration.
The results were competition between business units and finger-pointing among individuals. Top-line growth was negatively impacted, and customer requirements were not met. What teamwork?
The company had unintentionally locked the employees' behavior and leashed profits by not altering sales incentives (consequences) tied to their behavior. They expected people to do the right thing no matter what—but failed to realize that the company also had an obligation to align its reward structure with what it was asking of its employees.
Often the conflict is more subtle: it is the experience employees have when they observe the difference between an organization's vision and stated values, and what they see actually practiced and encouraged every day. This clash between words and actions weakens commitment and causes distrust of leaders and of the company as a whole.
This is where unintended consequences begin, driving performance down, not up. The organization gets less than what its individuals are capable of giving—and the employees experience less satisfaction from a work environment that has the potential to be so much better. When an organization locks its people's behaviors, everyone suffers—individual employees, managers, top leaders, customers, and shareholders.
The thing I want to inspire and excite you with is that employees' discretionary performance can be unlocked by leaders ...
... who understand the effect of unintended consequences on their people, and how to change that ...
... and who understand how to positively motivate the behaviors of others to get things accomplished.
You will get back from employees (and others) the very level of performance that your leadership actions produce. This cause-and-effect relationship between your actions and people's response is almost entirely under your control. You can become a great leader if you want to, and are willing to learn and use the methods in this book. The choice is yours.
"DISCRETIONARY PERFORMANCE"—TAPPING THE POWER WITHIN US ALL
Discretionary performance is that extra level of performance we exert when we want to do something, as opposed to when we have to do something. Discretionary performance is happening when we perform above-and-beyond, "at our own discretion." It's the difference between compliance (do it only because we have to) and commitment (do it because we really want to).
When you unlock behavior, you'll be a delighted witness to daily acts of discretionary performance. You will have tapped into the deepest center of humans that leads them to want to do things, without any apparent incentive or motivation.
Developing discretionary performance in employees is especially critical today. The unquestioning loyalty of past generations has all but vanished. Today's workforce seeks engaging work environments that are reciprocal and mutually respectful. Unlocking behavior and tapping into the discretionary performance of all employees is Job One for leaders who want their organizations to win.
A simple fact is that discretionary performance will occur only when the right behaviors are encouraged and people actually become "winners" because those behaviors lead to winning results. The following figure illustrates the three types of leadership and the impact each type has upon performance:
Effective leadership, which earns discretionary performance. This top curve is the one we all want: outstanding discretionary performance, where people perform at peak levels for sustained periods. This is the result of effective leadership that truly "unlocks" employee behavior.
Coercive leadership ("do it because I said so"), which earns minimal performance. This leadership style may get improved performance in the short term, but ultimately creates a work place of fear-driven compliance. People do just enough to get by. Either their performance is just acceptable enough to avoid getting fired, or they carefully achieve the goals set by leaders, but never go beyond. Either way, coercive leadership cannot propel the organization to greatness.
Poor leadership, which earns unsatisfactory performance. Eventually, the unsatisfactory performance comes visible to all stakeholders, and the leader exits or the organization collapses.
Effective leadership, superior execution, and engaging work environments all depend on your leadership words and actions. Your behavior—everything you do and say—is the key to tapping discretionary performance in yourself and your people.
CASE EXAMPLE—HOW FOCUSING ON BEHAVIOR MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Here is a memorable experience retold by one of our clients, Brian, who retired as President of a major oil company when it was acquired by a larger peer enterprise. Brian explains how some workers unintentionally taught him a great lesson in leadership: about the impact that his leadership behavior has on results, and about tapping into the discretionary performance of his people.
An experience changed my life some years ago. I ran a refinery in England. Times were tough, and the entire management team labored to save the plant from closing. We frantically bailed the boat.
It was the hundredth anniversary of our UK operations, and someone decided we should celebrate. Our Board provided money for a celebration for a thousand people—£30 each (roughly USD$60)—so we had £30,000 to spend on this celebration.
Honestly, I was more interested in whether there was even going to be an organization next week, than in a celebration! So, I delegated the celebration planning to a small group of blue-collar workers. I gave them the £30,000 and said, "Organize something—have a good time." And I went back to bailing the ship.
So what did the celebration team do? They organized an event equivalent to a county fair in the United States! About 50,000 people came. It was beyond belief! They leveraged that £30,000 and probably got the value of about £1,000,000.
Frankly, we would not have put this little team in charge of £2.50 in their daily work. Yet, here was this group, left to their own devices without any interference or direction from management, and they ran this magnificent event. I mean, it was just incredible!
So my management team and I analyzed this experience to understand how these people had accomplished this tremendous task. It was obvious that they succeeded more than we thought possible, because they were able to exercise their full capabilities. At work we had boxes and barriers all around them.
Ever since this experience, I've been trying to figure how I can tap people's capabilities like that. Why was this team so successful?
They succeeded because they owned the project, including the consequences of their decisions.
They had encouraging feedback from their peers, who would evaluate their success using criteria they all understood. (You only celebrate a hundredth anniversary once, and their friends and their families were going to be very rough on them if the event had fallen short!)
I unwittingly encouraged their behaviors, by simply getting out of their way. I was too busy to deliver any discouraging consequences, intended or unintended! I am positive that if I'd had more time, I would have told them that their plans were unrealistic!
This team had put forth great discretionary performance—the effort people want to contribute above and beyond what is normally required to keep their jobs.
So: if we always were to manage this way, would it encourage people's continuing discretionary performance? If I were to ensure that employees saw the direct link between their efforts and what they could achieve, then either got out of the way or encouraged them, would it lead to more discretionary performance?
I believe the answer is unequivocally "yes." That's why I'm a leader committed to creating the conditions that encourage these behaviors! It's not always easy, because I have lots of old behaviors that I need to change myself. But I am committed to getting there—for the success of my organization, my people, and myself.
Takeaways from Brian's Story ...
1. People often have capabilities that are buried or hidden on the job. Our job as leaders is to encourage them—and to create an environment where their capabilities are brought out.
2. The work environment is primarily defined by management, and maintained by the encouraging/discouraging consequences that people experience. Oftentimes, this work environment unintentionally inhibits discretionary performance and "locks in" minimally acceptable performance.
3. Brian's management instructions ("organize something—have a good time") were very general, compared to the highly specific consequences to the employees of success or failure (expectations of their peers, family members, and community members, Brian's evaluation of their performance, etc.). This demonstrates the power of specific consequences.
4. Brian could have been an even more effective leader if he had pinpointed the behaviors needed for success and created encouraging/desirable consequences. In this story, he did neither, so it's doubtful his people felt like they were "led" by Brian in any meaningful way as they pulled together the event.
5. The Bottom Line: You can unlock behavior and unleash profits in your organization by creating an environment that supports the right behaviors and removes barriers to discretionary performance.
TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS BOOK
We are quite serious when we say that what you read in this book can change not only your leadership but your life. Here are four "behavior facts" that are crucial to every leader's success:
1. Your behavior—and everyone's—is a response to the environment you work in. As a leader, you respond to what the corporate environment tells you to do. Your people respond exactly the same way. A truism is that "every organization is perfectly designed right now to produce the results it is getting right now." If you like these results, then you don't need to change the environment. But if you don't like these results, you must change the environment—and you have the power to do so as the leader!
2. Your leadership behavior profoundly and directly affects everyone within your organization. You directly influence the environment of the many people below you. You do this primarily through your direct leadership behavior—what people experience from you daily.
Executives in particular—but all leaders to some degree—often underestimate the impact upon others of what they do and say (and of what they don't do and say). People watch and listen to leaders very closely—every word and nuance. Leaders need to be mindful of the behavior they demonstrate—and the impact it has on everyone. You also influence how corporate policies, procedures, recognition systems, etc. are used.
In short—you establish and drive your own "corporate culture," which either locks or unlocks behavior (more on corporate culture in Chapter 7).
Excerpted from Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits by LESLIE WILK BRAKSICK. Copyright © 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.