Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What goes down - keeps going down

At 12:01 this morning (just after midnight) on June 25th, 2008, we closed the leadership pulse dialogue. We had an record number of participants - just over 1,200 people. For a survey open about 2 weeks, that goes out every 2-3 months, to senior leaders around the world, this is not too bad. That's a 10% response rate (we had a little over 12,000 'good' emails for our core sample group).

What did we learn? Keep in mind these are data from day #1. However, we can take a look at the top line results and share some observations.

#1: Leader energy, overall, went down again. You might not be surprised. The economy is not so great, the weather is not really pleasant for summer (lots of rain here in Michigan at least), and leaders / managers are still feeling overworked and underpaid. The average energy level (on the 0 to 10 scale that we use) was 6.52, and that is 1.08 points below the reported productivity zone (between 7.60 and 8.64).

For those of you who are not familiar with the scale, energy is measured using a validated scale that goes from 0 to 10 (0=no energy; 10=overly energized and near burnout). We ask employees to report their energy and where they are most productive, and a series of longitudinal, predictive research studies resulted in understanding how to calculate and interpret the zone data (being in the zone predicts good outcomes; out of zone by more than one point results in negative outcomes).

#2: The trend data for HR confidence was quite interesting. We've been tracking (since 2003) several questions assessing the degree to which leaders are confident in their HR functions. The data reported today focus on: (1) confidence in HR overall, (2) that HR can deliver on tactical work, and (3) HR's ability to do HR strategic work. The numbers have been trending down since 2003. But today, we saw a reverse in that trend for at least two questions. Confidence in tactical work and confidence in HR overall both increased. However, confidence in HR strategic competence went down.

Is there a link? My theory, based on not only on these data but other sources of research, is that yes, there is a relationship. Leaders are not doing well themselves, and in order for them to do better (be in their own energy zones), they need HR to step up into the strategic role. On the leaders forum site,, we have some highlights of the data reported. You will see that the higher performing firms have scores that are closer to being in the zone, and they are the most confident that their HR teams are delivering on being a strategic HR function.

You probably have lots of questions. I'd ask: (1) are the high performing firms all large because, sure, they would have more HR people and probably be more strategic, or (2) could the data be biased based on the type of people responding, or (3) are there industry differences? These are all valid and good questions that we will explore over the next week

Also, I am only sharing top line results of the peripheral questions. The primary topic was relational capital. These data are very interesting (yes, I peaked), and we'll be reporting on these data too over the next week.

To all of you who participated in the leadership pulse, thanks!

If you want to learn more or read prior reports, go to

Join the leaders forum to view more detailed results and participate with colleagues in dialogue:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Social Networks or Learning Networks?

Over the last month I set up two social networks. This has been a tremendous learning experience for me as I had previously never really been involved in one. The first social network is for the journal for which I am editor-in-chief (HRM, the Journal). It has been about four weeks since we started the group, and we now have over 600 people on the network. The second one is for friends of the Leadership Pulse, which is a study of leaders I've been running since 2003 ( This one has less participants (over 70) due to the fact that it 'younger.'

One of the most interesting learnings for me has come from the groups set up by the HRM social network. These groups sprouted up from the interests of the members. There is not one group on what I would call "traditional HRM." No one set up a group to study selection, training, compensation, or benefits.

Some of the topics are: HRM and sustainability, HR in China, in India, in Arab/Islam countries; Iberoamerican HRM, HR and OD convergence, HR and social networks, qualitative research and meta analysis in HRM, HRM in high tech and knowledge-intensive industries, and the list goes on.

This, to me, is good news. From this social network, I see emerging more excitement in where HRM is going than in all of my reading in the journals or in magazines, newspapers, etc. The people working in HRM are not breaking it down into pieces and studying the various tactical components; instead, they are looking at how HRM works in the dynamically changing, global world in which we live and work. They are not arguing over whether their work is micro, macro or somewhere in between, but they are doing work that will have high impact in the real world, looking at HRM as an overall system or process and how it can work better in new environments or to solve bigger problems.

These two networks were not set up to be 'social' really; my goal was for them to be learning networks. I thought they would be a great source for connecting people from around the world to share best practices, exchange ideas, and more. That does seem to be happening.

Maybe even more important, however, the networks seem to be an incredible source of research data. We are learning what's really important by 'listening.'

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Global Employee Energy

One of the issues I hear about when it comes to being energized or de-energized at work is the global nature of business. On one hand, executives are talking about being tired and not having free time because they have to be on phone calls at all hours (due to time zone differences, working with people all over the lobe). They mention long flights, being in places where they do not understand the customs or language, and the never-ending change in process at the airports.

However, there's also the burst of excitement when they talk about what they are learning, how their perspective has changed, and the potential of working in such a global world. This means global assignments, or doing business globally, both energizes and de-energizes.

What is your experience? Are there any stories you can share that will help us understand how the best of the best balance the pros and cons so they get an optimal energy experience outcome?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Helping leaders; creating energy

As I think about the big issues of personal health, depression, suicide, firm performance, employees doing well or not - I am sitting in my home at 11 pm working with my team (from eePulse) to get ready to launch something (a big new project). We are all on-line; we are working when many of you think we should not be, but I'm totally energized by it all.

I wonder - why I am not depressed but really having fun (in a weird sort of way I admit)? I think it's because the team is doing the work - not just me. That's the difference. I have a team with me, and we're working together. You can't do it alone. When your team is working together, everyone feels good about it (although we all complain - human nature I suppose).

Did you know that the most de-energized people (per the data we collect) are those who do not have enough to do and who feel left out when the big projects hit? Sharing the 'pain' sometimes isn't so bad. But .. it's back to extremes. Too much stress and pain is bad; not enough challenge is bad. Balance - with a little bit of bias on the high side - is the answer.

David is right again!

David Zinger just responded to my last comment that yes, you can take off a weekend, and it's important for your health. I agree. There was an interview on NPR yesterday with a CEO who was suffering from depression. He explained it was just too much work, not enough days off, and just too much of everything. I've seen similar comments in the leadership pulse study, with executives saying they are suffering from serious depression. The economic conditions do not help at all.

But sometimes, you have the same 'too much work' issue when things are going well. When you're an entrepreneur, or if you love what you do, you get into that "zone" (as Csikszentmihaly describes in his book "Flow"), and it's sometimes hard to just take off the weekend even when you know you should. The challenge is when to get out of the zone and back into the real world I guess.

Tracking where you are on a regular basis is important. In the research we're doing, we measure employee energy sometimes as frequently as weekly. There are two danger zones - too much (you're almost at burnout) and not enough (made it to burnout or de-energized for other reasons). From studying the data, it seems that checking in regularly and not letting yourself get into the 'bad flow' or the 'de-energize' state is important.

So back to our leaders - trouble is they don't have time to check in with themselves, and often no one is doing the checking in for them. They are just expected to do the checking. And back to employee engagement - let's get the leaders energized and engaged so they can do their job when we ask them to help their employees. We don't want more CEOs in the predicament that the one on NPR was in. Before they interviewed him, they talked to the wife of another CEO; her executive husband committed suicide from depression.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ian Turnbull posted a very interesting comment:

One of the problems that i see is that "Monday Morning" no longer exists. Certainly not for leaders, and rarely for the rising stars.The instant nature of our society, and in particular of business, means that IM and email pervade 7/18 - or more.I sat on a dock with 2 executives yesterday and watched as they spent 40% of their "down-time" texting to others and wondering why those others were "in the office"

I can't help but relate to this because I spent 80% of my weekend working, and the sad part is there's just so much to do I kinda hope a lot of my employees were working too. That's because I don't' want to be "behind" all summer. And I depend on others; they depend on me, and the list goes on. So.. what to do? Can we do a better job of focusing our efforts during the week and keep up the demands of our work? Can you really spend a whole weekend not working when you lead an organization, or when you are in a highly responsible, professional position?

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