Would you have enjoyed being a captive anthropoid in a zoo 100 years ago? Today, modern zoological parks simulate the natural habitats of the species in their sanctuaries. Gorillas and chimps thrive and reproduce. Many are released back into the wild. But in the corporate world management doesn't seem to know the normal conditions for Homo sapiens to perform at his best, and sadly don't care to learn. Anthropology, biology, psychology and sociology each teach us what Homo sapiens need to flourish. It is an enriched habitat that satisfies the needs and desires of hominids as they hunt and gather and compete for territory in the Corporate Zoo.
Homo sapiens have two motivators that determine the effort they will put into work and how long they will continue doing it. Managers must sustain those motivations - with a two-handed approach that leaves no doubt that it produces profit. At a minimum, readers will figure out what they need from their bosses to fly after their goals. Managers will learn what drives team members and that they are dufuses if they don't provide it. Companies will rethink the order of their priorities if they want to be more profitable. The tools included in Nail it Today seal the deal in this one-of-a-kind eye-opening revelation on business. You won't put it down and you can't ignore it. It hits too hard.
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Nail it Today with Both Hands
By Joe Cox
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Joe Cox
All rights reserved.
Business Driver # 1
To hammer a nail takes two hands—one to swing the hammer and the other to hold the nail in place. In the corporate world, motivation is the hammer. Profit is the nail. Motivation drives the people who earn the profit. We will measure how much motivation adds—in profit—we'll see it on the balance sheet—in black ink. But if people aren't motivated the ink is red.
When profit doesn't result, something is missing—usually the primary driver of profit. 'Nonsense,' you may say, 'Profit drivers are always known and are always part of the mix.' True, but if I ask you to tell me what they are you will omit the key one. It's the overlooked intangible—human motivation. It takes two hands to handle that primary profit driver. We'll discover what those hands do, one hand at a time and one truth at a time.
So why haven't we got this driver down pat yet? It's that old issue of not being able to measure intangibles. We just don't know what to do with them. Ignoring them is our default mode. Nail it Today puts motivation in the spotlight—even better, it puts every manager's ability to motivate in the spotlight with hard data, statistics and graphs. As that had not been done before, I thought it would be an engaging and worthwhile project. If I had known up front it would take 30 years I would have found something else to do. But that is the interesting thing about a challenge. When we dig into one if the nature of it appeals to something in our makeup we find it hard to put down. I became a victim of my own curiosity. Getting concrete with intangibles turned out to be all consuming. But I am not telling my story here—just the facts that emerged.
As far as I can tell, all business gurus have a common goal—to help companies succeed. But in spite of the good advice experts proffer, our executives and managers often don't get the job done. They are a mixed bag of effective ones, along with ego-trippers, authoritarians, enablers, shirkers, and some outright buffoons. Some know how to lead; others don't appear to know what's important or where they should be going. Still others think it's about image or rank in the pecking order, and less about worthwhile objectives. And what are the people doing while the manager is about his or her own pursuits? What do you do when no one is watching you? As useful as motivational speeches, books and videos are, lack of engagement with our work is as common as ever—and for the same reason as ever—no system of accountability for motivating people. When businesses can connect human motivation to their bottom line, this business driver will no longer be ignored. That time has arrived.
What is the primary reason we are in business? For Money? Would anyone say that it isn't money? I for one say that money is not the primary reason. It isn't that money is not important. But what is more important than money is to know how to make money. When we know how, if we lose money we can make more. Having money is usually evidence of knowing how to make it. The how comes from what we value most. It also comes from the learning we acquire trying to create or gather wealth. If we start off with a secondary objective—money—we won't understand what produces it—people. We won't value the effort it takes to create it. We will use people for our ends rather than engage them in mutual goals. If we acquired wealth without working for it we would lose it fast or fail to do the best thing with it. Many lottery winners demonstrate that. But, when we work through people's motivations and prosper because of it, we are not the only ones finding satisfaction from our efforts. Everyone one who was motivated to participate did so because their needs and desires were being met in the process. When we align the interests of people with ours and vice versa the unity of purpose combines vision with motivation. Then we have a direction and a goal and some people who are interested in going there with us. How does a magnet get its power to move things? All of the particles are aligned in the same direction. What do you have if you don't have that? Less power. Red ink.
We accomplish more when we are motivated. Achievements increase our self-esteem. We like those good feelings and will do a lot to feel them. It works the same way with our employees. If we want them to accomplish more we have to motivate them. Except that the strongest motivators to accomplish things don't come from us, they come from inside our employees. Their motivators are latent until certain conditions activate them and sustain them. Bosses can only create the conditions that trigger motivation. But that won't happen without sincerely caring about our people's needs and desires. That is very selfless and very uncharacteristic of most of us. But, when we put people first, not money or ego or pride, we foster better relationships with them and they reciprocate. Motivation begins to come through their jobs. Nail it Today is about the specific actions we take concerning people's jobs that bring out their best.
We exhaustively cover those actions. The good news is that our altruistic deeds turn more profit than self-centered behavior does. When altruism drives us we avert irrational self-interest. Irrational self-interest incurs resistance and may be the fastest way to red ink. People working for self-absorbed bosses tend to work for a paycheck and little more. If it describes our behavior we are not likely to see what Homo sapiens could have brought to our enterprise. We should never expect that others want to help us get rich. They have their own reason for living and it is not to indulge your hoarding or mine. Switching to rational self-interest is our best option. It is in our own interest to take an interest in what our people want from their work.
If handling people as they need to be handled is good for business why did so many experts fail to ingrain a permanent change in our thinking and action? The question is not that hard. Who really notices if a manager has unhappy people in his or her department? Some staff leave; others get fired, but does anyone care? There is only one way to get a manager to make people happy and cut turnover. Measure them. Base salary reviews and bonuses on the measures. Base continued employment on high team motivation. Managers will never nail profit from motivation until the spotlight shines on them and they can't hide. All the research out there is impotent without accountability attached to its application.
If a manager doesn't care about his/her people, isn't that the real problem? It's certainly a big part of it. You or I will pick up on it quickly if our boss doesn't care about us. We are less motivated to produce for him or her. Can we make managers care about their people? Indirectly, but it may be enough. They care about themselves. If they lose their bonus, have their job threatened and don't even get the inflation adjustment at year end, they will start 'caring.'
It would be nice if caring were voluntary, but because it often isn't we must have incentives based on valid measures. Measures tell us when business objectives were not met because people were unengaged or disengaged. When the effects of poor management are measured, managers can self-correct against requirements or move on. Improvements are reflected in multiple measures that we will present. When managers don't keep their teams fired up, they may be more of a liability than an asset. Paying no attention to the primary business driver—fired up people—is negligence. Wasting assets and potential and getting away with it are signs of poor management. Environments like that beg for accountability.
Nail it Today is about red ink managers and black ink managers. Every manager exudes ink of one color or another each time they handle people, and when they should be doing something for people but don't. Black ink generates a dividend for shareholders. Red ink is negative ROI. I can hear some skeptic saying: 'It is impossible to measure the impact of management skills on the bottom line. Soft skills are intangible; numbers on the bottom line are tangible.' You are right as far as you went. You left something out—every action of management evokes a response from the people affected—the law of cause and effect. It operates in the realm of intangibles. The effect of our handling of people is seen in their productivity. That's measurable.
You will learn about the Productivity Index. When the right hand and the left hand are doing what they should be, the effect is higher productivity; when they are not, it's lower. Low productivity means extra people are required to perform the work at hand. That's higher labor costs. Higher costs mean lower profit. Lower profit means red ink mixed with black ink. When profits fall below breakeven, it is red ink from there down. Any skeptics who think that measures can't be specific enough to elicit change in managers will be pleasantly surprised. Once we align the studies, one hundred years of research dovetails into a solid case for cause and effect. Ralph Waldo Emerson points out that "Cause and effect are two sides of one fact." Handling people the right way induces motivation. In turn, motivation causes higher profit. Profit is an effect. The inputs to that effect are in three dimensions as we shall introduce later.
Simplification is often the stiffest challenge in distilling research into pragmatic actions. Stiff or not, it is essential if we don't want proven conclusions wasted. If Joe Schmo doesn't understand what he has to do for people in his new supervisory role, then he is going to fire from the hip. What is the chance of hitting the mark if he has little idea about what makes people tick? But the rudimentary knowledge and skill to handle people wisely is already inside Joe Schmo. When he learns that it just has to be practiced and improved, he's encouraged. The task is clearer. He begins with more confidence, knowing that by using both hands appropriately his team will produce more. The team's response produces black ink. Joe has more to learn and we shall teach him. Nail it Today presents peoples' needs and desires, based on who we are genetically and where we have come from, from long ages past. When we pay attention to it today, we nail profit today.
What do business owners and shareholders need from the enterprise's managers? To lift productivity by satisfying employee's needs and desires. That underpins profit which makes it a business driver. Conflict between owners and managers about what managers' jobs are is unfortunate. It happens because of a misconception that needs to be cleared up:
Organizations think that employees want more money and benefits. But, what they want most is for their managers to handle them in the way they need to be handled. More money is good too.
Without another nickel of salary or benefits employees would produce more if their needs and desires were met. Companies would make more profit. They could pay higher salaries and still make more profit.
Employees don't have a misconception. They know what their needs and desires are and whether they are being met.
As of now management doesn't know what either hand has to do for this business driver. The scholars who investigated human motivation haven't made the penny drop. Their research wasn't packaged for front line consumption. We can't fault their scholarship; but followship is scarce. We didn't apply their conclusions. Improving learning transfer of these principles is one of the jobs we take on here.
If there is an opposite for ambidextrous it would have to be the inability to use either hand skillfully. I invented a few new words that I use throughout the book: dufusdextrous—equally unskilled or clumsy with both hands; monodextrous—skilled with one hand, awkward with the other. One dictionary definition of dufus (or doofus) is incompetent. I use it in that sense. But if managers know that two skilled hands are essential but continue to lack the required manual dexterity for their jobs, the other connotations of dufus would apply. While we don't want to label people, we can understand that employees find it cathartic to pin a rap on bosses who handle them poorly. Perhaps if one hears that one is a dufus in people's eyes, it could be the incentive to learn one's craft.
I am a rehabilitated dufus. Exposure of this dufus caused a yearning for competence. I have been a dishwasher and a CEO. The road from the former to the latter had many potholes of my own making. There is hope for others. Incidentally, the word management comes from the Latin 'manus' meaning hand. That is why I am talking about hands—as in handle and handling people. Handling people with both hands is better than being awkward and clumsy with them. The original use of manage was for experts who handled horses, trained them to perform well by a range of commands. Can anyone off the street turn a wild horse into a child's mount like a horse whisperer can? People are more complex than horses yet we appoint managers over them who have no people handling skills. Then we hope for high productivity. Isn't that how a dufus does things? Do we really have dufuses up and down the corporate ladder? Ask 1,000 employees and see what they say. You know as well as I do that over 50% will say 'Yes, there are dufuses up and down the corporate ladder.'
You want to know what the two hands represent don't you? We will lay a scientific foundation first. Yes, we are going back to experts' conclusions to see why their models didn't translate into cash. Don't bail on me just because you have to think a little. Clinical conclusions had to go through a middleman to reach employees. The conclusions bogged down there. We can't eliminate this middleman; he's the manager. But we can eliminate the confusion about what he should know and do. Sorry ladies, middleperson just didn't sound right. By the way, there are dufusettes out there too. I had one of those once and I walked off the job.
Put your thinking cap on. Here we go. If you are a dufus, just pretend you are competent for a little while longer. You may get reformed before too many more people find out.
Hungry Psyches and the Bottom Line
To make the science a little more palatable I have woven it into a true story about applying the science to a workplace problem.
The story occurs at my job as Group Training Manager for a national retailer headquartered in Durban, South Africa in the early 1980's. The company had hundreds of furniture and clothing of stores, a large discount chain and around 9,000 employees. It had been in business for 55 years, founded by the patriarch of a Jewish family; then later run by one or other of his three sons. It was a well-managed company and profitable. But there were plenty of problems to go around; many of them requiring training and organizational development solutions. It was a dream job, complementary to my MBA studies at the time. I was highly motivated to perform well and make a strategic impact. It would not be long before a job situation would launch me into three decades of study and hard work. It began one afternoon, looking for a solution for an endemic issue in the retail industry—the revolving door—staff turnover.
My boss, Human Resources Director and a member of the Company's main Board, came to the training department to discuss the issue with me. We were reeling from 56% staff turnover in the credit sections of our furniture stores. I was aware of the problem as we were constantly conducting classes in credit counseling and lending to assist customers purchasing furniture on credit. With about 2,000 credit specialists in this role nationally, it was a costly statistic. Various studies showed that to replace entry level staff costs about two month's salary. My boss asked me if I thought it had anything to do with training, or if training in some way could get the numbers down, so I said I would give it some thought. The company employed 16 Regional Administrative Managers who supervised the credit offices. I invited them to the Training Department to do some brainstorming on turnover.
Excerpted from Nail it Today with Both Hands by Joe Cox. Copyright © 2013 Joe Cox. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Book Endorsements.................... 1
Preface and Introduction.................... 3
1. Business Driver # 1.................... 11
2. Hungry Psyches and the Bottom Line.................... 19
3. Altruistic Anthropoids.................... 29
4. The Selfish Gene—Sanctioned!.................... 37
5. Who Are We? DNA, Socialization and Expectations.................... 47
6. Associates' Natural Habitat.................... 53
7. Caught Red-Handed or Back in the Black?.................... 61
8. Job Enrichment: The New Habitat on the Drawing Board.................... 75
9. Green, Yellow and Red Tasks—Fun and Glum.................... 91
10. Are Things Bad? How Bad and How Often?.................... 101
11. Investing in Black Beans.................... 117
12. Patterns Performing to Predictions.................... 139
13. Management—The 'Almost' Profession.................... 151
14. Serve or Be Served—Who is the Good Money On?.................... 159
15. Positive Reciprocity—Associates Stroke Back.................... 173
WEB REFERENCES.................... 185