Are You Running Your Business Based on Industrial or Knowledge Era Principles?

by Janice Giannini

With a deep mastering at the intersection of IT and business strategy, consultant, board adviser and former C-suite executive, Janice has been harnessing the true power of IT for more than 30 years. An Executive and Board-level digital strategist at the intersection of risk and IT, she enhances competitive position through vision and equity with large-scale risk identification, quantification and mitigation in an ever-changing marketplace, generating long-term value for clients. She engages with senior executives and teams, particularly in complex businesses where misalignment is blocking their desired success, to develop and execute practical business strategies and plans. Clients have found her especially helpful when they recognize they must integrate an eagle's eye and worm's eye view in order to identify and remove obstacles. Janice has consistently taken on those challenges that others chose to run from. This typically involves those challenging times when failure is not an option and integrating business, technology and people changes must be accomplished simultaneously. As a result, many of her clients are complex organizations who won't settle for anything less than developing widespread professional competence.

When we work with clients on competitiveness and improving their results and sustainability, we frequently engage in conversations about the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. The main extrinsic motivators used in business today are incentives: money and fear. Because they are external to the individual, they tend not to produce the long-term commitment needed to truly engage an employee. In contrast, intrinsic motivators are based on an individual's needs and attitudes. Getting in touch with these tends to build commitment and a higher level of engagement.

So, what are an individual's needs? Reading in the area of the psychology of motivation, Work /life integration research of Stew Friedman of Wharton School, coupled with Maslow's hierarchy of needs suggests expressing core needs as:

  • Basic physical need to sustain , rest and renew our bodies
  • Healthy emotional need, to feel cared for and valued
  • Rising mental need to be empowered to set boundaries and focus in an absorbed way
  • Sustaining spiritual need to find a sense of meaning and purpose in life and work

Clearly, there is a disconnect here. Leaders are using industrial age motivators in the knowledge age. Based on the amount of C-suite and employee turnover in organizations, this approach is seriously flawed. We can perhaps understand employee dissatisfaction, but what explains CEO discontent? The majority of CEOs are paid enormous salaries alongside generous benefits packages, yet turnover is extremely high.

Here is more food for thought regarding sustainability and growth in today's companies:

  • Many leaders we talk to say they can't find talented people, yet there is a greater supply of talent than is being used currently.
  • Research shows ( findings taken from Gallop and Harris Polls) only 29% of employees in businesses are fully engaged. A 16 percent are actively disengaged.
  • Some managers today opine that less experienced personnel are not committed to the long term and are only interested in WIIFM.
  • Many leaders complain about spending money to train people because they often leave within a few years.
  • NACD Digest January 21, 2015 discussed the CEO's talent dilemma. Columnist Stuart Levine says: "Planning for, managing, and developing your organization's talent are among the most important responsibilities of boards and senior leadership."
  • According to Robert Eichinger, Korn Ferry Institute's leadership development researcher, the ability to grow talent is ranked 67th out of 67 competencies for managers, despite decades of investment in PM systems. "In other words, on average, managers are worse at developing their employees than at anything else they do," write the authors of "Kill Your Performance Ratings" (August 2014, Strategy+Business).

What if your redefined your job as being responsible for aligning your company's needs with the four core needs of employees? What if you held yourself accountable for inspiring, focusing, and recharging the commitment/participation/energy of those you lead?

What would you need to do for those you lead to feel:

  • Confident balancing working and physical renewal so they stay healthy
  • Valued all the time, not just in a crisis
  • Empowered
  • Purposeful

Here's a place for you, as a leader, to start. Do you feel you are:

  • Successfully balancing work and physical renewal?
  • Sending positive messages with your behavior?
  • Valued all the time? Valued at all?
  • Empowered in a positive way?

If you answered "no" to the questions above, ask yourself:

  • What is your job as a leader? To grow the business? To utilize your capital effectively? Something else?
  • What is most significant capital in your business? Equipment? Human assets?
  • What are you doing to manage that capital and deploy it effectively?

If you believe your most significant capital is human, ask yourself what you need to do differently to effectively manage and deploy it. In other words, what do you need to do differently to create an environment where people want to come to work every day and do their best?

If this is not your job as a leader, whose job is it?

As always, I welcome your comments and look forward to your feedback.