Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pursuing Engagement

How difficult it is to get someone fired up about a feeling you experienced. What I mean is that if I saw a great movie or hit a terrific golf shot, or felt totally relaxed on the beach, I can't really explain that so clearly that someone else can feel the same excitement, same warmth of the sun, same exhilaration of a good shot. I know there are people that can. You can experience that while reading a book by a good author or hearing a story from a great communicator. I just know that I have a hard time doing it.

What about trying to get your employees engaged in their work? How difficult is that? Some business leaders are naturals at it. Some just give up and experience high turnover as they fire unengaged employees and hope that the next one they hire will be totally fired up about their job.

Getting employees motivated and engaged in their work requires good communication skills (doesn't have to be great), a passion for the business, and a little creativity. The communication skills is for getting the message across to your team what is expected of them and how their jobs contribute to the overall mission of the business. Without sharing this information, employees simply go through the process of their job descriptions without true umph (a rarely used HR term).

A good business leader must have a passion for their business. As a leader, you naturally have people to lead or followers. Are they following a grumpy, stick-in-the-mud or a leader who is passionately on fire about the direction of the organization and the steps needed to get there? Your passion is seen, felt, and passed on to your team members. They feed off of it. It is now a natural process for them to get engaged in their own jobs.

Good business leaders are creative. They think of ways to make even the most mundane job fun to perform knowing how critical it is to the overall process. Creative thinking leaders are always looking for ways to spice up the work either through contests, company parties, job rotation, etc. Creativity keeps the business young in spirit while growing wiser daily. Being creative engages those around you and inspires others to creatively think of solutions in their job performances.

Pursue engagement today!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How To Stay Out of Trouble in 5 Easy Steps

Managing a business is one thing, managing people is another. Wait a minute. Aren't they one in the same? Well, yes, if you have employees. There are some entrepreneurs who have made a good living without hiring help, but that is for another discussion

For those of you who have employees, bookmark these 5 steps for staying out of trouble when it comes to the many, (some unnecessary!) labor laws:

1.) Use all available resources for communication. While there still exists some controversy over the use of communication tools such as employee handbooks, policy manuals, and job descriptions, it has been my experience that you are better off having these in place and updating them on a regular basis. These tools help you first to communicate your passion, your mission, and your ideas of where the business is heading. The tools help you to clearly explain the course of the business and the business values while explaining the culture of your business. They also communicate to the team what is expected and what is not expected as far as conduct, dress code, using the internet, etc. Use these tools to stay out of trouble.

2.) Be responsible. I've seen it over and over again. Employers get in trouble when they have the attitude that people are tools to be disposed of when they are no longer needed or if they get broken. My comment is always to "Man-up!" or woman-up if that fits. In other words, take responsibility for the person you hired. In most cases, you spent a lot of money to hire that person and letting them go without trying to salvage them is just plain bad business. From the moralistic point of view, you as another human being, in a Western culture need to show compassion for another. If the employee continues to mess up, and you've tried all that you can do, then by all means fire their fanny, but only after you've tried all that you could try to help them, nurture them, train them, feed them, whatever it takes to keep them. The bonus to this is that no court will won't to punish you for terminating someone after you've exhausted all efforts.

3.) Document everything. A good example from step #2 is that if you've tried to keep the employee and worked with that person from every possible angle, please document your efforts. Even jotting down dates and times on a Post-It Note becomes a legal document. Write down every occasion that the employee was late, did not perform well, smoked dope, whatever it was, jot it down. Your memory is not that good. Document, document, document.

4.) Don't go it alone. If you have to have a closed door meeting with an employee over a discipline situation, bring another person in with you. This helps to keep the story straight when you document the incident afterward. It also helps to avoid any accusations by the employee later on. I once terminated a female employee who began crying and stated that her husband was going to kill her. My heart went out to her. I closed the door and approached her to put my hand on her shoulder (this was really early in my career). I came to my senses, realized my mistake and immediately called in another female to assist me with the meeting. Bring someone in with you.

5.) Stay informed. There are so many new laws affecting the way employers are treated that it is difficult to stay on top of everything. Notice that I said affecting employers and not employees. That is because the laws seem to favor employees with a huge burden on the employer. You need to know about these. While your job is to do whatever your business creates, produces, and provides, you still need to keep abreast of laws that affect the outcome of how you handle employee situations. There are great resources available online or you can simply sign up for my monthly e-newsletter at www.DuncanConsult.com

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seeing Green

It's not easy being green, although it is popular. In fact, consumers look for the green label on everything from toilet paper to power cords to ice cream (seriously! saw it on a ice cream carton myself!) But what does it cost to go green and who sets the standard for green? Well, it all depends on your industry, who talk to, and what the general public opinion is regarding green.

There are really good reasons for going green today, but most of the businesses I follow are going green, or stating that they are going green, in order to increase the bottom line of their business. In other words, they want our business based on the shade of green of their business.

Before getting all greenish to help the sales of your business, perhaps we should all step back and look at what really brings in the biz. Customers want good customer service. Notice that I wrote "good" and not "great" customer service. Most customers are willing to settle for average service because they see so much poor service today. I hear from customers of some of our clients who state that the good customer service they receive is almost a shock. They are stunned that a salesperson actually made eye contact with them and seemed to care about the needs of the customer. Their face didn't look like they fell into a tackle box (way too many piercings), and they could speak the Queen's English without nonsensical slang. They seemed to understand that their pay is based, in part, on providing a good customer service experience.

Do you want to go green? First, make your competitors grow green with envy when they see that your business is stealing customers because of the great service that you provide.
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