A winning strategy for the future of sports streaming

In this “golden age” of sports content, fans have more options than ever to watch what they love. Currently, this means navigating a combination of cable, broadcast, and streaming services across their big and small screens. Helping to usher in this age, streaming has increasingly become a favorite channel for watching live sports, especially for younger fans. With the move to streaming, sports organizations are seeking further monetization of their rights and chasing a shifting consumer base. And streaming services are looking to use live sports as a differentiator to fight off competition and reduce churn.

Examples of this emerging relationship include Amazon paying US$1 billion per season to stream NFL “Thursday Night Football”; “Friday Night Baseball” and Major League Soccer on the Apple TV+®streaming video service; and a number of US women’s and men’s national soccer team matches landing on HBO Max, starting 2023.1 In addition, leagues and regional sports networks (RSNs) are looking to launch their own direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings.2 Their goals are to better control their own destiny and engage fans in a more personalized way, capturing and monetizing data.

Increased competition could lead to a better overall product, both on and off the field. This may include novel game formats, improved production quality, additional ancillary content, enhanced uses of data, and preventing teams from “tanking” (in order to retain subscribers). However, there are some dangers to watch for. As this new landscape matures, fans could face an increasingly confusing mix of options to wade through to watch their favorite teams and events: home and mobile streaming services, RSNs, and cable/satellite channels. Instead of building deeper relationships, leagues and providers may therefore be creating artificial barriers for fans. Also, by having so many options to watch a specific player or team, leagues could miss out on maximizing their potential audience because of market fragmentation.

To explore how fans feel about this unfolding future, we surveyed 500 US respondents, of which 319 were identified as sports fans.3 We found that sports fans crave content, and many pay for it; they just want to access it easily. Over half of sports fans surveyed (53%) said that they paid for a streaming video service to access sports content in the last year. But fans have some frustrations with their experiences, which could potentially reduce their level of overall engagement. Negative sentiments include feeling burdened by too many subscriptions (49%), feeling frustrated by difficulties finding content (62%), and actually missing events they wanted to see because of these difficulties (54%).

These statistics are representative of the challenge—there is no “one-size-fits-all” for the entire fan base. Fan attention is being pulled in myriad directions by different entertainment choices, and if providers aren’t careful, they could see fans drifting away. This raises some difficult questions in the streaming era:

Will fans continue to crave this jam-packed sports ecosystem?
How can leagues build loyalty and create superfans that keep tuning in?
How can teams, leagues, and streaming providers meet the needs of younger fans, who seek more interactive and engaging entertainment experiences?
How will streaming providers incorporate and leverage fantasy, social media, betting, and other engagement channels?
What will the new data ecosystem look like, and what does it all mean for relationships with advertisers?
Recommendations for sports leaders
This market is going to take many years to develop and mature. There will likely be a long transition as licensing rights expire and change, and streaming providers build their live sports infrastructure. Those who want to reach sports fans through DTC offerings should focus on some key considerations:

Ask fundamental questions. Why do you want a DTC service? Who are you building it for? What will make it special? What aren’t you going to do? How are you going to make money? Can you be in it for the long term?
Put the fan first. If you build it, fans won’t come unless they know how to get there. Focus on overall user experience, search capabilities, and unique value for the consumer.
Create an omnichannel experience. Think about how traditional broadcasting, streaming, social media, sports betting, gaming, fantasy, and other engagement channels can all come together to support and enhance one another. Build a strategy to integrate and leverage fan data across these different areas.


Want to be more competitive in this candidate market?

Of course, you do! It’s one of the only things people want to talk about right now. How the heck can we hire more people, our competition is killing us for talent?! Then ten minutes later I talk to their competition and they say the exact same thing!

So, I’m going to tell you what a state government is doing to find talent, and most of you will say you can’t do this! By the way, state governments and federal governments are historically awful at hiring! Like the worse in any industry awful! They put tons of unnecessary rules and processes in place that make it almost impossible to hire, and then to fix it they create more rules and processes!

The State of Maryland, though, just broke ranks in government hiring and announced that they will be dropping educational requirements for many jobs that used to require various degrees!

“As an alternative qualification, Maryland will seek out “STARs” (Skilled Through Alternative Routes) — those who are “age 25 or older, active in the labor force, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and have developed their skills through alternative routes such as community college, apprenticeships, military service, boot camps, and most commonly, on-the-job.”

Okay, first, as HR pros, can we realize how funny it is that a state government HR office actually named their new hiring process (STARs) when since forever the most popular behavioral interview process is called “STAR”!? Only in government would you see something like this happen! “Hey, we need to come up with a cool/hip acronym for this new program! Let’s call it STARs!? No one has ever used that before in HR!”

Okay, enough making fun of our peers in Maryland, because this idea makes 110% sense and that is completely against the norm in government hiring and it should be celebrated! Also, thank you to all the tech companies that started doing this five years ago and showed big hiring entities, like governments, that education might be the most over-valued criteria in candidate selection!

Seriously, this is big news! If the great state of Maryland can change in such a major way so can your stupid hiring managers who are demanding degrees for positions that actually don’t need them! I mean, we should be screaming this from the highest hills! Someone actually has common sense in Maryland government! That is no small feat, for a government or a company!

If you are finding it super hard to find qualified talent and using degrees as criteria, eliminating this requirement could really open up your candidate pool, and without losing any quality! It’s called having the right skills to do the job, not a random four-year degree that is almost useless for that job you have open.

Don’t take this as I think education is worthless. I don’t! I love people going through formal education. I will force my three sons to get degrees. Yes, I said force. That’s how highly I value education in my household. So, I do not take the elimination of degrees lightly. I also have seen the light in my own company, as I use to require degrees and stopped and found amazingly talented people that were intelligent and had great learning agility and could perform as well or better than similar folks with degrees.

I also will never allow my family to get surgery from someone who doesn’t have a medical degree! Education still matters in many fields, but it also has no correlation to performance in most professions. So, like Maryland, we adjust and try new things. I think Maryland made the right decision and I really like where this trend is heading for so many people!


Employment Bill could face further delay

Unions have reacted with fury at reports the long-awaited Employment Bill will not be announced during the Queen’s Speech in May.

According to a report in the Financial Times this weekend, a government official responded when asked whether the Bill would be included: “No. Not everything we want to do can we find space for in one season, we can’t do everything we want to do immediately.”

The government pledged a series of employment reforms including a day-one right to flexible working and more stable contracts of employment for gig workers in December 2019, in response to recommendations made by Matthew Taylor in the Good Work Plan.

Other proposed protections include family-friendly rights such as carer’s leave and enhanced protection from dismissal for employees returning from maternity leave. Both of these have been promised “when parliamentary time allows”, but no timeline has been confirmed yet.

Employment Bill
Employment Bill: What now for workers’ rights?

Employment law in 2022: Eight action points for HR

Matthew Taylor: ‘Government losing interest in reforms’

There was already anger when the Employment Bill failed to appear in last year’s Queen’s Speech, prompting the TUC to call this further omission a “betrayal” of workers.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said the prime minister had “broken his word yet again”, pointing to the recent sackings at P&O Ferries as an example of employers’ ability to abuse workers’ rights.

“Make no mistake – this would be a betrayal of working people. What happened at P&O should have marked a turning point for workers’ rights, but by abandoning the employment bill, the government is sending a message that it is happy for rogue employers to treat staff like dirt,” she said.

“We need action now to boost worker protections and stop exploitation like fire and rehire and zero-hours contracts. Tinkering around the edges with feeble statutory codes won’t have bad bosses quaking in their boots.”

Labour’s deputy Leader Angela Rayner agreed, tweeting: “The Employment Bill was proposed in the Queen’s speech THREE years ago after outrage over working conditions in UK factories and warehouses. After the scandal of P&O it’s even more urgent.”

A second reading for the Bill is scheduled for 6 May. A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to building a high skilled, high productivity, high wage economy that delivers on our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work.This includes ensuring workers’ rights are robustly protected while also fostering a dynamic and flexible labour market.”

The spokesperson added that the government had already progressed legislation on closing a loophole where agency workers can be employed on cheaper rates than permanent workers, increasing fines for employers who treat workers badly, giving workers a statement of rights from day one, key information documents for temporary workers and Jack’s Law, which gives statutory leave for parents who suffer the loss of a child.


The Job Market Is Going Crazy And It’s Going To Get Worse. How Do We Recruit?

The labor market has gone a bit crazy. In the United States, there are more than 161 million people working and 15.7 million jobs open. This means that roughly one in 10 seats in your office are empty, and you’re competing with everyone else for staff.

Adding to this frenzy, the job creation continues. This month more than 530,00 new jobs were created and the unemployment rate is now down to 4.6% (and dropping). As the Biden administration pours even more money into the economy, we can expect this trend to continue. In fact, Citibank’s economist unit believes that next year we will have more than 20 million job openings in the US, bringing the percentage of seats unfilled to one in eight.

(PS the EU is experiencing similar growth. In Q3 the EU unemployment rate dropped to 6.3% and well below 4% in Germany and other countries.)

Wages are going up as well. The BLS research shows that average wages are rising at over 4.2% and in Q3 alone jumped by 1.5%, the highest growth on record. Lower-paid workers have seen the biggest gains, with pay rising for employees at restaurants, bars, and hotels by 8.1% in the third quarter from a year earlier. For retail workers, it’s jumped 5.9%. This means job seekers are looking for more money, they feel more empowered than ever, and they’re really looking around.

In fact, the Quit Rate, the number of people who voluntarily leave positions, is now 3.4% (4.4 million last month), by far the highest we’ve ever seen. So in the middle of all these job openings, almost a third of Americans will voluntarily change jobs this year. McKinsey’s research found that two-thirds of these job seekers do not have a new position, so people are feeling very optimistic about their opportunities.

So think about the numbers. One in ten (16 million) jobs open, over 4 million people leaving their jobs each month, and wages increasing at the highest rate ever. This is a crazy job market.

All this may be great for the workers, but it’s a huge burden for employers. As Larry Summers put it, “there is no slack in the labor market.” (The trending hashtag in TikTok is now #quitmyjob.)

Companies are finding it extremely difficult to hire and recruiters are in high demand. In fact, there are now more recruiter jobs open than software engineers! We need to take think about recruiters as the most valued workers we have!

What Should Companies Do?

Let me start by observing that three things are going on at once.

First, the job market itself is on fire. There are so many jobs open that almost every position feels like it’s tough to fill. Lots of HR managers tell me they’re posting jobs and seeing no qualified candidates at all.
Second, the nature of work is changing. With so many jobs disrupted by the pandemic and digital transformation, we have to search for skills and culture fit, not just experience. Many of the new positions we’re creating don’t have large pipelines of experienced candidates.
And third, the psychology of job seekers has changed. Candidates feel burned out, empowered, and ready to negotiate.
1/ Focus On Employment Brand, Culture, and Leadership

The biggest factor in recruiting great people is creating what we call an Irresistible Company. In other words, if your organization is not known for its good deeds, fair pay and work practices, and strong commitment to customers and the community, you’ll have a hard time finding people.

People don’t just look for a job – they look for a company. So if your company is unknown or poorly respected, they’ll look elsewhere.

Yes, wages matter. People will come to companies that pay more, but in our list of 80 practices for recruiting, total pay ranks pretty low (number 72 out of 80 in creating an attractive workplace). The real wage issue is fairness: you have to make sure your wages are fair and you treated people equitably: this factor rates #6 in importance.

2/ Identifying Culture and Skills Fit

In a more normal labor market you would typically look for someone who has done this job before. In other words, you look for specific job experience, validate the candidate’s success in prior roles, and call their references for feedback.

Today, as jobs change faster than ever, it’s ever more likely you will hire someone who has some of the experience you need, but is more likely to be hired based on skill, not experience. So this means you’re hiring for culture, intelligence, ambition, and potential.

And this means recruiters are more important than ever. Our new research (coming out early next year) shows that high-performing companies develop recruiters who can assess fit, culture, and growth mindset as well as skills, job fit, and experience. In fact, one of our findings is that “Human-Centered Recruiting” is more important than ever.

Not only does our research bear this out, my personal experience does as well. I’ve hired more than 50 people in my career and in most cases when I hired someone with deep experience but not a culture fit, I was sorry. The new employee came into the company ready to redesign and “fix” everything that was broken, and in many cases created more problems than we already had.

I’m not saying that experience is not important, but in this job market, you may have to live with less experience and rely on skills and ability to grow.

3/ Don’t Chase Pay.

For many jobs, particularly hourly and highly regulated roles, you must pay what the market demands. This means you may have to raise hourly wages, add more benefits, or even pay a bonus to get someone to join. But be careful, this is a dangerous strategy to follow.

Remember that the most expensive person you hire is someone who doesn’t work out. If you “chase pay” to get someone to join your company, you risk alienating existing employees and possibly hiring someone who feels so empowered they don’t perform to your hopes. So unless the person is a senior executive or well known by your team already, I’d be careful about “chasing pay.”

Right now this is a challenge. We are trying to hire a professional for a particular role right now and one of the candidates told me during the interview that she was making $140,000 in her current role. After several weeks of interviewing she came to the final interview and told me she wouldn’t accept a job for less than $200,000 per year. I was floored.

Of course, I decided not to hire her, but the message here is clear. Job seekers feel very emboldened right now, so you have to be careful about chasing pay.

(One of our manufacturing clients told me many of the candidates with accepted offers don’t show up for work. When she calls them they tell her “I found a job with higher pay over the weekend, I’m not coming.”)

4/ Don’t Over Extend Yourself.

This gets me to my fourth point. We are at the very peak of a 14-year economic cycle, the longest upswing in our country’s history. Some time in the next year or so the economy (and stock market) is going to slow down. If you hire like crazy and overpay people for the next year, you’ll find yourself with a lot of challenges ahead.

And remember this. Even though you may be in a hiring frenzy, bringing in too many people can backfire. Each new employee creates a burden for onboarding and may change the culture of the team. I’d be careful over-hiring at this stage of the economic cycle.

5/ Focus on Recruiters, Not Technology.

Finally, take good care of your recruiters. As I discuss in this weeks’ podcast, recruiters are still the key to great hiring. Yes, recruiting technology is amazing – but it’s a lot like self-driving cars. The tech helps you stay out of trouble but you still have to take the wheel.

As I discuss in the podcast, a new era of Human-Centered Recruiting has arrived – empowering the recruiter themselves. I’ve interviewed hundreds of talent acquisition leaders over the years and they always tell me the same thing: great recruiters hire great people.

Great recruiters are good at many things: they know your company’s culture, they work closely with hiring managers to understand your jobs, and they have a deep knowledge of the market. Not only do they know a lot of people, but they can search people out, assess their readiness and fit, and convince them that your company matters.

6/ Take Care Of The Employees You Have.

Let me leave you with this. If almost a third of the workforce is going to change jobs this year, you don’t want them to be the workers in your company. In order for the Quit Rate to be 4.3%, there have to be some companies losing a lot of people every month. That shouldn’t be yours.

Now is the time to really focus on Employee Experience, and EX is all about treating people well. Spend some time getting to know the people you have, building a culture of internal mobility, and taking care of your leaders. It’s the most important recruiting strategy you have.

Remember this: recruiting is the most important thing we do. If we don’t bring the right people into the company, no amount of management can fix the problems.

It’s a crazy job market out there. Now is a time to build your employment brand, focus on your culture, and get back to basics and recruit for potential, fit, and growth.

Four actions to raise L&D’s profile

Marketers and L&D professionals have much in common. They both need to communicate memorable messages. Their work involves encouraging behaviour changes. And they’re both navigating digital innovation.

L&D professionals are therefore already well-placed to use marketing techniques. After all, they can be used to make a better case for a budget, to get better engagement for learning programmes, and enhance the reputation of the L&D team. Here are four marketing actions that can be used to elevate the success of an L&D department.

  1. Plan like a marketer
    Planning is crucial in marketing just like it is in L&D. A good marketing plan includes a diagnosis of the current situation, SMART objectives, and a strategy with the tactics, actions and monitoring to achieve the objectives. This kind of structure can be used in plans for L&D teams too.

Encouraging colleagues to tell stories of how they’ve put training into practice – its impact can be very powerful, especially on video

Diagnosing the current situation can involve researching the performance and behavioural outcomes of learning programmes as well as areas such as how well people understand the scope of what L&D teams can provide. This analysis will provide a guide to what should be the SMART objectives in the plan. The strategy sums up tactics and actions to achieve the objectives.

Tactics for promoting a learning programme will include the media (such as video) and which channels are to be used to communicate the message. The actions state who has ownership with the deadline for completion.

Lastly, the plan should feature how to monitor and measure success, to continually assess the success of learning programmes and how they’re being promoted so they can be assessed and adjusted accordingly.

  1. Articulate the brand
    Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room’. How can L&D leaders influence the reputation of their team and services?

● A good brand often encapsulates a promise. Keeping promises to the organisation will obviously enhance the reputation of the L&D team.
● Make sure departmental values are well-understood, kept to and repeated to key stakeholders.
● Use research so learning programmes are seen to be addressing needs such as a skills gap, performance enhancement or behavioural change.
● Deliver tailored, consistent messages about the value of L&D services to key stakeholder groups in the places that they’re likely to be.

  1. Segment audiences
    In marketing, segmentation targets specific groups of consumers who perceive the value of services differently from one another. This might include C-suite, HR and L&D colleagues, department managers, and a wide range of employees with different learning needs. Segmenting these different groups enables the delivery of specific, relevant and consistent messages to each group.

For example, this might include highlighting evidence of:
● revenue increases as a result of training to the CFO;
● how training has impacted employee retention to HR;
● performance improvements to department heads and
● internal career development to employees.

  1. Optimise content
    To ensure communications about courses and resources are found, consider where colleagues are likely to be; this might be Slack, Teams, the LMS, a notice board or staff meetings.

Storytelling is an important technique in both marketing and L&D. Encouraging colleagues to tell stories of how they’ve put training into practice and its impact can be very powerful, especially on video. When considering other ways to convey a message consider the audience. For example, a finance director might prefer an insightful dashboard rather than reading a long report.

These are a handful of marketing techniques that L&D professionals can use. To better understand these and other marketing techniques, a great way to start is a conversation between L&D professionals and their marketing colleagues. Learning from each other and adopting a collaborative approach could be a great way for marketers and L&D counterparts to learn how to improve outcomes for both of their teams.


How To Be A Good Internal Consultant

As an internal consultant and a member of an internal consulting team (although “internal consultant” or “internal consulting” is not in our “official” job titles), my colleagues and I are often called on to lead, support, and offer coaching, consultation, or facilitation services on wide-ranging areas, projects, and initiatives including culture, change management, conflict management, leadership development, organizational development, learning & development, onboarding, and so much more. Indeed, now more than ever, today’s HR professionals play the role of internal consultants (Miller, 2016).

The Association of Internal Management Consultants (AIMC) says that an internal consultant provides various client support services within the enterprise. They may be in a variety of areas (e.g., project management, quality management, human resources, information technology, training & development, finance, supply chain management, process improvement, etc.).

According to Phillips, Trotter, and Phillips (2015), “The rapid rate of change coupled with heightened competition on a global basis is increasing the need for companies and public sector organizations to develop effective internal consulting capabilities” (p. 3).

Important competencies to be a successful internal consultant (Phillips, Trotter, & Phillips, 2015) include communication skills, feedback skills, problem-solving & analytical skills, and organizational skills. Additionally, several core consulting skills (AIMC, 2017) are needed, such as business acumen, business process optimization, change management, coaching & consulting skills, and project management.

If you want a company to value you as an indispensable internal consultant — especially in the human resources, talent management, and leadership development space — here are a few tips I’d like to share based on my work and experience as an internal consultant.

First, it doesn’t matter how smart or knowledgeable you are or how much experience you have or bring. If you want to excel as an internal consultant and have top corporate decision-makers listen to you, you’ll need to master the art of influence & persuasion — how to sell your ideas and convince leaders to go along with you. Leaders are short on time and attention. You must master the ability to be concise, to-the-point, and ensure that your timing is right. For instance, if you are advocating for a specific program or agenda, but it does not align with your organizations’ goals or senior leaders’ mindsets, it will be very unlikely your proposal will ever have a chance of getting off the ground. The ability to both gain senior leadership buy-in and support and navigate an organization’s hierarchy, politics, and culture is absolutely critical to an internal consultant’s success (Zentis, 2018).

Second, learn to be interpersonally savvy because it is “an essential part of getting things done within organization” (Barnfield & Lombardo, 2014, p. 235). “Interpersonal savvy helps you read and address relationships appropriately and at the right time” (Scisco, Biech, & Hallenbeck, 2017, p. 261). I have seen individuals with graduate education and degrees (i.e., knowledge) be terribly ineffective at internal consulting because they were unable or unwilling to move out of their comfort zone (i.e., relying solely or mostly on knowledge or technical skills, rather than being savvy enough to read the situation and the relationship and understand what others need and respond accordingly).

Third, a positive attitude goes a very long way in helping you gain social capital, as well as getting you to the table of these decision makers. Regardless of how smart, talented, or experienced you are, if you have a bad attitude and cannot get along with others, you will struggle to get senior executives to listen to you. They may accept your work or ideas but will never see you as a leader or a person with the potential to become one. You have to play nicely with others. Even if you are the resident “genius” and you know how to do everything, if your attitude sucks, no one will care what you have to say, even if you’re right.

Earlier, I shared important competencies needed to be a successful internal consultant. These included Communication Skills, Feedback Skills, Problem-Solving & Analytical Skills, Organizational Skills, Business Acumen, Business Process Optimization, Change Management, Coaching & Consulting Skills, and Project Management.

Here are 8 competencies (some of these will be identical, similar to, or complement the ones previously outlined, while others will be new and different) you can incorporate into your repertoire to help become an effective internal consultant:

From CCL Compass (Scisco, Biech, & Hallenbeck, 2017):

  1. Communication (p. 9) – “Listen, convey your ideas and emotions with clarity and authenticity, and adapt your personal speaking as needed for the situation and audience to foster an environment of trust.”
  2. Interpersonal Savvy (p. 261) – “You need interpersonal skills to recognize and assess what others need. These skills involve not only listening to others, but also include noticing social cues that communicate how others are thinking and feeling, even if they don’t say so outright.”
  3. Influence (p. 17) – “Your greatest leadership asset is your ability to understand and persuade others. Influential leaders know how to get others to work with them, whether or not formal authority exists.”
  4. Tolerating Ambiguity (p. 401) – “[I]n today’s business environment, ambiguity is pervasive and affects leaders at all organizational levels. . . . Learn to handle ambiguity comfortably and confidently and learn to anticipate situations rather than simply react to or retreat from them. Make peace with ambiguity and gain greater control over how you handle key decisions in daily situations and over your career.”

From Awaken, Align, Accelerate (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011):

  1. Business Acumen (p. 159) – A leader with strong business acumen understands the global environment, business model, and key drivers of the organization, and leverages this understanding to recommend alternatives and measure performance.
  2. Building Collaboration (p. 285) – A collaborative leader participates with and involves others, promotes cooperation, builds partnerships, and resolves conflicts.
  3. Creating Alignment (p. 57) – An effective change leader creates alignment by ensuring the structure, systems, people, and processes are aligned in support of organizational goals.

From Bernholz and Teng’s Harvard Business Review article (2015):

  1. Be Entrepreneurial & “Be Scrappy” – In Bernholz and Teng’s article, in which they offered recommendations on how to build an in-house consulting team, one of their suggestions is “be scrappy” and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. At EMC Information Infrastructure (EMC II, which has since been acquired by Dell), an information technology, storage & protection company, Bernholz (now VP, Head of Corporate Strategy at Adobe) and Teng (now VP of Global Business Transformation at Commvault) knew they didn’t have the luxury of having extensive support staff that external firms often enjoyed. So they made up for the staffing shortfall “by assigning all [internal EMC] consultants to an “office development” team, such as recruiting, training and onboarding, knowledge management, or social committee. Though these require time commitment beyond project-work, they offer team members the opportunity to shape the group’s operations and culture, instilling an entrepreneurial mindset among [internal EMC’s] consultants.”

Takeaway: Here’s my advice to those who wish to be outstanding internal consultants to organizations. To increase your chances of success: (1) Take a few steps back (figuratively) to really understand the issue or problem and absorb (like a sponge) everything you see, hear, and experience; (2) Build and maintain solid long-term relationships throughout the company; and (3) Work to connect the dots by thinking about and asking these questions: (a) “Why has this issue been a recurring one?” (b) “How many people or departments have an influence over this or play a key role?” (c) “Who truly holds the decision-making power and who are the influencers in the organization?”, and (d) “If others (inside & outside the company) have come up with a solution, why has it not worked?” By talking and listening to others, you will be in a great position to better know and understand the organization and the industry in which it sits. Finally, learn to get along and work well with others and be nice. If you are a jerk, you will have a very hard time providing internal consulting services.


Leading under pressure

Pressure is a goad. Whether it arrives in the guise of a burning platform or a project deadline, a strategic goal or a performance target, a high-stakes deal or an aggressive competitor, pressure can help leaders attain new heights of performance and achievement. You know the adage: no pressure, no diamonds.

Too much work, too little time
by Theodore Kinni
The problem with this pithy observation, attributed to 19th-century Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle, is that it is both true and false. Though pressure can drive outsized results, it can also become an insurmountable obstacle to performance and achievement. It can overwhelm a leader and result in missteps that torpedo companies and careers.

The powerful effects—and vagaries—of pressure were dramatically illustrated during the Tokyo Olympics when gymnast Simone Biles unexpectedly withdrew from the women’s team finals. The extraordinarily talented and seemingly unshakable Biles, who was considered a shoo-in to repeat her 2016 gold medal win in the all-around gymnastics event, cited her mental health. Later, she said that she had been suffering from the “twisties,” a condition that leaves gymnasts disoriented midair and can lead to serious injury. The twisties are thought to be caused by performance pressure and stress, both of which were surely running higher than usual in an Olympics held during a pandemic.

When I mentioned Biles to Dane Jensen, CEO of performance consulting firm Third Factor and author of the new book The Power of Pressure, he suggested that she may have fallen prey to an imbalance in what he calls the pressure equation. Jensen finds that pressure grows more intense across three elements, as the levels of importance (how much something matters), uncertainty (how unclear the outcome is), and volume (how many other demands there are on your time) rise.

Peak pressure moments are riddled with anxiety that leaders need to manage, not ignore.

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“There is a well-accepted and common wisdom that success breeds confidence, and that confidence helps you handle pressure better,” explained Jensen. “My read, without having talked to Simone Biles or knowing exactly what is going on in her head, is that there is a countervailing force to that positive cycle, which is that as you accrue status and visibility, the ‘importance’ piece gets greatly magnified. The stakes expand. They begin to encompass your self-worth and the weight of the 330 million people you are carrying along for the ride.”

Business leaders are subject to this phenomenon, too. As they reach higher levels of the corporate hierarchy, the importance of their decisions and actions grows, and the stakes rise. And like pressure itself, the element of importance is a double-edged sword.

Over the long term, being connected to the importance of whatever you are doing inspires and directs action. As the author Simon Sinek said, “Starting with why” is a powerful motivational force. But Jensen contends that during peak pressure moments, say, a floor exercise at the Olympics or a corporate crisis, “importance can ratchet up to a level that is not healthy and is not a performance enhancer. It is actually something that is a real derailer. [Tesla CEO] Elon Musk is a high-profile guy who has had some fraying during the peak pressure moments but seems to be able to tolerate unbelievable pressure and public scrutiny over the long haul.”

How do you manage importance during these peak pressure moments? The secret is to understand that how you perceive the stakes in any given situation can be controlled. “When you get into peak pressure moments, all you can think about is how important [the stakes are], what you might gain, what you might lose,” said Jensen. “Somewhat counterintuitively, as you approach peak pressure moments, your job shifts from pulling importance close to making sure that you are not carrying it with you into the moment.”

Jensen offers a four-step technique for defusing the stakes in peak pressure moments.

1. Ask yourself what’s not at stake. “What are the things that are going to be there regardless of how the presentation to the board goes?” asked Jensen. “For instance, your family is still going to be waiting for you at home when you get out of this thing an hour from now, regardless of how it goes. That question—what is not at stake?—helps disassemble some of the manufactured importance that we often layer on peak pressure moments.”

2. Avoid the anxiety spiral. Often, leaders exaggerate the stakes in peak pressure moments. “It’s not just the deal that is at stake; it’s [the thought] that if I don’t make the deal, I am going to look like a fraud or like I’m just not good enough to do this,” said Jensen. To counter this tendency, he recommends seeking evidence for the stakes you associate with a challenge, being objective by asking yourself how you would view someone who didn’t succeed in meeting that challenge, and, if you’re still unsure whether a stake is real, giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.

3. Let go of ego-driven stakes. Just as we tend to give leaders too much credit—and blame—for the performance of their companies, so too, do leaders themselves. “You only need to own how you acquit yourself. All the other stuff—share price, revenue, profits—are only partly within your control,” said Jensen. “If it’s only important to your ego, let it go before peak pressure moments.”

4. Gauge what is truly urgent. Manufactured urgency distracts from performance in peak pressure moments. “Urgency is based on the belief that you need to act now, or else,” wrote Jensen in his book. “Ask yourself two questions: 1. What is the worst thing that can happen if I force action now? 2. What is the worst thing that can happen if I delay?” If the answers suggest that a peak pressure moment just feels urgent and could be better dealt with at a later time, give yourself a break and postpone it.

Peak pressure moments are riddled with anxiety that leaders need to manage, not ignore. “Pressure is your friend in these moments. It’s where energy comes from. It’s what gives you the ability to be a better version of yourself,” said Jensen. “The job here is to embrace pressure, and the only way to embrace it is to anticipate the anxiety that comes with it and prepare for it.”


The consequence of stereotyping in the workplace

How toxic language impacts an individual’s mental health.
Mental health can manifest in many different symptoms and behaviours, including (but not limited to) irritability, reckless behaviour, alcohol or drug misuse or the practice of escapist behaviour, such as spending a lot more hours working or obsessing over a hobby.

These behaviours are often a sign that someone is burying their head, along with their mental health, in the sand. Mental health is not limited to the home, and some people may notice someone manifesting these symptoms in the workplace. But do we ever stop to ask ourselves why this might be the case? Why does this individual, perhaps a colleague, not want to confront their emotions or accept their struggle?

Some of the answers exist in the way we have been brought up and the attitudes we have experienced around mental health and wellbeing. The toxic language attached to the mental health of men, for example, ‘crying like a girl’ and ‘grow a pair’ invalidates how an individual may be feeling and insinuates that it is a weakness if they cannot quickly and silently deal with their emotions.

These phrases can worm themselves into our belief systems and alter the way we view and interpret the world for our entire lives. I cannot help but wonder how many of the men who took their lives did so because they felt they could not reach out for support, and instead tried to accomplish something impossible like ‘manning up’ or ‘growing a pair’.

In addition, there appears to be a common notion that not all individuals can experience mental health difficulties. Without doubt, men are not exempt and study after study proves that; one in eight men have a common mental health problem; men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent; a man is three times more likely to take their life, our own research has shown that more than 50% of fathers felt overwhelmed by changes to life due to the Covid-19 pandemic; the Google search volume for ‘men’s mental health charity’ has increased by 40%. It is an extensive list that puts this misconception to bed.

The consequence of stereotyping in the workplace
Research by Samaritans suggests that societal expectations of the ‘role’ of a male – to be strong, to provide, to support – have a huge impact on mental health. It is an idealised view that requires men to not feel, share emotion, or admit to struggling or needing help. In the workplace, it requires men to power through no matter what the consequence is on their health. Plus, any implication that a man is invincible, or untouchable can make an individual feel they do not have a right to ask for help if they need it.

Indeed, this stigma goes some way in explaining why men are much less likely to access mental health services. Research has shown that only 36% of mental health referrals are for men. It also begs the question, if men are expected to do all the providing and supporting, who is providing and supporting them?

To tackle the inequality that exists with male mental health in the workplace, it is important that organisations ditch harmful standards of work-life balance and give men space to express their vulnerability. Admittedly, to create this safe environment a company needs a culture of trust and that is not something that can happen overnight. However, there are some small steps a company can take to create an inclusive, caring, and open culture that can help the men in the workplace feel they have a right to seek support, and language is a good place to start.

We’ve seen that the words around male mental health can trigger low emotion and depressive thoughts. As such, instead of using words and phrases that may result in someone shutting down their emotions, line mangers, HR and employees should look to use terminology that shows compassion and care. As always, it is essential to try to create an open dialogue between the line manager and the employee. Role modelling these behaviours amongst leaders, both with the language they use and by demonstrating that it is safe to be vulnerable, will help build a culture men can open up in.

Everyone in the workplace must stop and take note of the impact toxic language is having on men and those who identify as male. The key here is to encourage every employee to consciously change their approach to how they talk about male mental health. Irrelevant of gender, societal status, or identity, it is critical men are not made to feel ashamed to look after their mind. After all, building an open culture around mental health in the workplace is not just the ethical and moral thing to do, but it makes good business sense too. Ultimately the wellbeing of the employees in the workplace will always have a positive impact on business performance and the bottom line, too.

It is never O.K. to tell someone to ‘man up’. Now’s the time to give men a voice, normalise conversations around mental health and take down the barriers that so often prevent men accessing life-saving support.


Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em: The Ultimate Stay Interview Guide

What happens when a person leaves? Do you know it in advance? In a prior blog, I wrote about the often unknown reasons that blindside employers when a rock star quits. Today, let’s look at taking a more proactive approach: checking in on what it’ll take to keep your stars at your organization.

Great people are hard to find. And can be harder to keep. I recently came across a terrific book, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay, by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. I highly recommend it.

As a leadership and culture coach, I very often work through personnel matters. So when I witnessed the clear and concise thinking from Kaye and Jordan-Evans, I knew I had to share it.

Why Employees Stay

Kaye and Jordan-Evans surveyed over 17,000 employees to learn what conditions will keep an employee with an organization. They call these conditions “stay factors”. Note that these are neither industry-specific nor role-specific, they are universal.

1. Exciting work and challenge

2. Career growth, learning, and development

3. Working with great people

4. Fair pay

5. Supportive management/good boss

6. Being recognized, valued, and respected

7. Benefits

8. Meaningful work and making a difference

9. Pride in the organization, its mission, and its product

10. Great work environment and culture

Interesting tidbit: 91 percent of survey respondents listed at least one of the first two items among the top reasons they stay. I love that challenge and learning is at the top. This is one reason I harp on Individual Development Plans to our clients!

How To Do A Stay Interview

How to do a Stay Interview? You simply ask the employee. Some leaders fear that discussing this topic will open a proverbial can of worms and get the employee thinking about leaving. I disagree heartily. The employee is already thinking of leaving at times, possibly on hard days, when they feel overwhelmed or discouraged, if they’re experiencing tremendous stress in their personal lives. It’s likely only a fantasy about leaving, but why not simply communicate directly about it? It’s refreshing, builds trust, and shows you care.

There’s no ideal time to do a stay interview. The goal is to do it before an employee has one foot out the door. You can do it during a development conversation, when checking in on their development plan, you can do it at year end or at the new year, any time is fine. If you don’t know what their answers might be to the below questions, then it’s time to do now!

Recommended “Stay Interview” Questions From Kaye and Jordan-Evans:

· What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

· What makes you hit the snooze button?

· If you were to win the lottery and resign, what would you miss the most?

· What one thing that if changed in your current role, would make you consider moving on?

· If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change about this department?

· If you had to go back to a position in your past and stay for an extended period of time, which one would it be and why?

· What makes for a great day?

· What can we do to make your job more satisfying?

· What can we do to support your career goals?

· Do you get enough recognition?

· What will keep you here? What might entice you away?

· What do you want to learn this year? How might you learn it?

Be sure to ask “anything else I might have missed?” and use effective listening (ask “what specifically?” and the other questions in the linked blog). And be careful with your responses: don’t dismiss their ideas/input/answers, be curious as to what it’s like to be them. You don’t know, so be an anthropologist studying a fascinating creature. If done this way the interview will deepen connection, loyalty, trust, and ultimately, boost retention.

What You Can Do Now

1. Implement Individual Development Plans – people need to know they are growing and learning. This helps us feel achievement and empowerment at work—which is key. Keep it simple: have the employee and their leader develop it together. If you make it too complex no one will do it!

2. Do regular Employee Engagement surveys so you know how people are feeling.

3. Create a Cultural GAME (Growth, Appreciation, Measurement, Engagement) Plan based on the results from your survey in #2 above. Here’s an infographic.

4. Give Frequent Bi-Directional Feedback so everyone is connected and clear on what’s working and what they’d like to see more of. Here’s an infographic.

The Net-Net

· Stay interviews help you understand how your team members are feeling about their work—it’s essential to stop guessing and start knowing what will keep your stars happy

· Do stay interviews across your organization as needed, during development conversations is a good time

Put the recommended programs in place to maintain and grow the good feelings in your organization. Happy = will stay!


Why Now’S The Time To Open Dialogue With Neurodiverse Employees

until recently, the flexibility to work from home was seen solely as an employee benefit or, post March 2020, a necessity. However, one year of lockdown later, businesses are coming to realise that there is genuine anxiety about a return to co-working spaces. Yet, with many businesses yet to implement any mental health response to the pandemic, the choices they make in terms of the physical environment are even more important and fundamental to the organisation’s employee value proposition.

A New Approach
There are a vanguard of companies who are heading towards 100% flexibility, with the likes of Spotify, SalesForce and Nationwide implementing a ‘Work Anywhere’ strategy, which will enable employees to choose where and how they work. The most common trend for most businesses is towards a structured hybrid model, with employees working from offices two-to-three days a week.

As workforces make the move back to offices, it’s key that businesses engage with their staff to understand their fears and concerns in terms of the practical requirements, safety and mental health impact.

Considering Neurodivergent Employees
In this already complex landscape, it’s vital employers also consider the needs of neurodivergent employees that, statistically, will represent 10 to 15 percent of their workforce, or one-in-seven people.

Whilst some people have thrived working remotely, others have struggled. Additionally, a significant number will be anxious about what the return to offices will mean for them. Remote working has necessitated individualised workspaces, and moving back into a homogeneous office environment will be challenging for many – so now is the time to ask everyone about what adaptations they need.

Caroline Turner at Creased Puddle, which empowers neurodiversity in the workplace, comments: “The return to shared physical work spaces is the perfect time to open dialogue with all employees about what they want and need, and will give businesses the opportunity to identify individual requirements and act on them positively. In turn, this will significantly benefit the overall welfare of employees giving back both a sense of control and connectivity.”

There are several ways in which employers can implement workplace adaptations which can have a genuine impact on neurodiverse team members, with little outlay or effort:

Create quiet zones in the office and allow headphones for noise cancelling and greater concentration.
Agree to flexibility around start and finish times, as some people may benefit from earlier or later working hours.
Where employees have been on-boarded remotely, remember to offer them the same orientation for the office as you would any other new starter. They may have been your colleague for a year but they may still not have seen their desk.
Ensure wellbeing initiatives and work events are inclusive by involving neurodivergent employees at the planning stage.
Vary the dress code and review your old guidelines. The world has changed significantly in the last 12 months, and outdated rules and regulations will only hamper productively and wellbeing.
Ask neurodivergent or neurotypical employees what a good work environment looks like, and work together to make improvements.
What now?
Workplaces have an obligation to prioritise the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff, but by making positive changes and acknowledging all team members’ specific needs, businesses can only benefit in terms of productivity, retention and engagement. So keep talking, continue to communicate and inform, ask questions and take action. It’s that simple.

Source :https://www.thehrdirector.com/business-news/diversity-and-equality-inclusion/why-now-is-the-time-to-open-dialogue-with-neurodiverse-employees/