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[accordion] [acc_item title=”Answers”]Click on a question below to see Dr John’s response[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Two best friend direct report employees, who twice yearly collude on providing each other perfect feedback so that they both look like rock stars.  Other’s feedback on them is reasonable and factual. Do you have any thoughts on how to address this problem?”]

Most organizations start with the assumption that they will occasionally be both positive and negative bias in any anonymous survey. Also with most anonymous surveys, you cannot easily tell who if anyone is providing biased surveys. Fortunately because there are generally multiple different ratings in use (i.e. performance appraisal, 360° assessment, productivity data), the impact of a any purposely altered assessment is assumed to be minimal.

If avoiding confrontation is the goal

If your goal is to try to avoid confronting the two employees that are submitting the purposely inaccurate information, the recommended solution is a statistical one which automatically drops the extreme highest and lowest scores, which are known as outliers. The dropping of outliers is easy to do and it is a standard practice when high levels of bias are expected. The only issue with the outlier approach is that it’s hard to drop the extreme outliers and still maintain statistical significance when in the cases where there are only a small number of surveys submitted. Since you know the offending parties in this case, obviously you can also simply delete just these two submissions without saying a word to them.


Another non-confrontational approach is to increase the number of employees being surveyed, so that in essence you “dilute” the impact of these two biased submissions. A forth approach is to “auto correct” the provided scores by simply estimating the percentage of bias in the two submissions and then statistically adjusting them downward, so that the scores become “normalized”.


If you’re interested in finding out if other employees are also submitting biased responses, a statistician can often use statistical packages to identify the outliers or any anomalies from among all of your submissions.


If the goal is to prevent future biased submissions

You can eliminate some biased submissions upfront by clearly spelling out your expectations for honesty in the narrative at the beginning of the survey. It can be reinforced at team meetings before the survey is sent out. Inferring that you are looking closely at suspicious submissions and stating that you reserve the right to use effective software to identify biased or “Christmas treed” submissions to further discourage even more. Obviously if you decide to publicly reprimand or discipline the two employees for their bad behavior, that alone will likely deter future biased submissions.

Next, explaining in some detail the harm that inaccurate surveys can cause and specifically why total accuracy is necessary for the success of the team will likely also have a small effect. The next option is to make the survey non-anonymous and thus trackable. Although making the survey non-anonymous has some pitfalls associated with it, being able to identify the responder will certainly eliminate any petty biased behavior (Google does this).


My recommendation is

In my assessment, this is at best immature behavior and at worst a major violation of company values and expectations. To make matters worse, at an institution where integrity is nonnegotiable and part of your brand, these two individuals are demonstrating that they are either not very bright or that they have no integrity. The standard HR practice is to confront these two individuals with your statistical and human assessment of the level of bias in their submissions. If they admit their guilt and are remorseful, some would give them progressive discipline and a second chance. I personally view what they’re doing as demonstrating an “Enron level” lack of integrity, so without further evidence, I would fire both of them immediately and further give them a bad reference. The combination of immature behavior, violating the company culture, dishonesty / deception and plain stupidity by thinking that they wouldn’t get caught would be enough to justify not giving them a second chance. I would further consider letting other employees know how you firmly defended your firm’s code of conduct.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you need anything else and what actions you end up taking



[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”I have been asked to get involved and pretty much project manage our Employee Referral Bonus.Although I already have a few ideas in mind what would you say the first steps are to create a sustainable program?”]

It’s a fact that well-designed corporate referral programs can produce amazing results. Unfortunately, those results are often reduced by failing to maximize the number and type of motivators that drive employees to make high-quality referrals. In some organizations, 30% of the employees make all of the referrals with the other 70% of employees being inactive. I have found that data-driven referral programs have a much higher response rate because instead of assuming that program administrators know how to motivate, they instead use data to identify the most effective motivators. If you are a recruiting leader and you want to increase the quality of referrals and push the volume to near 50% of all hires, this article highlights the best practices in the area of employee rewards and motivation.

Motivating employees to make quality referrals

If you want to get the most impact out of your corporate referral program, you need to shift to a more intelligent and data-driven approach. Some of the motivational and reward approaches that I recommend are listed below. I’ve broken them into six distinct groups.


A) A formal referral program is required

Assuming that employees will “naturally” make referrals “as part of their job” is a disastrous assumption. If you don’t have a formal referral program with defined motivators and effective processes, you can normally only expect between 3% and 7% of your hires coming from referrals each year.


B) A data based approach for identifying the right motivators is required

Rather than guessing as to which motivators are the most effective, use a data based approach to find out for sure.

·         Survey referring employees – start by surveying a sample of employees that make referrals and every employee that makes a referral that is actually hired. Simply ask them what aspects of the program were positive and which could be improved. Also ask them specifically what motivated them to make their latest referral and include a list of other possible rewards and motivators and ask them to indicate which new ones would excite them.

·         Survey non-referring employees – survey a sample of employees that are not active in the program and ask them to identify any barriers to participation. Also include a list of possible rewards and motivators and ask them to highlight the ones that would most likely increase their participation.

·         Benchmark other firms – work with other firms to identify and then share the most effective and new approaches for motivating employees to refer.

·         Trial and error – because even initially successful motivators lose their effectiveness over time, it’s important to periodically change the rewards. And if necessary through trial and error, identify new ones that work. Obviously you should also drop motivators that no longer produce results.


C) Motivating without cash rewards

Rewards are helpful but are not essential in driving referrals. Offering a reward certainly helps to get the attention of your employees but only 11% of employees report that they make referrals because of the “opportunity to earn bonus income”. Experience has shown that firms with extremely well-designed programs can reach over 50% and even up to 70% of all hires from referrals without paying any cash rewards.  Some non-monetary approaches to consider include:

·         “Refer for the team” should be the primary motivator – it is critical to instill in your employees that the primary reason that they should refer people is because “the team wins when it has the best players”. Helping “the team” or the organization is a superior motivator (even if you also offer monetary rewards), because it turns referrals into an opportunity to provide their team mates and themselves with the very best coworkers. Everyone wants to work alongside the very best and having a superior team also increases the likelihood of business success and the subsequent performance bonuses. On average, only 30% of employees make referrals for the good of the team and the organization but ideally the number should be closer to 90%. “Referrals for the good of the team” work much better when you educate employees about their superior capability (as opposed to recruiters) for making contacts, building relationships and assessing potential candidates.

·         Recognition is powerful – the recognition of individuals that make successful referrals can be a powerful tool. For example, a personalized note or call from an executive thanking the employee that has made a high impact referral is a cheap but powerful approach. Employees can be given a nice referral T-shirt, a pin or a plaque/certificate to hang in there cubical. A once a year luncheon with the CEO for employees that have made successful referrals is also an attention getter.

·         Offer prize drawings – a cheaper but almost as effective alternative to offering cash rewards for every referral is to hold a quarterly prize drawing, where every employee that has made a successful referral during the period is eligible. Unusual vacation trips or car leases make great prizes because they get have proven to get everyone’s attention.

·         Non-cash rewards – if you can’t afford or don’t want to offer large prizes or pay cash rewards, also consider providing a product sample or a handful of free movie tickets for the whole family. Other no cost prize options include a reserved parking spot or first choice of vacation, equipment or shift schedules. Also consider placing the employee’s picture in the lobby or work with advertising to allow individuals that successfully refer an opportunity to appear in regular company product advertising.

·         Make referrals part of performance appraisal – it’s important to add making successful referrals to the performance appraisal process, so that employees and managers both know that you take the referral role seriously. Also include making successful referrals as part of the promotion criteria.

·         A sandwich board in high traffic areas – sometimes a simple sandwich board or sign notifying employees of an immediate opening is all you need to remind your employees to provide you with a name.

·          Ask new hires during on boarding – simply adding a component to the onboarding process where you ask each new hire for referrals has proven to be an effective tool and they don’t normally expect a reward.

·         Offer them a choice – rather than offering the same reward to everyone, it is sometimes better to give employees a personal choice by allowing them to select their reward from a list of available choices.


D) What is the right amount to offer?

If you going to offer monetary rewards, here are some approaches to consider.

·         Experiment with reward amounts – there is no magic payment amount, so use a data-driven approach. Experiment and then track what works and what doesn’t. Periodically adjust your bonus amountsbecause offering the same rewards without refreshing them almost always gets stale. Periodically experimenting with different approaches can allow organizations to accurately scale their incentives and to adjust your rewards periodically based on the current response rate.

·         Start low – it’s better to start low and work your way up in reward amounts rather than starting high (it’s hard to cut reward amounts without employees noticing).

·         There are limits – often after you reach $1,500, additional bonus amounts have a low ROI.

·         Pay more for key jobs – referral amounts usually reflect the salary for the job. Obviously high impact jobs should get a higher reward amount.

·         Vary rewards with the unemployment rate – as the unemployment rate increases, you need less money across the board in order to get good referrals. The reverse is also true.

·         Benchmark your competitors – with social media connections, your employees will know and compare your firm’s referral rewards to the amounts that your competitors offer. You don’t have to match their amounts but you do have to be in the ballpark.

·         Offer a “hard to hire” or “kick up” bonus supplement – as a general rule, the harder the job is to fill, the higher should be the reward. If you’re having difficulty filling an individual“hard to fill” key job, offer a higher “kick up” bonus or contest prize for a brief period of time in order to see if it makes a difference. In some cases, the hiring manager is willing to pay this bump up bonus.

·         Stunning bonuses can get everyone’s attention – although rewards over $5000 are unusual, in extreme cases rewards of up to $25,000 have been offered.


E) Other powerful reward options to consider

In addition to varying the amount of reward, there are some other reward related options to consider. They include:

·         Offer a charity donation option – some employees are concerned about the appearance of making referrals for self-enrichment. As a result, it is wise to offer the option of donating part or all of the reward to charity. This option can excite those employees that are more concerned about helping others and being altruistic. The charity option is especially effective when there is a potential conflict of interest or when senior executives are involved in making the referral.

·         Consider a “prize patrol” approach to celebrate referrals – consider making a public display and celebration out of the process of rewarding an individual referral prize. This public display excites and it may cause competitive individuals to increase their referral efforts.

·         “Gross up” your bonuses – grossed up bonuses (where the employee’s tax on the reward is prepaid) can be stunning because they allow employees to see, receive and keep all of the reward.

·         Supplement the reward based on performance – consider offering asupplemental reward for referring those that turn out to be top performers (Based on their above average performance appraisal score at 6 or 12 months after hiring). Also consider increasing bonuses for diversity hires, for longer than expected retention or if the hire happens to be a key employee from your top competitor.

·         Reward for names only – often top employees are extremely busy and they do not have the time to capture an updated resume from a hot prospect. Consider offering a small reward (up to $100) for simply providing the names of obviously qualified candidates. In some cases, top employees are willing to provide “names only” referrals without expecting any bonus. Simply having the name of a top performer is sufficient because regular recruiters can easily handle the follow-up and the selling of the prospect.

·         Reward employees for referring top prospects that are interviewed- consider offering a small reward to employees (up to $140) for each of their referral candidates that are “good enough” to be invited in for an interview or that make it to the finalist list (even though they are not hired).This can further excite employees who “come close” but don’t actually have their candidate hired.

·         Offer small rewards for “first time” referrals – consider a small reward for employees that participate in the referral program for the first time, whether their referral is hired or not. Potential small rewards might include a $25 gift, move tickets or a Starbucks card.  

·         Offer small rewards to your referred applicants – some firms reward the applicant that was referred. To thank them for their time, consider offering small rewards or product samples for all referrals that are brought in for an interview.

·         Offer rewards to non-employees – expand your referral pool by offering to pay non-employees for referrals (i.e. contract employees, temps, vendors, corporate alumni or retirees). If you do that, remember that you must report those payments to the IRS.

·         Reward managers for meeting their team quota – measuring, recognizing and rewarding managers for reaching the referral goals assigned to their team is a high-impact approach to consider.

·         Have HR pay the bonus – in some cases HR pays the bonus (it pays all recruiting costs) but that can be a roadblock to starting up a new program. An acceptable alternative is to bill it to the hiring manager (but never the department of the employee making the referral).


F) Do not do these things

·         Don’t pay equal bonuses – it’s always important to prioritize jobs in the referral program because all jobs do not have the same business impact. All key jobs are eligible for the referral program and jobs that are easily filled using traditional recruiting channels are often excluded from the referral program.

·         Don’t delay payments – it is a huge mistake to delay payment of the reward. Pay immediately and don’t make receiving the reward contingent on anything unless you want to purposely kill motivation.


Final thoughts

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to offering referral motivators. Instead, identifying and then “dialing in” the most effective motivators requires constant data-gathering. It is also true that closely matching rewards and recognition to employee interest and expectations is far more important than the amount of the reward. And whether you use monetary rewards or not, make sure that your employees see the direct benefits to them and their team of becoming 24/7 talent scouts.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”What is best practice to assess learning ability during the selection process?“]

It depends on the job, the speed and the complexity of the learning required. However, approaches that I recommend for learning ability/speed assessment include:

Ask them to self-rate themselves – simply ask them to self-rate their learning speed or ability on a scale of 1 to 10

Assess their current knowledge – asked them a few technical questions to see if they are on the leading-edge right now

Assess their learning approach – ask them for the steps they have gone through in the past. Ask them to go through the steps to learn about something new relevant to this job or give them a current employee learning approach and ask them how to improve it

Give them a learning problem – give them a new learning problem outside of the interview and time how long it takes for them to find relevant information

Test them – give them a standard vendor supplied learning ability/speed test or develop an online assessment approach yourself

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”What are some techniques to assess learning ability in candidates?“]

It depends on the job, the speed and the complexity of the learning required. However, approaches that I recommend for learning ability/speed assessment include:

Ask them to self-rate themselves – simply ask them to self-rate their learning speed or ability on a scale of 1 to 10

Assess their current knowledge – asked them a few technical questions to see if they are on the leading-edge right now

Assess their learning approach – ask them for the steps they have gone through in the past. Ask them to go through the steps to learn about something new relevant to this job or give them a current employee learning approach and ask them how to improve it

Give them a learning problem – give them a new learning problem outside of the interview and time how long it takes for them to find relevant information

Test them – give them a standard vendor supplied learning ability/speed test or develop an online assessment approach yourself

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Can you talk about the discovery and then sourcing of non-traditional talent markets?  Finding top talent among College Grads is one thing, but what about finding top, adaptive talent among non-college students?“]

Finding adaptivity and speed among experienced talent is much easier because they have a track record. The approaches I recommend include:

  • Employee referrals – your own adaptive and fast-moving employees already know these individuals and they can assess them better than most recruiters
  • View their work – finding their work online can often reveal whether they included speed, obsolescence and innovation components in their work. Reading their blogs can also reveal a lot
  • View their profile – the very best add adaptive features to their LinkedIn profiles and to their resume because they know the value of it. Also see if others endorse or recommend them on LinkedIn on their adaptive, speed or innovation features
  • Ask questions – asking questions relating to how to adapt on technical forums or communities is a good idea, as is looking for those that provide adaptive answers
  • Contests – online technical contests can cover a problem that requires adaptive solutions and then you recruit those that provide the best adaptive approaches and their solution
  • Job postings – including the need for speed, adaptivity and innovation in the job posting and job description can by itself attract these types of individuals


[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”What are some ways organizations are effectively communicating how they are responding to feedback?  What types of approaches are they using to indicate responsiveness to feedback?“]

There are many different approaches, but most start with publicizing the fact that they seek out, listen to and respond to feedback from a variety of sources, but especially customers and employees. I find that Twitter is a common tool for identifying feedback issues but some simply use email, their corporate website and call centers. Periodically summarizing and publicizing the feedback and the actions being taken is always a sound approach. Some feedback occurs on sites like, where it is hard to directly respond but you can certainly encourage your employees to post supportive or counter examples on the site. Occasionally even executives write blogs to respond directly to major feedback issues. I haven’t found Facebook to be particularly effective as a feedback mechanism.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”How do you combine adaptive qualities / behaviors and long term perspective (e.g.: for leaders making decisions to adapt short term to business challenges , while not losing sight of more long term stakes having with larger scope and impact  (economical, environmental, social stakes in the all world )?“]

In a VUCA world, the key learning is that the definition of “long-term” is shrinking dramatically, because you simply can’t accurately predict anything more than 18 months out. You still want people to think strategically, which means be forward-looking and focus on strategic business goals but once again those goals and timetables now shift more frequently. Obviously you still need to think globally, but in a VUCA world, nearly every country needs to be treated as unique. Once again I recommend the “avocado approach” where there is a core “hard seed”, which stays consistent over time (it usually includes values and success measures) but there must still be some flexibility, depending on whether the relevant business unit is in a growth, innovation or shrinkage mode. In my experience, the key is to be realistic. If you encourage “five-year out” thinking, forecasting and planning your work never turns out to be accurate, you will quickly lose your credibility. That is why I recommend providing a range of targets. In short the VUCA world is still strategic but it often requires a “shorter-term” perspective, where short and long are defined based on how far out you can actually predict with any degree of accuracy.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Based on my experience, most organization are unable to distinguish between a LEADER and a MANAGER. Is this a ubiquitous phenomenon in the corporate sector? How to mitigate this blurring of line?“]

I have seen this confusion but to me the differences are dramatic and measurable between a leader and a manager. I have done a lot of work in that area, so below you will find a list of 26 differentiators to consider:


The top 12 most important differentiators


1. Leaders act first – Leaders by definition lead, which means that they take action first (over 90% of the time) when a problem or opportunity arises. They decide on their own to go first, where managers are directed to move, often at the same time as all other managers. Because they go first, there are no rules or benchmarks to follow.

2. Lead by example through easily copyable observable actions– leaders take observable and copyable actions because they know that others will follow their example. They expect teammates to watch and copy their leadership actions. They take clear observable actions and use clear words, so that others can easily follow and copy their actions without hesitation. The actions taken by leaders differ significantly (by over 75%) from the acts of the average manager. Managers give direct orders over 95% of the time, so they do not expect subordinates to follow their example.

3. Leaders use precise understandable words –leaders use understandable language and hard (vs. soft) words, so that everyone is clear on what they mean. 100% of the time they avoid “soft” words that can’t be measured or easily defined. 90% of the time, managers have no concern about the use of vague words.

4. Leaders utilize people management tools that are unique to them – leaders can be identified by the people management tools they utilize. Leaders are more 90% likely than managers to utilize advanced leadership tools. Advanced leadership tools can include prioritization, using checklists, metrics, root cause analysis, failure analysis, SWAT teams, transparency, explaining “why” things need to be done etc. leaders successfully implement 50 % more advanced leadership actions and approaches than managers.

5. Leaders produce extraordinary business results — because they act first and take different actions, leaders produce extraordinary business results (over 25% higher than the average manager). Both leaders and managers attempt to continually improve their processes and tools but leaders target over 10% improvement while managers are satisfied with less than 5%.

6. Not everyone focuses on actions – focusing on leadership actions is unique to leaders. A leadership action occurs among a majority of leaders but in less than 25% of managers. Because leaders generally make up less than 10% of the workforce, if everyone (i.e. all managers or all employees) uses an approach companywide, it cannot be a leadership approach.

7. Forward-looking actions – leaders assume that their environment is rapidly changing by more than 20% a year (which is why leaders are needed). Leaders avoid unproductive “surprises” so they take actions that allow them to accurately forecast/anticipate upcoming problems and opportunities 75% more often than managers. Managers follow the plans of others 90% of the time, while leaders are the first to develop plans. Because their forecasts make them aware of upcoming problems and opportunities, they develop a plan and act first before most managers, who wait for problems to become obvious before they act.

8. Continuous innovation actions — in order to produce quantum leaps in performance, leaders take actions to emphasize, teach and reward innovation (innovation is defined as implemented new ideas that produce over 20% better results). This rate of innovation is maintained over more than one year. Managers instead target continuous improvement at a rate of less than 5% per year.

9. Proactive – leaders seek out upcoming problems and opportunities. Leaders act before any others whenever a major problem or opportunity starts to show symptoms. When confronted with a growing problem, a leader acts urgently/immediately and in a majority of the cases, without any “orders”. 90% of all managers wait for problems to become obvious and a wait for orders before acting.

10. Strategic actions – successful leaders allocate more than 50% of their time and resources acting on strategic (also known as big picture) issues and opportunities. Strategic means having a direct impact on corporate goals, having a companywide impact, having a long-term impact (i.e. longer than three years) and anything that considers the external environment in order to provide a competitive advantage. Managers below the senior level act strategically less than 10% of the time.

11. Influence actions vs. authority — because many of the individuals in a leader’s team are not formally direct reports, leaders 90% of the time take actions that influence and convince teammates to act in the right way without being ordered. Influence actions may include information, persuasive arguments, data, expert power, rewards, recognition etc. Influence is measured by the percentage of important tasks that are completed without giving orders. Managers usually (over 85% of the time) rely on formal power, authority and direct orders.

12. Continuous leading-edge learning – leaders focus 20% of their time and resources on continuous self-directed learning. They learn and benchmark both within and outside of their function and industry (parallel benchmarking) in order to identify upcoming problems and opportunities as well as best practices and next practices. They assume that everything is continually changing, so they make learning their own and their teammates #1 priority. They take actions to influence their team members so that they also become continuous self-learners and they support “deliberate practice” to improve. Managers spend less than 5% of their time and resources on learning about “leading edge” problems, opportunities and practices.


Important measurable differentiators


13. Develop other leaders – leaders realize that the output of a team cannot grow without developing new and replacement leaders. Leaders take observable actions to identify and develop the required number of replacement leaders for their team (at least two potential leaders are identified and developed for every current leader). Managers leave leadership development to others in the organization.

14. Acts to put others first — leaders always take actions that put the benefit of others and the interest of the corporation before their own self-interests. Leaders rank the benefit to the corporation in their goals before their own economic work or career benefit. Leaders act in such a way that their priority is obvious to all. In over 50% of the time, managers put their own self-interests and career advancement first.

15. Set stretch goals /direction – leaders set and clearly communicate the team’s goals and outputs. Leaders spend a disproportionate amount (at least 25% compared to 5% for a manager) of their time determining goals and making it clear to everyone what are the team’s goals, direction, strategies and measurable outcomes. They also determine and at least quarterly reassess which areas need more time and resources applied to them and which areas that will require less. Because of their superior goal setting, 90% of their followers (as opposed to 10% for managers) can immediately repeat the team’s goals and outputs. Managers follow the direction set by leaders and their managers. They manage based primarily on their predetermined budget and headcount allocation. Set higher goals — although both leaders and managers set goals, leaders expect higher levels of productivity and as a result, they set higher “stretch” goals for themselves and their team. Stretch goals are a minimum of 20% higher than current output.

16.  Make others better — leaders allocate resources and time on actions that improve the capability and the performance of others on the team. More than 50% of team members improve their performance and capability by more than 10% each year (as opposed to managers where only 10% improve to that level). Actions that leaders take to make others better include teaching, sharing best practices, providing advice, stretch assignments and criticism and a direct demonstration of what actions they expect. Leaders also perform follow up meetings with their team members to track the progress of their improvement and to ensure they are consistently improving their performance, and apply any new techniques/procedures that may further improve performance by more than 10%.Managers are mostly concerned about their own career advancement and producing results, therefore they allocate less than 10% of their time and resources on improving team members.

17.  Leaders act with discipline because “everything matters” leaders have a high level of discipline (i.e. attention to detail and doing the required things in the prescribed ways) which results in consistency. Leaders are 75% more disciplined, so they ensure that every detail is completed. They act as if “everything matters”. Because of this discipline, they produce consistent results over time without variation. They also take actions so that their teammates will also act as if “everything matters”. 90% of managers do not assess or develop discipline in their direct reports.

18.  Risk assessment results in fewer major failures — leaders take actions to identify, measure and then avoid putting their organization at financial risk (avoiding high-impact and costly failures that negatively impact over 1% of revenue). Leaders take calculated risks and they may make a larger number of low dollar impact errors than managers but they learn rapidly from each one. Managers are risk adverse, so they take 75% less calculated risks.

19.  Encourage and accept criticism – Criticism is the engine of change. Leaders encourage it and develop a process to seek it out from teammates and outsiders. At least 20% of the team members ask critical questions and identify potential problems. Managers hate criticism and only 10% of them openly solicit it.

20.  Develop a long list of potential problems – leaders are skeptical of all new ideas. They are automatically critical of all approaches and ideas. They seek out flaws and identify a long list” of potential problems and errors (at least 10) before starting a project, in order to eliminate them. Managers do not focus on errors in only 10% of them prepare and distribute a list of potential problems.

21.  Conduct failure analysis — in order to minimize future risks and repeat errors, leaders conduct a formal failure analysis after every major error that costs more than 5% of their budget (and most major successes). The goal is to repeat major errors 0% of the time by learning what causes them, how to predict them and how to mitigate or prevent them. Leaders also make their findings available to their entire organization to prevent similar failures from happening within the organization. 99% of managers conduct no failure analysis. In addition, in less than 5% of the cases do managers learn and change as a result of a failure.

22.  Easy to approach — leaders are described by their teammates 95% of the time (as opposed to 20% for managers) as “easy to approach” or “easy to relate to” (which means that teammates will not hesitate to approach them with difficult and sensitive issues). As the net result of this perception, less than 5% of the team fails to approach their leader with a major concern. Leaders take specific actions in order to develop this “easy to approach” image among their teammates. Leaders periodically test their level of “approachability” to ensure that they hear about problems rapidly. Only 10% of managers make a formal attempt to be approachable.

23.  Leaders have and distribute a written plan –leaders realize that teammates are more likely to take the correct actions if they have a written plan to follow. As a result, 75% of leaders prepare and distribute a written plan that clearly defines the direction, the goals, the metrics, the timelines, the budget and individual roles. 100% of priority projects have written and distributed plans. Only 40% of managers prepare and distribute their written plan to the entire team.

24.  Delegation is maximized – Leaders work through others because it both develops subordinates and frees up time for leaders to plan. Leaders do very little “day-to-day work” themselves (less than 10%). Instead, they delegate 90% of most day-to-day activities and spend a majority of their time measuring, praising, providing instructions and focusing on problems and opportunities that require leadership attention. They use metrics to determine overtime the criteria that should be used to assess which tasks and actions can and cannot be effectively delegated. Managers completely delegate less than 50% of their day-to-day work.

25.  Transparency –leaders make it easy for team members to access important decision making information and to find out about problems and best practices across the organization. At least 75% of the information available to the leader is available to the team. Managers “hoard” information and provide less than 25% of it to subordinates.

26.  Prioritize important things — leaders prioritize actions, individuals and jobs and then they focus over 60% of their time and resources on the highest priority items. Leaders always distribute priorities to their teammates but managers only distribute them 10% of the time.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”­What are some innovative subject areas?­“]

there are no exempt areas in business that I have found that don’t need to be innovative. Obviously most innovation comes in the product and service development area but it is a huge mistake to restrict your efforts there. Customer service, marketing, feedback, sales, supply chain and business processes should almost always get a lot of innovation attention. Even finance is learning to innovate with virtual closing and modeling. In the people management area, recruiting, retention, leader development, learning, best practice sharing, often get and deserve the most attention. Simulations, if-then scenarios, as well as measuring and developing innovators are areas that I find need much more work.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”­IBM is a great example of a company that almost was broken up, but made radical changes­… ­IBM made a fundamental shift in business model….­FedEx is another example … Shifted from shipping documents to shipping products­“]Yes, IBM is a great example because they made a dramatic shift away from what was once their lifeblood, PCs. Coke shifting away from sugared sodas and Amazon shifting away from being a bookstore are also great examples. Apple in my opinion is the King because they have shifted between multiple industries and then dominated in each even though they had no experience in them. On the opposite end, Kodak, Xerox, Blockbuster, Good Guys, GM and Sears are examples of firms that have not adapted fast enough.[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”­How would you measure speed of learning?­“]

Speed of learning is usually measured both at the organizational level and the individual level. At the organizational level, executives usually pick their own unique learning benchmarks. Usually those measures include how fast the firm learns about and rapidly internally shares learning targets like: competitor actions, changes in the business environment, new technologies, new customer expectations and new business processes and solutions. The best look to learn both inside and outside of their industry. Some organizations even purposely “post” new information internally and then track how long it takes in weeks or months for that information to be shared, learned and utilized in distant parts of the organization. When it comes to individuals or teams, online surveys and even interviews that are part of the training process can be used to quickly assess individual or team learning. The percentage of project completed on time is another measure that tends to reflect learning ability. Sometimes “failure analysis” or audits are the only way that organization’s finds out that they are not learning quickly enough. Measuring learning speed needs to be a critical part of the development function, if it is to prove to senior management that its efforts are resulting in faster and wider spread learning and knowledge utilization.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”­Does selecting the best talent to operate in the VUCA world unintentionally promote ageism?­“]

That would be an unfair stereotype. I personally am 3X the age of my students but I find that I am much more adaptable than most of them. Steve Jobs was certainly more adaptive than most Apple employees, Eric Schmidt thrived at Google and Sheryl Sandberg thrives today alongside much younger workers at Facebook. Employees with less experience may have an advantage because they grew up in a world that changed rapidly but more experienced people also lived through this time. In my experience, if you teach, measure and reward adaptiveness, risk-taking and speed, no age group has a special advantage or disadvantage. If there was a disadvantage, it would be that the more experienced workers simply need to learn how to “forget” about how they operated in slower time periods in their past. I don’t have any hard data on it but I have certainly seen a tendency for older workers to actually appreciate and enjoy learning more than the younger generation.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”John, what challenges do you see in the public sector in applying learning and applying these capabilities? I’m thinking about the snail pace of change in most governmental entities, particularly at the federal level.“]I have worked for government for nearly 40 years now and I haven’t found that you can generalize about all elements of government. Parts of the military, the FBI, the CIA and certainly NASA have excelled at innovation, learning and adaptiveness. Because they undergo such public scrutiny, errors or omissions may certainly seem to be amplified more in the government sector but the scrutiny that comes from a major failure in business is certainly equal or as strong because in business, there are so many metrics involved. The city of Sunnyvale in the Silicon Valley is well known for managing on par with close by high-tech firms. Local police departments have learned to use predictive analytics (predictive policing) and NOAA does excellent weather forecasting. The major challenges I see are unions, the lack of metrics and rewards for moving fast and innovating. If you are punished for making a single error and you receive little reward for innovation, you’ll learn slower, take less risks and innovate less, regardless of where you work.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”is there a template or list of ideal questions on stay in interviews that we can adopt?“]I have been designing “stay interviews” for 20 years, so here are some questions to consider:

Possible questions to use in your “stay interview”

There are a variety of questions that can be used in a “stay interview”. They fall into two basic categories:


Why do you stay with us questions?

  • Tell us specifically why you enjoy your current job and work situation (people, job, rewards, job content, coworkers, management etc.)
  • If you have ever been contacted by an external recruiter, what reasons did you give them for not wanting to leave?
  • If you “managed yourself”, what would you do differently (in relation to managing “you”) that your current manager doesn’t?
  • What do you want more of and less of?
  • What are the most challenging and exciting aspects of your current job situation?
  • Describe your “dream job”
  • Do you feel that you are currently doing “the best work of your life?” (A key retention factor for top performers)
  • Do you feel you make a difference in the company? On customers and the world? Do you feel that employees think that you make a difference? (A key retention factor for top performers)
  • Where would you like to be in the organization two years from now?


What might cause you to consider leaving related questions?

  • If you were to ever begin to consider leaving… help us understand what kind of “triggers” or negative things that might cause you to consider leaving?
  • What are the prime factors that caused you to leave your last jobs?
  • Do the people you report to listen to you and do they value your ideas/ decisions?
  • What are the major things that frustrate you about your job, manager or the company?
  • Are there serious things that you more than occasionally worry about related to your job or the company?
[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”­I’d be interested in John’s views about Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework­“]I find his four factor approach helpful in understanding complexity but I haven’t personally found any corporations that could successfully apply it in the area of HR and talent management.[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Six Sigma is different from innovation.  Six Sigma is used everywhere and sometimes a way to change so is it almost innovation?­“]

Six Sigma is used everywhere but I find that it can definitely have a negative impact on innovation. Six Sigma, by definition, tries to eliminate errors and variations. While innovation comes from intended or unintended errors, experiments and variations. In my experience, if you expect innovation at the 1000% level like Google does, you have to limit any focus on continuous improvement, and thus Six Sigma. There isn’t a lot of hard data on the damage that Six Sigma can have on innovation but the topic and the related concern has certainly come up in my conversations with executives. If the ROI on Six Sigma is 10% but the ROI of innovation is 200%, I would certainly be wary of the use of Six Sigma in many areas.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Is there material available for effectively implementing rotations? It is sometimes viewed as disruptive or requiring time in order to ramp up an individual.­“]

Below you’ll find a brief description of the most advanced job rotation approach. If you need more, I did a webinar on designing and implementing job rotations for the training firm TrainHR that can be purchased at


or if you send me an email directly to [email protected] I can send you the related slide deck for free. I also did a series of three articles on job rotations that can be found on my   website.

I even have an eBook on job rotations that I am finishing which I can send you if you are really interested in the topic.


Project marketplace — the critical element of any job rotation or stretch assignment program is the ability to make available projects “visible” to your employees. The most modern and technologically advanced approach is to use an internal webpage to make employees aware of these projects and assignments. Some firms currently have processes (Google and Whirlpool are leaders here) where they “market” available short-term projects on an internal website, so that employees can either formally “apply” or attract others of similar interest to work on the idea. This exposure process can also be used to attract college interns.

[/acc_item] [acc_item title=”Close All”]Click on a question above to see Dr John’s response[/acc_item] [/accordion]