Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gotta Get Some!

Energy, that is. We’ve all been there – some more than others – wish you had more energy to do more, stay awake longer, or have more concentration. Yeah, you’ve been there.

Jon Gordon, author of
The 10-Minute Energy Solution says that, "Everyone has lows. The key is to know when your energy is down and what you can do to turn it around." He maps out a 30-day plan with a simple 10-minute exercise each day to give you a boost physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Here are 10 things you can do:

1. Start your day with a positive energy walk. Step briskly and say what you're thankful for. Think positive thoughts like "I look forward to the rest of the day, the people I'm going to meet, the things I'm going to learn." Or complete these sentences: "I believe that... I trust that..."
2. Neutralize the "energy vampires," the people who drain you. They’re everywhere. Counter their negative comments and attitude with kindness and compassion. Notice something? Another person's negativity can only bring you down if you let it. Like I always say, attitude you give = attitude you get.
3. Lose your mind. No, don't go any more crazy than you already are. Go meditate. Sit in a quiet place. Focus on your breathing. Inhale and think of a word like so or one or peace. Exhale and think of the same word or another. (Gordon likes the mantra so hum.) Repeat with each breath. If a thought floats into your head, let it float out, and focus on your breathing and mantra again. "You want to lose your thoughts, your thinking mind, so you can be one with the moment," Gordon explains.
4. Add play to your day. Run around the yard with your kids or your dog (chase a squirrel). Put on your favorite pick-me-up song and dance. Grab three tennis balls and try to juggle them. Go for a bike ride. Build something out of Legos or Lincoln Logs – remember those? Write the lyrics to your life as a funny country song (and then share it with me!).
5. Connect. Call an old friend you haven't talked to in a while. Invite a coworker to lunch. Drop a line -
not by email but by good, old-fashioned pen and paper (wow, what a concept) - to someone you don't see often.
6. Smile and laugh. Walk around your office and smile at your coworkers. They won't think you're strange (probably), just in a good mood. Several times a day, think of a funny joke or experience, and laugh.
7. Let stress go. "Energy is like a river," Gordon says. "Stress blocks it." To get it flowing again, first, list your stresses. Take a deep breath and clench your hands into fists, as if you're holding on to all the stress. Exhale forcefully, opening your hands and throwing your arms wide. Feel your tension release? Good. Say, "I choose not to have my stress. I let it go." Repeat this exercise for each stress you listed and let it go.
8. Pray for someone. It recharges your spiritual batteries. Studies suggest those who have a strong faith are better able to handle adversity. Make a list of people and what they need help and prayers for. Find a quiet spot and get comfortable. Listen to your breath, feel your heart beat. When you're nice and relaxed, pray for each person on your list.
9. Look for signs of grace. Think about the times in your life when you thought something bad happened, but it turned out to be a blessing. It may have happened and you just haven't realized it yet. Write these experiences down. Next time something you didn't want or expect occurs, look back on this list and remind yourself everything happens for a reason, even if you don't see it just yet.
10. Do a little lifting. Giving someone else a lift gives you a lift too. In one study, college students who performed five small acts of kindness a day (such as helping a friend with a paper or visiting an elderly relative) experienced a significant increase in well-being. What will your five acts of kindness be? Plan two. Then
look for three random opportunities to be kind as the day unfolds. If you come across more, keep going! As Gordon says, "Positive energy never decreases by being shared. With each gift, it grows."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So You Think That's Funny? Good!

Things getting a bit too serious and stressful around the ole think tank? I bet you didn’t know that, besides making it a more enjoyable place to work, adding a bit of humor can significantly enhance your own professional development. In a survey conducted by Robert Half International, 91% of executives surveyed consider a sense of humor important to career advancement. The other 9%’s last name was Scrooge.

A chuckle here and there can help you build rapport with the staff around you, encourage open communication, and contribute to a positive work environment overall. And, possibly most importantly, a comic touch can work to relieve tension on even the most stressful days (even if that’s every day).

But keep in mind that not all fun and games are well received. It's crucial to take into consideration your organization's, and your co-workers', perceptions when it comes to comic relief. Humor should be work appropriate and never mean-spirited or at the expense of others.

Here are some tips to keep things on the up and up:
Just say no to sarcasm
People often use humor as an indirect way of criticizing others. "I can't believe you're here on time -- what's the occasion?" Sarcasm is rarely a good idea, so keep these types of comments to yourself.

Be the butt of your own joke
Go ahead, poke fun at your peculiarity’s. This can put others at ease when you’re around, and you don't risk offending someone else by making him or her the target. Just be sure to keep your comments light - you don't want your co-workers to think your attempt at humor is a cry for help.

Laugh with others
You don’t have to be the court jester. You can be perceived as having a great sense of humor without ever telling a joke. Just tune in to the humor styles of those around you and share in the fun.

Creating a fun culture at work can bring about positive advantages such as improving communication, reducing stress, and increasing productivity. So don't be afraid to flex the ole funny bone once in awhile - just be sure you do it in an appropriate way.


AND - HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WHY, WHY, WHY??

THE root cause of a problem is seldom the first idea that you come up with. So you end up struggling with what types of problem-solving techniques to use (there are MANY). The 5 Whys is a simple technique that helps you get to the root of the problem quickly. It simply involves looking at any problem and asking, "Why?" The answer to the first "why" will prompt another "why", and the answer to the second "why" will prompt another, and so on. This is pretty much where the name 5 Whys comes from. Duh. Pretty simplistic.

Like I said, it’s easy. Start at the problem and work backwards to find the root cause, continually asking, "Why?" Repeat it over and over until the root cause of the problem becomes apparent. It’s kind of like trying to explain something to a kid – “You have to go to bed.” “Why?” “Because it’s time.” “Why?” Yadda-yadda-yadda. You get the picture.

Here’s an example:
1. Why is our client ready to drop us? Because we didn’t deliver our product when we said we would.
2. Why didn't we deliver our product when we said we would? The job took much longer than we thought it would.
3. Why did the job take so much longer? Because we underestimated the complexity of the job.
4. Why did we underestimate the complexity of the job? Because we made a quick estimate of the time needed to complete it, and didn’t list all the steps needed to get it done.
5. Why did we make such a quick estimate? Because we were running behind on other projects and didn’t clearly review our time estimation and procedures.

From there you can make plans to ensure that no matter how behind you’re running you have a process in place to properly plan and review time estimations and procedures.

The 5 Whys is an easy and quick tool for uncovering the root of a problem. Because it’s so elementary, it can be adapted quickly and applied to most any problem, AND by most ANYONE. Keep in mind though, that if it doesn't get you a decent answer, there are many other problem-solving techniques you can choose from. The 5 Whys just happens to be my personal favorite.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We’ve Got Some Work To Do

I recently read the Josephson Institute’s 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth. It was based on a survey of nearly 30,000 students in high schools across the U.S. It’s quite alarming as this is the future. NOW is the time to be working with kids to get them, and keep them, on the right track to success. These are the people that will be running our local businesses and international corporations in the near future.

The report showed that a “total of 30 percent of teens admitted stealing from a store within the past year.” One “good” thing about this is that “Honors students (21 percent), student leaders (24 percent), and students involved in youth activities like the YMCA and school service clubs (27 percent) were less likely to steal.” Although not totally, positive influence programs DO help.

It goes on to say that “42 percent said that they sometimes lie to save money. More than eight in ten students (83 percent) confessed they lied to a parent about something significant.” And “64 percent cheated on a test during the past year (38 percent did so two or more times).”

“Despite these high levels of dishonesty, the respondents have a high self-image when it comes to ethics. A whopping 93 percent said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character and 77 percent said that when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

Personal responsibility, personal ethics, leadership – these things don’t necessarily come naturally. Why wait to teach them till bad habits have already taken root? Get involved with local schools or the “Y” as a volunteer or a mentor and start shaping tomorrow’s replacements today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Will You Celebrate?

Imagine what would happen if, after a lot of time and hard work, success of a large project was achieved but the leaders never communicated the news, and never acknowledged the staff who helped in making it all happen. There would be a great loss of motivation and desire to work as hard on the next projects and assignments. “Why should I work so hard if no one’s going to appreciate it?”

Celebrating success is a valuable opportunity for leaders to reenergize their staff by thanking the people who helped make the achievements happen. By not celebrating these important landmarks, you’re missing great opportunities.

It’s all too common to see organizations focus on communicating successes to customers but forgetting to pass the word to their staff. If you take advantage of the opportunities to positively connect with your staff, each one can become a part of the marketing department by sharing their enthusiasm with customers, business associates, friends and family.

By holding some type of celebration you’ll hear people commenting on how refreshing it is to work for a company that acknowledges staff for their contributions. That’s usually followed by stories about working at other companies that did NOT bother to celebrate their achievements, and the negative impact that had on staff morale. What a great, and easy, way of placing yourself in the “I wanna work there” category.

A great leader doesn’t go it alone. Because of that leader there develops a talented group of people who align their vision with their leader and the organization, and who will work very hard to achieve the desired results. You have to motivate your folks to want to follow you. A smart leader will make his/her staff feel empowered by giving them a sense of ownership, and recognizing their accomplishments. Celebrating achievements is a great way to make that happen!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Responsibility and Owning Your Job

I recently read a speech by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, that he delivered at Columbia University in 1982. He was one of the most successful - and controversial - managers of the 20th century. He was big on providing clear purpose, emphasis on staff development, and a willingness to give them ownership. Admiral Rickover was definitely a management visionary. Trivia: Admiral Rickover and his team designed and built the first nuclear submarine in just 3 years.

This week I'd like to share the following few paragraphs from Admiral Rickover's Columbia speech:

"When doing a job - any job - one must feel like he owns it, and act as though he will be in the job forever. He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as though it were his own business or his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into effect the long-term interests of the organization. His lack of commitment to the current job will be perceived by those who work for him, and they, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for their next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.

In accepting responsibility for a job, a person must get personally involved. Every manager has a personal responsibility not only to find problems but to correct them. This responsibility comes before all other obligations, before personal ambition or comfort.

A manager must instill in his people an attitude of personal responsibility for seeing a job accomplished. Unfortunately, this seems to be declining, particularly in large organizations were responsibility is broadly distributed. To complaints of job poorly done, one often hears the excuse, 'I am not responsible.' I believe that is literally correct. The man who takes such a stand in fact is not responsible; he is irresponsible. While he may not be legally liable, or the work may not have been specifically assigned to him, no one involved in a job can divest himself of responsibility for its successful completion."

There is no substitute for hard work and determination. Take responsibility. Do these things, as the leader, and staff will follow your "lead".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Playing Favorites? Or Just Your Perception?

The boss is having a Monday morning laugh with one of your counterparts. You wait for him to stop by and have a laugh with you but, alas, he passes right by with a “morning”. Favoritism? Maybe. But yet again, maybe not.

Some leaders actually do play the favoritism game. We all know - or should - that this is just wrong. There is no place in the workplace for it. It causes disengagement and distrust. But the “perceived” favoritism just may be a case of liking someone better than others. Workplace or not, it’s just human nature. But it doesn't make it any better.

Take a look at who you’re dealing with. Who are you socializing with? Who are you engaging in small talk with? If it’s the same people all the time, while disregarding others, you’re going to have to do some changing in order to keep everyone in tune.

Now this doesn’t mean to just cut out socializing. Socializing is a big part of establishing rapport with staff. You need to be establishing a rapport with everyone, not just the people that you “like”. Having that rapport can be thought of as a kind of recognition by some. It’s a motivator. If staff see you yucking it up with some, but not with others, it’s perceived that you just don’t care about them. That’s definitely not what you want. It IS, however, one of the things that you just have to deal with in today’s world – negative thoughts come before positive ones. Once a perception is ingrained, it’s hard to reverse it.

Talk with all of your staff. Get to know a little bit about them and their families. Find out a couple of key likes and dislikes. A short conversation here and there is all you need to make EVERYONE feel appreciated.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Risky Business

To steal a quote from a classic 80’s movie, “Sometimes you just hafta say WTF”, (Risky Business).

In their drive to be successful (or to stay on the payroll) leaders, especially new ones, often begin to be driven by a fear of failure which actually ends up overshadowing their desire to succeed. This puts them into risky areas that can't be sustained for long periods. People begin to look at their past successes creating undo pressure on themselves. Questions start swirling in their mind as to whether they’ll be able to sustain the great performance they’ve been used to. About the worst thing you can do is start thinking, “how am I going to top that?” The more you do this, the worse it gets. Leadership speaker Mark Sanborn says that, “The longer a leader is successful, the higher his or her perceived cost of failure.” You can’t let fear drive down your success.

When leaders are driven by the fear of failure, they become unable to take reasonable risks. They tend to stick with the time proven, “we’ve always done it that way” (I hate that statement), accomplishments. Ideas – great ideas – that come about (or could come about) never get developed. Remember, we’re talking reasonable risks here. Good leadership never takes reckless chances that could end up risking things that have already been achieved, but you also can't sit back and do nothing.

Take a good look at yourself and your accomplishments. What have they been? How did you come up with them? When were they? What have you been doing since? You may be in a rut and don’t know it.

So take a queue from an old 80’s classic movie – or a shoe advertisement – and just do it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No One's Perfect

If you’re trying to be the perfect, complete leader – STOP. You’ll just wear yourself down. No one is perfect. No one’s got it all. You can still be a great leader though without knowing all the answers. That’s why you have a team of managers and supervisors.

In an article by John C. Maxwell in Success magazine, he says, “incomplete leaders differ from incompetent leaders in that they understand what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. And they have good judgment about how they can work with others to build on their strengths and offset their limitations”. No one’s perfect.

Use your resources. That includes people. Everyone who works for (with) you has some type of area of expertise. Part of your job, as the leader, consists of finding out what those areas are. They have the answers to your questions. There’s no need in reinventing the wheel. It already exists.

You and your entire team work off of the same mission and vision. Do you know what they say? Does your staff? The mission and vision puts you all on the same path to success. Use them in conjunction with your teams knowledge and you’ll be headed toward the top. Remember my brainstorming blog (Sep 29, 2009)? This is the perfect opportunity to put the two together. Get everyone involved. The more answers and ideas you have, the more decisions can be made and the more new products, services, and success you'll have.

You don't always have to have every answer. No one's perfect. But you can still be grrrrreat. (sorry, had to)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HELP Them

Your employee’s can only do their jobs if they have the correct tools and knowledge. Without them, you’re setting them up for failure. Here are four points to remember in helping your employee's

Knowledge – Your staff must know what’s expected of them. No one can improve and no one can get a fair performance review unless they know what to do. They need a job description and ongoing coaching to fulfill their requirements. Roles are constantly changing. You have to keep them up-to-date.

Materials and Equipment – Work cannot be performed properly, even with the appropriate knowledge, unless staff have the proper equipment. That means working properly, in-date, clean, up-to-date, appropriate amounts, etc. Without it, well, they just CAN’T properly function.
Recognition – If you’re not providing constant recognition and kudos, then YOU are part of the lack of motivation problem. You, as their supervisor, should be out there every day showing that you care about them, what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it.

Develop – You must continuously encourage further development in your staff. Not just their every day procedural training. Help them get into some seminars (http://www.nationalseminarstraining.com/index.html, http://www.amanet.org/individualsolutions/seminars.aspx?SelectedSolutionType=Seminars), join an association, let them teach a class at a staff meeting.

Some organizations like to hand off all or some of these four points to departments, most commonly to HR. They may be able to act as a coordinator on the ground floor level, but it’s up to YOU, as the employee’s supervisor, to see that it gets done. And by “done”, I mean it’s being carried out. This is not a four point check-off list that you go, “check, check, check, check, done”. You must constantly and consistently ensure that all of your employee’s are covered.

Realize that the success of your employee’s directly impacts the success of YOU!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Pen Is Mightier Than . . .

There are a wide variety of communication tools these days. No matter how convenient any of them may be, you cannot skimp on the necessities. Being able to write well in business is a requirement. You need to write concisely and be able to make a clear point.

First off, think about what it is you want to achieve with your memo or email. What’s the point? Who exactly is your audience? What do you want the reader to do as a result?

Organize your thoughts BEFORE you start writing. Jot down a few notes or a short outline. This will make the writing go a lot quicker for you.

Write the same way that you speak. The best writing most closely resembles normal, everyday speech. If it’s too formal, it becomes harder to understand. But watch out - that doesn’t mean to throw in a bunch of slang like “ain’t”, “gonna”, etc. That’s a bit too loose.

Be brief and concise. Make your point, support it and move on. This is not a time for a bunch of fluff (there’s never a time for a bunch of fluff). You’re not impressing anyone with it.

Write and re-write. It’s really not often that we get it absolutely right the first time. Write your memo, re-read it, let it sit, and re-read it again. Especially if it’s a critical piece. Don’t send something out when there’s a possibility that it might come back to haunt you. Get it right the first time.

BE POSITIVE, even if you’re conveying bad news. No one likes to read negative memos, so it will sound much worse than it actually is to the recipient. Negative writing often back fires on the writer by reflecting poorly on him and in return, loosing the message for the recipient.

Like so many other things – treat everyone as me – write your memos and emails to mimic what you would want to read. Ask yourself what types of statements would offend YOU being on the other end of the communication.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Resistance is Futile

Most people don't like change because they don't like being changed. When change comes into view, fear and resistance to change follow – often despite its obvious benefits. People fight against change because they don't understand the change and its implications or they find it difficult to cope with either the level or pace.

If you think that you can stop change, you’re fooling yourself. You may as well try standing in the path of a hurricane to make it change its course (no thanks). The sooner you realize that the world – yes, even your world – will change whether you like it or not, the better. Then you can concentrate your efforts on taking actions that make a positive difference in your organization. You must discover how to adapt to change and use it to your advantage rather than fight it.

Face it – it’s going to happen. I’ve never worked in any organization that didn’t’ have change. It’s a requirement for improvement. Remember that favorite saying, “We’ve always done it this way.”? Argghh. Take that statement out of your vocabulary and from everyone in the organization!

Instead of reacting to changes after the fact, you need to proactively anticipate the changes that are coming your way and make plans to address them BEFORE they hit you. Ignoring the need to change doesn’t make that need go away. The best leaders are positive and forward looking, AND they also communicate.

Leaders armed with a complete understanding of the need for change and knowing the type of change required can best communicate with employees. Open discussion of change is the best tool in reducing the resistance to change. Get employees on board by projecting positive and strong discussions. Show the fiercest resisters what’s in it for them. Appeal to them either in terms of personal gain (status, salary bonus, recognition, etc) or avoided loss (financial or job).
Rumors, if allowed to run rampant, are extremely harmful. Keep everyone updated on the most recent decisions. This will make employees feel that they’re a part of the process. With healthy communication, employees are more apt to remain with the company - and often develop an even deeper bond during a time of change. That’s exactly what you need.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No "Blamestorming" Allowed

When was the last time you held a brainstorming session . . . a REAL brainstorming. Most people who hold group brainstorming do it wrong. “Huh”, you say? “All it is is throwing out ideas and weeding them out.” That’s pretty much true. However, most people go at it the wrong way. It's not the appropriate time for blame or criticism.

All comments on participant's ideas should be held until the end! Brainstorming is allowing participants to put out their ideas with no pressure to hold them back. Here’s what a good group session should look like:
  • The facilitator presents the problem and gives further explanation if needed.
  • The facilitator sets a time limit and asks the group for their ideas.
  • All participants present their ideas, and the person documenting records them.
  • Participants may elaborate on their ideas to ensure clarity.
  • When time is up, the facilitator organizes the ideas based on the topic goal.
  • Categorize ideas.
  • Review the whole list to ensure that everyone understands the ideas.
  • Remove duplicate ideas and obviously unfeasible solutions.
  • THEN discuss.

If you want a more effective group brainstorming session – don’t make the boss the facilitator. In fact, don’t even let him in the room. That’s a sure way of intimidating your more timid participants.

The biggest reason group discussions don’t work is because participants feel too much pressure or are intimidated. Research at the University of Texas (Arlington) and Texas A&M University have found that traditional brainstorming is not as effective as other techniques because of social pressure – the fear of looking foolish among peers and superiors, or even being afraid of saying something that will offend someone.

The next time you want to brainstorm, try the individual approach. Most of the research performed shows us that people working by themselves will come up with more ideas than when they’re in a group. They just don’t have that group pressure. Individually, they can be more relaxed and take a little more time to think or maybe get ideas elsewhere, like books or the Internet.

Brainstorming IS a very effective technique of producing new ideas and solutions, IF you perform it properly. So next time you think of brainstorming, take a few minutes to plan it out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Motivation Starts With Recognition

I recently read a good article from Successful Promotions magazine called, “How Mickey Makes Magic”. It discusses how some companies will cut back on their employee recognition programs when times get tough. What a mistake. Just think about it. What happens to your employees when you take away motivation? What happens to their service? What happens to retention?

In 2004 Disney World was hit by three major hurricanes within about five weeks (once during Labor Day weekend) and this year has seen a drop in revenue due to the economy. Yet even in hard times they realize, “you don’t mess with employee recognition programs.”

“Disney’s theme parks and hotels have the lowest staff turnover rates in the travel industry.” That’s made possible, in part, by keeping cast-members engaged. They’re not the highest paid people around so it’s got to be something more. You may think that they have some big elaborate program for recognition but they really don’t. Most of it is very simple and things most companies could also do.

One of the tools that Disney uses is the “Recognize Everyday Magic” kit. The kit consists of simple sticky notes, thank-you cards and praise cards that managers give out to cast-members when they find them “doing something right.” Every manager gets one of these kits.

Managers are also encouraged to come up with their own types of recognition. Some managers have designed their own pins to carry around in their pockets and hand out as they see someone doing something right with a comment like, “Thanks for making a difference.” Pins really don’t cost that much to produce – maybe a couple of dollars a piece, give or take depending on the style.

Another very simple idea is to let everyone know when you implement suggestions that employee’s have made. Disney has a newsletter entitled, “You Said … We Listened.” This is a quarterly newsletter that lists “ideas generated by employees that resulted in changes.” Let others know that you really do listen.

A very important thing to remember with any recognition program is that recognition is NOT a yearly check-off. Good behavior should be reinforced immediately. So don’t look for your annual Christmas party to show your only thanks.

These are just a few things that you can do that have been proven successful by one company. Take a few minutes and think about what you can do. Maybe even get suggestions from your employees. There’s a simple type of recognition right there. What better motivation then to let your employee’s get involved in decisions?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What CAN You Change?

In many organizations, especially those under heavy regulation (banking, healthcare, etc), you just don’t have a lot of opportunity for change. For a gung ho leader, that can make a tough job even more though, not to mention more stressful.

There are actually some things that you CAN change in your environment to decrease your stress. The thing is, you’ve probably thought about some of them already, but just haven’t gotten around to implementing them. Now is the time. It’s on your mind. You have some time (you’re reading this, aren’t you). So Do It.

Learn to Have Some Fun. Business is business, but it doesn’t have to be all spit and polish all the time. Release that inner humor. Smile. Talk at the water cooler about what happened last night on “Two and a Half Men.”

Learn to Say NO. Remember this? – “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” When you’re plate is already stuffed, you just have to respectfully say no. It's better to do fewer things well than to do more things half-a**ed.

You’ve got to Manage Your Own Schedule. Too often supervisors get so caught up in managing others that they forget that they need managing also. Don’t leave it up to your boss, do it yourself. Get a planner, PDA (my personal favorite), or a desk calendar (do they still sell these?). Record every meeting and event as soon as you find out about it. Do a little triage. Is it a meeting you actually NEED to go to?

Be Optimistic. It’s human nature to pick out the negative. Be conscious of that and look for the good in everything that you do AND everyone that you meet. People have good qualities. Look for that first. You’ll feel so much better about yourself, your staff and co-workers, and your job. Attitude reflects attitude.

You can’t change everything, but you can recognize the things that you CAN change and work on them. You may not be able to change the regulations, but you can always change yourself.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So You Think You Have Ethics . . .

Well? Do you? You probably think you do. We all do. Most leaders do know the difference between right and wrong, but a lot of them talk it more than they walk it. Some just don’t care.

As a supervisor, you’re a leader and you’re expected to set an example for your staff – and other leaders. You’re in a position that you’re being constantly watched. When others see you behaving unethically, you’re sending a loud message to your co-workers that ethics doesn’t matter to you. And guess what. It won’t matter to them either.

If you don’t exhibit the following personal qualities and behaviors, you have some work to do:



  • Honesty

  • Integrity

  • Impartiality

  • Fairness

  • Loyalty

  • Dedication

  • Responsiblity

  • Accountablity
Most organizations have a written company code of ethics policy. Have you ever read it? The "code" should be able to convey to others that you value ethical behavior and that it guides the way you and your employees do business. But it’s not worth squat unless it’s shared (discussed) with your employees more than in their first day of work, as is usually the case. I’ve seen a number of organizations pass off ethics “training” as giving employees a piece of paper to sign once a year. Really? That is NOT enough. How many people do you think really read it?

According to Trainingscape, there are six keys to making better ethical choices:
E – Evaluate circumstances through the appropriate filters
(culture, policies, laws, relationships, etc) .
T – Treat people and issues fairly within the established boundaries. Fair doesn’t always mean equal.
H – Hesitate before making critical decisions.
I – Inform those affected of the standard/decision that has been set/made.
C – Create an environment of consistency for yourself and your working group.
S – Seek counsel when you have any doubt
(but from those who are honest and who you respect).

You may have a Code of Ethics, but if you don’t live it from day to day, what’s the use?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hire Personality

You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again. You hire the guy with the most experience and education and he turns out to be a jerk. You hope (pray) that once he gets to work he has good customer service skills and he gets along with his new co-workers. Oops. You’ve just wasted a whole bunch of time and ticked off a lot of people because that little voice that was talking to you really did make sense after all.

Sometimes you have to take a closer look at the situation and head a bit off the beaten path. Use your gut instinct. That’s what it’s there for. If you need to take a little more time to train someone else that doesn’t have as much experience but has a great personality, do it. These are the people that are looking outside the box – top, bottom, and sides. They WANT to work for you.

Take a look at a couple of successful examples. In 1984 Michael Eisner became Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Prior to that, he had been President of Paramount Pictures. He was pretty darn successful at what he did but was passed up for the top job because they felt he was “too childlike”. Paramount’s loss was Disney’s gain. The first decade of Eisner’s reign (prior to the internal frays) blew Paramount away.

Not being a big Internet shopper, I first learned of Zappos on The Apprentice. What I learned of this very successful Internet shoe (and now much more) company made me go “wow”. Zappos' hiring policy stands in favor of personality rather than job experience. CEO Tony Hsieh says that, “One of our core values is to be humble. So if there is someone who is really talented, and we know they will make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line, but they are really egotistical, then we won’t hire them.”

The idea is to keep the stress level down, not to increase it. Supervisors shouldn’t have to be always looking over staff’s shoulders and your customers shouldn't have to suffer. Go for the people who are going to be most advantageous to you, without you having to baby sit and continuously watch them. Everything from teamwork to customer service will benefit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Make Time for People

When people become new supervisors they usually go through the, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that” phase. This is a great thing to do. Set goals. Plan things out. The bad thing is that many people don’t follow through. They get tied up in operations and forget about all those great plans.

One thing that people normally say is that they’re “going to make time for their staff”. Sound familiar? How quickly we forget.

As a supervisor, you’re a resource for your staff, a mentor, a teacher. To others, you’re a trusted colleague. You’re in a people job now. If that doesn’t fit into your agenda, then you’re in the wrong position. You have to make time for people.

Some of your staff won’t need a lot of supervision, or time for that matter. That’s fine. Let em work. But you still need to be available when they do need you. Others are going to need constant supervision and an open door. When these folks come to see you, ignore the phone, put down the pen and listen. Show them how important they are and how much you care. This is not only courteous and respectful, but also motivating. They’ll believe that you find them important and begin to act like it more. They’ll have more confidence and act more decisively.

If you’re not in the same physical area as your staff you can still be available. Provide a means for them to get in touch with you quickly – phone, e-mail, voicemail, etc. Make sure that you get back in touch with them quickly. No more than 24 hours. Make this a habit and they’ll have greater trust and respect for you.

Need another reason for making time for people? You’ll reduce turnover. As I’ve posted before - most people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Negaholism

It's unfortunate that negativity comes so naturally to people. "No, you can't do that. No, I can't do this." To some, NO is the first thing that comes to mind. It's extremely stressful to be around these people all the time. But hey - what can you do? You can stay positive is what you can do. Realize who's causing the negativity and why and help them out.

A lot of times it just takes someone to point out to the "negaholic" that they have a problem. We've all been there, whether at work or at home. I was there. When my kids were growing up, any time they asked for something, my immediate answer was "NO". Not because the answer was really no, it was because "no" became a habit. Once I realized it, I had to work at losing it.

Negaholism causes many problems in the workplace and just keeps building if nothing is done about it. Some of the biggest problems negaholism causes are:
  • breakdowns in communication,
  • loss of trust,
  • arguing over seemingly childish issues,
  • the blame game (what does that TV commercial call it - "blamestorming"?), and
  • competition where there should be cooperation.
So what can you, as a leader, do to help? Mentor your negaholics. Meet with them, talk with them. Show them how things are and how they should be in order to improve. Point out that their road to advancement depends on their change. You should discuss your (and the organizations) behavioral expectations. And most of all, give good honest - and frequent - feedback. Just showing a negaholic that you care can be enough to turn him/her right around.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Work With Locations

If you work for a large organization with a main headquarters and numerous locations, you’ll relate well to this. There’s always been a disconnection in most organizations with an organizational structure such as this, mostly because the locations are out of sight and out of mind. It's like trying to hold on to a long distance relationship. For some people it works well. For others . . . not so well.

HQ’s commonly develop SOPs and policies and distribute them with no thought on how they’re going to impact locations around the region or country. In organizations set up like this, you don’t have one culture. You may have one “corporate” culture, but there are numerous sub-cultures within it. Just the fact that you have locations around the country in the North, South, East, and West is going to give you four sub-cultures. People are brought up differently and have different work ethics in various geographic areas. Age variations and length of employment also create sub-cultures of their own which often stress different beliefs and actions. The authoritarian, “my way or the highway” thinking of HQ can do more damage to the overall organization than anything else. Internal strife is hard to deal with.

Now if you want to add mergers to the mix, you’ve just doubled the number of your cultures and sub-cultures. This will take extra involvement all the way around. But that's for another blog.

The means to solving these issues takes effort from all locations, but in the end, it’s HQ that has to take the time to truly care and implement solutions for everyone. Someone (management), needs to travel to your various locales and sit down and truly watch and listen so that you can get an accurate picture of what’s going on and what people need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This act alone will build trust just because you made the effort to get involved with those that feel they're not being heard.

If you don’t listen and your locations are continually fighting to be heard, they’ll eventually give up. Then you’re in for lackluster, unproductive work. Their customer service suffers and retention suffers. What’s good for me isn't necessarily what’s good for you. Stop, look, and listen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Learn!

Keep learning and never look back. Continuous learning, of any kind, will keep the brain fires burning, advancements ongoing, and respect by others increasing.

Many employees, especially those in the lower ranks, think of training as a burden. Something “extra” they have to do. These are the people that aren’t going anywhere in your organization. You can always improve yourself through learning and education no matter who you are or how much you already know (or think you know). Socrates said, “There is only one thing I know, and that is I know nothing”.

Learning doesn’t have to take the form of sitting in a classroom. It can be a class online (free at http://www.gcflearnfree.org/) or just reading books or magazines. Doing this keeps your mind active. I hear all the time from people that they don’t have the time or attention span to sit and read an entire book. That’s fine. Subscribe to a couple of magazines. These days, a lot of magazines are even available as digital editions online for free (http://www.successmtgs.com/mimegasite/index.jsp). You flip through the pages on the computer as if you actually have a copy in your hand.

Organizations want knowledgeable employees and employees that want to improve upon themselves. In the workplace, there’s always more to learn. Use your down time to review SOPs, not sit and chat about what you’re planning to do next weekend. Remember, “It’s called work for a reason” (Larry Winget). Just because you read it during training doesn’t mean that you’ve necessarily retained it all. SOPs/directives/policies, whatever your organization calls them, are living documents. They’re constantly changing.

If you don’t know already, find out what the trade journals are for your occupation and subscribe to one. Or, if you don’t want to put out the money, go to your local library or company library. You’ll be surprised by what’s there that you probably had never heard of before. Seek out your professional associations online. They always have a wealth of information about what's going on and what's coming up. Although you may have to pay to join, it’s a great way to network.

Continuous learning may require some discipline. If you need to, set aside a specific time each day to read. The key sometimes is to just do it. Your future depends on it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

According to the ADP National Employment Report, from January through April this year, U.S. companies with fewer than 50 employees let go 904,000 employees. Being laid off is a huge psychological and financial event, but it can be just as traumatic for the business owner who has to perform this dirty deed. Although a much different setting, managers and directors of large organizations can go through the same thing.

But just like the flight attendants tell you on the plane, always put the oxygen mask on yourself first. You're no good to anybody if you're incapacitated. I'm not trying to be cold here but lets face it, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don't look after the business, why would anyone else?

A number of years ago, I knew a guy who had a yard landscaping (mowing) business that took off like hotcakes. He quickly developed a rather large clientele and hired extra people in order to keep up with the workload. And then, alas, Winter rolled around and the workload dropped just as quickly as it had grown. He felt so bad about the idea of having to lay off some of his workers that he couldn't do it, and the business eventually (fairly quickly actually) fell apart. Instead of putting on HIS oxygen mask, he tried to share it . . . and there wasn't enough. The survival of his business depended on him putting on his own mask first.

When the time comes to lay off staff is when the real leader comes out. Honestly explain to your employee(s) the reasons for your decision, express gratitude for their loyalty and service, and be sure that you re-enforce the fact that the lay off isn't in response to their performance. And remember that you aren't the focus of the conversation, the life of the organization is. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Protect Your Brand

Protecting your brand is the name of the game these days. There's just too much competition out there for you not to be continuously looking for ways to improve. You say you don't have a brand? Wrong. Every company and every person has a brand whether you realize it or not. It's what defines you. It's what sets you apart from everyone else. If you don't see or work on your brand, you're not going to be in business for too awful long.

One of the (many) things you need to do is protect yourself by actively seeking out the things that others are saying about you, whether good or bad. You need to be prepared to react appropriately to accusations or capitalize on positive comments. You don't have time though to sit at your desk and manually search for your name in articles, blogs, video's, etc. That's where Google comes in - I love Google. Contrary to what you may think, the Google website is chock full of all kinds of everyday business tools. It's definitely not just a search engine.

One of the things that Google can do for you is to send you alerts when people are talking about you. Create a Google account, if you haven't already, and go to www.google.com/alert. Here you can type in key words or phrases, like your company name, CEO's name, etc, and Google will continuously and automatically search the web for you and send you e-mail alerts whenever you're mentioned. Pretty cool, huh? And guess what - it's FREE. You can't beat it.

Setting up alerts takes less than a minute. Start taking some steps to improve your brand, and start right here and now. It takes no time at all, and it's free. What more can you ask for?
Note: If you want to search a specific name or phrase, type it in quotation marks (ie, "walt disney world") or else you'll get hits on each individual word also.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Relentless Preparation

In a recent issue of Success Magazine, Rudolph Giuliani discusses his seven success strategies. One of them that hit home was, "Relentless preparation is key". He says to "anticipate what is going to happen. Practice your response, and then afterward, study what actions you did take and what those results were."

Too often people come up with a solution to fix a problem, celebrate, and move on. That's not going to help down the road when it happens again or to someone else and you can't remember what you did before. Especially when it happens off-site. If you have supervisors out in the field overseeing operations and they're dealing with the day-to-day problems, they should be reporting these things to their supervisors back at the ranch. Chances are, if things are happening out there to them, they're happening to others. Why continuously try to reinvent the wheel? That just wastes peoples time and money, and could very well complicate the situation.

You should have a system in place to document problems that arise and what's done to correct them. They should then go to a main supervisor/manager(s) (or some other designated person) who will then discuss them amongst themselves or with the field supervisors, however would work best for you, to determine if that was the best way to correct the problem or if there would be a better way. Depending on the size of your organization, you may even need to go as far as creating an actual department, or make it a part of QA's job function. These problems and their preferred corrective actions should become the standard and be shared with your field supervisors/managers.

The idea here is to stop wasting time, energy, and money. Plan and be READY to act, not react. Even if you weren't a Boy Scout, I'm sure the majority of you know what their motto is - "Be Prepared". These are kids that adhere to this motto - do you really have an excuse not to?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings

Have you ever sat down at a meeting table and asked yourself, "why the heck are we even here?"? Me too - many times. I used to have a department head that held a basic "what's happening" meeting the last hour on Friday and again first thing Monday morning. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

According to the Wall Street Journal report on Wharton Centre For Applied Research, the average CEO in the United States spends 17 hours a week in meetings that costs the company $42,500 per year. Senior executives spend 23 hours a week in meetings and cost up to $46,000.00 per year each. Middle managers spend 11 hours a week in meetings and cost up to $20,000.00 a year each.

There are some things that you can do to counteract some of these expenses. First and foremost, ask yourself if the meeting is really a necessity. Look to see if there's a more cost-effective way to achieve your objective - by phone, email, or water cooler.

Speed up your meetings by supplying all participants with an agenda two to three days prior to the meeting. Include objectives, issues to be discussed, start and end times for each issue, a list of attendees and any preparations required. Assign someone as a time-keeper to keep things on track according to the set time limits.

When making out your participant list, be sure the people you're choosing really need to be there. If not, you're just completely wasting their time. Pretty soon everyone will be questioning their need to be at any of your meetings.

And by all means, manage your meetings. Keep discussions on track. Use the parking lot - if the group starts getting off track, write that issue on a sticky note and post it to discuss it more at the end of the meeting, if there's time, or at a later date.

Good meetings don't just happen. If you manage the process, the results will take care of themselves.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Speech Tics

After a little time off - I'm baaaaaack. And I want to talk about something you hear about a lot when discussing training or speeches/presentations. Speech tics. Speech tics are when you repeatedly use words, sounds, or phrases over and over. Things like "okay", "ya know", "I mean", and "um" and "uh".

Speech tics can be VERY annoying to your audience. PRACTICE your training or speeches prior to performing for the first time. You may think you don't have any tics, but you may actually find out that you do.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was listening, with a group of others, to a presenter. We all eventually tuned out what he was trying to get across because we were too busy counting his "um's" and "uh's". I actually can't recall what his presentation was on.

Repeating your speech tics - repetitive sounds - gets old and boring really fast. It's a sure way to lose your audience. In addition to just losing them, you also stand the chance of being made fun of (I saw some of that) and also decreasing your believability (saw that to).

Recognize your pet phrases and words and work on eliminating them - PRACTICE. Ask someone to keep a record each and every time one slips out. Use videotapes or even audiotapes to play back to see for yourself. Warning: it may not be pretty. Watch your audience while you're giving your presentation. You can pick it up by noticing their mannerisms and looks.

Even the most seasoned presenters will fall into the speech tic mode from time to time. If getting up in front of people isn't your main occupation, chances are you're going to fall into it more than what you think. PRACTICE.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Love Your Job

The keys to success come from being good at what you do. Lets face it, you're paid to work and to do a good job - everything else is extra. You're not always going to like 100% of your job. So concentrate on the part that you do.

It's easy to fall into the rut of hating a job - just because there's some aspect of it that you don't like. I've known a lot of people in that position, including myself. You really have to look past some aspects of what you do and seek out the reasons why you liked your job in the first place.

In Larry Winget's book, It's Called Work for a Reason, he says, "Fall in love with the 10 percent of your job that is really your job and just put up with the rest of it - the other 90 percent - because it's just part of what must be done to get you to the 10 percent that you enjoy". Winget gives a good example in explaining that he's a professional speaker about 200 days out of the year, yet he only spends about 100 hours on stage. The rest of all that time is spent traveling, waiting, etc - not really exciting stuff. But he has to wade through all that other stuff to get to the part that he really enjoys. They're necessary evils.

You may have to do some adjusting to get that love of your job back. Find that 10 percent, work at it, and you'll be good at what you do. You may even be excellent at it. That 10 percent is most likely that portion that gets noticed.

Think back to when you started your job. What was it that drew you to it? What aspects of it did you like the best? Make yourself a list. Find that old spark and work at getting it back. Forget all the other stuff and focus on the positive. Pretend that you've just started your job - all over again. Approach it from a new staff perspective - except that you already have the knowledge. Winget says that, "you don't have to love your job in order to be excellent at it. But it helps". It helps a lot!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stay Informed

Donald Trump says that, "Ignorance is inexcusable; it's the surest way to fail. No acceptable reason exists for not keeping well informed." As a supervisor, this is essential. In order to excel you need to go above and beyond.

I watched a program on TV last night on the National Geographic channel about Air Force One (the Presidents plane). It was really worth my time. It showed just how much preparing and planning it takes to make any kind of trip - especially overseas. The pilot (Air Force Colonel) oversees EVERYTHING. He's constantly reviewing maintenance, scheduling and weather reports. He knows everything that's going on with that aircraft and plans for multiple scenarios.

The thing that was most interesting was the trip they made with President Bush (W) to Iraq for Thanksgiving. It was kept with the utmost secrecy - at that time Baghdad was a true battleground. In order to be able to pull this trip off the Colonel had to be sure that what his crew was doing was in total sync with the rest of the plans. They had to switch planes at one point and ensure they landed at the precise given time. While on the ground they had to be ready - literally at a moments notice - to take off. Now the Colonel could have had the attitude that, "I have great people and they'll handle everything". Sure. He has a highly trained and motivated crew and they each have a load of responsiblity. But he was the glue holding all the pieces together.

This is not a drill in micro-managing. Ugh - I hate that word. It's a matter of being ready, being prepared. It's a matter of gaining knowledge so you can make better and quicker decisions. It's a matter of being the best. Everyone wants to work with and deal with the best. If you work hard, hard workers will want to work with you. Remember - you are a role model. The ability and desire to keep informed will trickle down to your staff. That will make them more knowledgeable, motivated, and productive.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wanted: Morale

I recently read a survey by the consulting firm Towers Perrin that said that "75% of employees polled believe that they can have a direct impact on their company's success and 72% derive a sense of accomplishment from their jobs".

Employees are looking for more than just a paycheck these days. They want to be treated like human beings, not just another piece of equipment. They WANT to be able to make a difference. The thing is, a lot of managers still don't get the idea. They're still in the age of "do as I say, not as I do". Employees are constantly under a microscope.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "do unto others . . .". It goes both ways. Just as you expect to be treated fairly and in a mature fashion, so do your employees. If you show them that you don't care about them, guess what, they show that right back to you. Show them that you care and can work for and with them, and they'll do the same.

Energize your employees - remember, we're all customers to each other in the workplace. Sharon Harwood, from Disney University said, "(Walt) Disney knew you couldn't have a supervisor in the back room yelling at you and then walk through the front door and greet a guest with a big smile as if nothing were wrong".

1001 Ways to Energize Employees by Bob Nelson, talks about how "energizing managers aren't afraid to tell their employees how much they appreciate them. When Ed Stewart, an employee of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, turned down a better-paying job offer to stay with Southwest, CEO Herb Kelleher walked into his office and kissed him". Now I'm not saying that you need to go around kissing your employees, but it doesn't take much to let them know how much you care for and appreciate them. People want to feel good about where they work and who they work for. They want to be able to wake up in the morning because they want to go to work, not because they have to go. The better they feel, the more committed and productive they are.

Dave Longaberger, CEO of The Longaberger Company summed it up pretty well - "Having a good time is the best motivator there is. When people feel good about a company, they produce more."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to Lose Trust

Trust - a balance between what staff are giving and what they're receiving. If staff detect an imbalance between these two things, their trust in you or the organization will suffer.

You can gain trust by empowering people. Now that doesn't necessarily mean you have to give them the keys to the executive washrooms (that's another topic). It can simply mean trusting them to do the right thing, keeping them in the loop, or noticing the things that they do.

Every once in awhile you need to sit back and reflect on your relationships. Here's a list of behaviors, from Motivating Employees by Bruce and Pepitone, that cause employees to lose trust:
  • you say you'll empower them, but you find excuses not to,
  • you deliberately instill fear and anxiety in them,
  • you're manipulative,
  • you fail to deliver on promises or you make empty promises,
  • you inform the public about something before telling employees about it,
  • you don't tell them what you expect from them,
  • you give rewards that mean little or nothing to them,
  • you're inaccessible and always behind closed doors,
  • you delegate responsibility without authority.
Any of these sound familiar? If they do, it's time that you sit down and draft a new game plan. Give them what they need in order to do a good job and let them go at it.

Remember, I've said this before - most people don't quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Futurism

Well I'm baaaaack. I've been concentrating the last couple of weeks on the new job - and I love it. But it's time to get back to sharing my thoughts and "insights".
I can't remember what I was doing the other day when I saw the name Joel Barker. Wow. I hadn't heard that name in years. Barker wrote the book Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future. It's been one of my favorite books - and movies.

Barker is a futurist. He believes that paradigm shifts can happen at any time. And so do I. The thing is, if you look to the future, you may see them coming. This is where the futurist comes in with anticipation.

Too many managers lead with a reactionary skill. In his book, Barker discusses Peter Drucker's book Managing in Turbulent Times. He writes about the skills that a good manager needs and "suggests that one of the most important managerial skills during times of high turbulence (and anytime really) is anticipation."

Successful managers have always been strong problem-solvers. When a real problem occurs, they solve it. This is what they're paid for and this is what they concentrate on.

Drucker suggests that managers improve their skills in the area of anticipation and problem avoidance/opportunity identification. This is where you have the greatest leverage over the future - in business and in personal lives.

By looking ahead - anticipating - you'll dramatically improve your ability to deal with things before they happen, which in turn is going to give you more smooth sailing time. Sure, there are always going to be problems to solve. But by being a futurist and anticipating, you'll be able to head them off easier - or before they even happen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Real Team-Building

How many times have you mentioned "team-building exercise" and seen eyes rolling and people heading for the door? That many? Without even knowing you I bet I can tell you why. It's because your exercises have nothing to do with any kind of relationship to your staff's jobs. A 250 pound man falling backwards for a 125 pound woman to catch is not going to help them at work.

When developing a program ask yourself what your real need is. Is it to actually build teamwork? Is it simply to improve morale? Is it to increase communication? Depending on your answer, the way you go about developing is going to be quite different.

If you're going to team-build, it has to be more than just a fun activity. It has to be something that will apply back at the workplace. Referencing a team-building book (there are tons of them out there) is great, but you still have to tweak it to your needs. Remember to be sure that you work in your organizations mission and values. This is the perfect opportunity to do so without the "here it comes again" attitudes. Team-building done correctly will leave them feeling more apart of the organization.

If your goal is to improve morale, by all means, go out and do something fun. Take everyone to a ballgame or go play laser-tag (very fun). Do something totally different.

If you're trying to increase communication, get that team-building book out. You'll find a lot of ideas in there where staff have to work together in order to get something accomplished, things where they have to talk with one another in order to get the job done. They'll get a sense of camaraderie and a better understanding of each other and how they think.

The whole idea with these three programs is to engage or reengage your staff. Nancy Mann Jackson summed it up best in a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine - "An engaged employee will stop and pick up a piece of trash in the hallway, a disengaged employee will walk by the piece of trash and leave it, and an actively disengaged employee will throw the trash on the floor." Which employee do you want?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You're Not Alone

If you could do everything as a manager, you'd be indispensable and probably make a lot more money. But guess what? You can't do everything. You're not alone. You didn't get to where you are by yourself.

For those of you who sit on that high horse, let me try to illustrate this to you. Most people think of the Blue Angels as a team of six shiny blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets and their pilots. They fly from air show to air show and thrill millions of people every year with their precision aerial moves. Well, that's only the tip of the iceberg. It takes a whole lot of people behind the scenes to make sure that those birds can fly.

In over 60 years, the "Blues" have never cancelled a show for maintenance reasons. Every person on the Blue Angels is dedicated to making sure that everything falls into place and everyone is safe. This is a true team. The pilots would not be up in the sky thrilling us all if they didn't have the support of the ground crew and support staff.

Teamwork isn't a part-time activity. Each member is representing the rest of the team at all times. That includes the team members at the "top". Managers and supervisors have to be just as much a part of the team as anyone else. Without that, you really don't have a team. You have a bunch of people working for the good of the boss.

Be apart of the team and develop your staff. This is how you accomplish things that others can't. Be upfront and of course, lead by example. You're the one molding the team. If you're a slouch, your team members will become slouches.

To succeed in management, you have to be able to accept responsibility and not hide behind desks. You don't lose the team player role when you move into that office. You become a motivating part of it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning to Take Command

In Captain Michael Abrashoff's book, It's Your Ship, he discusses how taking command of USS Benfold required a change in his own leadership model. He found that time and age changes many things. In order to tackle these challenges, he researched exit surveys and interviews and found that the top reason people leave jobs was because of "not being treated with respect or dignity; the second was being prevented from making an impact on the organization; third, not being listened to; and fourth, not being rewarded with more responsibility". Low pay was way down in the fifth position.

In leadership or staff training, you really must look at your demographics in order to be effective. Organizations have very diversified age ranges these days, from Baby-Boomers to the Gen-Y'ers. These two groups, and all in between, have very different mindsets. Like it or not, you may have to adjust your own ways in order to be more effective. The old "my way or the highway" type of leading just isn't going to fly with the younger folks.

A good way to demonstrate the differences in the generations is to look at the way they compare work and life.
  • Baby Boomers - view themselves and their career as one and the same
  • Gen X - balance work and life; like flexible working hours and job sharing
  • Gen Y - express themselves rather than define themselves through work
In the Gen X and Y'ers, we've lost the "company man" attitude and gained a more entrepreneurial, flexibility attitude. In order to create better unity, treat everyone, from your newest member to your most seasoned employee, as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best. And of course, keep continuing training a priority so staff don't don't get stagnate in their jobs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Training and Customer Retention

Good customer service doesn't necessarily come natural to some people. They need to have training and follow-up. Most organizations have some sort of customer service training but it's too often not enough. One basic class during orientation doesn't cut it. New staff are commonly overwhelmed with information already. Give them a little bit of time to get acquainted with their job and to see just how and where they fit in. They'll be able to adapt to their role in customer service a lot easier.

Don't leave training with the one class. Do follow-up in-service's, seminars, etc. Keep customer service at the forefront of your staff's minds. You don't need to (and don't want to) cram it down their throats. Just make sure that they at least know the basics, can use the basics, and be able to form some type of relationship with their customers. Customers should be treated like guests in their own house. Relationships are a key influence to holding on to customers, especially in service-oriented industries.

There are five basic standards for treating guests that you should be reviewing with staff:
  • welcome them using their name,
  • introduce yourself,
  • take care of their needs,
  • thank them, and
  • invite them back.

Good customer service is that easy. You can include these standards in your training in many ways - video's, role-play, "how would you" questions, "pick the best way" scenarios, etc.

Markets, for any organization, are constantly changing so "people skills" become extremely important. Reminders in staff meetings or pre-operation meetings will go a long way. Focusing on this key area will not only give you a good ROI on training, but also show staff how important it actually is and where your priorities stand.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Competitive Customer Service

In my customer service classes I discuss the fact that some organizations (like mine) and their competition do things so similarly that the only way to distinguish themselves as the better organization is through superior customer service. The quality of employees and services are the only distinctions between organizations that provide the same or similar service.

I read a great example of this in the book Blue Streak, by Barbara S. Peterson. In beginning the discussion about JetBlue U (university), the trainer for the flight attendants comes in the first day still upset about the JetBlue flight he had had the prior day. One of the attendants on his flight seemed like he was "not really there" for various reasons. [I'm making a long story short here] The attendant didn't do anything bad and wasn't rude. But this is exactly why people want to work - and fly - at JetBlue. "The sort of indifferent service that one would take for granted on another (most) airline would gain you some very unwelcome attention" at JetBlue.

JetBlue does the same "job" as many other airlines. They fly people from point A to point B. But if you talk about customer service within the airline industry, who's name is at the top (along with Southwest)? JetBlue.

Be the paradigm shift. So many organizations can benefit from this kind of thinking. Why was Disneyland successful so quickly? One of the reasons was in a paradigm shift of what amusement parks were like. When Walt started Disneyland his wife would ask him, "But why do you want to build an amusement park? They're so dirty." To this he replied that, "mine wouldn't be".

Don't bank on, "this is the way it's done everywhere else". That will just make you look like "everyone else". Train from the start to be the best of the best.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ethics

I recently read someplace that today's society tolerates too much questionable activity, whether it be by our kids, businesses or managers. I got to thinking about it and I'm not quite sure I agree. Do kids today really think that cheating or stealing is okay? Do businesses and managers really think it's okay to cheat and steal?

I think basic misbehavior is considered just as wrong today as it ever was. People are just coming up with more creative ways to try to get away with things (ahem-Madoff) and others are just stupid (ahem-AIG). Society doesn't accept these ways, but people are still going to try, and try hard they do.

Laws don't always require us to do the right thing. This is where ethics has to take over. Ethics are standards of conduct that we "ought" to follow. Good ethics in business is akin to good sportsmanship in athletics. We are to play by the rules, be fair, and be a good sportsman. The rulebook doesn't always tell us specifically what we can or can't do, but yet we know. Ethics guides us in those situations.

As a supervisor/manager, we have a responsibility to promote ethical behavior - and take action when unethical behavior is suspected. We have a duty to:
  • set a good example,
  • ensure others act according to laws, values, and policies,
  • make sure your staff have the resources to do the right thing,
  • enforce standards and policies,
  • report noncompliance,
  • never retaliate or permit retaliation against "whistle blowers".
You can pretty much sum this all up with the phrase, "do the right thing". If it doesn't seem right - it probably isn't.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Communicate

Com-mu-ni-cate: to share: to convey knowledge of or information about: make known.

Sounds easy. Then why don't more supervisors do it? Nancy K. Austin, a Management Consultant said, "Employees deserve to know what's up and will handle the responsibility better than you imagine." Share.

Staff at all levels of the organization should be considered links in communication. Appropriate information should be freely passed up and down the chain. The key is that it's done quickly, not just by work of mouth. You can't just tell one or two people something and expect that the "grapevine" do the rest. Staff that are kept informed are motivated because the feel like they're involved and a part of the big picture.

Here's a good example of how communication makes a big difference. The book "1001 Ways to Energize Employees" discusses the manager of a Holiday Inn that had a low occupancy rate of 67% - not too good. He decided to communicate the hotel's occupancy rate to all staff every day. Within 18 months, the rate had climbed to 85%, and staff were literally falling over themselves to greet customers, carry guests' bags, and generally be helpful and friendly. Without a doubt, staff who are "in the loop" are staff who are an energized and vital part of the organization.

The word communicate is a verb. There is an action associated with it. Communication is not just something that happens - you have to make it happen.