Archive for the ‘Managing Employees’ Category

Real leadership in tough times

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
© Smagal | Dreamstime.com

© Smagal | Dreamstime.com

In today’s turbulent economic market, even the strongest and most powerful corporate icons are challenged to find ways to improve their efficiencies. As they require more work from fewer numbers of people, their top priority is having effective leaders and managers who can propel their group to greatness. Unfortunately, many young managers and leaders have never seen a tight economy, or at a minimum, have only a faint memory of what it can be like. It’s during these times that leadership skills are put to the test.

The following three leadership qualities are extremely valuable during robust times, and absolutely essential during challenging times.

1. Lend an empathetic ear. Ignoring the emotions of your team members during tough times only causes greater challenges. Create a forum for people to share their feelings so that they can release them and move on. When people sense that someone doesn’t truly understand their emotions, they tend to stay charged and keep whining. If you don’t want to be listening to the same complaints over and over, then listen with emotion. If someone’s voice is loud and angry, say back in a loud voice, “This is terrible.”

Then continue the conversation by dropping your voice slowly to a normal range. Watch the magic as they defuse by simply knowing you “really got it.”

2. Don’t buy into the “ain’t it awful” story. Everything you hear could be true. Quarterly profits could be down, market share may be shrinking, and turnover could be high. These and other measurements are feedback that an organization isn’t doing what it should be doing.

Lead your team to the understanding that even during the darkest times, many do well, and you intend to be one of them. Your team needs to shift out of its doomsday view and into one with possibilities. When people say, “We can’t because,” the response should always be, “How can we?” With enough repetition, people will soon come to understand that results can be achieved no matter what the circumstances.

3. Acknowledge the steps along the way. Frustration runs high when things aren’t working well. Employees’ confidence is shaken. When confidence is low, performance weakens, thereby feeding into the cycle of lower motivation and performance. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Appreciate the little steps along the way during challenging times. Let your team know that you appreciate not only the things they do, but also who they are and the efforts they make. Build fun into your appreciation. Good organizations, departments and managers thrive during rough times because they learn to hone their skills like never before. They’ve discovered that it’s the bad times that make them so much better during the good times.

Turning Workplace Clark Kents into Superheroes of Service

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
© Dmitroza | Dreamstime.com

© Dmitroza | Dreamstime.com

Someone’s late for a meeting. Nobody calls the person on it. Next week, three people are late.  You try to convince yourself it’s a coincidence. Eventually, there won’t be a meeting in the entire organization that starts within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. Before you know it, everyone’s repeating the mantra that “starting late is the ABC Company way!”

You create sales reports to make sure the right people are called on and the right process is followed. Then some sales reports aren’t done accurately or aren’t timely. But it’s your top producer so…what can you say?

Then the top achiever stops doing the reports all together.  The rest of your team members follow the leader. Sales take a nosedive. Your sales team blames the economy and the competition.

Yeah, right.  It’s somebody ELSE’S fault.

Everybody knows the rules—but no one is calling others on it when they break the rules.  Your organization descends into lazy anarchy.  How could it not?

Look at any successful organization and you’ll see a group in which EVERY team member cares enough to call every other team member on it whenever a service standard is breached, a deadline missed, a sales process isn’t followed, or an honor code value violated.

Struggling organizations have folks who just want to be “nice.”  Think Clark Kent. When they see standards breached, they let it all slide.  Why?  So others will let THEM slide when THEY mess up. Eventually they’re all scratching each others backs, watching the iceberg pass by, and wondering why their socks are wet.

People need to understand that it isn’t “mean” to challenge each other—it’s uncaring and unloving to NOT challenge each other for falling short of what’s required. It keeps others small.

A leader’s role is to lead people to a level of greatness they thought was reserved for others—to tear the shirts off these Clark Kents, revealing the ‘S’ of the superhero below.  Your role is to help ordinary people get extraordinary results by using the most basic fact of human psychology:  People move away from pain and toward pleasure.

If somebody doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do and there is no immediate pain, that behavior continues. If there is no pleasure, that behavior isn’t reinforced.

Your job is to celebrate the many wins with rituals of pleasure and to let ALL your people know that celebrating those wins is part of their contribution to the team. It is also your job to make sure that when people don’t do what they’re supposed to do, they experience the pain of addressing the slip-up directly.

A balance of pain and pleasure serves as twin guardrails to guide continuous improvement in behaviors and results.

The ultimate job of a leader is to run an organization in which every person calls every other person “tight.” Only then do you know your people have the maturity both to challenge and to be challenged. When in the history of time has there been a profound result without a profound challenge?

Creating an extraordinary organization doesn’t mean finding extraordinary people. It means helping ordinary people discover that they can be extraordinary.

Culture—The Ultimate Profit Tool

Friday, May 7th, 2010
© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

For three decades, companies across the spectrum have talked about the need to convert to a sales culture.  Talk, talk, talk.  Yet for all the chatter, the number that has successfully converted to a sales culture is still well below five percent! Millions have been spent in an attempt to make the change.  So why have so many repeatedly failed?

Sales and service skills do little to change results UNLESS there is a strong base of people who love what they do.  It’s about the culture! Without the right spirit, no amount of training or hiring will get you headed in the right direction.

A survey by the Corporate Executive Board showed that employees who are “true believers”—who value, enjoy, and believe in what they do—displayed 57 percent more discretionary effort and were 87 percent less likely to leave, while Gallup says that for every $10,000 of payroll, $3,400 of productivity is lost due to “disengaged employees.”

That’s an ugly number.

So what makes people love their jobs, fully engage, and produce greater results? Contrary to what most believe, money has very little to do with it.  What does matter is the three overlooked “must haves” to rejuvenate your people’s passion for extraordinary results.

1.  Kick-butt Rituals of Celebration and Appreciation
Healthy cultures have appreciation as their cultural backbone. They create an environment where everyone, not just the managers, oohs and aahs over each other’s successes and contributions.  They create daily, weekly, and quarterly rituals of celebration and appreciate and coach their people to be positive coaches to each other.

Maybe you have a daily huddle before opening where each person briefly shares an accomplishment while the rest of the team cheers and claps.  Maybe you have a “positive” sharing at the beginning of each weekly strategy meeting and a quarterly awards ceremony filled with many awards and recognitions.  If you create a childlike energy of people high-fiving with joy, you can expect people to thrive under the recognition.

2.  Ironclad Values
Your defined values are your “true north” and a powerhouse of results IF you do them correctly. If your values could be listed as the values of any other company in the country, you haven’t done a good enough job of creating values that will guide you powerfully.  When you say “honesty” or “integrity” or “hard work,” you haven’t really said a thing.  And if people don’t have their quarterly project plans built around the values, guess what? They aren’t really your values.

3.  “We mean it” Behaviors
When an organization defines its behaviors well, then supports and coaches to those behaviors as if they really are to be followed consistently, miraculous transformations begin.

Besides sales and service behaviors, behaviors regarding how to treat and respect coworkers must also be defined, like “no excuses” or “no talking behind peoples’ backs” or “state things in the positive.”  When you are clear in expecting the best in others, people bring their higher selves to work—that part in all of us that knows the right thing to do and the willingness to do it.

Most of all, remember that EVERYTHING is a leadership issue. If you want people to thrive at work and bring their passion for extraordinary results, you must, as a leader, create the environment in which people can thrive.

Follow through to get the bang for your training buck

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
© Jgroup | Dreamstime.com

© Jgroup | Dreamstime.com

One semester in middle school, we had the option of taking a bowling class for gym. And I remember clearly, as my ball headed into the gutter time after time—the instructor kept harping on one thing: “Be sure to follow through.”

Follow through? Why? It never made a lick of sense to me. Once the ball is out of my hands, what difference does it make what my arm does?

Finally I got sick of scoring in the low peanuts every game and thought I’d try it. I let the ball go and allowed my arm to continue in a perfect arc.

I can still hear the sound of that strike.

According to the American Society for Training & Development’s Benchmarking Forum, the average annual expenditure per employee on training was $1424 in 2005 (the last year of complete data). But the most successful and productive companies invest $1616 per employee.

Coincidence? You wish. Training provides the best ROI of any investment you can make in your business, period. But there’s something else those high-performing companies do—they follow through after the training is complete. The best way to get results from your training dollars is to expect and measure immediate application of what is learned. Measurement and celebration of the results from the training program need to start within 24 hours of a session or the application of the learned material drops like a stone.

When you work with a training consultant, make sure they don’t pull up stakes and head for the hills five minutes after the last session is over. Good training ALWAYS includes a specific, detailed follow-up plan—or it’s not training. It’s flushing.

Screw up? Chin up! ‘Fess up—then clean up

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
© Nruboc | Dreamstime.com

© Nruboc | Dreamstime.com

You’re human, so you’ll make mistakes. It’s part of the bargain. You’ll miss deadlines. You’ll drop the ball in a hundred different ways.  No matter how hard you try, you WILL disappoint people by not meeting their expectations and living up to your commitments.

That’s why it’s crucial to have the ability to (1) admit your mistakes, and (2) clean up after yourself.

A clean-up has two parts—acknowledging the result wasn’t okay and committing to take corrective action. When you miss a deadline, you owe it to your team to say, “I’m so sorry I missed that deadline. There’s no excuse. It shouldn’t have happened. I’m putting a tickler system in place to remind myself earlier in the process so it won’t happen again.”

In a world of wall-to-wall denial and deflection of blame, just IMAGINE the reaction that kind of honesty will get.

When a document slips through with errors—and you know it will sometimes—your boss expects to witness a duck-and-cover drill.  Imagine instead if she hears, “I can see that I made mistakes in this document and I know that’s not acceptable. I will put a reminder at my desk to checklist each document before I submit it to make sure they are double-checked and accurate. I want you to be able to trust me.”  It’ll stand out like a stallion in a herd of mules.

If someone DOES react badly to your honesty—and again, sometimes they will—just grin and bear it, knowing you are not responsible for the reactions of others.  Make an honest willingness to clean up your messes a way of life, and 99 times out of 100, the world will beat a path to your door.