Monthly Archives: January 2009

Experience and Experiences

There’s been considerable debate over the years about experience – and how powerful of a performance enabler it can be. If you listen to seasoned athletes who have played their sport for some time and asked what advantage they have over a newcomer or a younger, more athletic team, the response is invariably … experience. When people in the workplace are hired or promoted, one of the more critical elements for that hire or promotion is that the person has experience and as a result of that experience, they are often compensated much more than those with less experience.

So what exactly is experience? Two men can truthfully say that they have been truck drivers for 10 years. Yet one of them drove once a month and the other drove every week for 10 years. Would the experience of the latter be more relevant? Of course.

A recent study showed that the average human being has about 80 substantive experiences a year. These are 80 experiences that the average human being can truly learn from — where the result of that learning could be fairly substantial. Yet, the study revealed that average human being only processes an average of 3 of those 80 experiences a year. This means that the benefits of “experience” could be significantly enhanced if we took time to process more experiences. If we were to, for example, double our average to 6, starting at age 30, it is arguable that by age 40 we would have the experience (or wisdom) of a 50 year old… ten years earlier.

Without processing and learning from our experiences, we are missing out on great opportunities to learn from life, and thus missing out on living a much richer and fulfilling life. Processing an experience means to reflect on it, discuss it with someone objective, figure out the lessons, and make a proactive plan to integrate those lessons in your life. Experience, the traditional performance enabler, is a result of such actions.  

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Economic Malaise Driving Fundamental Change

This past week I have connected with several companies in different industries and various geographic regions. Two consistent themes are reappearing in our conversations:

  1. “I need to figure out how to help people do more with less.”
  2. “I need to find cheaper and better ways to develop my talent.”

Unlike the previous three economic slowdowns that I have personally experienced in the past 25 years, there is something alarmingly different about this one. Yes, when budgets get tight and layoffs are occurring, people do think about doing more with less and finding cheaper and better ways. But this time around, the malaise is so communal, affecting most industries, and very personal (who’s retirement did not shrink in half?) that these same two themes have new meaning. This time, it’s for real!

I am convinced that organizations are fundamentally altering the way they will develop their talent in the future…and hopefully as soon as later this year! By fundamentally, I mean, in a paradigm-shifting way. Okay – I used that beat-up 90s term – but it is incredibly apropos. This recession has hit us all so hard that it is making all of us say, ‘let’s not put ourselves in this situation again’. From a organizational perspective, it is even more profound of a resolution. I had one major executive tell me ‘they won’t even let me buy pens!’ 

So the idea of sending managers and leaders off to Orlando or San Diego or some other distant city for a week-long seminar or conference is gone. Off-site learning and development will always exist in some form, but not in the manner to which we’ve been accustomed. Leaders in organizations want to see the tangible ROI – they want to see how that $7500 trip resulted in something clearly beneficial for the individual or the corporation. They also want to be able to track it and explain it. What did they learn in Orlando? How did they transfer new knowledge to the better the organization?

So for those of us in the human capital business, I posit that those that can demonstrate sustainable value for their businesses will do fantastic not just when the economy picks back up, but in 2010 and beyond as well. 

Impact of Technology on Professional Development

I am constantly amazed at how technology is often positioned as a “unacceptable substitute” for the “human touch.” Granted, there are all kinds of missing elements in the electronic forms of communication, but let’s face it – technology is here to stay. A recent study found that over 70% of workplace communication is indeed actually electronic. In lieu of debating  the pros and cons of each of the modes of learning, how about agreeing that both the use of technology and the human touch need to co-exist and those that take full advantage of optimizing this co-existence are likely to outperform those that don’t.

  • In the 80s, the IT world introduced the PC and electronic data to the workplace in a manner what was not just reserved to NASA or the tech geeks.
  • In the 90s, the wave of ERPs exploded – these massive enterprise-wide technologies (Oracle, SAP, Baan, Peoplesoft, etc.) that essentially enable the flow of information from anywhere to everywhere in real time accessible from anywhere. Now, many will argue that this was grossly oversold and under-delivered.
  • The late 90s had Y2K looming and so it really was until this decade that the full power of “connectedness” was proposed … through both applications and devices.
  • By next year, there will be over 14 billion devices in the world that can connect to the internet. That’s over twice the number of people. So the idea of maximizing the power of “connectedness” is only NOW being explored.

In 2010 and beyond, because every leader should be able to connect to new (1) people, (2) communities, and (3) knowledge sources in unprecedented ways, there should be NO reason for mediocre decision-making. As a leader, connecting to any combination of these three from my finger tips 24/7 should allow me to (1) objectively evaluate a decision, (2) get collective feedback on lessons learned, and (3) review case studies or articles to see how other leaders/companies made the same or similar decision.

So my argument here is that companies investing in technologies that allow leaders access to these three resources are bound to have a significant advantage in 2010 and beyond … and compared to other developmental efforts, how could this not be both cheaper and better?

Why EQ is here to stay

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a topic that continues to gain significant prominence in the both academia and the corporate world. There are dozens of books on the subject and hundreds of articles on it. There is a reason I believe that, unlike so many other concepts in the human capital space that have come and fizzled down or out entirely (empowerment, TQM, teambuilding, etc.), EQ has the potential to stay for a while and even grow in acceptance and practice.

So, I won’t talk about what it is and why it’s important – feel free to visit our website to get that. I want to talk about why it’s here to stay and why it’s different from the other concepts – all of which as a matter of record, I have previously espoused and had businesses around.

First, unlike all the other concepts, emotions – and EQ by extension – are the core to the human make up. Physiologically, our DNA is the core of our being and identities. In Maslow’s Hierarchy, our basic needs start with food and water. In the behavioral and skills context, that basic core is composed of our emotions. It is our emotions that ultimately drive our behaviors, use of skills, and social interactions. Whereas all the previous human capital trends have focused on key competencies, and important ones at that, EQ precedes those competencies. Descartes wrote that we’re not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. It seems that we have always known this, but EQ and its related components seem to be the first to conceptualize this notion and make it practical and applicable in our daily lives. 

Second, is that in addition to being core and foundational, EQ is also a concept that captures the entirety of who YOU are as an individual – as opposed to who you may be at work or at a certain function or a certain place with certain people. As a result, the impact of improving your EQ can and does easily translate to almost all parts of your life and relationships. For example, we’ve been talking about teamwork for almost two decades now (in a formalized manner) and there seems to be a workplace context to it. The connection between getting along with people you work with and getting along with people in general is not often made and even harder to visualize. EQ is about YOU, the real and whole YOU. And awareness of your emotional state and how it affects your behavior (EQ component – Self-Awareness) is transferable to all dimensions of life.

Finally, I think EQ is here to stay because the older we get, the more we succeed and fail at things in general – the sample size for validating what has worked and not worked has increased a great deal by this point. And eventually we realize what, again, I believe we have known for a while is best quoted by Walt Kelley, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Whereas most of the workplace professional development concepts focus on you WITH others, EQ focuses on you AND others. Having a great relationship with someone else, whoever that person may be (a coworker, a boss, a spouse, etc.) is and should be a by-product of having a good relationship with yourself – and not vice versa.

© Dr. Izzy Justice, EQmentor, Inc., and Professional Development, 2009

Those Resolutions!

Welcome to my first blog of 2009. On a weekly basis, I will share and discuss my perspective on professional development here.

The beginning of a new year is typically the time when most of us make some resolutions –  both personal and professional ones. I read once that people who set goals are 60% more successful than those who don’t – and personally, I am an advocate of setting goals. But I’d like to propose some changes to the traditional way of setting goals.

Traditionally, working professionals set goals once a year – whether it is formally or informally, review these goals with their managers, and then perhaps do a mid-year check on those goals. While this method may work some of the time, it simply tends to fails us most of the time. We spend the lion’s share of the performance review going over all the reasons why the goals were not met and then to top it of, we even put together a development plan that accommodates these excuses! In 2009, consider incorporating the following in order to buck this trend:

smart2

 

  1. Continue to set annual goals, but use the popular SMART acronym to make sure the goals themselves are actually achievable. There needs to be a non-debatable consensus on whether the goal was met or not and that starts by setting the right goals.
  2. Think of the year as a series of milestones and those milestones should be much more frequent – I recommend two types of milestones.
    • Every Month – break the annual goals into bite size chunks of 2 months – the cumulative sum of these milestones should match the annual goal
    • Every Week – break the monthly goals into even smaller chunks of weekly activity that directly supports that goal.
  3. Finally, find a buddy (peer) at work with whom you can share the monthly and weekly goals…very similar to having a workout partner at the gym. Share the goals with each other and push each other to achieving them since the ‘formal’ meeting with your manager is … well … formal.

I wish you all a great 2009 – and wish you success in establishing, tracking, and achieving your goals. One of my goals this year is to write a weekly blog (note that I used the SMART acronym) and to generate stimulating dialogue regarding the change (from traditional ways) that is already in motion for developing talent in the workplace.