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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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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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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