Welcome to The Leadership Corner

May 11, 2016

The purpose of The Leadership Corner is to provide valuable tips, research and connection to business leaders and managers who want to build their knowledge, skills and abilities together.  We also list free webinars and teleclasses on our Free Training Page.  Read more in About Us

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Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

The Four Keys

March 6, 2012

The Ken Blanchard Companies have found that in organizations where leading at a higher level is the rule rather than the exception, leaders do four things well.

  1. They set their sights on the right target and vision.
    Great organizations focus on three bottom lines instead of just one. In addition to financial success, leaders at great organizations know that measuring their success with people–both customers and employees–is just as important as measuring the success of their financial bottom line. In these organizations, developing loyal customers and engaged employees are considered equal to good financial performance. Leaders at these companies know that in order to succeed they must create a motivating environment for employees, which results in better customer service, which leads to higher profits.
  2. They treat their customers right.
    To keep your customers today, you can’t be content just to satisfy them. Instead, you have to create raving fans–customers who are so excited about the way you treat them that they want to tell everyone about you. Companies that create raving fans routinely do the unexpected on behalf of their customers, and then enjoy the growth generated by customers bragging about them to prospective clients.
  3. They treat their people right.
    Without committed and empowered employees, you can never provide good service. You can’t treat your people poorly and expect them to treat your customers well. Treating your people right begins with good performance planning that gets things going in the right direction by letting direct reports know what they will be held accountable for–goals–and what good behavior looks like–performance standards. It continues with managers who provide the right amount of direction and support that each individual employee needs in order to achieve those goals and performance standards.
  4. They have the right kind of leadership.
    The most effective leaders realize that leadership is not about them and that they are only as good as the people they lead. These leaders seek to be serving leaders instead of self-serving leaders. In this model, once a vision has been set, leaders move themselves to the bottom of the hierarchy, acting as a cheerleader, supporter, and encourager to the people who report to them.

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership.

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Curious Insight into Employee Motivation and the Pygmalion Effect

February 6, 2012

Great Performance Starts with Great Expectations No, by “great expectations,” I’m not referring to the Dickens book. Presumably when you hire or promote someone, you expect great things from them. You don’t think, “Yes, this warm body will be adequate enough, I suppose.” If so, then you’re probably not reading this article. Studies based on the … Read More

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Change management, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership.

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The Value of Trust

November 9, 2011

This post was written and published by Susan Mazza at Random Acts of Leadership.

When we don’t trust the people we work for, it can be very difficult to lead.  When trust is lacking we are more likely to try to figure out what “they” want and how we can play it safe than we are to speak up, step up or stand up in any noticeable way.

When we don’t trust our peers we are likely to build a virtual fortress around our particular silo of responsibilities.  Once again the focus is on protecting ourselves and our turf.

When trust is lacking, fear is present.

Protection is the typical strategy for dealing with people and situations in which our trust is weak. We may not even feel particularly afraid.  In fact the better we are at protecting ourselves, our people and/or our turf we may just experience an illusion of safety rather than the fear that is pressing on us to take protective action.  We may even experience the satisfaction of winning every time our protective maneuvers pay off.

Consider the real value of trust, however, is not ultimately that we feel safe to be where we are.

Effectively protecting ourselves from those we don’t trust can create the same effect, except in this circumstance fear is driving us to mitigate the perceived risks.  I use the qualifier “perceived” because whether real or imagined, the feeling of fear is very real.

The real value of being able to trust others is this:  trust creates a condition in which you are more likely to choose to face your fear to do something that matters even if it does scare you.

Mistrust puts our focus on mitigating risks.  Trust fortifies our courage to risk leading the way.

I was reminded recently of this when I had to choose whether to back down on an issue or continue to press on the the face of the resistance of someone with whom I was working.  I could have chosen keeping the peace over ensuring my concerns were fully addressed.

Everything inside of me wanted to back down and take the path of least resistance to keep everyone happy.  Yet it was because I trust this person and believe they trust me that the discomfort of the moment was less important than the achieving the best possible outcome.  It was difficult.  It was uncomfortable.  There were moments when I felt frustrated.

It was even a little scary since I seem to have been wired from a young age to keep the peace.  To this day challenging someone for any reason feels uncomfortable.  So far there is no amount of trust in anyone that has ever changed the way it feels for me.  The degree of trust, however, makes the difference in just how willing I am to press on to forward my commitments despite the discomfort.

I also had to choose to trust myself. I had to make sure in the process I was being trustworthy.

In this case it meant I had to check in with myself a few times along the way to make sure I was keeping my attention on doing what was best for the team rather than reacting when I was triggered or getting caught up in the all too human need to being right.

There were a lot of times along the way in this exchange where it didn’t feel very good.  There is a myth that when we work with people we trust it is always going to be easy and comfortable.

That may be true if we want to stay right where we are, but if we aspire to anything together there will be times we put our trust to the test.

And every time we do and we succeed, our foundation of trust grows that much stronger and ensures we will be ready for the next even bigger test.  Of course, sometimes we may fail.  In the wake of that failure we may have misunderstandings.  It may take some honest conversations to reestablish trust.  Yet this is not an indication that trust is permanently lost or broken, but rather an indication that we have more work to do to build the foundation of trust necessary to fulfill on our aspirations.

When we know someone has our back we are more likely to speak up, step up, and stand up for something that matters to us.

We are more likely to challenge the status quo for the sake a future possibility.   When we are surrounded by people we trust we actually believe the future we want is possible and that our willingness to take a risk serves more than just ourselves.

When we choose to trust the people around us, we are willing to risk feeling uncomfortable for the sake of a higher purpose.

What about you: Do you have sufficient trust in your relationships to face your fears for the sake of doing something remarkable?

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

The Joy of Creative Labor

September 5, 2011

In the U.S., this is our “Labor Day” weekend, a time when we generally do our best to avoid anything that looks like work.  Many will go camping, spend the day at the beach, or perhaps at a family picnic.

Unfortunately, very few will pause to be thankful for the work they do.  Only a handful will take time to honor and acknowledge the joy of work, and I find that very sad.

Too many of us believe “work” is something to be avoided, and these people wish for a path to instant wealth, because then they would “never work again.” I suspect that’s one reason the universe makes sure most of them never acquire that kind of instant wealth! I see work as a great honor and source of fulfillment, although I admit there is both “good” work and “bad” work.

“Bad” work is something for which we are not suited, or which we do for the wrong motives. For me, “bad” work would be trying to earn a living as a musician.  My brother plays cello for the Jacksonville symphony, and for him, music is the work of the angels.  He was blessed with great talent and he loves it.  I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and when I was a kid, piano lessons were a lot of “work” for me, my parents, and Mrs. Bystrom, my long-suffering piano teacher.

Doing work for which we are ill-suited, it seems to me, is so stressful that it borders on the immoral.  Life is meant to be lived, to be joyful, and to be productive.  Doing “work” we hate gives honorable work a bad name.

As I see it, work is our chance to partner with God in the creation of a better, richer, more exciting world.  Work is our opportunity to build, to create, to leave our footprints in the sands of time.  Work is our chance to say, “I was here, I made a difference and I left things better than I found them.”  That is work worth doing! 

Over the years, through my various jobs and hobbies, I’ve met wonderful people who reflected their life’s meaning and purpose in their work.  Some were artists in how they drove a delivery truck, others found joy in Police work, writing, doing therapy, or in construction.  One of my golfing partners loves teaching high school biology, and it shows in his attitude and in his student’s grades.

Vicki is a server at my favorite coffee shop. She has 3 kids, her husband is a chef, and for whatever reason, helping a couple hundred people start their day with hot coffee, a good breakfast and a smile is her calling in life.  She’s a treasure, and is loved by hundreds of loyal customers.

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me is, “Find something you truly love to do, and you’ll never work another day the rest of your life.”  While I quibble with that disparaging definition of “work,” the point is essential.  In our technological age, we have the greatest freedom in history to find work that is perfect for us!

Work is a very personal thing.  It’s about combining your time and effort with your talents, skills and the situation around you to make things better.  It’s about making a difference.  It’s about making your contribution, and being productive. 

This Labor Day, give thanks for the work you do and the difference it makes.  Celebrate your contribution to your community and our world. And, if you are not doing the “perfect” job for you, pledge that by next year, you WILL be doing the right work.  Life is too short to spend it doing work for which you are not suited or passionate! You owe that to yourself and to the world.  We need your best stuff, your best effort, your passion and your unique genius.  We need Vicki’s smile at breakfast.

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Employee satisfaction, Leadership development, Personal development.

The Four Easy Steps to Happiness

August 14, 2011

There is no doubt that we want to “be happy” and that happiness enriches our lives.  Happy people live up to eight years longer!  Happy people are more confident.  They have better relationships and more energy.  Happy people make more money and they achieve their goals more often and with greater feelings of satisfaction and joy.  Happiness feels good (who wants to be miserable?) and it’s good for us!

We’re learning a lot about happiness.  We’re learning that money, fame, even power, long-life and health do not “make” us happy.  Everyone knows, or is familiar with people who have “made it to the top” but remain unhappy people.  What a shame!

At the same time, we also know that millions of people who achieve little in terms of “success” can be supremely happy!

What an irony!  Viktor Frankl, in his account of surviving the horrors of Nazi concentration camps talks about inmates who even managed to find some measure of happiness in those terrible conditions.  How can that be?

First, I think it’s crucial to separate happiness from pleasure.  No one would want to be in a concentration camp and no one would find “pleasure” in cancer, being poor or uneducated or suffering any of life’s other tragedies.  Some of life is painful!

But happiness is different.  My own definition of happiness refers to “Consistent feelings of satisfaction or joy when remembering the past, living in the present and considering the future.” Happiness is about living with integrity, purpose and meaning.  Happiness is about living your own life, in your own way, and knowing that your life has meaning.  Happy people have moments of pleasure (that’s important!) but more importantly, they know they are living the life they were meant to live.  At the end of the day, that’s my definition of happiness.

Anyone with a credit card can buy pleasure.  We live in a world of multi-media entertainment, travel, bright lights and fancy toys.  We can eat at the world’s best restaurants or travel to exotic places.  Anyone can do that and we deserve it!  These are nice things and they are part of what we work for.  Good for us!

According to the research, however, these things do not necessarily make us happy over the long-run.

Happiness is a bigger game, played for higher stakes.

Happiness is about a life worth living.  It’s about doing work that makes sense and that uses your talents to make the world a better place.  Happiness is about loving relationships.  It’s about honesty, integrity, and it has a component of meaning, purpose and contentment.  Happiness is more elusive and more important than pleasure.

I’m writing a book about happiness, tentatively called “The Highway to Happiness,” but for now here are four suggestions:

1.  Take happiness seriously. Happiness doesn’t seem to “just happen.”  It’s not a matter of luck or chance or youth or lucky genes.  Happiness is something to go after, something to study and consider.  Happiness is a goal, a skill and a result of living a life consistent with your values.  Take it seriously.

2.  Notice what makes you happy and do more of it.  If mowing the lawn or growing roses makes you happy, great!  If taking the kids fishing makes you happy, do that!  If working on your business makes you happy, go for it!  Build your life around the things that bring joy and make you happy.

3.  Be happy today.  Don’t wait to be happy and don’t let happiness depend on “what happens!” Happiness is largely a “do it yourself” project.  It’s connected to gratitude, optimism, love and laughter.  As Bobby McFarrin recommended, “Don’t worry, be happy” and start today.  Happiness is not a “someday” dream. It’s a skill we practice every single day.  Be happy.

4.  Invest in happiness!  Take time and give thought to a life of fulfillment and happiness.  Pray or meditate about it.  Ponder it, and take action!  Do the things that bring joy and satisfaction.  Create space and a budget for both pleasure and (more importantly) for happiness!  Laugh every day.  Be kind.  Do something nice for someone else, whether you get credit for it or not.  Learn something new.  Start something.  Stop being “normal!”  Dream big and dream often!

by Phil Humbert

What are you doing to increase happiness?

 

Categories: Attitude, Employee satisfaction, Morale, Personal development, Uncategorized.

Are you a Strong Leader?

June 8, 2011

Being known as a strong leader is easy to obtain when you know in your heart you are doing the right thing for the “good of all.”  Here are five key points, which are the pillars to being a successful leader that you should absorb into your consciousness.   

 1.  Develop trust and credibility.  When people trust you, they will be more inclined to follow you.  If they follow you, and you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, you will succeed.  A leader builds trust by considering the “good of all” when making decisions. Leaders do not abuse their power, but build trust by using it properly.  Trust fosters collaboration, which contributes to openly sharing information, which then creates a solid team who supports each other.  Trust is based on the respect and expectations of a leader who cares and acts with compassion in a most positive way.  With trust there is:  

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Good relationships

Incorporating these five traits will help guide you on the right path to strong leadership.

 2.  Share the vision with absolute clarity.  Leaders need to share the vision of what they want their department to achieve.  For example, a leader might share a vision like, “We will be a world class customer service organization that provides the benchmark for customer satisfaction.”  To get others to see and understand your vision, you need to motivate and inspire with the same enthusiasm and positivity you have inside you. 

It is vital, however, that your team understands the vision, and is 100% clear on the objectives.  People with a shared vision are more productive and have a greater sense of achievement. 

You also need to listen to what they are saying.  Doing all the talking does not let them participate in the vision quest with their ideas.   

Tracking and assessing successes, as well as failures, helps put the right goals and processes in place to reach the vision.  If the employees always know where they stand, they will know what part they played in achieving the vision. 

3.  Be there to help them succeed – Coaching, mentoring, communicating, and listening.  Great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader.  You don’t lead by sitting behind your desk.  Be out there and find the strengths and talents of your employees, and place them where they can shine.  They need to know how their strengths serve the objectives.  Show them the respect they deserve and that you have their interests at heart. 

The bottom line is that they need to know that you will be there to help them succeed.  You can do this by:

  • Coaching.  Try and help them improve their skills to do their job better.  Give them feedback on their performance with observations and give good advice.  Use specific statements rather than general comments, whether good or bad.
  • Mentoring.  Help them understand what you are all about, guide them for a better chance of promotion and have them learn about other aspects and functions of the business.
  • Communicating.  Clearly share your vision and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due and take the time for one-on-one meetings. 
  • Listening.  Let them share ideas, concerns and know you are approachable and caring without judgment.    

The most important aspect here is that you are always looking at ways to help develop your employees’ unique skills, both individually and as a group, for a better future including possible growth in the company.  This is a win for the company as well.  The company will gain more productive employees who are ready to take on new challenges and roles as they become available.  

4.  Make the decisions and be held accountable.  Make the right decisions and guide your department into the right direction. 

Clearly define the issue you are solving

  • Sift the data for facts and relevance. 
  • Look closely at the issue at hand while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • Talk to and involve subject experts if needed. 
  • Don’t make a decision too quickly unless necessary. 
  • Think about the cost-benefit for both short-term and long-term. 
  • Once a decision is made, do not be wishy-washy or unsure about yourself.  You will be seen as a person who can be easily persuaded with little confidence. 

You as a leader are expected to take some chances and you might make some risky decisions.  In saying that, as people expect to be held accountable in their job performance, they also expect you to be held accountable as their leader.  If you fail or deny any wrong doing on your part, or place blame on someone else, you will lose credibility and not be seen as an effective leader. 

You also need to know when it is better to follow, rather than lead, by trusting your employees’ suggestions.  Leaders realize they can’t know all the answers, and earn respect when they seek advice of others when needed.    

Being held accountable is a positive thing, as you want to be known for the good things that you do.  The same goes for your employees as it makes them feel important and appreciated.  You do, however, need to allow people to sometimes fail or make mistakes during the process of achieving difficult goals.  You also need to confront them.  By using your management and leadership skills, people will admit their mistakes and accept accountability.  Your skills as leader will also help and coach them to improve.  

Make sure your decisions are always ethically sound.  Do not ask or expect your team to get the results unethically or use a “no matter what it takes” approach.

5.   Keep it all under control and headed in the right direction.  The objective of every leader should come with the mindset of striving for “mission accomplished.”  You, as leader and manager, need to focus on what’s most important related to the vision and goals of the organization.  You need to eliminate chaos and be known as a person with authority who can make the right decisions.  You might have 5 projects going on at once, but focusing more on the least important when the most important is in need of help will destroy your vision and miss your goals.  Make sure you get your team to focus on the most important and critical tasks to achieve the goals.  By delegating tasks to the right people, fulfillment of the vision will become more likely.

  Everyone needs to have the same focus and direction you have.  A sense of community within the team, with a common goal, is key.  If you waver and change your mind and direction continually, you will lose trust.  Consistency is key to maintaining control and keep things going in the right direction. 

 These “five key points” are the core competencies to strong leadership.  Which of these competencies are your strengths and what could you be doing better?

Question:  What do you think your employees would rate you on each of these competencies?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Teamwork.

A Little Praise Goes a Long Way

April 20, 2011

by Sherry Law

 When I returned to my seat after saying a few words at my 94-year-old Uncle Bob’s memorial service, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked to my left and my cousin’s grandson Kai, age 3, leaned into my face and with a big smile said, “You did a great job!” Since Kai lives 1,300 miles from me and hadn’t seen me since he was 2, we are virtual strangers. Stifling giggles with my cousin, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if every CEO could communicate spontaneously like this little guy?”

Recognition and celebration are too often forgotten in today’s lean-and-mean business environment. I’m not talking about formal reward programs, which are good and necessary but also generic and impersonal. I’m talking about informal, unrehearsed, from-the-heart communications that take less than a minute to bestow and cost nothing at all. Although all managers should be recognizing employees thoughtfully and regularly, we value praise most from the people we hold in the highest esteem-or in awe, like the CEO.

Spontaneous appreciation may be the only employee benefit that increases employee engagement, enhances recruitment and retains talent-at zero cost.

A little energy, a lot of value

When behaviors are modeled by the CEO and other leaders, they are emulated down the line. So if you want to create a culture of recognition, it should start at the top. While it may take concentration at first, expressing appreciation is an easy habit to acquire. And you may find that it makes you feel as good as the people you recognize.

What would it take one morning to surprise your assistant, who does the same routine things for you every day, with: “Thank you for reminding me about the day’s appointments when I walk in every morning; you always keep me on track and I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Or, maybe something outside the ordinary would lead you to say: “Thank you for playing host to the person waiting for me; I was proud of the positive impression you made of our company with your friendliness and concern.” You might even try appreciating people for ideas that didn’t succeed, but took some extra effort.

Be spontaneous, sincere, and specific about what the employee did. If you add in how it made you feel, that’s even better. Acknowledge in public or private, or in a hand-written note, but make your comments either on-the-spot or very soon after. You’ll expend little energy while creating great value throughout your organization. You’ll be astonished at how fast good news travels, especially if it’s personal notice by the CEO.

Tie it to desired performance

If the ability to attract and retain the best talent isn’t reason enough to establish a more appreciative culture, there’s another hard core business benefit to spontaneous recognition. When you tie recognition to desired behaviors, you inspire employees to repeat those behaviors, and that increases overall performance. Author and recognition specialist Bob Nelson refers to this as “contingent” recognition.

Companies that bring in doughnuts on Fridays and give people cards on their birthdays create an entitlement culture, says Nelson. If you do “nice” things, people begin to expect them. But if you make recognition contingent upon a specific behavior or performance, they’ll value the recognition more and you’ll get better results as people repeat or copy that behavior.  Just say, “Thank you.”

Question:  What behaviors will you recognize with your employees this week?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management.

What’s In It for Me?

March 23, 2011

Setting clear goals and expectations is a two-way street.  Managers have expectations for employees that are job specific.  And, employees have development expectations of their managers and company, too.  It’s important for managers to understand their employees’ development and career goals.  

Employee development planning is typically a part of the performance management process.  As part of the process, the manager and employee discuss plans for individual development that will take place during the coming year that support the employee’s development goals.  Development plans can include special projects, seminars or conventions, rotational assignments, self-study, specific skill acquisition, to name just a few. 

The best development you can provide is to build on your employees’ strengths.  How can you unearth and nurture those strengths? Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.  

  • Identify ways to apply existing strengths in new ways.  How can you look at your employee in new, different ways? What qualities has your employee demonstrated, and how can these translate into transferable skills?
  • Ask employee what they like to do.  People who excel at a specific job are typically promoted to management level.  As a result, we’ve often taken the person out of the exact environment in which they succeed and which they like and sometimes reducing their success in the new position.  You cannot fully uncover a person’s strengths without their input.  Tap into what the employee discerns as his or her strengths by asking what they enjoy most, and why, and in what role they believe they are of most value to the organization.
  • Get co-workers thoughts.  As the business leader, you work with employees in different ways than they work with each other.  Asking peers to share kudos and thank-yous at staff meetings can provide insight into traits and behaviors that suit  and benefit the entire team and help you assess the strengths of each employee from their peers’ point-of-view. 
  • Look to history for clues.  If you’re having a difficult time identifying an employee’s strengths, spend time thinking about why you hired them, what their references told you and what your first impressions were. There were reasons you brought this person on board — revisit those reasons to refresh your thinking about strengths, contributions and potential.
  • Turn a weakness upside down.  Physicists know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Applied to employees, consider, “What’s the opposite of this weakness?” to unearth possible strengths. For instance, if an employee inconsistently completes projects that he developed in the first place, perhaps his strength is in generating ideas, not executing them.
  • Allow the employee to test-drive a new role.  Maybe you’re seeing the employee in a specific role, yet more of their strengths would blossom in another role. Consider establishing a cross-training program, in which employees shadow co-workers for a day to learn more about the roles and responsibilities available. This test-drive might spark new ideas about increased value from the employee, and allow you (and them) to see where a role-shift may make sense for the company. Set clear goals and intentions for the exercise, including, “What we want to know at the end of this day.” 

Creating development plans that build on strengths and provide opportunities for your employees to learn and grow are key to promoting a great company culture and building employee retention and loyalty.

Question:  What are your development goals?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Collaboration, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management, Teamwork.

Making the Goal!

March 17, 2011

Employee productivity is one of the first places where less-than-optimal management practices drain an organization of financial performance.  When employees don’t receive the clear direction and support that they need to accomplish their key tasks successfully, the result is wasted time, substandard results and costly rework.  The primary culprits?  Unclear expectations, lack of follow-up and ongoing feedback.

An old organizational development saying is ‘you get what you measure’.  If we set clear expectations and don’t follow-up, employees may believe that the task is not as important as something else. 

Following up helps to ensure that goals are on track and will be met.  It provides timely identification of potential obstacles in meeting those goals such as lack of tools, skills or resources and ensures that employees get the support needed to meet expectations.  Follow-up may also uncover lack of commitment or employee nonperformance issues. 

The best way to follow-up with employees is to have regular one-on-ones with each of your employees.  Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with your employees to see how they are doing.  A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the employee can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive and meet expectations.

While follow-up ensures goals are being met, feedback is essential for improving performance. Throughout the year, it is important to understand how you and your employees are performing.  Managers and employees should have a solid understanding of the areas where they are most effective, as well as the areas where they could improve. 

Here are some keys to providing effective feedback:

  • Include the positive. To keep employees motivated, managers must recognize their accomplishments.
  • Make feedback frequent and informal. Going an entire year without feedback is like having a toothache in need of a dentist.  Employees need to know how they’re performing in their jobs – and this is especially true in the case of new employees or temporary workers, who need to have early feedback on a regular basis.
  • Keep documentation.  Records should be kept to document progress and accomplishments, as well as performance problems discussed. These records need to be dated and the corresponding expectations and next checkpoint noted. This information will make the formal review process simple and can also serve as documentation in the event of promotional opportunities or legal or disciplinary actions that could develop.

As you can see, regular feedback and follow-up are key to ensuring individual and company goals are met.  See below for more information on purpose and process for an effective follow-up process – One-on-One meetings with your employees.

Question:  How often do you follow-up on key goals with your employees?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Peformance management, Teamwork.

Follow-up with Regular Employee One-on-Ones

March 17, 2011

Outcome

Individual goals/commitments are always met.

Purpose

  • Provide a structure for opening up communication and monitoring performance. 
  • Review, assessment and planning to ensure goals are on-track or renegotiated.
  • Employee knows how they are doing, receives helpful feedback and coaching, participates in problem solving and feels valued for their contribution

 Guidelines

  • Short—15 to 30 minutes
  • Frequent—at least once every two weeks
  • Focused on individual goals and commitments
  • Individual owns bringing the necessary information to show results, issues and recommended solutions
  • Scheduled in advance (recommend a regularly scheduled meeting)
  • A top priority—If a meeting is postponed, it needs to be rescheduled promptly

 Agenda

  • Review goals/metrics and commitments

                  –  On-track?

                  –  If off-track, assess cause (resources, information, development need)

  • Create plan to address (owners, timeline, etc.)
  • Any urgent issues/needs? 
  • What support do they need from you?
  • Ask what else is on their mind
  • Schedule follow-up, as appropriate

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Personal development.

Setting Clear Goals

March 9, 2011

It’s hard to get great results and hold people accountable if we don’t clearly define expectations.     

As discussed previously, one of the most important things that a manager can provide to an employee is clear expectations. The first step is a clear understanding of their job – the primary purpose, specific tasks and measures of success.  The job description is ‘the price of admission’, what an employee is expected to do.  

Once an employee understands the expectations of their day-to-day job, it’s time to set some measurable goals and objectives.   Excellent goals and objectives are the tools that help employees link their daily tasks to the bigger picture, improve processes, develop skills to contribute at a higher level and be prepared for future career opportunities.  

Some of us confuse goals with activities.  A well-stated goal clearly defines the expected outcome – the result.  A result defines what will be different once achieved and why it’s important.  Activities are a list of tasks that will be accomplished in order to achieve the goal – the how.  For example, an activity is “Take a finance class”; the expected result (goal) might be “Reduce expenses by 10%”.  

Clearly stated individual goals should:

  • Be limited to 3-5 goals
  • Link to a specific company goal
  • Give an employee clear line of sight as to how their job impacts the bigger picture (company and/or customer and/or the world at large)
  • Be discussed and agreed to by both the manager and employee
  • Address developmental needs and/or desires of the employee
  • Be SMART

-Specific and measurable – What does a good job look like?  What is expected result in  factual, quantitative or measurable terms?

– Motivating – Is this intrinsically motivating?

– Attainable / achievable – Does goal fall within employee’s reach yet demand significant effort?  Is it realistic, doable?

– Relevant – Is goal meaningful and linked to company goals?

– Trackable / timebound – Is there a way to measure progress on this goal?  Is there an agreed upon time-frame?

  • Be varied

 – Problem-solving, process improvement (innovative)

 – Developmental (new skill or behavior)

  • Focus on results to be achieved not activities to be performed (how) 

Following these simple guidelines to ensure clear, agreed upon individual goals and objectives will have a significant impact on employee confidence, development and contribution.  Next week, we’ll address the importance of regular follow-up and feedback.

Question:  Are you surprised when employees don’t achieve the expected results?  Are their goals and objectives clearly understood and agreed to?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning, Uncategorized.

What Is My Job?

March 2, 2011

Believe it or not, most of us do not have a job description for our current position.  And, even if we do, it doesn’t clearly state the real duties and expectations of our daily role. 

As discussed last week, one of the most important things that a manager can provide to an employee is clear expectations.  Research shows that when employees have clear job expectations, they are more confident, don’t need as much direction and supervision and perform at a higher level.   Clear expectations also help employees see the importance and value of their work.    

The first step to providing clear expectations is a good job description.  In addition to the job title, here are the key components of a good job description. 

1.    Primary purpose – One sentence that describes the reason the job exists.  For example, the primary purpose of a Production Operator might be “Independently operate equipment to build quality parts per work order instructions and customer specifications.”  A manager’s primary purpose might be “Ensure the right people are in the right jobs working on the right stuff at the right time.” 

2.    Duties and responsibilities – A list of tasks which begin with action words such as perform, produce, assist, provide and create.  All job descriptions should also include the following: 

  • Demonstrate company values and behaviors every day
  • Follow all safety rules and report any potential safety issues to the Safety Representative or Management
  • Perform other duties, as required

3.    Measures of success – A list of expected results for the position. These measures help employees clearly understand the expectations pf the job and be able to assess their own performance against them.  All measures must have an associated process to easily show the results.  For example, measures for a Production Operator might include:

  • Zero rework / scrap
  • Completes all scheduled work on-time 

4.    Qualifications – A list of qualifications for the specific position.  These include minimum skills and experience a candidate must have in order to be considered for the position.  It also includes a list of desired skills and experience which will assist in comparing and selecting candidates. 

Other good reasons to have a current job description for every position are: 

  • to help employees who are interested in the position understand the duties and qualifications, to assess level of interest and
  • to develop the skills necessary when/if position becomes open, 
  • to use in  the hiring and selection process, and 
  • to assess current employee skills and assist in development.

Providing a clear job description will have a significant impact on employee confidence, and their ability to work independently and see the value of their day-day work.  Next week, we’ll cover how to set clear goals and objectives.  See you then!

Question:  What’s the primary purpose of your job? 

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

How Am I Doing?

February 23, 2011

Ever wonder if you’re doing a good job?  You’re not alone. 

 As a manager, one of the most important things you can provide to your employees is clear expectations.  Research shows that when employees have clear job expectations, they are more confident, don’t need as much direction and supervision and perform at a higher level.   Clear expectations also help employees see the importance and value of their work.    

 Here are a few ways that you can provide clarity around expectations for your employees. 

  1. Job description – Most managers think a job description is only used to post jobs in order to fill open positions.   Another important purpose for a job description is to provide an employee with a clear description of the duties and tasks associated with their job.  A good job description also includes the primary purpose of the position – why the job exists – and the measures of success – how we know when it’s done well.   
  2. Clear goals and objectives – Once an employee understands and meets the expectations of their day-to-day job, it’s time to set some measurable goals and objectives.  Every goal needs to help the employee link their work and objectives to the bigger picture.  The big picture could be the company goals, the impact on customers and /or the world at large.  All objectives need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to goal and time bound). 
  3. Follow-up –Touching base with your employees regularly to assess progress, troubleshoot and remove obstacles to achieving the expected results is a key step in ensuring clear expectations.  This can be done through informal MBWA (management by wandering around), regularly scheduled one-on-ones or employee initiated discussions. 
  4. Regular feedback – Nearly all employees want and need to know how you think they are doing.  An important step in ensuring clear expectations is to provide regular feedback.  And, most of it needs to be positive – catching your employees doing something right.  This can be recognition of results that they have achieved, improvements they are making, desired behaviors that they are demonstrating.  If performance is off track, discuss with employee to assess why and correct.  Make sure that all feedback, positive and corrective, is timely, specific and consistent. 

Following these simple steps to ensure clear, consistent expectations will have a significant impact on employee confidence, value and effectiveness.  The next step in employee development is capturing and recording employee accomplishments, and understanding and planning their development goals.

Question: How well do you know the expectations or YOUR job?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

Moving from “The Company” to “Our Company”

February 2, 2011

The heart and soul of engagement is ownership.  As long as your employees feel they are working to help you make your company succeed, engagement will be low.  Once you get them to see themselves as partners in the endeavor—making decisions, staying informed, linking the impact of their day-day job to the company’s success —everything changes.  Engagement rises, productivity soars, customer satisfaction increases and profit grows! 

Engagement does not come from dollars but from more personal factors.  Here are seven things that will help your employees stay engaged for the long term. 

  1. An employer who cares enough to listen. The best way to know what your employees need and expect is to ask them.  And to listen carefully to their answers. 
  2. Clear, consistent expectations.  Clear expectations are key to ownership and self-motivation.  Vague policies and unclear expectations can make employees feel irritated, unsafe, even paranoid – and disengaged.  They click into survival mode instead of focusing on how to help the company succeed. 
  3. A sense of the importance of their work.  Giving an employee line of sight to how their day-day job impacts the bigger picture – customer and company goals – gives them a sense of belonging and an opportunity to see how they make a difference.  This has a greater impact on loyalty and customer service than all other factors combined.
  4. Opportunities for advancement. The chance to learn something new, whether it’s development to be better in their current job or work their way up the ladder, is a tremendous incentive for productivity, bonding, and engagement. 
  5. Good relationships with others in the workplace—especially their boss. If that relationship is weak or toxic, you can forget about asking the employee to put their shoulder to the wheel for the company.
  6. Regular feedback.  If you want to keep employees moving forward, give them regular feedback. And don’t forget positive feedback, which should ideally outnumber the negative by about 5 to 1.   After all, you get what you measure and acknowledge. 
  7. Celebration and rewards for success. Set realistic targets, then reward and celebrate when they are reached.  And don’t wait for the end of a big project to celebrate.  Pick milestones along the way and recognize them (aka have fun, party) when you hit them.  

Help your employees feel a part of the company – our company!   Help them know that ‘we are in this together’ and you will see amazing, positive results! 

Action plan

  1. Assess your current use of the seven factors above.  Do you believe ‘we’re in this together’?  Do your employees? 
  2. Identify and implement a plan to improve at least one within the next week. 

Question:  

Do you work for ‘the’ company or ‘our’ company?  What would make you change your answer?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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Managing All Employees Alike Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

January 26, 2011

By Mark Powers and Andy Kanefield

It has been said that good people don’t leave good companies — they leave poor managers. No one wants to lose their best people, but in the midst of time pressures to produce better results, managers often cut corners — one of which is acknowledging the importance of managing according to the strengths of their people. 

Many parents understand that their children are unique individuals and know when to treat one child differently than the others. Managing employees needs to be a similar journey of better understanding their unique strengths and learning how to maximize those strengths within the context of the shared goals of teams within the organization.

Consider the following broad categories of people within an organization and the accompanying guidelines on how to manage them. 

Futurist employees: These are employees who need to know what’s next. They have a directional focus; they’re looking at the horizon. While there are different types of futurists, there are certain principles that are important to manage any futurist.     
•    Respecting their strengths means giving them an opportunity to help shape the future. Managers can give them roles that allow them to co-create what comes next for the team.
•    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that some may need help implementing their ideas. Place them on teams with people who are good at execution.
•    Helping them develop may mean reminding them that not everyone can see the same things they can and that they need to paint tangible pictures of what the future could look like. 

Analysts: These are employees who excel at execution because they can see the steps needed to get things done. They’re the ones people depend on to get things done. How does one manage analysts?

•    Respecting their strengths means giving them clear instructions of what your desired endpoint is and then giving them the opportunity to create the steps to get there.
•    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that managers may need to check in with them occasionally to ensure the steps being executed are still leading toward the desired end result.
•    Helping them develop may mean reminding them of the necessity to change at times and that the tried-and-true approaches of yesterday were at one time the new approaches. 

Connectors: These are employees who view organizations as a network of people with a common cause, who see the need for a common rally cry or mantra that provides focus and energy. They are the cheerleaders of the organization.

1.    Respecting their strengths means making sure that the team has a clearly articulated shared purpose and that they have a role in reinforcing it and helping keep people focused on it.
2.    Understanding their limitations means avoiding overly conceptual and theoretical discussions that don’t directly relate to improving organizational or individual performance.
3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that other members of the team can still be team players by contributing strengths in isolation that contribute toward team success. 

Interpreters: These are employees who think first about the needs of customers or clients. If the organization is anticipating or going through a change, the first question an interpreter will ask is, “How will this affect our clients?”

1.    Respecting their strengths means ensuring that the team listens to their customer insights. They may not have organized, empirical data for each conclusion, but don’t dismiss their conclusions due to lack of numbers.
2.    Understanding their limitations means making sure that project priorities are clear. Interpreters want to help, and as such, they will overcommit. They need to understand the highest priorities and have timelines based in reality.
3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that great ideas are truly great when you put them into practice. 

Action plan

1.  Look at your employees and your interactions with each of them.  Determine which of these  characteristics best describes each of them. 

2. During your next interaction, modify your management style and see what happens. 

 Question:  What characteristics best describe YOUR style (Futurist, Analyst, Connector, Interpreter)? 

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management.

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Time for Your Annual Tune Up Part Two

January 5, 2011

It’s a new year – yea!  What a great time to set ourselves and our employees up for success to ensure we all meet our 2011 goals!  

Last week, we shared the 6 Steps to a More Effective Strategic PlanThis week we’re sharing some supporting research and tips on the best ways to engage your employees.  

4 Keys to Emotionally Engaged Employees 

We know that emotionally engaged employees are more likely to recommend an employer’s products, support outreach efforts to the community and buy stock in the company, according to a new study from The Brand Union, a brand strategy and design consultancy.

“Our findings demonstrate the importance of companies implementing programs that don’t just reward but further connect employees to their brand,” said Toby Southgate, managing director for The Brand Union. “In order to connect emotionally, employees need consistent and compelling experiences that help formulate a clear understanding of what the company represents.”

The study concludes that emotional engagement drives job satisfaction and has a greater impact than intellectual understanding alone of a company’s mission, goals or financial benefits such as monetary compensation. These findings imply that employee engagement tactics that create dialogue, interaction and provide direction are more powerful and economically efficient in connecting employees with the company.

Furthermore, one of the most critical times to engage employees is during the first six to 12 months of employment.  According to the study, this period represents the lowest engagement period in the relationship between employees and their employer.

Proven strategies to increase engagement throughout the employee lifecycle include:

1.  Link every employee’s day-day job and business goals to the company goals in order to create an understanding of how their work impacts the business and customer experience. 

2.  Foster open sharing of information, to and from leadership and across departments.

3.  Have a performance management system that provides clear expectations and frequent, informal reviews with each employee to build employee confidence and ensure success. 

4.  Understand each employee’s development and career goals and provide opportunities for development and advancement.

For ultimate success, leaders must be sensitive to the fact that one size does not fit all with employees.  Successful outcomes depend on understanding your employees, your team and how best to engage them.

 Action plan

  1. Ask your employees how their job impacts the business every day?  Our customers every day? 
  2. Based on their answers, implement new ways to keep them informed of their value and impact every day. 

Question:  How do you add value and impact the business every day?

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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Best Gift You Can Give – Year Round!

December 22, 2010

Want to give the gift that we all want and need – Give Gratitude!  It will help you feel great and create some positive impact! 

The holidays can bring a special excitement to us, but it can also be a time of sadness and challenge for some people. The holidays can bring on all sorts of emotions. Regardless of how the holiday season impacts you, there is always something you can count on to help lift spirits and joy.  It’s free.  There’s no right way to do it.  You can be incredibly generous with it.  There is a limitless supply.  It creates a powerful impact.  It’s Gratitude.

My challenge to you this holiday season is to reach out and “gratitude” someone. Go out and make an impact.  Not only on the people you know and love – but on the people you don’t.  Let them know how grateful you are for them.  Let them know that you see the things that they might think go unnoticed, that you care, that you’re grateful they’re a part of your organization, or your community, or your team.

Whoever it is, engage with them from the heart.  See them.  Thank them.  Acknowledge them. Engage them.  Do whatever feels right and authentic to you.  It’s amazing how much a little nod of gratitude can matter.  And it’s even more amazing the ripple effects it can have.  So go, have fun and show some gratitude.  Be generous with it. 

Action Plan

Here are a few things you can do this holiday season to raise that holiday cheer even more and get ready for the New Year:

  • Appreciation Days:  Dedicate a full day to letting people know how much you appreciate them.
  • Team Appreciation Days:  Have your team members share at least 3 strengths for each team member that they are grateful for. 
  • Gratitude Rounds: Spend 10 minutes at the end of every week doing the “Gratitude Rounds”: make phone calls, write letters, go out of your way to thank the person at the coffee shop for making you that fabulous coffee every day.
  • Impact Gratitude: Thank your mentors, parents, kids, sibling, colleagues, spouse, teachers, team members, etc. for the impact they’ve had on you this year.
  • Break the funk: Whenever you are feeling in a “funk” or low or grumpy – think about what you have to be grateful for. Make a list and check it twice!
  • Start a gratitude journal:  Every day, write down 3 things that you are grateful for.

There are many ways you can give gratitude.  Three rules: make it authentic, go out of your way to do it and make sure it’s heard!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Question:  Who are you most grateful for?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

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Finding Meaning in Work

December 15, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dave and Wendy Ulrich discuss their new book “The Why of Work”.  It was an inspiring hour for me mostly because I have long been a believer in their findings.  Now, thanks to them, I have the facts to back up my long-term beliefs! 

 When executives were asked “where have you found meaning?”, the answer never came back about work.  It’s typically about being a volunteer, helping their neighbors and friends or about their family. 

 As leaders, it is our job to help people find meaning in their work.   Meaning has bottom line benefits.  When we provide opportunities to engage employee’s hearts and feel a sense of contribution to something bigger than themselves or their individual jobs, people become more engaged and committed. 

Finding meaning in our work does not have to be monumental, like curing cancer.  Most of us want to make a difference – it could be with the people we see every day, the work that we do, the experience we provide our customers.  Here are a few examples of finding meaning. 

  • A taxi driver who gave his fares a hot towel and bottle of water to make them more comfortable.
  • An individual who sold newspapers on the corner smiled and said “have a great day” to everyone he made eye contact with on the street. 
  • A brick layer who, when asked what he was doing, replied “building a cathedral” vs. ‘laying bricks’. 
  • A high school principle welcomed each student at the door with a handshake.  By the end of the year, he knew every one of his student’s names and his graduation rate grew as a result.  

These individuals were connected to something bigger than their job.  They knew that they made a difference every day.  Here are just a few ways you can help your employees find meaning in their work. 

1.  Create a sense of caring – share how they make a difference, how their job impacts others either in the company or outside with customers or others. 

2.  Identify and build on your strengths – use your strengths to build the strengths of others.

3.  Learn from your mistakes and help others learn from theirs.  When a mistake occurs, ask “what did you learn?  What do you feel best about how you handled it?”  Celebrate the learnings. 

When we find meaning and purpose in our work, we tend to give more and strive to make a bigger contribution!   

Action plan

1.  Ask your employees how they think they make a difference every day. 

2.  Select one of the 3 suggestions above to begin to help your employees find more meaning in work.

Question:  Where have you found meaning?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale.

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Employee Engagement- It’s NOT about the $

November 24, 2010

If you’ve seen the movie Jerry Maguire, you’ll remember the scene where Tom Cruise asks Cuba Gooding, Jr., “What can I do for you?” Gooding says, “Show me the money.”

Many employers think that’s the key to employee engagement. But any company that THINKS you have to pour money on employees to get them engaged will write off employee engagement efforts during tough economic times. “We just can’t afford to do it right now,” they say.

In fact, you can’t afford NOT to pay attention to engagement, especially when the wind is howling outside. Employee engagement scores regularly account for up to 50 percent of the variance in customer service scores. A disengaged employee can cost you 30 TIMES as much in safety-related incidents. And disengaged employees are over 85 percent more likely to leave.

A 2006 study by the Gallup Management Journal found that engaged employees make up an average 29 percent of a company’s workforce, leaving a startling 71 percent who are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.”

Engagement comes not from dollars but from more personal factors. Here are seven things that will help your employees stay engaged for the long term.

  1. An employer who cares enough to listen. The best way to know what your employees need and expect is to ask them—and to listen carefully to their answers.
  2. Clear, consistent expectations. Vague policies and unclear expectations can make employees feel irritated, unsafe, even paranoid. And yes, disengaged. They click into survival mode instead of focusing on how to help the company succeed.
  3. A sense of the importance of their work. This has a greater impact on loyalty and customer service than all other factors COMBINED.
  4. Opportunities for advancement. The chance to work your way up the ladder is a tremendous incentive for productivity, bonding, and engagement.
  5. Good relationships with others in the workplace—especially the supervisor. If that relationship is toxic, you can forget about asking the employee to put his shoulder to the wheel for the company.
  6. Regular feedback. If you want to keep them moving forward, give employees the occasional rudder report. And don’t forget positive feedback, which should ideally outnumber the negative by about 5 to 1.
  7. Celebration and rewards for success. Set realistic targets, then reward and celebrate when they are reached. And don’t wait for the end of a big project to celebrate. Pick landmarks along the way and go nuts when you hit them.

Most employees want to feel valued and a part of a purpose bigger than just their job.  These seven simple steps will help you create an environment that will stimulate and sustain engagement!

Action

  1. Assess your own organization.   How engaged are your employees?  Your manager?  Are you? 
  2. Determine one thing you could begin to do differently to increase your own level of engagement  and start doing it today.

Question:  How engaged are You?

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale.

Employee engagement – where do I start?

October 14, 2009

Having a high-performing business culture is a competitive advantage today.  Most companies expect every employee to be an engaged contributor because every employee, through his or her actions, either makes the culture stronger or weakens it.   And employees, in turn, want to be proud of their organizations and local teams.   More importantly, it’s hard to create passionate, engaged customers without passionate, engaged employees. 

 There are 3 types of employees:

  • Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company.  They drive innovation and move the organization forward.
  • Not-engaged employees are essentially ‘checked out’. They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work. 
  • Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.  Every day these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish. 

 What’s the solution to keep the disengaged from impeding your company’s success?  Here are the first steps: 

  1. Cut the truly poor performers . . . don’t prolong everybody’s agony.
  2. Give your top performers a challenging assignment and coach to see fast results. 
  3. Provide the best possible combination of environment, example and tools but recognize that real motivation is self-motivation.  You’ll drive yourself crazy accepting full responsibility for other people’s actions. 
  4. Focus on accountability.  Accountability always improves performance. 

Start here to see your engaged employees step up to the challenge and your un-engaged’ employees become engaged or step off the bus.   Either way, you win!

Categories: Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction.

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