In the 1960s, while consulting for a British factory, Elliott Jaques had a controversial insight: Employees at different levels of the company had different time horizons

Line workers focused on tasks that could be completed in a single shift; managers devoted their energies to tasks requiring six months or more to complete; Senior leaders and the CEO were pursuing goals over the span of several years.

Jacques’ Time Span of Discretion

Jaques said that just as humans differ in intelligence, we differ in our ability to handle timespans.

Each of us has a time horizon we are comfortable with, what Jaques called our “Time span of discretion”.  This term defines the timespan of the longest task this individual can successfully undertake.

Organisations recognise this: workers are paid hourly, managers annually, and senior executives compensated with stock options.

The following chart shows the type of work found at each Time Horizon:

Complexity Description of Capability Organisational Role
Most Complex
8
Construct and pursue world wide strategic plans in the largest of the world’s corporations.
Super Corporation CEO
7
Construct and pursue world wide strategic plans. Place businesses in the world.
Corporate CEO
6
Lead the accumulated impact of multiple business units.
Corporate EVP
5
Optimize the function of a single business unit or corporate support staff.
Business Unit President
4
Manage multiple, interdependent serial projects. Balance resources among a number of departments.
General Manager
3
Plan and carry out sequential projects while considering contingencies and alternatives.
Regional Manager or
Manager of Managers
2
Accumulate bits of information to diagnose and anticipate problems. Proactivity appears. Trends are noticed.
First Line Manager Supervisor
Least complex
1
Follow predefined procedures. When an obstacle is encountered, seek help. No anticipation of problems is expected.
Shop Floor Operator
Clerk/Cashier
Teller

The Challenge: 100 Year Problems in a 4 Year System

Our current leadership promotional systems require you first to be successful at annual or 4 year timespans before you can move into the positions that allow you to set 50 or 100 year strategy.  Politicians have 4 years to deliver an impact (and 12 months to run a campaign).  Divisional managers have 1-3 years to deliver an impact if they are to be considered for 20-50 year strategic decision roles.

Climate change and Peace between warring nations are so difficult to resolve because we have a political system that elects 4 year thinkers when we really need 20 to 50 year thinkers in office.

PS What’s your time horizon?  Let me know in the comments below 😉

“You can take my life, but you cannot take my freedom” William Wallace (through the mouth of Mel Gibson)

Freedom sounds like good stuff.  Generations have fought and died to allow us the individual freedom that we enjoy today.

Freedom is not the freedom from something, it is the freedom to choose to do or not to do something.  Freedom comes with a price: you are responsible for your choices.

pablo-40

Freedom is a burden.

Freedom is not fun.  Freedom is a challenge for individual human beings to handle.  Few accept complete responsibility. Existential psychotherapists say that people will go to extreme mental contortions to avoid seeing two truths: we die and we alone are responsible for our life.

Andy Warhol said that if he could hire anyone, it would be a “boss”.  Someone who would tell him what to do each day.  It is tiring to have to personally decide what is important and what to work on each day.  Much easier to outsource the challenge to a boss, or a political party, or a guru.

It takes courage to live with the responsibilities inherent in freedom. We have the power to shape our lives, and we have the capacity to take action to create and to destroy. We are responsible for our lives.

Gandhi said that all rights come with corresponding responsibilities. All rights can only be earned by carrying out the required duties. The right to be free comes with the duty of full responsibility for your actions.

Edit 14/12/2016: Added this wonderful animation of this post by @Saminsights

The Source of Passion in our Life

I’ve been meeting a lot of CEO coaches over the last 6 weeks in order to develop my business Vistage Spain.  I am interested in meeting all of the people that CEOs can turn to when they need clearer vision, greater commitment and significant change.

I had a wonderful coffee and discussion with Rabieh Adih, executive coach and founder of Shine Coaching, today.

We discussed passion.  What it is, where it comes from, how it dies, how it is brought back…

My personal position is that passion and meaning can only come from within an individual human being.  It can only come when that person knows that they have given more than has been demanded.  It is only this Chosen Sacrifice that can result in a feeling of meaningfulness in a life.  If you give only the bare minimum, if you treat everything as a transaction…  you will kill passion and find your way to apathy.  It is only by choosing to give more than is necessary that you use your freedom in a meaningful way.

“It all starts with Love” Raul Cristian Aguirre

My friend and entrepreneur Raul Cristian Aguirre wrote recently in the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Octane magazine.  His message “It all starts with love”.

Now, I’m the first to hate hippy slogans and idealism, but Raul’s message is not about Love in the US Romantic Comedy sense.  He speaks of another meaning.

We often confuse love with liking or love with lust or love with enjoying being in someone’s company.  These are not love.  They can help you get to love.  Love is not a response.  Love is action.  Love is giving when not being asked to give.  Love is to give without waiting for anything in return.  Love is Chosen Sacrifice.

It is only through daily acts of giving more than is asked that we live lives of passion.

These acts must be chosen.  We must give freely.  Thus, freedom is the burden…  but it is the path to a life of passion.

The Freedom to Give More than is Asked by Life

Life places demands on you.  You can pay the minimum price.  There are a whole legion of workers in business that are the “Working Dead”, the “Quit and Stayed”…  day after day after day they deliver the necessary minimum work.  They achieve exalted states of Apathy.  (In Harry Potter, these might be the “Dementors” creatures who feed off your fears).

You can use your freedom to choose to give more than the asking price.

I don’t mean that you pay €5 for tomorrows newspaper.  I don’t mean that you pay €10 for your next bus journey.

The next email you write… take 10 seconds to make it 1% better than necessary.

The next person you pass in the hallway…  take a few seconds to really look into their eyes when you ask “how’s your day?”

The next person you meet with…  ask them about why they work, what is going well, what is not going so well.. and take interest in who they want to become.

Practice giving a tiny little extra in these small things.

This is where passion grows.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

 

 

I wrote up a list of lessons that were shared by speakers during the HR Directors Summit last week.

  1. Your learning rate is your earning rate
  2. Uncertainty is always filled by negatives
  3. Catch people doing something right and recognise it immediately
  4. Let leaders do the leading (HR supports leaders in the business, it doesn’t replace them)
  5. One size doesn’t fit all
  6. The competition is outside (it is so common in large companies to fight inside battles)
  7. Diverse teams perform better
  8. People are different
  9. Learn the language of business (which seems to be “put all people proposals in € cost and € impact”, numbers matter.)
  10. Find the talent
  11. Be flexible
  12. Focus and Vision (you must have both)
  13. Tech is getting smaller
  14. Keep your people healthy
  15. Titles matter (but really only to the person who has the title)
  16. Digital natives expect greater control

I had the privilege to deliver a keynote session at the European HR Director Summit yesterday. It was inspiring to be surrounded by 200 senior HR people thinking about making work engaging and meaningful for the people at their companies.

AkzoNobel decorative paint division put 17,000 people through a 3 day reflection on who they are, where they have come from, what their purpose is. The leaders chose to do it because they believed it was important. Engagement levels doubled.

Royal Philips HR Director Denise Haylor spoke about splitting the company into 2 units. Splitting payroll, teams, leadership… 63 countries… hundreds of applications… and all delivered last week.  Hard work!

European HR Director Summit

Here’s a few photos that the event organisers shared of my session:

and some responses:

And here was a powerful lesson I took away…

“Your learning rate is your earning rate” Dan Tesnjak

Physics is a science.

Geology is a science.

Chemistry is a science.

What is Science?

“Science: (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, “science” also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. A practitioner of science is known as a scientist.” source wikipedia

 

Kung Fu
Kung Fu Fighting

Kung-Fu is Not a Science

(This post is not really about Kung Fu, it is about Management)

Before we dive into management lets look at Kung-Fu.  Or boxing.  Or WWF Wrestling.  Or rugby.

There might be a man who is studying every book on kung-fu in the library.  He is the most knowledgeable person in the world on the facts, the history, the movement theory, the differences between the specific schools of thought.  Imagine he takes the floor in an international full-contact kung-fu tournament.  I think he’d be smashed in the nose within 5 seconds and on his butt on the floor in less than 10.

He could tell you why he got smashed in the nose and why he was delivered to the floor.  He could explain how one should respond.  But he still got smashed in the face and is out of the tournament.

Back to Chemistry…

Chemistry is a science.  Let’s look at it:

Chemistry is the study of how atoms and molecules react. Water is H2O. That means it has 2 hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom. All over the world, billions and billions and billions of H2O molecules fill our rivers, seas and oceans.

A hydrogen atom reacts pretty consistently. Chemists can repeat experiments and the hydrogen atom responds just as it did for Marie Curie in the 1890s, as it did for Antoine Lavoiser in the 1770s and repeated by innumerable kids in adolescent chemistry classroom.

Marie Curie dealt with atoms.

  • An atom doesn’t react differently when he has been going through a difficult divorce and has underlying issues with his father.
  • An atom doesn’t react differently when he has had a big loss on the horses over the weekend.
  • An atom doesn’t react differently because he is frustrated with his relationship and feels unloved.

Kung Fu deals with human beings…

  • A human being reacts differently when he has been out for a big night with his mates.
  • A human being reacts differently when worried that their relationship is falling apart.
  • A human being reacts very differently at midday than at nine pm after a stressful afternoon.

Why Does it Matter?

Why do I care?  Why does it matter?  I think that too many gurus make it sound like if you learnt enough tools and knowledge, you would be able to do a better job in any situation.

Too many gurus promote the kung-fu reader’s approach to management learning.

I think a lot of caring about others and caring about quality results mixed with a little bit of management knowledge is a more powerful mix than little caring, little focus on quality mixed with lots of management knowledge.

Calling it a science makes it sound like a domain of knowledge in the abstract.  Maths is knowledge in the abstract.  Science is knowledge in the abstract.

Kung-fu is practical wisdom.  It is instinctive wisdom based upon hours and hours of stimulus-response, practice in the real.

Management of People is kung-fu type wisdom

Management is a domain of knowledge at the coal face.  It is a domain of practical solutions to complex problems with diverse human beings.  Libraries are full of nice theories, but businesses are full of complex problems that don’t fit into simple categories.

If you are doing your best in an honest and transparent way and balance your self-oriented questions with a few “what can I do to improve the situation for others?” type questions then you are probably doing a wonderful job.

It is like parenting.  The real challenge is not know what the right path might look like, it is to take that enlightened path on the 18th time that your child pushes his sister off of the seat.

Photo Credit: cedwardbrice

The Most Important Decision

‘We choose our spouses. We choose our bosses. We choose our friends. We choose the people who work with us. We choose our nannies. We choose our lawyers. We choose our doctors. It is definitely worthwhile investing in learning, because this is not rocket science, but it requires discipline.’  Claudio Fernández-Aráoz

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz has spend his entire adult life in the business of identifying talent.  He has interviewed over 20,000 executives.  What has he learnt about seeing talent in people?

Jim Rohn says we will become the average of the 5 people that we spend most time with.  A successful life depends greatly on attracting and identifying those people.  How much time have you dedicated to crafting your ability to identify talent?

His First Lesson: People Lie

We lie.  It is not malicious, it is natural.  Some people lie more, some people lie less; but we all have a tendency to see an optimistic perspective on our actions.  In an interview, you have to understand that two people are selling to each other – one selling themselves, one selling the job.

BusinessWeek asked 2000 senior executives: within your own organisation in your own level, are you in the top ten percent, yes or no?  90% believed they were in the top ten 10%.  That’s why you need to check references!

Finding Your Top Executives: The Four Key Attributes

So when it comes to key leadership assets, what should you be looking for? Claudio has signposted four values common to all high-potential executives:

  1. Curiosity – asking questions, taking genuine interest, and seeking new knowledge and experience
  2. Insight – making innovative connections between existing concepts, offering fresh perspectives
  3. Engagement – the ability to use emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect people
  4. Determination – the commitment to persevering in spite of adversity

Read more at Enviable Workplace blog.

This week I attended an Entrepreneurs Organisation learning event led by long time EO member Ridgely Goldsborough on the subject of “Know your WHY“.

Here’s a picture of EO Barcelona Learning Chairman Toni Mascaro welcoming over 100 entrepreneurs to the event.

#entrepreneurs Organisation event @EOBarcelona thanks @tonimascaro @ridgelyg

A post shared by Conor Neill (@cuchullainn) on

Disengagement: The “Quit and Stayed” Employee

I recently posted about the 4 paths of our working lives – and one path is Quit and Stayed.  These category of people are those who have emotionally given up on their jobs, but they still keep sending their body in to sit at the desk and collect a salary.

Ridgely shared statistics on the impact of disengaged employees on a company.

  • An indifferent employee costs you $2,246 per year according to Gallup. An actively disengaged employee costs you more than $25,000.
  • 33% of American employees change jobs every year.  90% leave jobs for reasons to do with “attitude“, not skills.
  • Recruiting expert Brad Smart (author of Topgrading) shares evidence that 1 bad hire costs a company 5 times their salary (and 10-15 times for senior hires)

Apart from the financial cost, there is a painful emotional cost for all those who must work in close proximity to this disengaged individual – they suck your passion.  I know that the best way to increase team performance is to remove the disengaged team members.

Achieving Engagement

According to the AONHewitt definition, engaged employees want to:

  1. Stay (intent to stay with the organisation)
  2. Say (speak highly of the organisation to others) and
  3. Strive (make an discretionary effort to deliver results)
Ridgely presenting the benefits of Engaged Employees
Ridgely presenting the benefits of Engaged Employees

Ridgely shared that engaged employees deliver:

  • 37% less absenteeism and turnover
  • 48% fewer safety accidents
  • 41% fewer safety defects
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% higher profitability

How do we Achieve a Culture of Engagement?

Ridgely explained that people are different and seek to express themselves in different ways. If we try to be everything for everybody, we end up frustrated and wasting our time.

Do you understand the different personalities of the people that you work with?  I have done so many psychological tests that I assume that everyone knows these tools (I studied psychology at university…).  When I was 14, my father brought home a Myers-Briggs test and did it on all of the family.

About me…

What about you?  What are you?  What types do you get frustrated by?

The Why types

Ridgely worked through a short coaching process where each participant was able to identify their primary “why” from a list of 9 “Whys”. The 9 whys are:

  1. Contribute
  2. Trust
  3. Make Sense
  4. Better Way
  5. Right Way
  6. Challenge
  7. Master
  8. Clarify
  9. Simplify

By the way, I came out as a 7 – Master.  My “why” is to seek mastery and understanding above all else.

Infographic: Employee Engagement

One of the challenges of important life lessons is that we need to be reminded every day.  Now that I have just written a blog post about how people are different, I am primed to not over-react when I meet someone who is a “5 – Right Way” and has a constant focus on what the precedent is, what is proven, what is low risk… all perspectives that I find tiring.  However, tomorrow I will forget and will overreact again.

What can company leaders do to create a culture where we actively seek to empathise with each person’s primary purpose?

I found an infographic that describes the problem of employee disengagement and 6 things that CEOs can do to create engaged employees.  Click on the infographic to get a large version.  (Personally, I think that the yellow colour scheme is a bit aggressive):

Employee-Engagement.jpg
Employee Engagement on a page

 

  1. Inspire employees through purpose
  2. Align employees behind your strategy
  3. Develop line managers
  4. Be Fair (in process, in resource distribution, in relationships)
  5. Role Model
  6. Measure And Set Engagement Goals

Read in more detail at the business2business blog.

 

How Engaged are You?

What do you think?  Is your workplace engaged?  Are leaders actively creating engagement?

I know plenty of financial advisors who would love to spend a few hours reviewing my investments, cash position, investment goals and helping me make a realistic plan.

I know how much I spent on food, travel, housing, school in the last month, year and if I did the sums I could calculate a rough lifetime spend.

Money.

You can always earn more money.

Organisations spend small fortunes developing capital expenditure budgets and operational budgets and auditing the cash of the business.

My time, in contrast, goes un-managed. Most organisations have no systematic procedure to eliminate time wasters. They place clear objectives for the use of every dollar, but no barriers on the expenditure of another hour.

My first girlfriend used to tell me that time is like money but with one major difference – at the end of every day, everything you have left unspent is taken away from you. Imagine if you started every day with €240 and you knew that at midnight, any left unspent will be taken away.

Imagine Managing Time Like Companies Budget Capital

Imagine if every month, instead of receiving a bank statement, I received a time-statement: a detailed breakdown of where my hours have been put, how many were invested and how many just dripped through the cracks.

Would it change how I spend my time? Would it reduce facebook and increase playing with my daughter? Would it reduce email and increase face-to-face meetings? How would the measurement change me?

I hear that we are in the economy of the knowledge worker. Nope, we skipped that.

We were supposed to be shifting from the manufacturing worker to the knowledge worker. All the big gurus told us of this shift. They tell me that it has been going on for 20 years.

Photo Credit: zabaraorg via Compfight cc
Workers at work; Photo: zabaraorg

The only problem is that the very tools that prompted the shift from manufacturing to knowledge have allowed us to skip a level. We never actually needed knowledge workers. It wasn’t what they knew that was valuable.

Knowledge is easy, knowledge is everywhere

Knowledge is easy. It’s at our fingertips. My 7 year old daughter can find knowledge – in her case how to build different structures in Minecraft. I head over to Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and a few blogs and I am loaded up on knowledge.

How to reset an ADSL modem? I’ll check youtube. How many people live in Georgia? I’ll check wikipedia. What to do to renew my passport? I’ll google it, with a preference for .gov websites.

It is not knowledge that differentiates great employees.

It is not contacts.

It is not presence or communications or a nice suit.

It never was. It was what the best “knowledge” workers were able to do with the stuff that they knew – be resourceful in overcoming obstacles; be creative in facing setbacks; be open minded in dealing with uncertainty.

Resourcefulness Workers

What matters now is resourcefulness, the ability to devise innovative solutions from knowledge. This is something technology still cannot emulate.  There is not a lot of money or reward in “knowing”, there is a lot of reward in taking responsibility for a problem and creating a solution using the resources that are available.

In 1920, at the age of 20, my grandfather took an exam, obtained high marks and got a full time job at The Bank of Ireland.  He worked for the next 45 years in the same company, and then retired on a full pension.

Photo Credit: zeligfilm via Compfight cc
Sitting an exam, Photo: zeligfilm

This world is gone.

Today, job stability is gone.

Where do I start on this new career journey?  How do I find the job that is right for me?  What job can I get when I finish my studies?

There is no longer a HR department that takes over your career development as soon as you join a company.  You are your HR department.  You must manage your own development.  You must always be training yourself for the next step up.

We are rapidly moving towards a polarised world of producers and consumers.  There are those that produce, and there are those that consume.  If you are good at producing and keep getting better, you’ll do well.

The most important thing you can do is to become self aware.  What do you enjoy?  What type of activity do you care about?

If you care about your job, you’ll do well.

If you don’t care about your job, you won’t learn, you won’t get better and better… and soon a machine will overtake your capacity to produce.

The only way to stay ahead of the machines: Care deeply about your work, about the people that it serves, about the skills you wish to develop to improve your capacity to deliver.

Where will you find the work that you care about?

What Suits You?

This is not a topic that often comes up in school. U.S. News says choosing work that fits you means understanding what you are fitted for. How do I do this? Repeatedly answering a few simple questions about yourself will help you see the kinds of jobs you could thrive in.

  • What are your talents? What things do you do naturally and fluidly? These are things you do without even thinking and enjoy doing them.
  • What is your working style? Do you prefer flexibility or more structure to your work environment?
  • Where do you prefer to work? Close to home? A small office or large corporate building? Do you like or hate traveling?
  • What level of social interaction do you like while working? Do you like a team environment or prefer being an individual contributor?
  • How comfortable are you with visibility? Do you prefer to be on stage in front of others or working quietly in the background unnoticed?
  • How well do you handle stress? Some people thrive on it while others struggle when challenges arise in the workplace.

The Path of Regular Self Reflection

Nobody can choose for you, nobody can know you as well as you can know you… if you take the time.

Important warning…  this reflection can only be done if you are spending most of your time out of the house and engaged in the world.  If you are sitting on the sofa all week, you have no new experiences to reflect upon…  and no new reflections.