Accessing Human Spirit

Podcast with Founder and President of Dalton Alliances, Francie Dalton

Francie Dalton, Founder and President of Dalton AlliancesFrancie Dalton

How To Access the Committed Human Spirit "Let's talk for a minute about how to access discretionary energy in people because if you can do that, you can solve any problem. You can increase productivity even when you're at max. You can find ways to be more efficacious. What we want to do is access the committed human spirit." Francie Dalton

Are you staying awake at night because of business nightmares? Are you frustrated by work that falls far short of your expectations? Does the term "employee engagement" send waves of laughter and sarcastic remarks throughout your organization? Does the expression herding cats, describe teamwork at your company? On some days, do you feel trapped inside an episode of The Office?

Welcome to a Leadership Channel podcast here on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting, and joining us today is Francie Dalton, Founder and President of Dalton Alliances based in Columbia, Maryland. Francie specializes in the communication, behavioral and management sciences. She works with organizations that want to bridge the gaps between where they are and where they want to be to increase products and productivity.

Francie Dalton Podcast Transcript

Are you staying awake at night because of business nightmares? Are you frustrated by work that falls far short of your expectations? Does the term employee engagement send waves of laughter and sarcastic remarks throughout your organization? Does the expression herding cats, describe teamwork at your company? On some days, do you feel trapped inside an episode of The Office?

Welcome to a leadership channel podcast here on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting and joining us today is Francie Dalton, Founder and President of Dalton Alliances based in Columbia, Maryland. Francie specializes in the communication, behavioral and management sciences. She works with organizations that want to bridge the gaps between where they are and where they want to be to increase products and productivity.

Francie, thanks for joining us on TotalPicture Radio.

Francie: Thank you and what a privilege to be here. Thank you.

Peter: Let's revisit my list of business nightmares which actually came from the front page of your website, which is, with some paraphrasing. Let's start with a topic you hear about often, Francie, and that's employee engagement probably because it's so abysmal today.

Francie: Yeah and why do you think that is, Peter? Why do you think engagement sucks?

Peter: Well because people have been beat up for the last 3 or 4 years. They've gone through maybe three or four staff reductions, they haven't gotten raises and all they've gotten is more work and more headaches and more stress.

Francie: And I think what you just described is not only accurate, but I think it also fairly accurately represents an entrepreneur's experience. So I don't think employees are the only ones who have been crushed lately and have had to really work hard to make ends meet and to make things keep going.

What I think is different is the degree to which one's spirit or passion or discretionary energy is engaged because if those things are engaged, you're willing to work 80 hours a week. Both of your little feet hit the floor in the morning. You can't wait to get to work.

So in my opinion, the harsh conditions that we have all been facing the last couple of years are only perceived to be so to the extent we aren't emotionally engaged.

Now here's the thing, each and every one of us as managers has the opportunity and the ability to activate that discretionary energy, to reach it in people. We can do it. It's not rocket science. It's not hard to do that. We just haven't.

It's not in a leadership development program. It's not part of once typical academic experience. It's not something that is typically on once performance review as a manager so let's talk for a minute about how to access discretionary energy in people because if you can do that, you can solve any problem. You can increase productivity even when you're at max. You can find ways to be more efficacious.

What we want to do is access the committed human spirit.

Peter: And how do you go about doing that, Francie?

Francie: It's different for each person. This is what I call versatility. If I could just use a banal example here, this will sear into our memories in a good way so we won't forget it. If I asked Magic Johnson, for example, to walk a tradeshow floor wearing my stiletto heels and I said I don't care if you can get them on your feet or not; do the best you can but it's not optional. I want you to walk that tradeshow floor for the next 4 hours and I don't care if it hurts or makes you bleed. Just do it.

So that is really stupid. That whole example is really absurd, but it's no less absurd than expecting one management style to fit everyone. The art and science of management really is finding a style of management that works for each of the people who report to you. You can't do it in mass anymore. It doesn't work that way anymore. The world has changed. Our workforce has changed. Working conditions have changed. Businesses have dramatically changed and our management styles have not.

So I might be dealing with someone for whom recognition is more important than money. So if I give them more money, that's not going to motivate them. It's not going to activate their discretionary energy. If I give someone a broader span of control when in fact they don't want responsibility then I have not rewarded them, I have punished them.

If I speak to someone who is thin-skinned in a way that is clipped and acerbic, I'm not going to make a connection with that person the same way as if I spoke to them in familial tones that feel as if they're part of my life. These things aren't soft stuff.

I have clients who complain all the time about how much of their mental energy and clock hours, how much opportunity cost is levied upon them as a result of having to negotiate or remediate or neutralize or intervene in squabbles that other people have at work. Senior execs who are vying for the CEO's attention or people who are competing for resources or who are competing for ink in the press; those squabbles, those interpersonal issues come to millions of dollars in lost productivity, in opportunities that went out the window because they weren't ready in what could have been done that wasn't done because they were too busy squabbling.

Peter: You bring up a very interesting point here in that, I think, a lot of the battles that are going on within Corporate America today are resource battles because the dollars are stretched. Everyone is trying to get money for their particular project or what they're working on and it just creates all of this division and animosity within these organizations.

Francie: Yes, and you know there's a lot of data that supports this. For example, one great author is Gary Noesner. He wrote Stalling for Time. He was a hostage negotiator. He just retired from the FBI not long ago, and he was the first person in that profession to observe that not force but persuasion was much more effective, and that the cost in human life and in time to resolve the issue was dramatically reduced by using persuasion.

I'm saying that if we honor the fact that we wear a different shoe size and therefore, need a different management style, and take the time to learn how to make our messages with people resonate then and here's the pearl, in my opinion, increased productivity or commitment to any other business target will become the voluntary choice of your employees. They'll want to do it for you. They'll want to do it because you connected with their spirits somehow and you do that by looking for patterns in their behavior. As soon as you identify patterns in behavior, you can pretty much discern what motivates them.

If you look for what is common in their behavior, you're going to find out that their behavior is predictable. You'll find out what stimulates that behavior and then you can use that information to communicate with them more effectively by so doing, you access their discretionary energy that which they don't have to give you. They can still get an excellent performance review and not give you any discretionary energy; but if you made them want to give you discretionary energy because your management of them resonates with them then guess what, it will take the form of initiative – over time, extra work, anticipatory forecasting, preparation in advance, it will take the form of all that augments and eases your load at work.

Resonant messaging is crucial if you want to access discretionary energy and the way to make your messages resonate is to understand that versatility is the key. It really, really is.

We all have heard ad nauseum about this generation gap so I'm not going to address that except to say the following: There is a gap right now which is growing that creates a void of workers who are 36 to 45, roughly, middle group has gone poof.

Peter: Yeah, the forgotten Gen-Xers.

Francie: So now think about what that means from managers. Who's left? The gray hairs and the young kids. Now, management is hard enough when you are managing people in your own generation, but managers are going to have to straddle that gap and be equally effective in managing baby boomers and millennials. That implies that the complexity of management is going to increase, has already increased.

If we keep on shedding management training as a luxury, if we keep on using an authoritarian command and control, do it because I said so. No bonuses. No resonant messaging. I don't care about you I just care about what you do here. If we keep up with that, we're not going to have staff to manage.

Our managers need to learn how to retain talent and it has to do with making a relationship connection, and I'm not saying that because I'm a female. This is not kissy face, touchy feely, huggy buddy stuff; this is a strategy – it's an imperative strategy for surviving in the future. Your products and services will no longer be producible if you lose your great staff and you will lose them because everybody else is going to poach them (I don't mean that in cooking terms). Companies are going to get poached basically.

This is kind of interesting. If you look at some statistics, you feel like hearing a couple of numbers, maybe.

Peter: I like numbers, yes.

Francie: You like numbers?

Peter: Yes. My listeners like numbers.

Francie: Boy, they're not going to like these numbers. Sorry folks but here's the deal, by 2013 or 2014 which can we just point out is right around the corner – there is going to be a real shortage in this country of degreed. Keep in mind, I'm not talking about the trades at the moment, I'm talking about degreed workers they are just not going to be there, 6 million vacancies. So understand that is net of the talent we import and the jobs that we export. This is a real shortage.

So if you need degreed workers and I need degreed workers and everybody else in the city needs degreed workers and there aren't enough to go around, what are we going to do?

Peter: We're going to open up offices in China and India and that's what's happening, right? I mean that is exactly what's happening because there's a global economy and companies especially… you look at large organizations, they're going where the talent is. It's not just from a standpoint of saving money, it's going where the educated skilled workers with math degrees, with computer science degrees, with engineering degrees are and that is India and China.

Francie: What's interesting is that among the top 30 industrialized nations, we have fallen dramatically from 1st place to 7th place in the number of people who graduate college in the younger age groups. We are now #7.

Peter: And if you put language skills in there Francie, it's even worse because our college graduates do not have language skills for the most part. The ones who have learned Mandarin or Russian or Spanish or any language really have a huge advantage out in the workforce because going back to this whole thing, it's a global economy, folks.

Francie: That's right and sadly I think they don't even know English well. College grads often don't write well, even in English. Let's face, there are a lot of jobs – a lot of them – that do not require us to export the job or import the talent. There are a lot of functions that could be performed here that cannot be outsourced. There are such jobs. What are you going to do to get people to fill them when everybody wants them?

What you're going to do as an employer is let people bring their pets to work. You're going to concierge services. You're going to have elder care services. You're going to have a policy where you will pay for the home office of your employees. Locate where there are gyms. Provide legal services for free or tax services for free or expand the retirement plan, etc. Those are the tools you will use to poach my people and steal them from me, and you will be successful at doing it and I will be in a crisis of survival.

Peter: You know these are already starting to happen. Go to the Google Campus and it's not all about food, it's about flex schedules, it's about the freedom to work on your own projects 20% of your time. There are a lot of things that are going on at Google and Google really has a huge virtual workforce now. Your point of home offices and people working remotely and virtually, the questions millennials asks why do I have to go sit in a cubicle farm; I can do this work anywhere.

Francie: And it's true. The problem is we aren't going to have enough people to do the work and we're not going to be able to import, bring in enough people to do it or to export jobs to get it all done.

There are some industries which are tailor made for those kinds of global operation. There are other kinds of companies that are not tailor made for that. I think that what's crucial here is if we wait until 2014 to figure out what we're going to do to keep our employees, it's going to be too late. We won't make it.

This is a ding, ding, ding, ding moment, people. You really seriously need to start now to develop relationships that bond you and your people. You've got to start doing that because if you don't, you will lose them either because somebody else cares about them more than you do or because somebody else poaches them with bigger, better benefits.

Even if you can't pay them more money, learning more things even if they split their work between the legal department and the accounting department, they're fine doing that but if you put them in a pigeonhole where they can only work where their experience is or only work in the silo that they know about, you're going to lose them as well.

There are so many landmines for losing people and what will leverage your risk better than anything isn't the number of things you have to seduce them with like concierge services. What will hold them to you is your relationship with them, the degree to which you give them opportunity and work that resonates with their spirit, the degree to which you speak to them and interact with them in a way that resonates with their spirit.

Peter: Francie when you go into your clients and sit down with the CEO and you start talking this talk, how do they react?

Francie: I don't think I have any clients if that's where I started the conversation. You've got your finger on the pulse of a really important issue here. For the most part, CEOs (who are my clients) are still in the baby boomer generation.

When they see me speak about this or they read an article I've written about this, I had one CEO actually say to me “If I have to start managing people that way, I don't want to be a CEO anymore.” So you're right, Peter, there's a lot of resistance out there to managing in a way that resonates but here's the striking thing, everything I'm saying, can we just be sexist for a minute together?

Peter: Sure.

Francie: Just for a moment. What I have said so far, kind of sort of don't you think indicates that women will find it easier to manage in this way than men?

Peter: Absolutely.

Francie: So the implication is then isn't it that if men don't learn how to craft resonant messaging given that we're going to be in a crisis of labor, then men are not going to get those management jobs because they won't be able to retain talent.

Hello! Newsflash! Here's the deal, women have learned so much from men and have used it to our advantage and have grown so much as a result of watching you and emulating you and now on this one topic, men are going to have to emulate us because otherwise not just men's careers but the retention rates of their organizations will plummet.

So guys, you've got to start developing this capability. You've got to start learning how to resonate with people's spirits. Management is no longer a transactional function and if you treat it that way, you will be replaced by a female within the next 8 years, okay? If that's what you want, then keep doing what you're doing.

Wake up! Smell the coffee! Read the writing on the wall! Look at the stats from the Department of Labor, from the Bureau of Statistics. I don't care what source you look at, you can validate the numbers I'm giving you. This is serious and it has implications for your careers and therefore, for your family income.

You can blow this off if you want to but you will do so at your peril because it's just a logical progression of facts. We're going to have a quantitative shortage of labor and we're going to have a qualitative shortage of labor.

Peter: I think one of the things that really validates what you're saying here is that you look at a number of organizations now and they are tying bonuses and promotions into employee retention within that manager's department. So what you are saying is absolutely true.

Francie: Let's broaden our focus just a little bit and link back, you had a recent guest on your program that just could not… I mean I must have listened to it three times – Henry Cloud and he wrote Necessary Endings.

Peter: Yes.

Francie: One of the many great points he made was that pruning is essential to the life of rose bushes for example, and he linked it to the need to prune a variety of different ineffective strategies in our businesses.

I would like to link it to pruning ineffective individuals because I think if we aren't willing to prune them out of our organizations, our star performers will leave even if it's a lateral move just so they can hang out with star performers.

Peter: You are absolutely right and you look at why the high pros as recruiters refer to them – the high potentials out there – the number one reason they join a particular organization is because they want to work with the people in that organization. It has nothing to do with the salary or any of that other stuff; it's because there's people there that they know they can learn from and they want to work with.

Francie: You just articulated the truth that baby boomers still don't believe and you are exactly correct when you say it isn't about the money. This is just one of the reasons why I love the title of your program – the voice of career leadership – because career leadership it's a huge topic. It's not just your career, it's the careers of everybody you manage. It's the careers of everybody involved in your business world whether they are your customer, your vendor; career leadership requires that you're ready in advance. In advance.

As Henry was saying, there are times when you have to cut somebody out, but I don't think that the time to make that decision is when you cut them. I think the time to make the decision is before you even bring them on. So here's my little soapbox if I might. For us to lead our careers competently and to help our folks who work with us lead their careers competently, we have to use what I call evidence-based performance measures and you establish them in advance.

This position in this company is the right position for our strategic objectives if the position what and then answer that question in as many ways that you can, a set of specs that should govern what that position should do.

We will be positioned to retain our people – our really great people – if we – and then you answer that in as many ways that you can. If one of those answers is not ‘find out how vulnerable we are,' then something's wrong. We have got to figure out not only where we're vulnerable but whether or not we are well positioned to mitigate that vulnerability because if you're well positioned to mitigate it, then that's a whole different thing than if you're not and if the vulnerability is an important one that threatens your survival as a firm or your market share, then you better be well positioned to neutralizes that vulnerability.

We will be well positioned to neutralize this vulnerability if we… I will know that my employees will be here for the long term if… if part of that answer is not ‘I need to go to them and find out what it takes.' Conduct stay interviews, ask them what it takes to capture their hearts as well as their minds. Let them help me create such an organization.

It's called the FIB question; it stands for Fill In the Blank, and its purpose is to elicit a degree of specificity. It makes it impossible for you not to understand what your employees want, what your customers need. If you ask the FIB question and leave it open ended, you will elicit the information you need to be ready in advance whether you're trying to be ready in advance of an opportunity that you think is emergent, ready in advance of vulnerability that you think is threatening, ready in advance of a major trend that's going to hit you in the face in a few years. It's about being ready in advance.

One of the hopes that I would have for career leadership is that people not just listen to your broadcast, your podcast, but that they listen more than once, that they take notes, that they then ask themselves the FIB question and say alright, well I will be able to implement what Dr. Cloud said, or I'll be able to prevent that from happening to me if I… engage with your buddies about this and brainstorm it together. It's those kinds of provocative questions that engage employees brains and let them feel part of the solution.

Peter: Francie, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us on TotalPicture Radio today. You have really given us all a lot to think about here.

Francie: Well you know what Peter, we do have a lot to think about and thank goodness that you are capturing it from so many places and it's wonderful to have a single source to go to for a broad and deep set of resources.

Thank you for what you do.

Peter: Well, thank you again.

Francie: Pleasure and thank you for having me on.

Peter: Francie Dalton is the founder and president of Dalton Alliances. Their website is

You'll find this podcast in the leadership channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's where we welcome you to voice your opinion on our podcast today.

This is Peter Clayton reporting. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration.

Francie Dalton Biography

Francie Dalton, CMC specializes in the communication, behavioral and management sciences. She works with organizations that want to bridge the gaps between where they are and where they want to be to increase profits and productivity.

Francie's work in the area of leadership development has been featured in Harvard Management Update, CEO Magazine, Investor's Business Daily, American Way Magazine, The New York Post, MSN Money, NY Times, and more. She has been a regular columnist for the Washington Business Journal on issues of leadership, and has appeared on CNN Financial News Network, where she was interviewed about her work in the areas of leadership and performance measures.

A veteran of the Vietnam Era, Francie was trained as a German linguist, spending four and one-half years with the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service. She then took her Masters in Business from Johns Hopkins University, and in 1991, founded Dalton Alliances, Inc., a premier consultancy offering customized assessments, interventions, executive coaching and developmental workshops.

Adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland, Francie taught business management to doctoral candidates from 1994-2003 and is an instructor for the US Chamber of Commerce in the coveted Institute of Management certification course. With dozens of published works to her credit, she is a frequent speaker for corporations and associations, whose clients include scores of CEOs and senior executives throughout the United States.

Her new book, Versatility: The Essential Competence" has just been published by ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership.

14 Tips for Small Businesses to Thrive in a Down Economy

If your thoughts are primarily fear based, if you're envisioning the worst for yourself and your business, if your conversations are focused predominately on bad news, then you're seriously impeding your own success. Instead of giving succor to all the negative blathering, buckle down and determine to take three actions every single day to improve revenue! Here are some suggestions.

  1. Don't you Dare Pick up that Phone Unless it's to Generate Business! Be ruthlessly disciplined about generating business as job one. Any activity that doesn't secure new business should be delegated, or done during non-business hours. Prioritize everything else around this fundamental principle. During business hours, dedicate yourself exclusively to building your business.
  2. Virtually Stalk your Prospects: Describe your ideal client. What types of organizations do they belong to? Join them. What kinds of publications do they read? Read them. What types of events do they attend? Attend them. Differentiate yourself with detective work about your targeted prospects. Research them; tap your network to learn more. This information helps warm up cold contacts, sets you apart from the most others who won't go to this much effort.
  3. Work Backward to Move Forward: If you're tracking important ratios, you know how many qualified prospect meetings it takes to generate one client, and the average sale per client. With only these two pieces of information, you can control how much you sell each month. Determine desired sales volume, then conduct two to three times the number of qualified prospect meetings required to achieve it.
  4. Invite Scrutiny: Whose business acumen do you admire? Who's already successful in your field? Whose clientele does your product or service compliment? Invite these folks to be your Advisory Board. Meet quarterly to gain their advice on you business challenges. Advisory boards impose a level of scrutiny and accountability that both challenge and comfort. Ensure you get unbiased, unemotional, tough truths by not including friends and loved ones on the board.
  5. Your Pipeline is your Lifeline: Never stop prospecting. In good times or bad, keep your pipeline full! Even when you're flush with business, don't get cocky. Realize that if you wait to prospect until you need new clients; it'll be too late to achieve immediate results.
  6. You Lag Before you Bag: The lag time between your first meeting with a qualified prospect and the closing the sale is an essential ratio for managing your productivity. The sales you bag today likely began at least 3 months ago!
  7. Play the Numbers: Whether you enjoy it or not is irrelevant; networking is an imperative. Learn how to do it well. If you want to survive the lean times, you have to network regularly, and focus on helping others. Understand that networking is a numbers game. Play to win!
  8. Don't Pander; Ponder! Showcasing your wisdom without taking time to probe causal factors can be insulting. Instead, honor the complexity of client issues. Be inquisitive about their goals, frustrations, hopes, and struggles. Then construct a matrix of options, and augment this with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  9. Prepare to Bend by Predicting the Trends: Be vigilant about monitoring relevant trends, since they're always in flux. Even more importantly, anticipate and maintain an awareness regarding forces that could affect the trends you're monitoring. Doing so enables you to foresee and adapt to emerging trends before your competitors do.
  10. Don't Defer Getting Referrals: If you're not comfortable asking your satisfied clients to provide referrals, do it anyway! Once you've delighted them, conduct a brief interview to learn what they valued most about working with you. Using this information, draft a brief testimonial for them to edit and print onto their letterhead.
  11. Publicize or Perish: Both credibility and sales increase from publishing articles or books, and speaking on your area of expertise. It's not that hard! Every time you solve a problem for a client, produce an outline the process from start to finish. Then fill in the outline, and voila, you have an article or a speech. Multiple articles can comprise a book. Writing a book is less daunting if you write only one chapter at a time without thinking of it as a book.
  12. Value for Free = Service for Fee: Consider providing an educational session to prospective clients at no charge, but structure the delivery so that they want more. For example, deliver the information you promised to deliver, but make reference to additional, high value information your clients receive.
  13. Don't Attend Conventions without Clear Intentions: Recoup the opportunity cost of attending conventions. Get an attendee list in advance of the meeting, identify and research your targets before you even leave town. Then make it your mission at the meeting to establish contact and engage them. Remember: attendance is not an outcome. Make your attendance result in new business by preparing in advance.
  14. Break it Down to Build it Up: Identify key result areas of your business, such as prospecting, delivery, marketing, speaking, new product development, etc. For each, write out measurable goals each quarter. Break these down into component parts, and include them in your calendaring tool.

No matter how many of these tips you implement, your own outlook and attitude can diminish their effectiveness. Those who prevail in difficult times are the ones who steadfastly refuse to allow negativity to form a barrier to their success – who instead deliberately and diligently take constructive action, thereby refreshing and reinvigorating their minds and their spirits, enabling them to take more action, which refreshes and reinvigorates.

For more substantive tips on how to stay on top, please visit Jay Goltz's article on The Top 10 Reasons for Entrepreneurial Success.

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