Jim Harter Show Notes Page
Jim Harter was able to focus and achieve his doctoral degree while working full time. Today, as the Chief Scientist, Workplace for Gallup he leads organizations to be more successful with the changing demands of the workforce.
Jim was born in Iowa and has lived in the Midwest his entire life, nearly all in Nebraska. Jim is the second oldest of six siblings—one older brother, one younger and three younger sisters.
His parents both grew up in central Nebraska and moved the family back to Nebraska from Iowa as Jim was entering 3rd grade to a town about with 3,000 residents called Aurora. He went to middle and high school in another small town called the “Cowboy Capital”—Ogallala, Nebraska.
His Grandfather was a local Sheriff in central Nebraska and father, a Marine Corp veteran, was mayor for many years. Jim learned valuable lessons from his parents and grandparents that would later influence his chosen profession—for one, they were all different and had different things to teach. Some lessons included: the importance of understanding each person, their past and current situation—this planted some seeds for an interest in studying people. The importance of community service and leadership. The importance of having an unpretentious down to earth approach. And the importance of positivity and hard work. His persistent Grandma is 96 years old and going strong!
Jim worked through high school—washing dishes at a local restaurant and then a cook. After high school graduation, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska. Had many jobs during college—ranging from hauling gas to local farmers, changing oil in cars, throwing hail bails and hauling irrigation pipe on relatives’ farms.
Jim completed the first college degree in his family, in business administration in 1986.
During the last year of his bachelor’s degree, he had a fortuitous turn of events. He signed up for several internships to gain some hands-on work experience. One of the internships was with an organization called Selection Research, Inc.—a family owned research organization started by Don Clifton, later named the father of strengths-based psychology by the American Psychological Association. This internship led to an invitation to work with Don and colleagues on personnel research—studying the innate talent of top performers in many different types of jobs and the study of productive work environments. Jim was then inspired to expand his skills and completed his masters and PhD in psychological measurement while working full-time at SRI, which later merged with and took on the name of Gallup.
Jim is now the Chief Scientist, Workplace for Gallup. He has led more than 1,000 studies of workplace effectiveness, including the largest ongoing meta-analysis of human potential and business unit performance. He is the bestselling author of 12: The Elements of Great Managing and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements and the co-author of It’s the Manager with Gallup’s Chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton.
Jim and his wife RaLinda live in the Omaha Nebraska area and have two grown sons—Joe and Sam. RaLinda and Joe also work at Gallup. Sam is completing his degree. The family loves sports and has had a chance to travel a lot together over the years.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“The science of management has advanced significantly in recent decades.” – Click to Tweet
“We know a lot about what should be done, but when it comes down to it, it’s not getting applied on a daily basis.” – Click to Tweet
“Well intentioned systems have been put in place over time, but we haven’t taken into account human nature.” – Click to Tweet
“We’ve got to think about human nature when we’re trying to apply these principles.” – Click to Tweet
“Today’s worker is demanding a culture shift from boss to coach.” – Click to Tweet
“Culture is built locally.” – Click to Tweet
“The manager’s own engagement affects the engagement of the team.” – Click to Tweet
“The key to building a productive culture, starts with the manager endorsing it.” – Click to Tweet
“The importance of the manager and the complexity of management is even greater.” – Click to Tweet
“Managers have to be very purposeful about connecting people.” – Click to Tweet
“Half of it is who you pick to be your leaders and the other half of it is how you develop them.” – Click to Tweet
“How we get things done is through people and through managers who really become experts at individualizing.” – Click to Tweet
“It seems complicated that we’ve got to individualize, but it’s not so complicated if we get the right people managing them who think in terms of individual differences.” – Click to Tweet
“Everybody at some point in time is going to leave an organization and I think we need to be thoughtful about how that happens.” – Click to Tweet
“What happens in an organization goes external very quickly, so the employment brand is really your real culture.” – Click to Tweet
“When people leave what do they say about you?” – Click to Tweet
“We need to change the mentality from getting work done through people to getting people done through work.” – Click to Tweet
“As managers, we have to think about how we’re very intentional about becoming an expert first on who that person is and develop them through who they are.” – Click to Tweet
“We need to expect everybody to be thinking about how they develop people around them by using their own strengths.” – Click to Tweet
“An organization that is thriving in the future, it will be one where everybody is participating in leading change.” – Click to Tweet
“The principles that go into a good engagement metric have to be filtered into the learning development, performance management, everything that’s happening continuously.” – Click to Tweet
“Simplify what you present to people. Get down to the core essence.” – Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Jim Harter was able to focus and achieve his doctoral degree while working full time. Today, as the Chief Scientist, Workplace for Gallup he leads organizations to be more successful with the changing demands of the workforce.
Advice for others
Simplify what you present to people. Get down to the core essence.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Continuing to figure out what I do best.
Best Leadership Advice
Know yourself first and be authentic to yourself.
Secret to Success
The team I work with.
Best tools in business or life
I keep lists. Develop list and check off accomplishments.
Contacting Jim Harter
Resources and Show Mentions
Show Transcript:Click to access edited transcript
231: Jim Harter: Don’t focus on my weaknesses
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader podcast where we uncover the leadership life hacks that help you to experience, breakout performance faster and rock it to success and now here’s your host customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
Jim Rembach Call Center coach develops and unites the next generation of call center leaders. Through our e-learning and community individuals gain knowledge and skills and the six core competencies that is the blueprint that develops high-performing call center leaders. Successful supervisors do not just happen. So go to Callcentercoach.com to learn more about enrollment and download your copy of the Supervisor Success Path e-book now.
Okay Fast Leader legion, today I am totally excited because I have somebody who really is leading the way and giving us some very important evidence associated with what does it take in order to have a high-performing organization from the inside. Jim Harter was born in Iowa and has lived in the Midwest his entire life nearly all in Nebraska. Jim is the second oldest of six siblings, one older brother one younger and three younger sisters. His parents both grew up in central Nebraska and moved the family back to Nebraska from Iowa as Jim was entering third grade to a town with about 3000 residents called Aurora. He went to middle school and high school in another small town called the cowboy capital, Oglala, Nebraska. His grandfather was a local sheriff in central Nebraska and father a Marine Corps veteran was mayor for many years. Jim learned valuable lessons from his parents and grandparents that would later influence his chosen profession, for one they were all different and had different things to teach.
Some lessons included the importance of understanding each person, their past and current situation and this planted some seeds for an interest in studying people the importance of community service and leadership the importance of having an unpretentious down-to-earth approach and the importance of positivity and hard work. His persistent grandma is 96 years old and still going strong. Jim worked through high school washing dishes at a local restaurant and then a cook. After high school graduation he enrolled at the University of Nebraska. He had many jobs during college ranging from hauling gas to local farmers changing, oiling cars, throwing hay bales, and hauling irrigation pipe on relative’s farms.
Jim completed his first college degree and it’s family in Business Administration back 1986. During that last year of his bachelor’s degree he had a fortuitous turn of events, he signed up for several internships to gain some hands-on work experience. One of the internships was with an organization called selection, research Inc., a family owned research organization started by Don Clifton later named the father of strengths-based psychology by the American Psychological Association. This internship led to an invitation to work with Don and colleagues on personnel research studying the innate talent of top performers and many different types of jobs and the study of productive work environments. Jim was then inspired to expand his skills and completed his master’s and PhD in psychological measurement while working full-time at SRI which later merged and took on the name of Gallup.
Jim is now the chief scientist to workplace for Gallup. He has led more than 1000 studies of workplace effectiveness including the largest ongoing meta-analysis of human potential and business unit performance. He’s the best-selling author of 12: The Elements of Great Managing and Well-being: The Five Essential Elements and is the co-author of Its The Manager with Gallups chairman and CEO Jim Clifton. Jim and his wife RaLinda live in the Omaha, Nebraska area and have two grown sons Joe and Sam. RaLinda and Joe also work at Gallup and Sam is completing his degree. The family loves sports and has had a chance to travel a lot together over the years. Jim Harter are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Jim Harter: I’m ready Jim, thanks for the intro.
Jim Rembach: I’m glad you’re here. I’ve given my Legion a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?
Jim Harter: Well, my goal in the work that we do here at Gallup is to is to improve lives while we improve performance, so everything kind of fits into that realm. I’m a researcher so I try to make research as practical as possible. One of my goals is to simplify it to go in deep but then to bring out some simple principles that people can apply easily.
Jim Rembach: I have to ask Jim, I have had the opportunity to go through—and you talk about it really isn’t a book it’s a desk reference and it does have so much insight and the appendices are full of research that you’re referring to. I have to think even though we have all this empirical evidence this data that is giving us very solid proof on what we should be doing it seems like there’s a huge disconnect when we try to apply it. And then it’s almost like emotion or laziness or something takes over and we forget all of this proof. Why do you think that is?
Jim Harter: You’re right. The science of management has advanced significantly in recent decades and so we know a lot about what should be done but when it comes down to it it’s not getting applied on a daily basis so there’s kind of a gap. I think it has to do with the system’s well-intentioned systems have been put in place over time like some of the performance management systems were it seems right to give someone an annual review but when we get to the annual review and we don’t do all the things before the annual review like the ongoing conversations the annual really loses credibility. And so we put in systems that we think seem fair but we haven’t taken into account human nature in my opinion and we’ve got a we’ve got to leverage human nature when we’re thinking about applying these scientific principles.
Jim Rembach: As you’re talking I’m thinking about this it’s almost like talking about productivity, are we still transforming and trying to move away from the Taylorism that we have essentially built our society upon when it comes to productivity and manufacturing and now that we’ve going more into this service and knowledge work we have not left that yet. Is that kind of what’s happening here that transition or transformation?
Jim Harter: I think that’s the transition we’re going through now so command and control has worked to some extent. It hasn’t always been great for people but it’s worked in terms of getting big buildings built and infrastructure you can see how the architecture arises. I was at an architecture conference last week you see all the amazing architecture around the world a lot of it came through command and control. I’d argue even in the past it would have been better to have been utilizing a coaching kind of relationship with people and move from a culture of boss to coach that’s really what people want. But today’s workforce is kind of demanding that they’re asking for a culture of that moves from boss to coach. They don’t want a manager who’s focused on their weaknesses or at least becomes an expert on their weaknesses they certainly want to improve and develop we all do but they want it based in strengths based in knowing who they are individually.
Jim Rembach: One of the things with that transformation that becomes a critical pivot point, I call it a linchpin, is something that you reference very early on in this desk reference. And this is how you actually state it and it says, –the single most profound distinct and clarifying finding ever in all of the research going back 80 years with the founder of George Gallup is probably this one thing and that is 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager–elaborate on that a little bit.
Jim Harter: Yeah, we have been studying the engagement of workers for a couple decades now, formally, we’ve collected a lot of data on job attitudes prior to that. But one of our observations was that across these 40 million people and four million teams there’s massive variation in how engaged workers are even within the same organizations. In fact, there’s 70 % as much variation in any one organization in general as there is across all organizations that shows you how much. You go into any organization you see massive variance across teams that gives you some insight into first, there’s a point of intervention and that’s at the manager-level, culture is kind of built locally we will—all organizations to one ab overarching culture that supports their intentions whether it’s an agile culture, culture of diversity inclusion, whatever that might be but it really happens at a local level. What we did is we studied a lot of different elements that might explain that variability and it really kind of comes down to the managers own engagement affects the engagement of the team and how the team perceives those manager behaviors whether they think positively about that manager whether that manager’s doing some things that inspire them. And then we also looked at the innate traits or tendencies of the managers and all those things combined explained about 70 % of that variance. It doesn’t mean the manager is the only element that matters but the manager sets a tone, the local manager. It’s really the local manager at all levels starting with the executive team on to middle managers and then on to the frontline that’s where you explain most of the variability. Really the key to building a productive culture of whatever type you’re trying to build starts with the manager endorsing it and kind of interpreting it for their local team and helping that team know that what they’re doing affects the rest of the organization. It also has a lot to do with whether teams cooperate with one another or not.
Jim Rembach: So this whole silo mentality and all of those things as far as us versus them when it’s internal—you’re talking about all that, just feeding one another. The statistic that we’re talking about saying how 70% of the variability is really impacting it I start thinking also about these changing demands in the workforce you got alluded to it a moment ago but you actually have a very simple chart talking about past and future. You talked about in the past people thought my paycheck, now they are thinking—really it’s today it’s not just future. It’s my purpose that they’re focusing in on, in the past it was my satisfaction now it’s my development. It used to be my boss now it’s my coach, you’ve already talked about that you hit on that. And then it was my annual review, you did hit on that, now it’s an ongoing conversation about that development, it used to be my weaknesses now we want to focus in on my strengths and it used to be my job now it’s my life and we have now more of that blended approach. Is it that we could see as we’re going through this transformation that 70% getting even higher?
Jim Harter: It’s possible in fact I would argue from all the data I’ve had a chance to look at and our team’s looked at that 70% is pretty conservative even right now that in most environments the manager has even more than 70% influence. But if you think about how the workforce is transitioning with technology now and our working life are blended the importance of the manager and the complexity of management is even greater. Because you’ve got people there in remote situations we can be really well-planned in terms of how we do things remotely where people know what they’re expected to do they might have a box of materials they give them exactly what they need to do their work all well planned out but yet what’s missing in that kind of situations are the connections that we get when we’re at work. So managers have to be very purposeful about connecting people that ups the end a little bit in terms of what managers need to bring to the table. In a matrix organization which there’s a lot more matrix environments now where people work on multiple teams, maybe even have multiple team leaders, in that setting there tends to be more collaboration because people just have more chances to collaborate but expectations are at risk. So, what do I do first? Managers can of help you think through those priorities on a more continuous basis and not just revisit them at the end of the year. The manager has to be in the action with the employee so to speak and know what’s going through their life to help them re-establish priorities and set them on a more continuous basis. So the demands and complexity of management is even greater. So you point Jim, I think you’re right that that percentage could continue to go up.
Jim Rembach: In addition to that I started thinking about how people are being developed before they even hit the workplace. Going back our school systems they were—the Prussian school system that was designed to create that productivity worker to fit in the Taylorism world, we don’t have that anymore. So I think for organizations thinking that they’re just going to find talent that is capable of taking that leader role of today, not just tomorrow, it’s extremely difficult they’re going to have to develop them and it needs to be part of the inherent nature of working in an organization that they’re developing these skills within these leaders.
Jim Harter: Yeah, most organizations aren’t in a position unless they’re just growing very quickly to just change out all of their managers they’ve got to have a development strategy around that. There are more efficient development strategies than others and we can talk about that if you want but I would argue from everything that we’ve had a chance to look at about half of it is who you pick, how you select the people who become your people managers or leaders and the other half of it is how you develop them and they’re both extremely important you have to be working on both. Every next decision has to be the right one. A lot of that comes back to how you build a culture about giving individual contributors esteem and status to be great individual contributors if that’s the right fit for them and give people the right kinds of experiences so they know whether they really want to manage people or not some people once they get into it it’s not good for them or the people they manage. They can still learn a lot and get better through the right development and education but that selection piece is also important.
Jim Rembach: I think you bring up a really important point. I always talk about that people have a misconception thinking that growth means I have to take one step up a vertical ladder or rung in the organization that isn’t the case. Having a bigger base of skill and staying where you are and growing within that spot there’s a lot of significance and value for an organization in that. I think we need to redefine—what mastery, what responsibilities what leading actually is.
Jim Harter: I agree. The first step really is what are going to accept overall in our organization as the job demands of a manager or team leader and that people component has to be a heavily weighted in there. How we get things done is through people and through managers who really become experts at individualizing that everybody’s kind of trying to target some outcomes that they’re trying to get to as an organization. We can all set really clear objectives and outcomes that are aligned with what the organization is trying to get done but each person’s going to get theirs in a somewhat different way. The best that seems complicated that we’ve got to individualize across thousands of people in an organization. But it’s not so complicated if we get the right people managing them who can actually think in terms of individual differences and also giving them some tools as shortcuts to get there more quickly. It’s both kind of getting the right people and giving them the right tools I think.
Jim Rembach: As part of that you refer to the employee experience in the book and for me it’s kind of like that journey that can be individual. It could be frameworks and it could be a path that people can go through but knowing that not everybody is going to like you say, go down that path at the same rate of acceleration, velocity is different and the individuals involved with velocity. So you talked about attracting, hiring, onboarding, engaging, perform and develop, and then also you say depart. I found it interesting that you would say depart, why do you say depart?
Jim Harter: Well, everybody at some point in time is going to leave an organization and I think we need to be thoughtful about how that happens well before you get to that stage. Is somebody actually developing when they’re departing that’d be the best case because then they become an advocate for your organization and your brand. One of the things we’ve found with the employee experience is that with technology now what happens in an organization goes external very quickly. So, the employment brand really is your real culture it’s not something you just advertise anymore it’s something that has to really be lived out. And that happens at departure also, when people leave what do they say about you? And whether it’s for retirement and how you set them up for that in the right kind of way or whether it’s going to another job where they might be able to get to the next level in terms of where they’re trying to get in their career that just is a better fit for them.
One element of that is just helping people know what they contributed. Outside of people that might do something unethical you want everybody to know what they contributed to your organization if they’ve been there for a significant amount of time at all and in how they helped your organization get better. Usually people leave they never hear about that or they don’t even have a chance to talk to their manager about leaving before it happens and it just happens.
The other thing about departure on the downside is that about half of people tell us at some point in their in career they’ve left a job because they had a bad manager, there’s that too, though that again speaks to the importance of the manager. But all those phases you discussed, Jim, are essential to get that last piece. Right not that we’re targeting departure but we’re really targeting development and performance. The other thing about that particular employee experience framework is that most people will be able to accept that the attraction part happens in every organization the hiring part happens some form of onboarding happens but the middle stuff, I just kind of say that’s where stuff happens and we don’t have a good system about how the stuff happens appropriately in terms of performance management engaging them developing them, are they developing through their performance? Are we getting people done through work or getting work done through people? That’s something that Don Clifton talked a lot about that we need to change the mentality, he was my mentor for 17 years, you discussed him in the intro, he said, we need to change our mentality from getting work done through people to getting people done through work. If we think about it that way we’re going to build the right kind of employment brand.
Jim Rembach: Speaking of Don Clifton influence, you also have mentioned the shortcut to development. You talked about the strength based conversation in chapter 14 and you start that chapter out with a particular quote that obviously is influenced by him it that maybe didn’t even come from him. It says, if you’re a manager you have to ask yourself, am I an expert on my team member’s weaknesses or on their strengths?
Jim Harter: Our default, unfortunately, as human beings is it’s really easy for us to notice what’s wrong. That probably has something to do with why we’re still around as a species, we can avoid danger we can sense danger pretty quickly we can fix stuff pretty quickly. So, we have to kind of change our mentality and leverage another part of human nature which is all of us have a desire for recognition we all have a desire to know what we do best and to be in a position where we can continuously develop our strengths. And so as managers we have to think about team leaders we have to think about how we’re very intentional about becoming an expert first on who that person is and develop them through who they are as a starting point and not try to cookie-cutter everybody into a particular way of getting things done. That’s maybe one of the best learnings that I’ve had over the years is that you’ve got to be authentic to yourself and your manager. If they understand who you are they can help you be authentic to yourself and develop skills that complement who you are and still get to the same kinds of outcomes that someone else might get to in a somewhat different way.
We did a study where we asked people to relive their previous work days and we had them tell us what they did during that day how they spent their time whether they enjoyed what they were doing and what we found is that people who were highly engaged reported four times as much time using their strengths as doing activities that they don’t do too well. As to four to one ratio the people who are actively disengaged, these are people that are pretty angry at the place they work at their organization, for them it was a ratio of one to one, strengths and what you don’t do well. If these managers and team leaders we think that strengths and weaknesses is a balancing act of some kind we’re kind of off track because the weakness stuff stings so much you need that four to one. If you’re focused on someone’s strengths continuously you’re also building trust so you can have those candid conversations with them on an ongoing basis you can be very open in terms of your dialogue and people don’t feel as threatened.
Jim Rembach: As you’re talking I started thinking about that expectation setting component. Because a lot of times you talk about where we have opportunities for improvement to make a difference a lot of it is that expectation piece. In chapter 17 you talk about the right expectations that there’s seven that are necessary for success in any role, which I found interesting, and you elaborate within this chapter about what how it does impact any role. However, those seven are: build relationships, develop people, lead change, inspire others, think critically, communicate clearly, and create accountability. And you’re saying every single role every single level all parts the organization so I have to go back to that whole—are we talking about matrix organizations? Is there a particular type or is it truly universal?
Jim Harter: We reviewed hundreds of different competency models in our own past work over decades and studying the job demands of various roles and those hundreds of different competencies all folded into these seven. We would argue—I know it’s a little bit of a hump for some people to get over to think that everybody in every role should be developing people should be leading change should be inspiring others. But if we think about starting with their strengths if we all, and we’ve actually mapped this out, so if we think about the strengths that we each have individually and how we might apply them to these we can all get better at each of these seven and I think in the new workforce that’s coming. In some cases it’s already here we need to expect everybody to be thinking about how they develop people around them by using their own strengths.
Maybe that’s through their analytical approach maybe it’s through the relationships they build. But if we think about an organization that that is thriving in the future it’ll be one were or everybody’s participating in leading change. Whether that’s just endorsing it as an example and people see that you’re endorsing it or whether it’s more vocal that’s going to depend on the person as well. Now that said the managers and team leaders at each level the organization, the ones who set the tone for all this, that they can certainly expect everybody that they work with no matter what their role is to be thinking about how they get better at each one of these.
Jim Rembach: And so that kind of leads up to—talking about the five coaching conversations and so those five coaching conversations are part of that making it come to life and having it to be executable. Part of this is talking about that empirical evidence says that almost half of employees report that they receive, feedback from their managers only a few times or less in the past year and what’s more only 26 % of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do their work better. Okay, what are we talking about? Those five conversations are about role in relationship orientation, quick connect, check in, developmental coaching and then progress reviews. So it’s that constant touch and that development piece and that past path piece and the acceleration piece it’s that individualism that you’re talking about. And then you talk about the best progress review, is that we’re talking about my purpose, my goals, my metrics, my development, my strategy, and my team. Now you had mentioned a little while ago talking about that whole hierarchical parts of an organization and when we start thinking about learning and development a lot of times it’s just reserved for those people at the executive level it doesn’t really filter down to that frontline leader.
I mean, it’s the trickle-down effective leadership skills just does did not happen, right? But when you start talking about the frameworks that are necessary, it’s right here I mean this is just a simple very executable framework that everybody can actually leverage regardless of where they are in the organization and it becomes part of my cadence of leading. And I think ultimately when we put all of this together it leads to something that you have that talks about really the micro economic paths. And so for me this is where the customer experience and all that comes into play. We talked about today’s work, the experience economy, impacting a customer, retaining a customer, influencing a customer to refer is that ultimately this goes from identifying strengths, the right fit, great managers, engaged employees, engaged customers, sustainable growth, real profit increase, and then if you’re publicly traded stock increases. I have to start thinking about how many organizations, talking about this research that you’ve done, are really making that micro economic path part of what they’re doing so that it has positive impact?
Jim Harter: I think most organizations now are well-intentioned in terms of attempting it but I think they’re doing it through, let’s just call them programs. Let’s just take employee engagement for instance, in most organizations I’ve observed it’s like an annual event it’s kind of a synonymous with the emp