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Friday, October 17, 2014

Global States of Mind: A Report Card for the World

By Jon Clifton, Managing Director, Gallup World Poll

Well-meaning economists and political scientists use indicators such as GDP, household income, and unemployment data to make all kinds of predictions about countries. They apply classical, rational economics. But in doing so, they miss the most important dimension: how people are feeling. Not just how they’re feeling about their lives, but also whether they feel safe, can afford the food their families need, and even whether they plan to move away from their communities.

Over nearly 10 years, Gallup has built a database on how people’s lives are going by engaging the best experts in the world on that missing dimension.

Our process for quantifying what people are feeling is similar to labor force surveys that report unemployment. But instead of asking people, “Do you have a job?”, we ask them to rate their lives on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the worst possible life and 10 being the best possible life. We then roll up the results and give each country an overall score.

You’ve undoubtedly heard many of these results: Denmark typically has the highest life evaluations in the world, for example; Syria has among the worst. But there are others that you might not have heard about. One of the richest countries in the world also has reported some of the lowest positive emotions on Earth. That country? Singapore.

Over the past decade, attitudes toward this type of research have admittedly been mixed. Some international organizations, such as the OECD, UNDP, and the World Bank, have incorporated well-being data into their research, while others see it as soft “happiness” surveys that shouldn’t be used for policy. But one graph, which plots GDP per capita and life evaluations in Egypt before the Arab Spring, has become a leading example of why leaders should take this information -- how people are feeling -- more seriously.


No economic models, nor think tanks, nor billions of dollars in U.S. intelligence successfully predicted the world-changing Arab Spring. While those well-intended models knew exactly what the people were spending and transacting, they didn’t know what they were thinking or feeling.

In 2005, Gallup set out to systematically track how people were feeling in every country in the world.
On Friday, Gallup and the Meridian International Center launched the Global States of Mind 2014 report, which provides a high-level overview of the countries that scored the best and the worst for life evaluations, safety, food access, institutions, jobs, and whether residents are planning to leave their communities. It’s our attempt to fill in the gap on how people all over the world are feeling.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Being a Female Leader in the Male-Dominated Field of Technology

By Melissa Gearhart Moreno

I work in Technology Infrastructure at Gallup, a stimulating and rewarding career in a multitude of ways. As Executive Director of Infrastructure and IT Security for Gallup, I lead systems administrators, database administrators, security analysts, and helpdesk associates supporting all of Gallup’s global systems and data. It’s also the case that my division is 96% male -- only three of 75 associates are women, including me. How did I choose a career in such a male-dominated sector? My story is unique, but it doesn’t have to be. 

I have always been surrounded by more men than women. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska where my class had six girls and 12 boys. I then attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned degrees in Economics and Management Information Systems, one of a few women that chose those areas of study. Although some women are uncomfortable in majors or careers that are male-dominated, I always excelled in school and was encouraged by my parents, teachers, and professors to pursue science and math-related studies. Upon graduation, I joined a top accounting firm as a technical consultant and later a Fortune 100 company as a software developer.

During my career, I have been fortunate to have strong female mentors that concentrated on my strengths and helped me develop my leadership skills. These women were strong leaders themselves and took an interest in my career. They helped me identify projects that could grow my technical and leadership expertise, earning additional responsibilities, compensation, and promotions along the way.

I joined Gallup six years ago under a fabulous Chief Information Officer who is a champion of women in technology. Over the years, I increased my responsibility at Gallup, eventually finding my home in the Infrastructure division, a very male-dominated area. The CIO took a chance at introducing someone into this well-established, long-tenured team that was so different from the individual team members. But my different viewpoint and experiences have been beneficial to the team. I am usually the only woman in a meeting -- there is even an audible difference as I walk into a room and my heels clack on the tile -- but my team’s culture is based on mutual respect and consistent excellence, not appearance or background. As a division leader at Gallup, I report to a female Chief Operating Officer who has years of experience mentoring female executives. 

My story is unique, but it doesn’t have to be. Young women need to receive the same encouragement I did when they have innate aptitudes in science, technology, and math. They need to see other women in these roles so they, too, can picture themselves as scientists, technologists, and engineers. They need to learn basic computer programming skills in junior high and high school so they get excited about technological careers before they decide that female-oriented jobs would be more comfortable. They need parents and teachers to discuss starting salaries and lifetime earnings with them, so they select careers that are not only based on their interests, but that will also provide them with the lifestyle they want.

Technologists within businesses have complex problems to solve -- how to optimize supply chains, how to create business intelligence out of data, how global teams can collaborate in meaningful ways. Women can help solve the hard problems businesses face because they approach problem solving differently than men; they bring different life and professional experiences to the table, and they provide new perspectives to old challenges.

Employers benefit from encouraging young women to explore male-dominated fields as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that technology jobs will grow more than 20% over the next decade, but we will not have enough college graduates to fill these jobs if current trends continue. Women represent less than 20% of computer and information science graduates, so there is a huge untapped population of future IT professionals to help fill that gap if businesses can steer young women and girls in this direction early in their career decision-making process.

I am confident I was placed in my leadership role in a very male-dominated area not because I was a woman, not in spite of the fact that I was a woman, but because I was capable of leading this division, and I just happened to be a woman. The circumstances of my upbringing helped me feel comfortable and capable in a male-dominated technology field. Parents, teachers, and business leaders need to help our girls and women develop this same comfort and capability in male-dominated fields to develop our daughters, our businesses, and our economy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Women, the Workplace, and “A Life Well Lived”

By Jane Miller, Chief Operating Officer

We have all read the blogs and books about how women aren’t advancing in the workplace, from the lack of women in leadership positions to the issue of equal pay for equal work. Let’s examine the accepted conventional wisdom, the statistics, and deconstruct what it all really means. 

First of all, most of the metrics and headlines on this subject refer to the largest, publicly-held, for-profit companies in America, also known as the Fortune 1000. 

So, while the media and others tend to focus on the largest 1,000 companies, the U.S. has more than 6 million businesses. These stats on workplace gender inequality rarely reference nonprofits or small businesses. In addition, depending on the industry, women can range from 5% (in utilities, heavy industry, and railroads) up to 93% (in women’s retail) of a company’s total associate base.

Any way you slice it, businesses with an employee base that is less than 50% women need more women in their workforce, and at every level, to truly have a well-run business.

Given the seeming inequality, we then have to examine if it is the organizations that are not employing enough women, or if it is that women are not choosing these organizations? In my opinion and experience as a chief operating officer, it is both. 

Integrating “A Life Well Lived” Into Corporate Culture

What is a woman’s definition of success or “a life well lived,” and is that the same as a man’s? What’s more, do these align with a corporation’s culture?

When Gallup analyzed its five largest data sets, including World Poll data from 160 countries around the world, employee engagement, and well-being data right here in the U.S., we found that men and women alike define well-being or “a life well lived” as five elements, consisting of the following:

  • Their purpose for what they do every day
  • Their social interactions 
  • Their financial well-being 
  • Their physical well-being 
  • Their community well-being 
When we break down the data by gender, we find that women are four percentage points more likely than men to be thriving in well-being, and that’s significantly higher. 

Women today are doing something right, whether they are working in the home, outside the home, part time, full time, or as volunteers. Even if we don’t fit into those statistics or someone else’s definition of what we should be doing, we are still doing something right.

When we look at Gallup’s data on employee engagement, we find that women actually have slightly higher overall engagement than men, so women aren’t more dissatisfied with their jobs than men are, and they aren’t feeling left behind -- it is a level playing field.

Women’s Strengths and How They Compare With Men’s

However, what I found to be most intriguing, and what perhaps begins to depict why women choose different work from men, is what we found in our strengths database, representing more than 11 million people from around the world. 

Men and women share the same four most frequently named top five strengths: Responsibility, Learner, Achiever, and Relator.

So what differentiates us? On an aggregate basis, men more often have Strategic and women are more likely to have Empathy in their top five. Now, let me be clear, I know a lot of women with Strategic and several men with Empathy -- what matters most is who the individual is and not the aggregate. However, the aggregate statistics begin to show us how society views us and how we play or work together.

Another intriguing strength statistic is that men tend to lead with Achiever while women tend to lead with Responsibility. Could this be because we were raised differently in our respective gender roles, or because our expectations for work or our definitions of a life well lived differed from the outset?

Do genetics and strengths determine our work choices, or is it society or our immediate families who influence them? These are important question as they relate to our workplaces, businesses, and to the selection of the right people for your culture and organizational identity. 

Women Can Have It All -- They May Just Be Hard to Get

It is important for companies to have more women in the ranks of leadership. But another factor we must consider is that being a successful manager or executive isn’t for everyone. In a recent blog in the Harvard Business Review, a CareerBuilder survey shows that one-third of workers aspire to leadership positions and only 7% strive for executive positions. Forty percent of men want a management position, but only 29% of women have the same aspiration. It isn’t a job for everyone.

If companies recruit women who have strengths that align with leadership positions, they will develop and retain more women in the workplace. In addition, companies must create a culture that allows for high performance through hard work on a flexible schedule. I am proud that 14 of my 23 direct reports are women. They range in age from 31 to 55 years and each one is driven, warm, caring, and performance-oriented. They are very hard working managers, leaders, and moms. These female executives are managing and leading teams of hundreds, and through that leadership, they can help moms and dads have lives well lived that will resonate for generations to come.

We all have work to do to help more people aspire to their strengths and goals. As leaders, managers, and most importantly as family members -- moms, dads, in-laws, and grandparents -- we need to help break the stereotypes of the past when raising future generations. And, we need to find the 34% and more who want the responsibility and achievement at work as well as at home. It is incumbent upon all business owners and leaders to recruit, source, and seek individuals who have the necessary strengths to succeed: from the drive, to the mission, to the intellect. We must encourage men and women with a talent to lead to assume management jobs, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. 

The more we look for managers with the will and talent to lead, the better our workplaces, businesses, and the world will be for future generations.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tragic Paradox and Missed Opportunities in the Middle East

By Mohamed Younis

Libya and Syria are currently two of the most violent hot spots in the Middle East. As leaders in Western capitals re-launch military campaigns in the region, it is important to look back on policy decisions over the past few years and explore how heeding public opinion among those affected could have led to more effective policies in both Libya and Syria.

Libyans Saw Chaos Approaching and Asked for Help

After Libyans faced off against one of the worst autocratic regimes in the 21st century, the country has fallen into chaos with competing militias vying for control. Libya is now dealing with the predictable outcome of air campaigns that are not followed up with assistance and institutional capacity building. Yet, what may be even more disappointing is that, as far back as 2012 before the Benghazi attacks, Libyans wanted this type of help, particularly the kind that could have saved their country from the chaos it now faces.

After ousting Gadhafi, Libyans wanted the country to build up a professional army. They were asking global partners to help as NATO nations virtually ignored them or lacked the bandwidth to muster a coherent policy. Today, the turmoil engulfing Libya and spilling across its eastern and western borders will only further destabilize North Africa. In fact, some countries in the region have engaged in the fight in Libya without coordinating with the U.S. or NATO. This is a recipe for disaster, as it risks further politicizing intra-Libyan conflicts as well as pursuing military “solutions” that only focus on religious extremism at the expense of also dealing with Libya’s real federalism challenges.

Syrians Not Interested in Sharia-Only Legislation

Syrians in 2010 had the least interest among all populations in Arab states surveyed in a Sharia-only based legislation system. At the time, I doubt most Syrians or Arabs imagined that what ISIS is doing could, in any way, be called Sharia or associated with the concept of an Islamic state. Most at the time likely thought of their nearby neighbors in Iran or Saudi Arabia when the concept of a Sharia-based legislative system was presented to them.
It is paradoxical that we now see millions in the western and northern regions of the country living under a brand of Sharia that is not only extreme, but has been deemed wholly un-Islamic by every major Muslim institution globally. ISIS ideology and judicial practices (if they can be called that) have had tragic outcomes for human rights generally and the rights of women and religious minorities in particular. Yet Syrians in 2009 were among the most accepting of equal rights for women when compared with their Arab peers.
Clearly, coercion has been a major factor in ISIS and similar groups controlling neighborhoods and cities across both Syria and northern and eastern Iraq. Yet, at the same time, the carnage and sectarian vitriol of the ongoing civil war has certainly changed Syrian society and ripped at its soul. As with Libya, one must wonder what kind of Syria will emerge from the current crises, and whether developed countries that encouraged both Libyans and Syrians to oppose and then resist their respective governments could have practiced policies that would have mitigated the damage.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Best Vacation Policy Is No Policy

By Jane Miller, Chief Operating Officer

Virgin Group Founder and Chairman Richard Branson’s announcement last week that he is giving his staff unlimited vacation days has certainly raised a few eyebrows. Critics question whether employees will abuse the unlimited vacation days “policy” and whether that will harm business. Other skeptics wonder if this policy, or lack thereof, will result in hard-charging employees to not take any time off and will become a detriment to their engagement or well-being.

My opinion is that Branson is onto something we here at Gallup discovered decades ago. For the past 40+ years, Gallup has had an open vacation/time-off policy. Starting in the 1970s with a base of just 50 employees -- and expanding to more than 2,300 today -- we have made it work for both our associates and, most importantly, our customers. An open vacation policy may not be practical for all industries or types of businesses, but where it is possible, it is actually a good thing for associates and the business if managed appropriately. 

Based on our experience, here are five things we have learned that can make this vacation “policy” work for both customers and associates:

1. Hire associates with the “right fit.” When you hire an associate for their talents, skills, and strengths you are more likely to hire a person who is engaged in their work and who takes psychological responsibility for their customers, peers, and the work to be accomplished. A person who is a right fit and resonates with their job hates to let others down, and so they will perfectly communicate when they are available or when they need to be out of reach. They will also assume responsibility for ensuring their work is done, or that a plan is in place for a coworker to complete whatever may need to be done while they are out of the office.

2. Select great managers. Great managers, not just any average manager, find a way to help people do what they do best in their jobs, while also helping their staff achieve high well-being. If a person thinks vacations or time spent with family are what inspires or motivates them to do better at their job, then a great manager will work to help them find a way to take time to travel or to be with their kids or elderly parents. Great managers resource employees to their strengths, their ambitions, their performance, and their outcomes. Done right, managers can juggle all schedules to make this policy work for the individual, the clients, and the company.

3. Focus on performance metrics and outcomes, and then hold managers and associates accountable. This includes how you pay them and what is expected to retain a job or become promoted. There are 8,760 hours in a year, and a company may get 1,800 of those or perhaps they get 3,000 of those from every individual associate. If pay and titles are commensurate with the performance expectations and outcomes, the associate should be able to choose how they spend the other 5,760-6,960 hours. Encouraging and empowering associates to take what they need or want is the most powerful outcome of this vacation policy -- some associates literally don’t want to spend the money or be away from home, others want to be gone every weekend, and yet others want that time to leave early to be with their kids.

4. Focus on the hours an associate is working and not on the times when they are not. Set a goal for a total amount of hours for the associate to work that year, appropriate to their position, and let them accrue those hours in a way that best suits them and their clients. A general guideline of two weeks for new associates with a day added for each year after two years can be used when calculating the right amount of vacation time annually. However, clearly state to employees that in any one year they can take more time if they need or want to, and that this is just a guideline. There will be weddings, anniversaries, milestone birthdays, deaths, and kids’ activities, and it can vary from year to year. The most important guideline to keep in mind is what your associates accomplish in their jobs.

5. Expect customer centricity. The end result should always be service and impact for clients. If associates know who they are servicing and for whom they are creating impact, and if they are held accountable by a great manager who similarly holds the entire team accountable, the client or business will never miss a beat. With many online scheduling and resourcing tools available for projecting hours, deadlines, and full-time equivalent needs, it is easier than ever to make this work.

Have we ever had anyone abuse it? Yes, but I can count the number of employees on two hands in 30 years. Have we ever had anyone not take enough time away? Rarely, but a handful abstain from time off either due to their choice to save the money or not wanting to leave work. It is rare. Have we had people cite it as a reason for leaving? Yes, a few, but they weren’t the type of associates that fit our culture of trust, transparency, and partnership, and they didn’t have the relationships or performance to make the policy work. The positives and advantages to this policy significantly outweigh the disadvantages. After all, your most talented and intense hard workers are usually the ones that believe in the mantra “work hard, play hard.”

It’s all about great managers who set the right expectations and then manage the outcomes. With that, this nouveau form of vacation policy can be a huge recruiting, retention, and engagement advantage as well as great for a human’s well-being. It is just the right thing to do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Identify Future Entrepreneurs

“If you have a high IQ, America’s massive testing systems will find you…If you have the rare, innate talent to play basketball or football, our massive youth-to-college-to-pro sports systems will find you…However, if you have the rare, innate ability to create a customer, to build a company -- if you have the talent for entrepreneurship -- your early identification and subsequent development is left to chance.”

That’s the problem that Gallup’s Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton and primary researcher on Gallup’s Entrepreneurship and Job Creation initiative Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Ph.D., address in their new book, Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, which hits bookshelves and online book retailers today.

To help identify who has what it takes to be an entrepreneur, Gallup studied more than 4,000 entrepreneurs over the last five years in the U.S., Germany, and Mexico to understand the role of talent in entrepreneurial performance. Gallup discovered 10 innate talents that highly successful entrepreneurs possess:

  1. Business Focus: You make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.
  2. Confidence: You accurately know yourself and understand others.
  3. Creative Thinker: You exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.
  4. Delegator: You recognize that you cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.
  5. Determination: You persevere through difficult, even seemingly insurmountable, obstacles.
  6. Independent: You are prepared to do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.
  7. Knowledge-Seeker: You constantly search for information that is relevant to growing your business.
  8. Promoter: You are the best spokesperson for the business.
  9. Relationship-Builder: You have high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial for the firm's survival and growth.
  10. Risk-Taker: You instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations.
Based on these talents, Gallup created the Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, the first-ever comprehensive assessment that identifies who has what it takes to start and build a big business. The online assessment helps coaches, mentors, and city leaders to grow entrepreneurship in their communities; students and employees to figure out whether entrepreneurship is the right path; entrepreneurs to look for insights into their behaviors that can drive business outcomes; and investors to find the best candidate on which to bet.

Clifton explains that it is a critical time to start finding and developing future entrepreneurs. For the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births. And entrepreneurship is now in decline for the first time since the U.S. government started measuring it.

Clifton tasks city leaders with identifying and developing highly talented entrepreneurs, because most economic activity of importance occurs at the city level. “Each city needs its own highly individualized plan because each city has its own unique entrepreneurial talent – and each must find it, maximize it, and retain it,” says Clifton. “Early identification of rare entrepreneurial talent will be the most significant turning point in recent human history.”

Order Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Successful Relationship Managers Are Partners to Their Clients

By Scott Vanderbilt

This post is part of Gallup's ongoing series on the shifting landscape for financial institutions. It provides insights into channel optimization, emerging customer behaviors and preferences, product penetration and relationship growth, engaging the most critical affluent and business customers, and reshaping banks' overall value proposition.

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The keys to success in any relationship -- whether romantic, business, or otherwise -- include both communication and action. This holds true in financial investing as well, where the relationship between the Relationship Manager (RM) and the customer can take one of two paths: 1) a successful path where both parties understand and trust each other, or 2) an unsuccessful path where communication and trust drop to subterranean levels and contribute nothing positive to the financial bottom line.

Gallup’s 2012 Mass Affluent Investor study revealed that successful RMs do more than just take orders. Instead, they actively contribute to their relationships with customers and have significant influence on customers’ feelings of success. More than half (56%) of mass affluent investors were satisfied with their RM while nearly three-quarters (71%) of successful mass affluent investors were satisfied with their RM. For those who attribute that success to their advisors in the latter group, the RM satisfaction rating soared to 87%. This speaks volumes about the RM role in investing, as the most successful investors were also the most satisfied with their financial partners.

The data aren’t saying that RMs need to be important fixtures in their customers’ lives. Rather, they just need to be an important fixture in their customers’ financial investing lives. The overarching themes of investing success are communicating with customers and being knowledgeable about investing. When RMs act on these themes they build trust, confidence, and feelings of reliability with their customers. RMs must also deliver on their commitments. If they make a promise, they have to fulfill it. For example, if an RM says they are going to review a customer’s portfolio for any changes, then they should present their recommendations by the deadline.


RMs who make their customers feel successful received high ratings in the following categories:

1. Inspires confidence. RMs have to act as their customers’ cheerleaders but, most importantly, they have to provide advice and recommendations that make sense to their clients. If customers feel their RM is making the right suggestions that closely match their needs and goals, then they will experience an uptick in satisfaction. Customers have to see that their RM is not just reading tea leaves, but that they know how investing works.

2. Provides the best possible financial advice. Along those same lines, customers are looking for the best advice. If the RM doesn’t provide them with the best advice, why should they even bother with the relationship? What would the RM have to offer? Advice is often packaged with communication, meaning RMs have to listen to customers’ needs and offer suggestions to satisfy those needs.

Trusted RMs ranked high on successful investors’ rating sheets. But when we examine the importance of the advisor in an investor’s success, we found that following through on commitments was one of the strongest factors in that success.
 
3. Delivers on commitments made to you. If the RM makes a commitment to the customer, they should stick to it. Customers rely on their RM to provide everything they need to be successful. RMs that deliver on those commitments become that important piece of the successful investor process. In other words, when customers say that advisors were an important part of their financial success, delivering on commitments stood out among the other factors that differentiated these advisors from everyone else.
 
RMs need to be there for their clients and give them the tools that they need to be successful. Clients are looking for that partnership, rather than the more common banker-customer relationship. 

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