Expert Panel

Common job issues and solutions in Human Resources

The “Broken” Road


By Mark Herbert, Principle Mark F. Herbert & Associates, Inc. and New Paradigms LLC

As I have indicated before, I like using analogies both for my own edification and as an illustration point for others in explaining a concept. It may be that I am often the only one that sees the connection, but I hope not.


The Broken Road, performed here by Rascal Flats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-vZlrBYLSU&feature=fvsr, is a song I first heard back in the late 90’s. It really struck me then as not just about relationships, but a metaphor for the road of life if we choose to hear it.


The last week or so has been an interesting dense pack of a lot of things for me. A week ago Sunday my brother and I had the opportunity to join a couple in a round of golf. The introduction took me a little askance when the husband took me aside and asked me to be patient as his wife is suffering stage four brain cancer, essentially terminal and that it impaired her vision and he sometimes needed to get her set up correctly to make her shots; that four hours or so was a lesson in life and in golf. She was one of the most gracious and positive people I have met in a very long time. She also had a wonderful, consistent approach to her golf game, never overpowering the ball or her stroke. Unlike the other three of us she took a short cut and played exclusively the fairway and the greens on her way to the ball…


Later in the week I had an opportunity to work pretty intimately with a client who is involved in the health care sector. His role is not as a caregiver or operational executive, but rather on the philanthropic side of the organization. As the squeeze has occurred in health care delivery, philanthropy is taking on an increasingly important role especially in the not for profit sector where health care provider organizations are trying to make up for the shortfalls created both by the number of Americans who have lost their employer or government based coverage and the anticipation of that number growing under Obamacare.


For the record I don’t think Obamacare will create more uninsured, I think in fact it tries to address current issues in our health care delivery system that are not being addressed today, but that is a different topic for a different day.


I think we do have a broken road with our health care system. We manage delivery of health care, not health, and that is addressing the system rather than the problem.


I also think we have a broken road in terms of how we are trying to address some of our other issues and concerns, especially the interdependence of sectors of society and people.


I began my professional career in human resources over three decades ago. It struck me then how much of the infrastructure and tactics of that discipline were based on processes and transactions rather than relationships. Things have changed much over those three decades. We have gone through several title changes from Personnel to Employee Relations and then Human Resources, but the fundamental premise has change significantly. A current buzzword I despise is human capital.


I don’t debate that the combined talents, knowledge, and abilities of our workforce is an important asset of our organizations to be aligned, managed, and measured; but that is the output. That output is provided by people.


My personal broken road has clearly established that for me.

For the last fifteen years or so I have been attempting to promulgate the concept of employee engagement, the alignment of individual and organizational goals. It has been validating over the last five years or so to see the literature and discussion recognizing that this concept and process may be the most significant key to organizational performance and sustainability we have available to us.


Organizations that successfully develop and implement true engagement enjoy competitive advantages in every key performance indicator that the financial and other markets like to track. The literature is replete with examples.


The foundation for engagement, at least in my mind, is based on two fundamental concepts – trust and congruency.

I think that Stephen MR Covey does a super nice job of describing the elements of trust in his book – The Speed of Trust.

He talks about trust being built on a foundation of two primary pillars:

•                Credibility/Believability

•                Behavior


Credibility is based on some critical sub-factors including: character-your integrity and congruency ((perceived shared values), and your competence- your demonstrated capabilities and results. The key is that these need to be integrated and in sync. Character without competence doesn't create credibility and neither does competence without character. You must do both.


Behavior speaks to who you are. Not what you say, but how you act or demonstrate those behaviors. He identifies thirteen key behaviors. I won't go into all of them, but some key behaviors include things like; clear expectations, the extension of trust, practicing personal and professional accountability, and straight talk.


He and I also believe that the ability to build and facilitate trust is a learnable skill; it isn't something you are born with or without.

The "dividends" of trust are huge. They can be measured in almost every key performance indicator from profitability to retention and productivity.


Similarly Ron Willingham, in designing his Integrity Selling System™, discusses the concept of congruency at some length. He provides a model for creating congruency or alignment based on five factors:

  • Our View of the Activity (do we see it as worthwhile or repugnant)
  • Our View of Our Ability to do the Activity (perceived competency)
  • The relationship between the Activity and Our Personal Values
  • Our Commitment to do the “Work”
  • Our Belief in the Product, Service, and Mission (organizational value proposition)

He indicates, and I agree, that if there is a lack of congruence or alignment with any of those things, sustained excellent performance is unlikely- I agree.


The thing that is really striking is that traditional training and reward theory address only the competency and maybe if we are lucky the “commitment to the work” because of perceived extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. That leaves three out of the five essentially unaccounted for. Doesn’t seem like a recipe for success, at least not on a sustained level.

Those other three are those pesky “peopley” soft skills, relationship type stuff.


In my mind where we go from here represents a broken road.

We can learn from it and embrace new solutions engaging and aligning people not just in our “work” relationships, but in creating a new model for how we work together and how different elements of our society interact together or we can ignore it.


I don’t think our current models of trickle-down economics and compliance based methodologies or process based solutions address either the trust or congruency gaps. We need a new model.

So I guess each of us will have to determine where this broken road takes us.

Perhaps my metaphor is too esoteric. If you find it so I hope you at least enjoy the music…….


{#/pub/images/MarkHerbert.jpg}Written by Mark Herbert, Principle Mark F. Herbert & Associates, Inc. and New Paradigms LLC  With over 30 years of managerial, executive, and consulting experience, Mark has authored four books including Managing Whole People-One Man’s Journey; C2C-Compliace to Commitment, A Foundation for Employee Engagement & Building a Culture.  He is a consultant, speaker and facilitator on executive development, strategic human resources, employee engagement, and employment branding on a regional, national, and international basis.


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