Getting more from your employees and yourself

Mark Murphy, a former turnaround consultant and currrent CEO of Leadership IQ, is the author of "100 Percenters: Challenge Your Employees to Give it Their All". He shares his tips on leadership and goal setting.
Written by Vince Thompson, Contributing Editor

72%. That’s the number of employees today who say they are not giving 100%. But how can we turn around our business, our industry and our country without a deeper sense of engagement and commitment? Mark Murphy makes these questions his business. A former turnaround consultant Mark Murphy is the CEO and founder of Leadership IQ, a provider of leadership training, employee surveys and e-learning to companies such as Microsoft, IBM, MasterCard, and Merck.

Now Mark is sharing his learnings in his new book, “HUNDRED PERCENTERS: Challenge your employees to give it their all and they’ll give you even more”.

Mark, welcome to SmartPlanet.com, everyone I know is over-worked and over-stressed. Giving more often seems to mean working more. Is that what you are advocating?

Let me answer that question with a quick exercise: If you’re reading this at work, peek out your office door and take a good look at your employees. With the exception of a few royal pains, you’ve got a nice group of people. By and large, they do good work, they get along with you and each other, and they’re generally well-intentioned. Given all that, it would only be natural if you felt pretty satisfied with your team and your leadership.

But now look a little harder. Are they giving 100%?  Are they pushing themselves to their limits and beyond?  Right now, are they dripping blood, sweat and tears to achieve greatness?  When they leave today, will they be giving that Tiger Woods fist pump, chanting to themselves, “Damn, we’re good. That was hard work but we came through like champs.”  Or will they be dully muttering “Another day, another dollar”?  The challenge is not whether people are working enough hours, but rather whether the work they’re doing is inspiring them to greatness.  And more to the point, are we as leaders doing all that we should be to help our people find new reservoirs of passion, performance and fulfillment?  If people feel like their work is meaningful, they won’t be asking about what time work is over; they’ll be asking what more they can do to achieve the emotional high that only comes from tremendous achievement.

How can we assess whether we as individuals are giving 100%?

A quick way to test whether you’re really pushing yourself to give 100%, and thus maximizing your full potential, is to assess the goals you set for yourself.  Think about some goals you’ve set recently, and then ask yourself two quick questions…

Test #1: Ask yourself what new skills (if any) you had to learn to achieve those goals.

If you aren’t learning all sorts of new skills, then your goals are probably not hard enough. Try making your goals 30% harder and then evaluate again in 3 months.  Otherwise, if you have learned a lot, move on to Test #2.
Test #2: Ask yourself if, at the outset, you knew you could achieve your goals.

Really motivating goals are scary and force us to question our abilities. So if you knew you could do it before you even started, try making your goals 20% harder and then evaluate again in 3 months.

You talk about the 100% leader. What is meant by that?

The 100% Leader creates Hundred Percenters. The 100% Leader takes average people, and by challenging them and creating a connection with them, unleashes their true potential to achieve extraordinary results. The 100% Leader doesn’t just accept people as they are, the 100% Leader sees what we could become and cares enough to push us past self-imposed limitations to realize that potential.

You teach the setting of HARD goals (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult). Can you share the benefits and the process?

After years of studying Hundred Percenters and the 100% Leaders who enable them, we’ve distilled the critical success factors into a goal-setting methodology called HARD goals. Rather than making sure your goals fall within the realm of the eminently achievable, HARD goals push everyone involved beyond their current self-imposed restraints (and help them discover where their limits, if any, really exist).
To be effective, HARD goals must be…

  • Heartfelt (they exist to serve something bigger than ourselves)
  • Animated (they’re so vividly described and presented that to not reach them would leave us wanting)
  • Required (they’re as critical to our continued existence as breathing and water)
  • Difficult (they’re so hard they’ll test every one of our limits)

HARD goals are not your typical goals. HARD goals care more about the challenging nature of the goal than about making sure it fits neatly onto a worksheet. HARD goals don’t sound formulaic, and that’s exactly what makes them so real and so inspiring. When you announce your HARD goals you’re going see visible signs of perspiration and palpations as folks listen. That’s what gets the Hundred Percenter’s adrenalin flowing. Your employees may walk out of the meeting or put down your memo feeling like they just heard a very loud alarm clock. But you can bet every mind is already hard at work coming up with ideas that meet the challenges ahead.

What are some things leaders can do to ensure commitment and full engagement?

Tip #1: Make every goal HARD
If you get no other lesson from our book, take away the idea that your goals need to be HARD. And that means everybody’s goals. If you’re the CEO, you can’t ask your employees to achieve HARD Goals if your goals aren’t HARD. Same goes for Trustees, Vice Presidents, Managers, Supervisors, and Team Leaders. The very first step I suggest you take is to review all your goals and see if they meet the HARD goal criteria. If not, rewrite them. And yes, you are allowed (and in fact obligated) to rewrite your goals throughout the year.

Tip #2: Measure whether you have a Hundred Percenter culture

Employee surveys, if they’re well-designed, can be great tools for telling you whether or not you have a Hundred Percenter culture (and what steps you need to take to get one). However, most surveys are terribly designed.  (That’s why the book contains an Appendix called, “Why 5 Point Scales Don’t Work; and other problems with employee surveys”).  If you ask your employees if they’re “satisfied”, but you don’t ask if they’re giving 100%, or if their boss is pushing them to achieve greatness, then you probably didn’t learn anything that’s going to help you build a Hundred Percenter culture. Not only do you need some useful data, but there is simply no faster way to communicate your Hundred Percenter desires than by asking some great questions on an employee survey. (Remember, every question you ask communicates what you believe as a leader).

Tip #3: Turn your Hundred Percenters into heroes
Keep your Hundred Percenters energized, and use them as the models for teaching every other employee in your organization. At least once a week, you should be telling a quick story of a Hundred Percenter in a way that not only positively reinforces that individual, but that also teaches everyone else what they need to do. CEOs should bring a few frontline Hundred Percenters to the next Board meeting. Vice Presidents should bring a few to the next executive team meeting. Stop lamenting that there are no more great heroes. Find your Hundred Percenters, and put them on display.

Tip #4: Reach for higher Stages of Accountability
In the book we teach the “Stages of Accountability” (Denial, Blame, Excuses, Anxiety and Accountability).  Go out and do a quick estimate of what percentage of your employees lives in each stage. (A good employee survey, like the Hundred Percenter Index, will tell you this with great accuracy). I can virtually guarantee that you don’t have 100% in the Accountability Stage. To improve this, you need to work on giving feedback; lots and lots of feedback. Watch a professional sports team, and look at how much feedback each player gets. An NFL player might get 100-200 pieces of feedback (big and small) throughout a 60 minute game. By contrast, a typically employee might get 2 pieces of feedback a week (and that could easily be 2 bits of feedback a month in many organizations). If you deliver feedback the right way, you don’t have to worry about people taking feedback the wrong way. Elite athletes need lots of real-time feedback. Hundred Percenter employees are no different.

Tip #5: Improve or remove your Talented Terrors
Repeat after me: “There’s no such thing as a high performer with a bad attitude.” Talented Terrors are those folks that have 100% skills but 0% attitude.  Go out on the frontlines and ask your Hundred Percenters how much they enjoy working with Talented Terrors. I’ve yet to see a situation where Hundred Percenters prefer working with Talented Terrors over working short-staffed. It’s ironic, but one of the quickest ways to make a positive change to your organizational culture is to improve or remove your Talented Terrors. You’ll feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders, and so will everyone else.

Thanks Mark!

To learn more about Mark’s book, 100 PERECENTERS, Click Here

To learn more about Mark’s consulting company Leadership IQ, Click Here

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