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.

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 Gift of Gratitude

November 25, 2011

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family.  For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread.  Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or current crises that they simply don’t feel grateful.

Regardless of where you fit on this spectrum, I hope you will approach this Thanksgiving with a commitment to give yourself and others who deserve it the gift of gratitude.

Sincerely thanking others for something they did or for the role they play in your life is not merely good manners and good ethics.  I think William James was right when he said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”  Fortunately, it’s a need easily met.  It costs so little and means so much.  Just putting appreciation into words can make someone’s day, or even change their life.

But there is another side of gratitude and it should play a much larger part in your life.  Expressing gratitude is what you do for others, but experiencing gratitude is what you must do for yourself.  Willie Nelson, after struggling with depression and addiction, said, “When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around.” 

Feeling gratitude is a potent tonic that can immeasurably improve your happiness and sense of well-being.   Author Melodie Beatie tells us why.  “Gratitude” she says, “unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” 

The platitudes are true.  The key to happiness is deciding to be happy.  It’s not getting more than you have; it’s appreciating what you have. 

So, whether things are going well or poorly, this Thanksgiving, open up a new emotional bank account and start filling it with all the things that deserve your gratitude.  If you do, you will have even more to be grateful for.

by Michael Josephson

Categories: Attitude, Culture, Leadership development, Personal development.

Five Leadership Rules

June 22, 2011

1.  Have confidence in yourself.   Always believe in your abilities to be a great manager and leader.  Tackle all situations and dilemmas that come your way with enthusiasm and gusto.  The fact that you are reading this shows you have the desire and talent that exists within you.  Show you have the confidence and believe in yourself, and others will believe in you as well.  In time you will develop a sort of “instinct” when something needs attention, and a “presence” that people will find ensuring.  You will come across like a leader without even having to say a word.

 2.  Act the way you want others to act, walk the walk you talk, lead  by example, practice what you preach, etc.  These are old clichés but some of the most important tips to build respect within your organization.  If your team sees you working hard, they will work hard.  If they think your slacking, they will start slacking off.  If you tell them what to do, but you do it differently, they will not see you as an honest leader.  If you want an optimistic and positive team, then you need to always be optimistic and positive.  When your employees see that you act in the same manner you expect from them, a true sense of respect will begin to build.  These are just a few of some obvious, but extremely important, leadership skills.

 3.  Honesty and integrity is key.  People do not necessarily expect managers to always have a quick fix to solve the issues, but do expect fundamental leadership principles of honesty and goodness.  In due time you will earn credibility, which is a major leadership trait.  With the high level of integrity they will see in you as a leader, comes the trust that you are not the cause of the issues.  They will automatically know that you, as a manager, will truly do all you can to solve the issues.

4.  Emulate a person who you truly respect as a leader.  There must be someone you know whose leadership skills you thought were admirable.  It could be, or could have been, a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a relative who you admired as a person with respectable leadership characteristics.  Someone who inspired you to want to work hard, to not only try to impress, but to show you cared about the mission at hand.  Study how they made the right and effective decisions using certain facts, opinions, and ideas.  Look for the leadership qualities you would like to incorporate into your leadership style.  By remembering what it was about them that inspired you, you can emulate that style when your leadership skills are called upon.

5.  Listen more than talk.  You will earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening, rather than just blowing your own hot air.  Let them share their passion, and when the time is right, you can interject with passion of your own about the subject at hand.

Question:  What is one of your leadership rules?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Who Are Your ‘Eyes On the Ground’?

June 15, 2011

No matter how long we’ve been doing it, many of us who own and ride horses continue to take lessons from time to time.  The major reason is to see what we can’t see.  When you are in the saddle, you can feel your horse, move your horse and communicate with your horse.  And, your horse can feel, move and communicate with you.                           

Taking a lesson gives you ‘eyes on the ground’ . . . someone who can see what you are doing from a different perspective and view.  This person sees your hands, your legs, your posture, your movement, your reactions, your communication.  They also see what your horse is feeling, how he/she is moving and responding, what he/she is ‘saying’.  This different perspective helps you be your best so that your horse can be his/her best!  It increases the rider’s performance and confidence and increases the horse’s performance and satisfaction.  

Just like riders need eyes on the ground to continue to improve and grow, people who manage people can benefit from the same.  How do you know how well you are doing to bring out the best in your people?  How do you know what could be improved to increase your employee’s performance and satisfaction?  

Here are a few ways to gain perspective and to regularly assess and increase your effectiveness. 

  1. Ask your employees how you are doing.  Do they have the information, resources and support they need from you?  Do they understand your expectations and how well they are performing?  Are you available?  Are you communicating clearly?  What else do they need from you to be their best?
  2. Ask your peers.  What’s working, what could be improved?  If they could give you one piece of advice, what would it be? 
  3. Ask your manager.  Are you meeting expectations?  What are your strengths?  What is one thing that you could do better? 
  4. Complete a formal 360 process.  Work with your HR department or a management coach to source and conduct an anonymous feedback process on you where input is provided by your manager, your employees, your peers and you.
  5. Work with a management coach.    A coach can see you and be candid about what they see.  They can be your ‘eyes on the ground’.  During your regular conversations, they see your style, your reactions, your strengths, your confidence and how you manage stress.  They can also collect input from your employees, peers and/or manager, facilitate open dialog with you and others and teach you new skills to be a more effective leader and bring out the best in your people.   

Having ‘eyes on the ground’ will increase your awareness of your strengths and opportunities and increase your employees’ and your own performance and satisfaction.

Question:  How do you regularly assess your performance?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

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.

Another Lesson from the Horses

June 1, 2011

It was a gorgeous, warm day with LOTS of wind.  So I decided to work the horses in the round pen rather than go for a ride.  It also gave me an opportunity to work with both horses, rather than only take one out that day.  

The primary purpose of using the round pen is to teach your horse to listen and respect you.  You do this by talking to the horse in his language – body language – not by talking out loud.  Do you remember the cartoon Charlie Brown?  When the adults talked, all the kids heard was ‘blah blah blah . . . “  I think it’s the same with horses.  We want to believe that they understand ‘our’ language, and in some cases they do.  But if we really want our horses to listen and do what we want them to do, we need to speak their language.  

So, there we were in the round pen.  And, I was speaking their language and they were listening!  I worked with Buddy first and he was an angel.  I would point him in the direction I wanted him to go and he did exactly what I wanted.  I gave him the cue to trot and he did.  I cued him to canter and he did.  He was perfect.  When I stepped back and stopped moving, he turned towards me and stopped – perfect!  I would point him in the opposite direction and he did what I asked.  After a while, he started to get bored with the circling and I began to get frustrated that he was no longer being perfect.  My frustration led me to be inconsistent with my language with Buddy which led Buddy to get confused and frustrated with me.  We weren’t communicating and as hard as Buddy was trying to do what I was asking, he couldn’t perform.  I finally began to listen to Buddy, figured out what he needed to meet the expectations and we ended on a good note.  

Then it was Blue’s turn.  Lucky for Blue, I was a quick learner.  Buddy had taught me that I needed to listen and communicate consistently with him.  Because of that, Blue performed well, neither of us got frustrated or confused and we met the expectations for the day.   

Moral of this story

  1. Consistent communication – Communicate the expectations in a way that your employee can understand.  Speak their language, not yours, and make sure you are consistent in the way you communicate and reinforce the performance with rewards and consequences. 
  2. Listen – Check in with your employees on a regular basis to assess progress and offer support.  Listen to what’s working and where they may need some support. 
  3. Keep it under control – Manage your emotions – if things aren’t going well, point the finger towards yourself first.  Assess whether you have communicated the expectations clearly and if you have provided the necessary training and resources for your employee to be successful. 

Question:   How do you manage your emotions when expectations are not met?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development, Teamwork.

Your Pursuit of Happiness

May 25, 2011

I’ve been thinking about happiness. Specifically, in the days since our World Class Life Conference ended, I’ve been pondering the keys to total happiness and a wonderful book by the Dalai Lama, “The Art of Happiness”. 

The Dalai Lama argues that, fundamentally, we all seek more and greater happiness in our lives and that the one really key questions in life is, “What makes me truly happy?” 

For many people, happiness is related to money, and happiness means accumulating wealth. For them, money has great value and they are motivated to work hard and smarter, and to use money in ways that make them happy.  But there are thousands of individual differences in the details of exactly how that works. Some make money and give it all away. Some make money and hoard it, even burying it in the backyard, while others invest it, and still others make a show of displaying a wealth of possessions.

For others, happiness has little to do with money, and they seek fulfillment in their creativity, or they find ultimate happiness in family relationships, or by serving others.

There are many paths up the mountain called “happiness”!

One of the most important distinctions the Dalai Lama makes is between happiness and pleasure. We can all think of experiences that bring us delightful pleasure but which utterly fail to make us “happy” in life. Almost everyone enjoys a fine meal, perhaps with good wine, but we all reject a life of gluttony and drunkenness.

 So the question:  What makes you truly happy? 

This is a central question for the World Class Life Conference because in order to have a GREAT life, we must first determine what it might look like. What are the key pieces of a great and joyful life FOR YOU? 

Almost 150 years ago, Henry Thoreau wrote that most people “live lives of quiet desperation”, and sadly, I think that’s still true. All our wealth and freedom, our education and power, even access to the greatest wisdom and literature of past generations, has not created a society in which most people seem truly happy. 

Indeed, many people seem to be incredibly unhappy. While some are overtly miserable, millions more are stressed, anxious, uncomfortable or angry. Some focus their discomfort on their work, others on politics or public policy, while some are simply annoyed by noise, pollution or road construction. Whatever the details, the question remains:

With our incredible freedom to create the life we truly want and live as we please, why aren’t more people happy? 

I think this is a vital question. It may even be THE question for modern adults to ponder and answer. Given that you can live almost anywhere you choose, read and learn almost any skill, and have pretty much any lifestyle you want, WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? 

What are your happiest memories? What are your happiest fantasies, dreams and aspirations? Who do you know who seems to be truly, massively happy? 

What makes you happy? At the end of life, what will let you say, “I did it right. I made good choices. I am HAPPY with how I lived my life!” Whatever your answer, in the coming days and weeks, do more of that, and less of everything else.

by Phil Humbert

Question:  What makes YOU happy?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development.

A Gift in Disguise

May 18, 2011

All of us have had, and continue to have people/situations/occurrences/events in our lives that we interpret as good or bad, happy or sad.  We know how to handle the good and happy events in our lives.  We enjoy!

In each event we interpret as bad or sad, there is a gift disguised as a problem.  Each of us have had, and will periodically continue to have bad, sad or negative events/encounters in our lives.  In each of those situations, there is a lesson for us to learn, an opportunity to grow.

We normally feel the emotion of the event, which is natural.  However, many times we fail to learn the embedded lesson.  Often, we continue to feel the emotion long past what is healthy for us.  We re-live the situation over and over (Self-Talk).

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.  If this is true, then we should view our mistakes or events in our lives as an opportunity to learn.

Certainly we need to feel the emotion.  And the more severe the event, the longer we will naturally feel the emotion.  However, at some point it is time to “Learn the Lesson” and move-on.

We are feeling beings.  We are also problem solving beings with the gift of “Original Thought”.  So, when the time is appropriate, we need to “Leave the Event” behind, and carry the lesson into our future.  We can then put the lessons learned into our tool-box of experience to deal with future events.

Use your skills to “Learn the Lesson – Leave the Event” and move-on.

By Michael Price

Question:  What are YOU learning this week?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

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.

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.

Time for Your Annual Tune-up

December 29, 2010

In a few days we’ll begin a brand new year and two key questions are whether and how you will make it a better, fulfilled and more successful year than this one?  I hope you’ll answer these questions for your business and personal life.  Today, we’ll focus on the business side. 

One important step to achieve a better, fulfilled and more successful business year is to have a solid plan.  Another is to engage your employees.  This week we’ll focus on the plan.  Next week, we’ll share some tips on best ways to engage your employees. 

The most essential pieces to both of these plans are involvement and alignment

6 Steps to a More Effective Annual Plan

If you’ve done annual planning and goal setting as a ‘check-the-box’ exercise in the past, you know that it can be unnecessarily complex and marginally useful.  Here are 6 steps to help you create a more effective plan that gets you the intended results.  

1.  Keep the plan simple and alive.  An effective annual plan provides clear direction for all employees.  It shows the goals as the target (the bulls-eye) and helps guide employee actions (the arrows) day to day.  As Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems once said, a good plan puts “all the wood behind one arrow”.   

2.  Involve key stakeholders.  Ensure that the plan reflects the voice of the organization by including key stakeholders in the planning and goal setting process.  When you invite others to participate, they feel ownership of the plan and are more willing to focus their efforts on achieving the results.   

3.  Clearly outline responsibilities and accountability.  If everyone owns it, no one owns it.  Without goal “owners” who develop and drive the action plan, the goals become everybody’s job with no clear accountability. An owner will take the lead in identifying a team, implementing tactics, monitoring progress and rewarding and recognizing desired behaviors and results.  

4.  Review organizational performance frequently.  Ensure that measurement of actual performance against goals is agreed to at the time the goals are set.  Every measure should have a defined measurement interval (e.g. daily, monthly, quarterly) in order to correct and modify the plan along the way and ensure achievement.  If we only look at our performance at the end of the quarter, it is too late to take corrective action and hit the target.  

5.  Assess your organization’s capabilities and capacities before setting goals.  Do you have the right people in the right jobs with the right skills to set aggressive goals?  Are senior leaders aligned and engaged in the journey?  Do you have the right tools and systems in place?   These answers will determine how aggressive your goals can be.  Part of your plan may include building new capabilities within the organization.  

6.  Link company goals to all employees.  To ensure organizational alignment, every employee needs to have a clear line-of-sight as to how their job impacts the annual plan and the customer experience.   Use your formal and informal communication and performance management processes to ensure this insight and alignment.   

Action Plan

  1. Review your plan and identify potential obstacles to success (personal and business).
  2. Determine what you can and will do to overcome them if these obstacles appear. 

Question:  Which of your 2011 goals are the most important to you?

Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

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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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Are Your Employees Giving You the Silent Treatment?

December 7, 2010

If you’re like a lot of managers, you pride yourself on all the ways you signal to employees that you welcome their input, especially your open door. And you probably believe that you’re actually hearing what’s on their minds — after all, they speak up in meetings, talk openly with you in the hall and keep you informed by copying you on emails.  Well, you’re not hearing as much as you think or as much as you need to.

 Because employees sometimes talk, bosses are often unaware of their workers’ self-censorship.  They imagine they’re hearing what’s important when in fact they’re being met with silence they’re simply unaware of.  Think of the times you’ve kept your own mouth shut. There have probably been numerous instances, even if you’re generally candid. The combination of tight-lipped employees and oblivious bosses prevents the best ideas from bubbling up through the organization.

In the latest phase of Harvard Business Journal’s decade’s worth of research on organizational silence, they piggybacked six questions onto the annual Cornell National Social Survey to explore how and when employees hold back.  As you’d expect, they clam up when they’re afraid that speaking could get them into trouble, but surprisingly, the most common reason for withholding input is a sense of futility rather than fear of retribution.

The data from the 439 survey respondents who are full-time employees (not self-employed) shared a common reason for not speaking up.  It was NOT because they didn’t feel safe in doing so.  More than 25 percent say they withhold feedback on routine problems and opportunities for improvement to avoid wasting their time, not because they fear consequences.  They didn’t speak up because they didn’t think that anything would happen – be different or improved – as a result of their feedback. 

Most of the time, employees have something to say about the everyday flow of operations. This is the world that each employee inhabits and knows intimately – the one where they engage their tasks, their coworkers, their customers and their boss. Unfortunately, when employees have opened a discussion with their boss about problems or potential solutions, employees may have been perceived that it had been received poorly.  Sometimes, by the immediately reaction by the boss – minimizing it, making the employee feel stupid.  Or, most of the time, because nothing happens with the informaton or recommendation that the employee shared. 

In order to begin to change this ‘silent treatment’, managers must:

  1. Listen, ask questions – Make the employee feel heard.
  2. Understand the employee’s expectations – Ask the employee what they want you to do with the information and  focus on solutions and next steps. 
  3. Follow-up – Always follow-up with the employee on status of the employee’s actions and yours. 
  4. Be honest – If you are not able to use the information or recommendation at that time, help them understand why.  Make sure you thank them for bringing it to your attention and encourage them to continue to bring good information and recommendations to you.   

Remember that your employees are the key to organizational success.  Silence on day-to-day issues keeps us from getting the information we need to prevent bigger problems — performance and otherwise — down the road.

Action

  1. Look at your organization.  Have your employees given you feedback or suggestions on how to improve things?  If not, why not?
  2. What have you done with your employee’s feedback and suggestions over the past month?
  3. Determine one thing you can start to do today to eliminate the ‘silent treatment’ with your employees.   

Question:  What are you not sharing with your boss?  Why?

Categories: Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale.

Give Thanks with Trust

December 1, 2010

For many, the Thanksgiving holiday is a time to enjoy family and give thanks for the joys in their lives. For others, it’s a time to be endured, not enjoyed, peppered by awkward conversation around the dinner table. 

In every personal relationship, there’s the equivalent of a trust account, said Stephen Covey, author of the business best-seller The Speed of Trust

“Just like a bank account, you grow the account when you make a deposit and you deplete it if you take a withdrawal,” he said. “What’s a deposit and what’s a withdrawal for trust? It’s your behavior. It’s how you act, how you work together, how you exchange. There are certain behaviors that will grow trust fast and others that will cause you to lose it.” 

Covey said there are four basic ways to grow the trust account:

  • Demonstrate respect and show others that you care.
  • Listen with the intent of understanding, rather than with the intent to reply.
  • Show loyalty and speak about people as if they’re present, even if they’re not.
  • Give others an advance of your trust.  

That’s not to say that you should enter relationships blindly, but rather extend trust until it’s proven you should do otherwise. People will often act as they are treated.  “Too often we get wrapped in a vicious cycle of distrust and suspicion and it goes down the drain,” he said. 

Family badmouthing is a key example of this — people know that you’re probably talking about them behind their back too. Rather than join in the behavior, try to understand the other perspective and be fair. “It tells everyone that is present that I’d do the same for them too,” Covey said. 

In relationships, just as with bank accounts, bankruptcy happens because people make too many withdrawals or withdrawals are too big. Words are helpful and apologies sometimes necessary to rebuild the trust account, but they need to be followed up with action.  Covey says “You can’t talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved yourself into.  The only way is you’ve got to behave your way out of it. It’s through behavior that we restore trust.”  

Covey said there are four principles to change behavior and create lasting trust:

  • Take responsibility and practice accountability.
  • Right wrongs and make restitution, if necessary.
  • Clarify expectations and declare your intent by letting people know what you plan to do going forward.
  • Most importantly, keep the commitments you just made and do what you said you were going to do.

The basics of relationship trust are the same, whether it’s personal relationships at home or professional relationships at work.  “It’s always about credibility — giving them a person they can trust — and behavior — interacting in ways that grow the trust,” Covey said. “It’s just that the context may change. Certain behaviors may be important in some settings more than others.” 

In professional settings, it may be more important to practice behaviors such as talking straight, delivering results and showing competence. In personal relationships, people may be more forgiving of shortcomings; after all, you can’t fire your brother because he’s acting like a jerk.  That focus changes in professional relationships. 

Covey recommends that organizations make the creation of trust an explicit goal and objective. Trust is a competence — one with direct impact on performance.

“Help the organization see that trust is not just a nice, soft social virtue,” he said. “This is about us being able to perform better, faster, with less cost, greater speed and more profitability.” 

Managers can start by modeling trust themselves with their team, engaging the executive team in developing it and creating a framework, process and methodology for implementing trust building. Covey said it’s pivotal to include measurement. Without that, it’s just another nice thing to have, not a business necessity. 

“To really elevate trust, make it an explicit goal, just like there are goals around market share or goals around profitability and growth,” Covey said. “Trust is not just a sideshow. Trust is of its own deserving of that type of stature. 

“If you can start anything in a climate of trust, your probability of success has gone up and the speed of success has gone up. If you do any other initiative, no matter what it is, in an environment of low trust, the probability of success goes down, as does the speed. 

The creation of that culture would indeed be something to be thankful for. 

Action

  1. Identify those with whom you need to make some trust deposits in their trust account. 
  2. Take one action to make that deposit.   

Question:  How would you rate TRUST in your organization?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership.

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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