Speaker Shares Advice: How To Maximize Human Capacity At Work And Positively Impact Employee Retention

By Harrell Kerkhoff, Maintenance Sales News Editor

(Editor’s note: This article is the first part of a two-part series.)

Nicki McLeod, Executive Vice President of In2Great

Finding qualified employees — and helping them succeed while working as a team — remains a high priority for all types of business owners and managers. The problem is, this is often easier said than done. To properly meet such objectives, two questions must be asked:

What are we doing to maximize the human capacity in our business and impact retention?; and,

What tools are we providing to our leaders so they can influence those objectives?

Addressing these and other issues related to hiring and retaining the best employees were two representatives of In2Great (www.in2great.com), which specializes in, “Equiping leaders with simple systems to: Engage, Develop, and Retain fulfilled employees.”

In2Great Executive Vice President Nicki McLeod and Senior Leadership Consultant Tim Butler discussed, “Tools For Leaders To Maximize Human Capacity And Impact Retention,” during a recent educational institute webinar, sponsored by the American Brush Manufacturers Association (ABMA).

A large percentage of business leaders state that hiring challenges are negatively impacting their ability to operate at full capacity. The value of talent has skyrocketed due to the scarcity of talent. The end-result is employees have more power than ever. Producing better retention rates have also become a key part of today’s business strategy.

According to McLeod, it’s important for company leaders to recognize the unused human capacity that exists in their organizations. Equipping leaders with simple systems, gives them the ability to create an environment where individuals are fulfilled and begin to reach their potential.

“The Predictive Index data is one of the tools we use to help leaders better understand themselves, and the people they lead,” McLeod said.

She noted many employees are promoted to supervisory positions after showing they are really good at their current jobs. The problem is, that does not guarantee success as a supervisor.

“They might be really good at managing projects, processes and priorities, but they may never have been trained to lead people. There is a difference between being really good at what you do, and understanding how to lead people,” McLeod said. “We (at In2Great) believe one of the keys to understanding how to lead people, is understanding the people you are trying to lead. You cannot lead somebody you don’t understand.”

To properly understand a person, it’s important company leaders are development focused. People connect a business strategy to business results, but it’s just as important to understand the development of people. This can be done through the lens of data, which helps leaders and teams gain higher levels of awareness. Being insight driven and action oriented are other essential elements, according to McLeod.

Another key part to understanding employees is recognizing a large gap can exist between those people, within an organization, who are highly engaged and those people who are actively disengaged.

McLeod noted that Gallup, Inc., an American analytics and advisory company, has been studying engagement for approximately 50 years.

“I recently listened to an interview with (Gallup Chairman) Jim Clifton, who explained managers account for approximately 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement,” McLeod said.

Such variation is thought to be responsible for low employee engagement.

“Now, make no mistake, we are not saying that managers are bad, or there is something wrong with them. However, it shows there are a few things some managers do to contribute to the variance,” McLeod said. “If (company leaders) can understand how to move the needle, within their organizations, from employees who are showing up to work because they have to be there, to those who are fully engaged, that has a positive impact on the bottom line.”

To help move that “needle” in a positive direction, McLeod stressed there is power in one meaningful conversation per week, between a company leader and a person who reports to that leader.

“Many employees are usually onboard with that type of interaction with their leaders,” she said. “However, what we find, when working with leaders, is that there can be up to four main challenges to having such conversations.”

They are:

No. 1 — Leadership Fatigue: In the current state of the world, leaders are tired;
No. 2 — Time Scarcity Mental Map: With all the time spent finding the right employees, retaining them, developing young leaders and helping older leaders shift their mindset about leadership, there is often little time to “do one more initiative,” when it comes to moving the needle to greater engagement, and thus, company growth;
No. 3 — Know-How Scarcity Mental Map: “Many times, we find leaders who just don’t feel equipped to have those one-on-one conversations in a way that leads to engagement and fulfillment,” McLeod said; and,
No. 4 — If We Are Honest, Fear.


There is help for leaders trying to achieve one-on-one meaningful interaction with employees, in an effort to better create an future environment of development and engagement.

“Gallup found five areas that can move the needle among employees — from actively disengaged to highly engaged,” McLeod said.

Generally speaking, employees want to know, “someone cares about my development,” and that they will have an opportunity to do what they are good at.

“Data shows that if there is no outlet for an individual to do what he/she is good at, that person will begin to burn out after just 20 hours of work per week,” McLeod said. “If that is the case, it must be asked, ‘What is the employee doing during the remaining work week?’ They are showing up, and maybe performing pretty well, but what is the impact of that burnout for not only the person, but the organization?”

She added that “performance does not always equal fulfillment.” That is why an employer may be surprised when an employee hands in his/her resignation.

The good news is, if leaders are having meaningful one-on-one conversations with employees, and using data to better understand employee concerns and needs, greater fulfillment is possible.

Employees also want to make sure their opinion counts, and that “leadership cares about my well being at work.” It also helps if employees have a best friend at work.

It’s been proven, according to McLeod, that working with employees to improve all five areas can help companies move the needle to greater employee engagement.


According to Sherlock Holmes in, “A Study In Scarlet,” by Arthur Conan Doyle, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” That is as true today as when the novel was published in 1887.

McLeod spoke on the importance of “Data-Centric Development” and “Predictive Index” testing. She likened Data-Centric Development to vegetable gardening.

“Anyone who has ever grown vegetables in a garden knows that if you plant good seed in the ground, give it water and access to sunlight, it may still not produce very good fruit. The soil may deficient in something, or has too much of something else. It’s all about having the proper nutrients,” McLeod said. “In a sense, the same is true for people. Proper data gives us insight into what individuals need in order to develop and be fulfilled in the workplace.”

Predictive Index testing, meanwhile, involves a personality test administered by an employer, to evaluate how suitable a potential employee is to a specific role. McLeod said there are 17 employee profiles associated with the testing, such as a “venturer,” “maverick,” “specialist,” “artisan,” “promoter,” or “strategist.”

“Let’s say somebody has been identified as a ‘venturer.’ One of their needs may be ‘independence.’ They may seek autonomy when problem-solving, and freedom to act on initiatives and risk taking,” McLeod said. “You can imagine that if a person likes to solve his/her own problems, while working with a leader who also likes to solve problems, there might be future conflicts. This is why honest conversations between the two should take place.

“The leader might ask during such conversations, ‘Do you want help with that or do you want autonomy in solving that problem?’ An employee might respond, ‘Yes, I need some help,’ or ‘No, if you would just let me do it, that would be better for me,’” McLeod added. “Through such one-on-one conversations, the employee and the leader can better focus on the work that matters, with less frustration behind the scenes, due to better communication and clarity.”

One part of Data-Centric Development centers on change and conflict management.

“‘Change’ and ‘conflict’ are associated with leadership programs. Data gives us insight into how somebody adapts to change — and we are all different,” McLeod said.

She noted some people are better adapted to change than others. Important conversations should take place between leadership and employees on what is expected with changes that occur within a company. The same is true with conflict.

“When it comes to conflict, many people will say, ‘It’s important to compromise.’ The problem is, that implies both parties will win something and both parties will lose something. In reality, that is not always possible,” McLeod said. “Although you can tie behavioral data to how somebody will naturally approach conflict, it doesn’t mean that person will always handle conflict in a particular way. His/her natural tendency, however, may fall into a couple of categories.”

McLeod added tension is a natural result of conflict.

“I say to clients all of the time, ‘Get comfortable with tension.’ That doesn’t mean you have to become somebody different, but (dealing with tension) is how people grow, develop and handle situations in a healthy way. Tension can tell a person something, and therefore it’s important to get comfortable with tension,” she said. “It’s important to also understand, if conflict is taught ‘in a vacuum,’ people may not properly recognize why certain situations are more comfortable than others, and why certain people have specific defaults. In other words, it’s good to figure out why ‘people behave the way they do.’”

She gave the following example.

“This is a story of a plant supervisor and his team. The plant supervisor is a ‘maverick,’ and likes to give employees plenty freedom, as opposed to a tight structure. His entire team, however, is wired opposite of him, and needs that structure. The leader, without knowing it, assumes everybody is comfortable with his leadership style. His team feels otherwise,” McLeod said. “It’s important to remember that people will behave in a way that makes the most sense to them. We are all wired differently, which is why behavioral data is so important. It provides insight. What a leader assumes to be true may not be the same as what his/her team needs.”

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