Highlights from Whitney Johnson interview
TO BUILD AN “A” TEAM, YOU HAVE TO DISRUPT YOUR TEAM.
If you want your company to remain competitive and you want to lower your “about to be disrupted score”, you have to disrupt your people. Humans are learning machines, we like to learn new things, and when we master them, we like to start all over again. A team feeling engaged and challenged at work is more likely to innovate.
MOST EMPLOYEES SAY THEY ARE DON’T FEEL ENGAGED AT WORK.
Worldwide only 15 per cent say they feel engaged. But at WD 40, the lubricating spray company, 93 per cent of employees say they are engaged in their work and 97 per cent are excited about the future of their company. WD 40 practices human disruption, they let their people learn. Three of their senior people started as receptionists and one is the brand manager. Market cap has risen seven-fold to $1.8 billion. Most staff say they can achieve all their career goals by staying at this one company. That’s engagement!
THE KEY IS THE S CURVE OF LEARNING
The S curve normally applied to innovation can also be applied to people. At the bottom end of the curve is the discomfort and excitement of the unknown, at the high end is the mastery. In the middle, on the steep part of the curve is where the magic happens….where employees are happiest, learning quickly and highly engaged. Create a team that is a high functioning collection of S curves with a small percentage at the low and high ends (about 15% at each end) and the majority in the sweet spot in the middle (70%). Low end curvers (and it could be a new CEO) ask questions (“WHY do we do it like this?”) It can be pesky but it’s important. The high enders have mastered what they’re doing but they’ll get bored. They need stretch assignments or a new curve.
HIRE FOR EXPANSIVE POTENTIAL RATHER THAN PROFICIENCY.
When we hire for the most qualified candidate, we choose to shorten the period of high engagement. Write a more open ended job ad, and your new hire will not be overpriced, the pool of candidates is not overpicked, and the new hire appreciates the chance to prove themselves and is hungry to learn. Degree qualifications might be necessary but often they are put in the job ad because it makes us look/feel good. Don’t dust off the job description from two years ago! Look carefully at what job actually needs to be done today.
WE NEED FRICTION, WE NEED SOMETHING TO PUSH UP AGAINST, TO PERFORM.
The danger zone is when people master their job. Bored and complacent people don’t innovate. If you want to know if your company or organisation is at risk of disruption, all you have to do is look at the S-curve percentages. 20-30-40% of people in the master zone at the top of the curve? You’re at risk.
CROUCH BEFORE YOU JUMP.
It works better, doesn’t it? Sometimes the best way to climb the mountain is to move side or back or across or down, knowing that the move will position you with different skills to slingshot yourself into different areas/roles. To go backwards is scary. So, make it scarier NOT to change. “If I don’t let my high potentials move (to a challenge), they might leave. If they stay they’re not going to be engaged and they won’t innovate. And, if they don’t innovate, we’ll be beaten by fast-moving competitors.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Whitney Johnson is named on the Thinkers 50 list, is a CEO adviser and the author of the critically acclaimed Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work (2015) and Build an “A” Team: Play To Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve (2018).
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