Moving from “The Company” to “Our Company”

February 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

Action plan

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

Question:  

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

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

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Managing All Employees Alike Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

January 26, 2011

By Mark Powers and Andy Kanefield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action plan

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

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

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

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

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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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Great Expectations Make Great Lives

January 11, 2011

by Phil Humbert and Beth Papiano – January 2011

There is a great old story that pretty much predicts the kind of year you’ll have in 2011.

 It’s about an older woman in a wheel chair who was moving into a retirement center. Her children had all moved away and her declining health made it impossible for her to live alone any longer. As she sat in the reception area waiting to be wheeled up to see her room for the first time, her daughter called and the nurse handed the woman the phone. As they chatted, the woman told her daughter the room was beautiful, and that she loved the new friends she was meeting.

When she hung up the phone, the nurse expressed surprise, saying she thought the woman had never seen the facility before. The woman replied, “Oh, I’ve never been in this building before, but I learned a long time ago that most things are about as pleasant and charming as I decide they are in my mind. So why should I wait for you to take me upstairs? I just decided I was going to love it here, and I bet I will.”

In life our expectations, combined with our actions, pretty much predict our results.

To make sure 2011 is a wonderful, prosperous and productive year, make sure you go into it with (1) great expectations, and (2) a great plan.

Imagine a year of health, wealth and growth. Affirm that you will achieve your goals and that you’ll meet just the right people to help you along the way. Know, in advance that problems will be solved and that you’ll have all the resources you may need along the way.

Sure, it may seem a little silly, and imagining a wonderful year may not “guarantee” it will happen, but it can’t hurt!   If you’re going to dream, why not dream the best?

If, for whatever reason, you prefer to make yourself anxious or worried, of course you know how to do that. Just focus on a few things that could go wrong, or think about getting sick or failing, and most people can create a “recipe” for worry. But why would anyone expect trouble, when for with the same time and energy they could affirm something wonderful?

Great expectations and great plans are a simple, two-step recipe that has tremendous power. Whether you use it to create a profitable business, a loving relationship or to reach some other personal goal, the key is to be clear about what you want and have the personal discipline to make it happen. In life, we usually get what we expect, especially if we use a great system to make it come true. Here’s to making 2011 a wonderful year!

Action Plan

  1. Create a recipe for beauty, health, joy and prosperity.  It takes no more effort, you’ll feel better, and for all we know, it might actually create some sort of “energy field” or “vibrations” that will actually create a better 2011. Give it a try!
  2. Create a great system.  Dreams, by themselves, are not enough. Get a calendar and plot your strategy. Sit down and explain your “great expectations” to a trusted friend or colleague. There’s something magical and extremely powerful about telling your dreams to another person, especially someone who really “gets” it and will cheer you on all year long.

Question:  What’s your great expectation for 2011?

Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Leadership, Personal development, Strategic planning.

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Time for Your Annual Tune Up Part Two

January 5, 2011

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

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

4 Keys to Emotionally Engaged Employees 

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

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

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

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

Proven strategies to increase engagement throughout the employee lifecycle include:

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

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

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

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

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

 Action plan

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

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

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

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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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Leadership Development isn’t a spare time activity

November 9, 2010

Many of us think – I’ll do professional development when things slow down, when I find time, when I really need it.  But, what we need to consider is that development happens every day.

We learn by listening to our employees.  We learn from discussions with peers.  We learn from our mistakes (hopefully).  We learn from what we read, groups we attend  . . .

Learning happens whether it’s formal or informal.

Answer these questions and determine where you are on the leadership development scale.

  • What did you learn today?
  • When was the last time you scheduled professional development for yourself (a class, a MasterMind group, a teleconference or webinar, a coach)?
  • Beyond the scheduled training sessions from the training department, when do you work on developing you?
  • When the opportunity to do the next job in your leadership career emerges, will you be ready?
  • Are you too busy to find time to develop yourself?
  • Will you be as effective tomorrow as you are today if you remain static in your development?
  • Do you only work on you when you have “free time”?

Action Plan

  1. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to think about what you learned that day.
  2. Determine what you are going to do to make sure that you continue to develop yourself as a leader with formal and informal practices and make it happen.

Question:  Who is your mentor (dead or alive)?

Categories: Collaboration, Leadership, Leadership development, Personal development.

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