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 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 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.

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.

Communication 101

May 4, 2011

Never talk over people, rarely talk at them, at the very least

talk to them, and try to talk with them.

Talking over = diatribe They’ll leave at the earliest opportunity because you’re insulting them by treating them as if they’re not there. They’re thinking: “What a buffoon, I’m outta’ here at the next break.” Never do this.

Talking at = debate  They feel like you’re sticking your finger in their face. They’ll either: a) hunker down in a submissive pose with their chin tucked into their neck if they’re intimidated. It’s as if they’re saying: “Please don’t be angry at me;” or b) they’ll stick their chin out at you and narrow their eyes if they’re ticked off. It’s as if they’re saying: “You can’t talk to me like that!” Do this only in a situation such as being in overtime in the seventh game of the NBA finals, your players know you respect them and you need them to execute, not think.

Talking to = discussion  They’ll nod from the neck up as if to say, “Yes, that makes sense,” and may or may not follow through. This is the language of doing business as usual. Use this as your usual mode of speaking.

Talking with = dialogue They’ll relax their shoulders and neck as if you’ve moved over to their side and put your arm around their shoulder like a loving parent or grandparent. It’s as if you’ve told them: “It’ll be okay. We can work this out.” This is the language of intimacy. Aspire to this in matters of the heart and when possible in matters of the world.

Question:  What’s your preferred communication style?

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

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.

Negative Feedback – Good, Bad or Gift?

January 26, 2011

Nothing makes for a bad day like negative feedback.  However, there is a role for positive negative feedback in your life, and according to Sam Chapman, CEO and author of The No Gossip Zone, negative feedback should be seen as a gift.

“Without negative feedback, we would never improve ourselves and our lives,” said Sam Chapman. “And after enough practice at accepting negative feedback, you might even find yourself letting out an involuntary “hmm” noise as you realize the truth in a bit of negative feedback.”

Step One: The Giver Is Not Your Enemy
By accepting that everyone has something valuable they can teach us about who we are, we open up to a realm of creativity, growth and success that we never thought possible. This means accepting negative feedback with an open mind and discovering what it is that you need to improve about your performance.

Step Two: Curb Your Natural Reaction to Be Defensive
This will take some practice. It is our natural reaction to immediately leap to our own defense whenever someone puts us down. We immediately come up with several different rebuttals, all of which are aimed to prevent us from taking a single iota of responsibility for the situation at hand. However, if you can take a step back, a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation for a moment, you might realize that you are being told something worthwhile, something that can help you grow personally and professionally.

Step Three: Allow Yourself to Feel Emotions, But Don’t Get Stuck
You have the right to get upset whenever you hear negative feedback. It is perfectly natural to feel sad, angry or any variation thereof when you hear that your performance or behavior needs work. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, but don’t allow yourself to become them. Otherwise, you will be so busy “being” angry or sad that you won’t have the emotional energy or wherewithal to realize where you stand to improve.

Step Four: Turn Your Complaint Into Requests
At the end of this process, you are more than welcome to share your feedback with your giver; just make sure your feedback isn’t in the form of a complaint. The gift is much easier to receive when it’s in the form of a request rather than a complaint.

Question:  How do you respond to negative feedback?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

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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.

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.

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