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The Secret

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Shows human resource development (HRD) professionals how to measure organizational results within the domains of performance, learning, and perceptions using the effective and efficient Results Assessment System
This widely praised system simplifies the complex issues of assessment, enabling HRD professionals to clearly demonstrate their results
Real-life examples illustrate how the principles work
From the author of Analysis for Improving Performance , winner of the 1995 Outstanding Instructional Communication Award from the International Society for Performance Improvement and the 1995 Society for Human Resource Management Book Award
This book presents a practical guide to building a successful, competitive, and cost-effective HRD practice that meets customers' needs. Results teaches readers a highly effective, easy-to-learn, field tested system for assessing organizational results within three domains: performance (system and financial), learning (knowledge and expertise), and perceptions (participant and stakeholder).
Why measure results in HRD? Because the "corporate school" and "human relations" models of HRD practice, whereby development occurs simply because it is good for employees, no longer works. If HRD is to be a core organizational process, it must act like one and hold itself accountable. Measuring results, particularly bottom-line performance results, is key to gaining support from top management. And those who measure results ultimately find it a source of program improvement and innovation as well as pride and satisfaction.
While Results is theoretically sound, it is firmly rooted in practice, offering a core five-step assessment process that gives readers a simple and direct journey from analysis inputs to decision outputs. Whether they have assessment tools but no theory, theory but no tools, or no tools and no theory, this book will equip them to quickly and effectively assess their results.

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The Opportunity


How can leadership be this hard? One year ago today was the happiest day of my life. I had arrived! Only four years out of college, and my company had moved me into a leadership position: director of corporate client services for the southeast sales region. I knew I could handle the job, because I’d started from our catalog call center, fielding customer requests and complaints. Then I was promoted to a project manager, working closely with sales and our corporate clients. Whatever the salespeople promised our customers, I delivered. And if I do say so myself, I was good at getting our corporate clients what they needed, when and where they needed it. I got all kinds of kudos for developing outstanding relationships with clients. I was sure I could make my staff do the same.

A year ago, I was on top of the world. Today, I’m holding on for dear life and might lose my job. What happened? What went wrong?

With those thoughts, Debbie Brewster pulled into the parking lot at the public library. She knew she could never have an uninterrupted day in the office. Besides, her boss had always encouraged her to take some time every month to step back and Assess what had happened, Affirm what was working, and make Adjustments as needed. She had always been too busy to actually try it, but today was different. Drastic times demand drastic measures.


The Meeting


The following Saturday, Debbie’s husband, John, invited her to play tennis with friends, but she bowed out so that she could work on the mentor-ship application.

“Thanks for the invite, honey, but I don’t want to miss the Monday deadline on this paperwork,” she said. The application contained all the usual demographic questions but didn’t stop there. There were quite a few personal questions and several unexpectedly challenging ones about why she wanted to be in the program. The final question was the one that made her really stop and think.

Debbie suspected that a good answer to this simple, straightforward question would help her get into the program. She worked for quite some time trying to articulate her reply. She felt she should know the answer because being a leader had long been her primary career objective. Yet she had never given the meaning of leadership much thought. Her first few attempts were, by her own standards, awkward or simplistic:

A leader is the person in charge.

A leader is the person in the position that others report to.


The Secret


That night John met Debbie at the door when she got home.

“How was it?” he asked excitedly.

“I’m sorry I forgot to call you,” she replied in a stressed tone that spoke volumes about her day. “The meeting was very good. But when I got back to my office, the place was on fire, and I didn’t have a moment to call.”

“What advice did he give you?”

“None yet.”

“Nothing?” John asked in disbelief.

“Nope. He said he wanted to get to know me and give me a chance to know him. He said we would have time in the months ahead to find the answer to my question about what makes a great leader.”

“So you asked him?” John wondered.

“Yeah. He said it was an outstanding question, and we would explore it together later.”

“So you spent how long getting to know each other?”

“Almost an hour,” Debbie said.

“Wow! What did you learn?”

“I came to two conclusions based on today’s meeting,” Debbie said. “One, Jeff is a good listener. And two, I know very little about the people on my team.”

“What impressed you about him?” John asked.


A Different Approach


Over the next few weeks Debbie worked very hard to serve her team members, although she was not always sure how to do so. Even though many of her attempts seemed insignificant, she could sense a change in her approach to her leadership responsibility and possibly even a change in the team. She made a list of her experiences to share with Jeff at their next meeting.

One of her encounters was particularly noteworthy. Charles was still hanging on for dear life. His performance had improved only slightly since his first month. Debbie felt it would probably be only a few months before she would be forced to let him go. She decided to meet with Charles, ask some open-ended questions, and look for ways to serve him.

“Hello, Charles,” Debbie said as she walked into his office.

“To what do I owe this unexpected visit?” Charles asked, somewhat sarcastically.

“I wondered if we could talk for a few minutes.”

“Absolutely. What would you like to talk about?”

Debbie knew she had his full attention. “As we’ve discussed before, I’m concerned about your performance.”


Where Are You Going?


It wasn’t long until Debbie was scheduled to meet with Jeff again. She was excited to share the ways she had been able to serve since their last meeting.

“Good morning, Jeff,” she said as she walked in carrying a box of his favorite donuts.

“How did you know?” Jeff asked.

Debbie smiled. “I’m learning to listen and observe more carefully,” she said.

“Thank you, Debbie. That was very thoughtful.”

“Jeff, you were right. I discovered that I could serve people regardless of my position in the organization. I made a list just as you requested.”

“Wonderful! Let’s take a look.”

“I bought coffee for my staff. I picked up trash in the parking lot on my way into the office the other day. I listened to two of my team members who wanted to talk about personal problems. I’ve agreed to work with Charles on his skill development as a project manager. There were others, but I think I’m beginning to get it.”

“How’s your team’s performance?” asked Jeff.

“No significant improvement,” Debbie said in a tone that revealed her sense of hopelessness.


What’s Most Important?


Debbie began the new week by working on the questions Jeff had given her. She knew she had not done a good job of Seeing the Future. The only future she was pursuing was keeping up with the sales folks and the client needs. While she knew these were important concerns, she recognized that the SERVE model Jeff had described represented a higher level of thinking and a higher level of leadership.

Numerous leaders who were able to See the Future and provide direction came to Debbie’s mind. Many were historical figures: John F. Kennedy and his desire to put a man on the moon; Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream of harmony among people of all racial backgrounds; Mother Teresa and her vision of comfort for the suffering people of India.

As she thought about creating a compelling vision, Debbie remembered one of Jeff’s first presentations after he arrived at the company. In that talk, he stated his belief that their business was not about selling—it was about serving the customers and meeting their needs. Serving? He talks about serving all the time. And now, he’s teaching me that great leaders SERVE. I get the sense he’s sincere about this concept of serving.


An Engaging Conversation


In the days that followed, Debbie realized that old habits were hard to break. On several occasions, she found herself engaged in all-too-familiar activities: specifically, fighting fires and making decisions that others should or could make. However, she didn’t do these things quite as often, and when she was able to restrain herself, she found that she had more time to think about the questions from her last meeting with Jeff. The more she worked on them, the more excited she became. She felt as though the picture of the future she was creating was generating some passion in her. Plus, as she began to share her vision, she found others wanting to get in on the action as well.

Debbie talked with each member of her team. With their help she was able to develop at least a partial answer to each of Jeff’s questions about Seeing the Future. She was eager to share her insights and progress with him.

The day of their next mentoring meeting finally arrived. As Debbie approached Jeff’s office, she was greeted by his assistant. “Jeff will be about five minutes late this morning. May I get you some coffee?”


An Insight with Impact


As the new week began, Debbie had a fresh take on the world. She even brought some flowers into the office and put them by the front desk where everyone could enjoy them. She had a new-hire interview scheduled for Tuesday. This time she asked Human Resources to give her two meetings with the candidate and to schedule ninety minutes for each session—not her usual thirty minutes. Following Jeff’s lead, Debbie prepared a short list of references for the candidate. She knew that some of the people might not give her an entirely positive reference, but she wanted to be up-front and honest.

On Tuesday Debbie met with the candidate, a woman a few years older than herself. At the end of their meeting Debbie said, “Thank you for your time today. If you’re still interested in the job, I want you to come back for another meeting. I know this is a major decision for both of us, so next time, I want you to interview me. Ask anything you like. Also, I’ve prepared a short list of personal and professional references for you. You may call them if you like, but you are under no obligation. I have to be honest with you, though. Some of these people may not have the most glowing things to say about my past leadership. But I am committed to becoming a great leader, and I see it as a journey. This team is going to do amazing things, and you may be one of the people to help us.”


How Can It Be Better?


The next morning, Debbie called Charles to schedule a meeting. They agreed to meet at 3:00 P.M. the following day. She explained that her primary objective was to help and that to do that, she needed to understand his situation completely.

When she approached his office at the appointed time, she was anxious but optimistic. She believed that this conversation would help her help him. She wanted him to enjoy his work, and she wanted him to be successful.

It turned out to be an upbeat meeting. Debbie did an effective job of framing the issue. She asked open-ended questions and listened carefully. Although they didn’t reach any definitive conclusions, Charles fully embraced the idea of leveraging his strengths. He admitted that he didn’t have complete clarity on his strengths as they applied to his job as a project manager. He committed to think about that. At the same time, Debbie realized that she could help Charles by providing more training and direction.

It seemed to both of them that they had made progress. They agreed to meet again the following week to continue their discussion.


What Is Success?


Back in the office, it was apparent from the smiles, laughter, and banter that morale was on the upswing. Debbie was hopeful that performance would follow. She was still listening as much as possible. She was still actively looking for little ways to serve her team. She was delegating more often, and that allowed her more time to think about the future. She was scouting for talent, rather than just waiting for HR to send her warm bodies. She was investing more time in the interview process, and she was working purposefully to engage the hearts and heads of her people.

At times, it all seemed overwhelming. But in her heart Debbie knew that she was just laying the foundation for bigger and better things. As she prepared for the upcoming team meeting, she really wanted to engage the team in Reinventing Continuously. So she sent an e-mail.

Send to:    Team 7

From:        Debbie

Subject:     Upcoming Meeting

Date:          March 1


Requested  See Below

As you prepare for our next team meeting, please try to identify at least one thing we currently do in this department that you believe we could eliminate with few or no ill consequences. If we are going to accomplish all that we discussed at our last meeting, we must eliminate anything that is not adding significant value to our customers, our team, or our organization. I look forward to hearing your ideas!


How’s Your Credibility?


Planning was now in full swing, and everyone was involved in the process. The members of the team had decided that some of the performance issues they wanted to work on couldn’t wait, so they called a special meeting and determined what they could do to attack these problems immediately. Debbie was proud of them. The initiative was refreshing, and the idea of the team solving a performance problem was amazing. To top it all off, performance continued to improve.

Debbie wanted her team to know how much she appreciated their efforts, so she decided to take them all out to lunch. She had never done this before, but it felt like the right thing to do. They all shared their favorite childhood memories while they waited for the food to arrive. This was Jill’s idea. She said she wanted to get to know more about people than she would typically learn at work. It was just one more reason Debbie felt good about hiring Jill. She could help Debbie and the entire group with the Valuing Relationships idea. She was a natural. It was obvious that she loved people and people loved her. This realization prompted Debbie to invite Jill out to lunch again a few days later.


Serving Leaders


Debbie became more enthusiastic about her team and her work over the next few weeks. She was beginning to see how all of what Jeff was teaching her fit together. As the day of their next meeting approached, she thought about the question she had asked at the end of their last meeting. I wonder who he’ll select as the leaders who best put the principles of SERVE into practice?

On the morning of their meeting, Debbie headed for Jeff’s office with her newfound sense of optimism. I’ve learned so much. This mentoring has been a great experience!

They began by sharing what was going on in their personal lives. From the beginning, Jeff had always expressed interest in her life, both at work and outside the office.

Turning to the business at hand, Jeff asked, “Have you had any fresh insights since our last meeting?”

“Yes, quite a few,” Debbie said with some satisfaction in her voice.

“Like what?”

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

“I learned that the ideas you shared actually work! Also, as I began to think about establishing and living the values of our orga -nization, I realized that ‘if it is to be, it is up to me.’”


Let’s Review


In the days that followed, Debbie reflected on all the things she’d learned during her meetings with Jeff. She realized that her time with him had made a profound impact on her. It had certainly changed her leadership point of view. She would never look at leadership or her team in the same way again.

The team had a new energy and enthusiasm that truly amazed her. The performance of the group continued to improve. The goals they set around creating raving fan customers were very aggressive, yet everybody felt they were achievable. They all believed they could move from “worst to first.” They decided the key would be twofold: first, achieving unprecedented levels of customer service; second, working together as a team—not independently, as had been their custom.

All of these changes are the result of actions that grew out of my discussions with Jeff, Debbie thought. He pushed me to become a different kind of leader, and that has made all the difference. I guess it is true: everything rises and falls on leadership.


Passing the Baton


Debbie excelled in her new role overseeing Leadership Development. The extensive notes she had taken during her time with Jeff became the basis of the leadership curriculum. She used the questions Jeff had given her to design thought-provoking assignments that people could use as they applied the principles of SERVE for themselves.

Debbie’s team not only completed the year without her but ascended from “Worst to First.” They really had created raving fans of both their salespeople and their customers. When Debbie got the news, it was in the form of an invitation from the team to come to a special event to celebrate their achievement.

Debbie showed the invitation to John the moment she got home.

“How does it make you feel that they did this without you?” he asked.

“I feel great about it,” she said with a smile.


“By serving them, I helped position them for success. I feel their victory is, in part, my victory.”

“You also prepared a successor,” John added.

“I sure did. Jill has stepped up and done a wonderful job. I feel terrific about that.”


Appendix: Debbie’s Secret Notes


To envision and communicate a
compelling picture of a preferred future.

The principle behind the practice: Leadership always begins with a picture of a preferred future.

Single-word focus: Vision

• What do I want our organization (team, group) to accomplish? What would that look like? How would we measure our success?

• What do I want to be true in the future that is not true today?

• Why should others care about this preferred future?

• How will we measure our progress?

Caution: Like water in a bucket, vision evaporates and must be constantly replenished—that is, communicated.

To recruit and select the right people
for the right job while creating an
environment where people wholeheartedly
invest themselves in achieving the vision.

• As people’s engagement level rises, so does the probability of success.

• Helping people grow pays huge dividends.

• What do engaged people look like in my context?

• In the past, what factors have led me to be fully engaged?

• Which of these factors are missing in my followers?



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