Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lincoln Leadership Lessons

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."  --- Abraham Lincoln

There is a new movie about Abraham Lincoln simply titled, Lincoln.  I haven't seen it yet, but the reviews are favorable.  If they portray him correctly, some really good leadership qualities should be revealed.  I know we can apply at least four of them this week.

1.) The first one that we should consider is Lincoln's tenacity for patience and perseverance.  He had an end goal in mind and he saw it through to the truly bitter end.  Lincoln refused to compromise on any front and kept his eye on his ultimate goals.

2.) Lincoln lived up to the nickname Honest Abe.  He refused to pay cash for votes on the 13th Amendment, which was the custom at the time. Instead, he paid personal visits to key figures from both parties going after their hearts with personal pleas for justice rather than filling up their pockets with cold hard cash.

3.) Lincoln had a humble heart, what most business management consultants and writers, including Jim Collins, say is part of the makeup of a great leader.

4.) Finally, Lincoln kept communication short and to the point.  The Gettysburg Address, which is perhaps the most famous speech of all time, was a mere 246 words and took two minutes to deliver.  As Abe himself once said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Firing Your Own Mike Brown

"I could never have imagined that firing 67 people on national television would actually make me more popular, especially with the younger generation." --- Donald Trump

Los Angeles Lakers Basketball Coach Mike Brown was fired last week. The grounds for termination: 1-4 record. That's right, the team he coaches lost four basketball games. Doesn't seem like grounds for termination so early in the season and if it were not for a signed contract, he might have an unfair termination case. The issue is not whether he is good at his job, but whether he can rack up an impressive season for the Lakers franchise. This is the case for most coaches in the professional world of sports. Though you might be a good coach, you are only as good as your current season.

What about your coach? (translated manager, supervisor, team leader, COO, CFO, or president). What has he or she produced for the company lately? Are they providing what was agreed upon in relation to profits, productivity, increased customer base? Is there a win/loss record of 1-4? Do you need to fire them? Can you fire them?

Most business leaders are facing these questions on a regular basis. Though they might not verbalize them or see them in any particular sequence, they are always there, waiting for answers. How do we analyze these questions to put them in perspective for our overall mission? Here are four tips to use for determining if we need to replace our "coaches":

1.) Use bench marks. Regardless of whether you have a signed contract with your manager or other leader, agreed upon bench marks are extremely helpful in determining the performance of your leader. If you and the leader know what those bench marks are, there is no confusion on what is expected.

2.) Use regular meetings. Communication, that nasty word that is always blamed for most business problems, is the best tool to use with your leaders. Two-way communication cuts off problems before they arise. Issues of performance are addressed and reasons for mistakes are communicated and resolved before more damage can occur.

3.) Call time out. When serious problems seemingly appear out of nowhere, it is usually because you haven't made the time or taken the time to pay closer attention or the information you've been given hasn't been all that accurate. This is the time to halt the presses, call time out, take a break and look around. Identify the problem or issue, uncover why it happened, then take action. The action may need to be termination, but if you've stayed the course with tips #1 and #2, you probably won't have to resort to firing.

4.) Determine needs. Be on the constant lookout for helpful information, training aids, classes, seminars, needed technological equipment, anything that can help your leaders to do a better job. Ask them to help you help them. If they lack training in an area or feel uncomfortable performing a particular task (this should have come out during multiple interviews, but too late now), provide the necessary skill training to get them up to a better level. Too often I see business leaders work against their own leaders as if it were a competition. This is a business you are trying to improve, perfect, and make productive and profitable. Take these four tips to heart and know that your leaders are worthy of second chances, and of salvaging for the next season.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat

Whenever I am asked by business leaders if they should reward employees or make them feel like they are about to lose their jobs, I always have the same response: "Uh?"  What are they talking about?  Why do we business leaders feel we must trick our employees into doing the right thing?  The principle I teach in this respect is to treat employees how you would want to be treated.  Too simple?

Let's look at the choices that we have.  We can either trick our employees into submission or treat them well and expect a good outcome.  If we've prepared properly going way back to the time we saw the need for an employee, we would have properly sought the right candidate, interviewed several times, providing the proper training and orientation, and then continue to treat the employee with respect.  If we've hired the right person, all is well.  If the employee still takes advantage of us and turns out to not be who we thought we hired, then we let that person go, learn a lesson, and move on.

Keep it simple and treat your employees with respect.  Don't trick them into anything.  The smart ones will reciprocate and offer respect and the other ones will either not like the culture and leave or you will have to remove them.  Stick to your integrity guns and don't play games.  Your wise, good employees see right through that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Winning Like Lance Armstrong... Without Cheating

 "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the Chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."  --- Sam Walton

Lance Armstrong was a hero to many not just in the cycling community, but the entire sports community as well.  He was also seen as an American hero representing the United States in the Tour de France and many other international racing venues.  Armstrong was recently stripped of his seven Tour wins for having used enhancing drugs to give him an edge in racing.  I'm certain there will be more to this story unfolding over the next several months, but if true, Armstrong ruined what was a good run of winning.  He wasted all of that hard work training and sacrificing over many years. 

As business leaders, we also work hard and sacrifice and scratch and claw to create a winning team with a winning streak.  As we've witnessed over recent years, business leaders also get caught cheating on their way to the victory podium.  Some started out on the right foot and were even surprised when they began to spiral into the depths of unethical play.  They took shortcuts and used performance enhancers that ate into their otherwise strong integrity.

I see three tips that can keep business leaders on track for winning the natural way:

1.) Build a team of enforcers.  Whatever Armstrong did or didn't do, he probably wouldn't be in this mess if he was surrounded by a caring team that held him accountable for his actions.  A good team supports its leader.  When you build your team and share your vision and mission for the business, everyone on the team knows what it takes to get from point A to point B.  Shortcuts usually don't exist and if they do, team members should examine them to make sure they are not landmines on the path.  Team members need to be empowered to correct wrongs when they see them as well as correct other members when they are going off course.

2.) Practice self-preaching.  We all get tempted from time to time and it is easy to let our guard down when we are tired at the end of the week (or even the beginning!).  Reading good business books, magazines, or listening to a podcast from a successful business person is helpful.  It is like having a cheering section encouraging us to move forward on the straight line.  Writing good business quotes and taping them on the mirror or office wall serves as reminders for the course we need to continue on.

3.) Teach others.  A known prescription for people that are hurting is to go help people who are hurting.  Helping at a women's shelter, feeding the hungry, or volunteering at a hospital helps to speed up the healing process.  So too with balancing on the beam of business ethics.  Teaching or mentoring young business leaders on the importance of building a business with integrity actually helps to strengthen your stance on building a winning team naturally, and with no performance enhancers.  Teach others so that you can continue to increase your reliance on good business practices.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Action in Leadership

Business leaders today have so much on their plate in trying to lead their team toward success.  Good leadership requires that all stakeholders are considered when making business decisions.  The community, the customers, the stockholders are all vital considerations to the success of the business.  However, the smart players look at their roles as having a responsibility for their employees first.  The most successful businesses have business leaders who always look at their employees as not only good and needed assets, but as part of a growing family working toward a common goal or mission.  This is a great responsibility business leaders should not take lightly.  It means that if there has to be layoffs, that as a business leader, you hurt for those being let go and that you do all that you can to provide for them and their families.  I realize this goes against the grain of what is widely accepted today as good business sense, but it in fact creates a healthier bottom line.  It also means that when an employee is hospitalized that you visit them, care for them, and make sure their needs are met.  It doesn't mean that you rely on Cigna or Aetna to handle it.  It means that when your employees fail, you train them; when they succeed, you celebrate them; when they cry, you taste salt; and when they are in danger, you do everything in your power to protect them.

Included in protecting your employees is to protect them from an abuser.  That's right.  It is your job.  We still have many business leaders in our community who believe that
domestic violence means "at-home violence."  I could easily sway business leaders by spouting off statistics like $75 billion is spent annually by businesses due directly to domestic violence.  Sixty-eight percent of the costs from assaults and 63 percent of the costs from self-inflicted injuries were in males aged 15 to 44.  Do you have any males in that age range in your workforce?  I could let you know that while working or on duty, U.S. residents experienced 1.7 million violent victimizations annually from 2000 to 2007 including 1.3 million simple assaults, 325,000 aggravated assaults, 36,500 rapes and sexual assaults, 70,000 robberies, and 900 homicides, and that workplace violence accounted for 18% of all violent crime between 2000 to 2007.  I could also share that most of the $75 billion in costs associated with violence were from lost productivity ($64.4 billion), with the remaining $5.6 billion spent on medical care.  I know that those figures have an impact and that it does get the attention of business leaders, but it shouldn't take that information to sway you to do the right thing.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  If you have not taken any action to protect your employees and to educate your team on domestic violence, please do so this week.  It doesn't take long and it doesn't cost you.  It is a simple three-step process:

First, simply adopt a domestic violence policy to include in your employee handbook. This policy provides guidelines and resources that you can customize for your business.

Next, assign a point person to act as a liaison between the victim (we consider them "survivors"), and available resources.  This person is not a counselor, expert domestic violence professional, or law enforcement officer.  It is a person with a heart who cares for others.  This is the person that the employee/survivor can turn to for help.  The point person simply opens doors for the survivor.

Finally, go through a short training class through Harbor House of Central Florida.  These loving folks will come to your office and provide your staff with the proper training and resources.  This seminar teaches you how to recognize domestic violence and what to say and not say to the survivor.  The course will open your eyes.  I had one business leader tell me before the course that he doesn't have any employees in his workplace with bruises or bleeding lips.  After the course, he was amazed at his lack of understanding.

Please do the right thing.  Implement the policy, assign a point person, and take the class.  Show responsibility for your team members.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dancing with the Stars

"Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers." --- Stephen Covey

Business leaders who are afraid to offer incentives to those employees that go above and beyond with great customer service, taking up the slack for an absent employee, saving the company money with a creative idea, or closing a big sale are missing a wonderful opportunity to build a greater team. Some business leaders are hesitant to single out employees for fear of hurting the feelings of those not performing so superbly.

Here are four good points to keep in mind when it comes to rewarding great performance:

1.) Make a spectacle. Make it known to the entire organization about the employee receiving the award. The award doesn't have to be expensive, but should be something that makes the employee feel appreciated. Gift cards, trophies, time off, dinner for two, and anything else that is above his or her normal salary. Gather the team together give a presentation.

2.) Make it easy. You've hired a lot of different personalities with different work habits. They might not fit your mold or what you think an employee should look like, but if they are getting the job done leave them alone. In fact, make it easier for them to exercise their individuality and creativity. If an employee requests different working hours because she must pick up the kids from school, try to accommodate. If the employee works better in the later hours, rearrange his hours so that he can be more productive. Give a little and watch for big returns. Yes, you may have some take advantage of you, but if you've done your homework in the hiring process, they will be few and far between.

3.) Make it happen. It takes work to recognize excellence. It will require monitoring, motivating, and rewarding, but it is worth it. Some companies start a recognition program only to drop it a few months or a year down the road. Keep it going for the long haul. Your employees will appreciate your efforts and your company will be rewarded with greater productivity.

4.) Make a point. Recognizing employees shows the entire team that better service, quality productivity, and loyalty to the company mission is appreciated. Make your stars shine to others so that everyone knows it is possible. Develop enough stars and you will be dancing the sweet dance of success.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Giving the Farm Away?

"Treat employees like partners and they act like partners." --- Fred Allen

Running a business is a lot like playing babysitter and handyman at the same time. When we run a business, you are always responding to issues--- always reacting to things. However, when we lead a business we are directing where we are going. We are proactive in our moves and our decisions and we are particularly playing a leading role in guiding our employees toward success.

One of the surest ways to leading employees on board with the plan and mission of the business is to give them a role in decision-making. This doesn't mean giving away the farm, but it does mean trusting in the team members that we've hired.

Here are three steps that you can take to help build employee loyalty, trust, and dedication:

1.) Allow them to fail. Your employees will make mistakes. When employees are criticized for those mistakes, especially in front of others, their creativity and problem-solving skills are stifled. They no longer take chances to help the company succeed. Communicate to the team that everyone is encouraged to take some chances to reach new heights. When they do fail, use that as an opportunity to learn. Critique the incident, but not the team member.

2.) Give them the business. Consider offering your employees a piece of the action. This can be set up by your attorney and/or accountant, but it is worth looking into. You can be slowly by offering profit-sharing to your team leaders, supervisors and managers. The point is that when an employee has ownership, engagement in the job increases. It is now their company and they really want to see it succeed.

3.) Set an example. Your action as a business leader is watched more closely than you realize. Your employees are looking to see if what you say in the Monday morning meeting is what you actually believe. When they hear you speak poorly about a customer or another employee, they know that customer service and working together in harmony is not really a priority at the company. Your team members need to see your passion for the company in action. They need to know that you are leading them with action as well as words. When they see that their leadership really lives the mission statement of the business then they come alive with a desire to achieve!

You don't have to give away the farm to create a loyal workforce, but you might want to offer some land or pigs, and then let them do some farming.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sharing More

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it." --- Winston Churchill

One of the biggest communication faults of leaders is the inability to share what is in their heads and heart in regards to the direction of the business. While the owner or business leader may know where they want the business to be in one, three, five, and ten years, they often have difficulty completely disclosing that information to their team members.

Employees are left wondering if what they are doing is exactly what the boss wants them to do. Some employees think they have an idea of the direction the business is heading, especially immediately after one of the monthly meetings, but that thought eventually goes away because of the lack of reinforcement and encouragement by the leadership team.

Here are four steps that can be immediately incorporated into the way you communicate to your team members so that they have a better understanding of the pressures you face, the challenges ahead, and the direction of the business:

1.) Tell them what you know. It is really that simple. At your weekly meetings or conference calls, tell the troops what it is that you found out about a particular client, the competition, the financials, etc. Don't keep all of the worries inside. Share the pain.

2.) Restate your Mission Statement. Or, in some cases, reinstate it. Remind your team weekly or monthly what the company stands for. Remind them about what was promised to one another and to the customers as outlined in the Mission Statement. Have them not only memorize it, but live it.

3.) Criticize your employees. At least the ones you have a beef with. Do this in private and as frequently as needed. Obviously, this goes against what you know and certainly what you read here frequently, but the point is that if you have an issue with an employee, call that person out in private. Let that person know that you have an issue with them. Explain what it is, how it affects the bottom line, and ask what the person is going to do about it. Then, coach them by cheering them on with their idea for the correction or help them to see another way. Either way, don't hold these things inside and then blow up and regret what you might say or do.

4.) Finally, tell your team about your goals. Share with them about where you see the company down the road. Where you see the team years from now and what you would like to do with the company.

When these four points are suggested to businesses, business leaders are later thankful and amazed with what this does for the morale of the company and how it builds cohesiveness in the business. A little sharing goes a long way!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lead with Speed

Too often I am called in to consult with a business leader about issues that are urgent in the client's mind--- at least when I get the call.  After hours of investigation, interviews, analysis, and pondering, findings are presented to the business leader, and recommendations are made.  Then, amazingly, many of these leaders hold off on making key moves that will not only solve the immediate issues, but will help to prevent similar issues in the future.

After years of experiencing this type of behavior, I think that I am now beginning to understand some of the reasons for the procrastination.  First, these business leaders want to know why the problem exists.  They want to understand how such issues flair up out of nowhere and why they never see them coming.  Second, they want to have some type of validation a problem or challenge even exists.  They want to be sure that what they are feeling, seeing, or sensing is indeed real.  Finally, these leaders want a shoulder.  They want someone to listen to their woes and hear them out.  I get that.  I understand all three of these reasons for initiating the call.

When it comes to pulling the trigger on suggested remedies though, it is tough for some leaders to do.  Leading with speed in this area is a wee bit out of their comfort zone.  Like most of the people they lead, they fear change.  They don't want to implement something that is different from the way they've always done things.  They don't see that if they keep doing what they've been doing, they will continue to get the same results.  Sometimes it takes a good scare or a good kick in the seat of the pants to get them to move on making the necessary changes.  I've discovered that once they do, they are glad for it.  They just needed to dive off the rock to know that they won't be killed when they land.  Leading with speed does get easier, but it is getting past the first challenges of change that gets the momentum going. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Motivating Employees

"The secret to winning is constant, consistent management." --- Tom Landry

We all wish that our employees had the same motivation and passion about our business as we do. Some leaders do enjoy the success of creating just such a culture, but it is not an easy process. Getting team members to see the big picture that business leaders see requires good communication skills and patience. Here are four steps that you can begin implementing today for a better motivated workforce:

1.) Communicate the big picture to all team members. Many successful companies have found that this is the first step to motivating employees. Radio Flyer, the maker of children's toys based in Chicago, started a "Connect the Dots" program to get its employees to see how their jobs and projects contribute to the overall success of the company. We can do the same in our business. Begin today communicating to all employees how their tasks make the success of the company possible. Let them see how what they do "connects."

2.) Consider paying for performance. Rewarding employees who go above and beyond not only motivates those employees, but also others that witness the reward. Zappos rewards employees for providing not just good, but great customer service. Badger Mining Corporation rewards employees for joining a safety team or wellness team.

3.) Share the numbers. Most business leaders are skittish about showing the books to employees, but being transparent in this area actually helps to improve employee loyalty, commitment, and productivity. If employees know that the company is in a down period, they are more apt to understand why the belt is tightening and may come up with creative ways to produce or make even more cuts.

4.) Collaborate in decision-making. Allowing employees to play a part of the decision-making process brings more ideas to the table, creates a sense of ownership, and motivates team members. While business leaders have the final say, allowing employees to contribute usually surprises leaders in what can be presented. There are more creative ideas from those looking in from a different perspective.

Consider applying all four of these tips this week and watch how the motivation of your team members increase--- along with production.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Amazon-Like Customer Service

Amazon is known not for its books, nor for its now thousands of electronics, furniture, clothing, and the other 20 million products it sells, but for its extraordinary obsession with providing great customer service. This obsession was instilled into the company at its earliest phase.

Every employee knows that customer service is the top priority at Amazon because CEO Jeff Bezos makes sure that they know. At every meeting of his top executives, Bezos places an empty chair at the table and explains that the chair is for the customer. If he is sitting in that chair, what would that customer want to tell us. Bezos has been bringing in the empty chair sense he started the company in 1995. The company now has over 56,000 employees and all of them come second, which is unusual in today's world of free Google and Mircrosoft meals, haircuts, and babysitting. Amazon provides cheap furniture for employees in order to spend more on efficient customer service.

While there is a direct correlation between how employees are treated and how customer service is perceived, these four customer services nuggets can still be applied to your business.

1.) Obsess over customers- Use the empty chair example or even bring customers into your employee meetings for constructive feedback, but do whatever it takes to create a culture of extreme addiction to great customer service.

2.) Use customers to define what they want or need- Don't rely on in-house engineers or creative employee experiments to determine what your company will provide for customers. Listen--- really listen to your customer's needs and wants. They will tell you if you'll only listen.

3.) Put every team member on the phone- This is a good practice to implement periodically. Your salespeople, your COO, CFO, and top team leaders need to be in your call center or receptionist desk to here what your customers are saying; to feel what your customers are feeling. This is also a good exercise to discover what those employees that normally do this work are experiencing.

4.) Commit to spending 70% of your day on customer service issues- This is not what normally happens. Most business leaders spend 30% of their time on customer service thinking that their time is more valuable in other areas. If a business leader were to take just the next 90 days spending 70% of their day on customer service issues--- improving response time, correcting billing issues, making on-site employees more presentable-- as well as preventing future customer service issues, they will see a dramatic increase in repeat business as well as positive word-of-mouth marketing.

Be like Bezos and go crazy over customer service!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wisconsin Recall

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind" --- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Big uproar in Wisconsin. As you've may have seen in the news, voters in Wisconsin are divided on whether to keep Governor Scott Walker in office or boot him out. There are heated issues on the table based on decisions made by Governor Walker.

Regardless of which side you may lean on this issue, one statement the Governor made stands out when he said, "I made promises to get to this office and now I am keeping them." Oh how we wish that every politician kept his or her word.

Oh how our employees wish we would stick to our words. They wish we were the leaders they thought we were when we hired them. We can regain our employees trust by avoiding some of the following pitfalls:

1.) Hinting, rather than speaking straightforwardly. Some managers feel kinder or more polite sugarcoating a difficult conversation, but it's not at all kind to let someone miss an important message. When a manager sugarcoats a message, the meaning is missed, or the message presents requirements as mere suggestions and team members end up confused about expectations. Most employees prefer straightforward communication so they don't need to figure out what they're really supposed to take away.

2.) Delegating, but not really. Sometimes a manager is so nervous about, or invested in, a project that even though he or she has technically assigned it to another team member, the manager doesn't really let go of it. This leads to confusion about who is actually responsible for getting the work done and diminished ownership (and therefore diminished performance) on the part of the team member it was assigned to.

3.) Being afraid to make hard decisions. One common way this plays out is with managers who won't address performance problems or fire under-performers—and if you've ever worked somewhere where laziness or shoddy work was tolerated, you know how frustrating and demoralizing this can be. But it plays out in other ways as well. For example, a manager who's afraid of conflict may hesitate to make necessary course corrections mid-way through a project, but then be unhappy with a team member's final product. Good managers know that their job is to help solve problems, not avoid them, and that they can't value preserving harmony or avoiding tough conversations above all else.

4.) Making social events unofficially required. Employers frequently assume that employees will view office social events (like holiday parties) as a treat—and then get offended when employees don't want to go. Most employees would prefer that employers make it clear when events are mandatory, rather than implying they're optional and then penalizing people who don't attend. And managers should realize that not everyone wants to socialize with their co-workers. Requiring employees to attend events that are ostensibly to build their morale may have the opposite effect.

Of course there are more, but these are just a few of the top pitfalls that lead team members to believe a business leader to have forgotten what was promised, whether spoken or implied. If a voted-into-office business leader performed like this, his or her employees would be fighting for a recall.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Does Teamwork Training Really Work?

A lot of chit-chat goes on at training events about teamwork and the importance of it. We cover teamwork and provide teamwork training during our training events and with small businesses. Unfortunately, there is usually a lot of fluff involved with teamwork training at some events that doesn't really cut the chase of teamwork building at all. Attendees at these events are bored with the same old training modules and often leave them with relief that it is over. What should be covered for businesses interested in providing good teamwork training is the basics of what a team in business should comprise.

First, a team is a collaboration of individuals working toward the same goal or goals. It is really that simple. Why complicate it? It is management's responsibility to make sure that team members are placed on the correct team though. In other words, a business leader should know the personalities of each team member and should understand the dynamics of putting people together who can compliment one another. Using a DISC profile system or one similar to determine each type of personality is extremely helpful and important.

Second, team members can only help to serve as great team members as the extent of their knowledge of their job description. Translated: they have to know what to do. Again, this is the job of the business leader. Communication is so important and includes using common communication tools such as job descriptions, employee handbooks, mission, vision, and purpose statements, and more. This second step must be in place in order to have a smooth running team that works in the same direction toward the same goals.

Finally, teamwork training. Good teamwork training that includes eye-opening team building exercises is needed, and needed frequently. We've all heard that Abe Lincoln is quoted as saying that if he had all day to chop down a tree, he would spend the first half of the day sharpening his axe. Teamwork training and team building exercises is sharpening that axe. Team building exercises should include activities that get all team members involved. It should be a gradual process that makes some members feel just a little uncomfortable. The concept is to get team members that always take charge, (based on their already determined personality or DISC profile), to step aside and allow some of the more quieter types to make things happen, based on the exercise. The goal of this type of training is to get all involved to walk away with a clearer sense of how their role in the business helps to solve a problem or contribute to the greater good of the business.

Don't fear teamwork training. When done properly, it really works!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Employee Engagement

One of the most challenging aspects of people management is keeping all team members engaged. A workforce with employee engagement is obviously more productive than one that is not engaged. Business leaders who make it a priority to make sure they have an engaged workforce reap the rewards of improved morale, increased productivity, a better bottom line, and a more loyal team.

Good softward management systems are available for businesses to use to increase the engagement of employees. Often times, employee engagement is a symptom of other things not being addressed in the workplace such as management and leadership practices, communication breakdowns, poorly conducted performance reviews, monetary and other motivational practices, and more. Smart business leaders keep their team members engaged in their work. The first step to improving employee engagement is understand what employee engagement is and then to begin the process of improving communication between the owners and/or management of the company and the employees. Click Here to learn about how your business can better achieve employee engagement among team members.

Communication begins with making sure that all communication tools such as employee handbooks, job descriptions, and mission, vision, and purpose statements are implemented and communicated to all team members, but business leaders also need a good management system that can provide results. Mass Ingenuity is the answer. They are a consulting and product company that created the NOW Management System, perfect for improving operating effectiveness and efficiency.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Goober's Customer Service Secrets

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen" --- Ernest Hemmingway

George Lindsey, the actor who played the character Goober Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show, died yesterday at the age of 83. His character took over the position of Mayberry's gas station attendant after Gomer Pyle joined the Marines. Lindsey went on to play the same character on the hit show Hee Haw, and in stand-up comedy shows for many years. While loved for his innocence and simplicity, leaders can learn a great deal from how Goober ran his station.

Three Goober traits we can adopt today:

1.) First, Goober never formed an opinion about a person until he really had a chance to know him or her. He always listened, I mean really listened, to what the customer had to say before responding. Of course Goober would listen with his mouth open in child-like anticipation, but he still listened. When we do the same (minus the open mouth), we not only hear what the customers want, need, are complaining about, etc., but we see how they say it. We can witness in their body language more of what they are trying to communicate. Goober could sense what the customer was needing and addressed those needs.

2.) Next, Goober was passionate about fixing the problem. He worked relentlessly trying to get the car running, fix the flat, provide alternative transportation, and anything and everything else that would help to make the customer happy. Goober knew his job and not only wanted to provide satisfaction to his customers, but he would make sure that if he found another problem not addressed by the customer, he would fix that too. He always knew that if the customer was happy, then he and the town of Mayberry were happy.

3.) Finally, Goober knew that he knew when a project was right. His standards were often above the customer's and he stubbornly stood his ground when it came to making a repair or pumping gas. Goober's confidence in his abilities spilled over to the service he provided for his customers. He doggedly worked until the vehicle purred like a kitten even if the customer didn't bring the vehicle in for that kind of treatment. Goober's pride in his workmanship didn't allow for him to cut corners or skip over quality for the sake of quantity. This led him to develop a reputation for being perfectionist and in more than one episode caused Andy Griffith to recommend Goober to a customer as the greatest mechanic around.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Zimmerman and the Stanley Cup

"Confrontation is not a dirty word. Sometimes it is the best kind of journalism as long as you don't confront people just for the sake of a confrontation." --- Don Hewitt

The Zimmerman case is obviously tragic. It is difficult to see any good that will come from it from our vantage point. The ripping apart of community it is causing in this part of Florida may take years to heal and will probably get worse before it gets better. The good news is that the 911 released tapes are shedding light on what the difference is between good and bad confrontation, and how far can or should a confrontation go.

Another example of confrontation is in the sporting world. With the Stanley Cup playoffs under way, it is seen as the norm to have two hockey players fighting on the ice. In other words, that could be seen as "good" confrontation, just like in tackling in football and take-downs in amateur wrestling.

But what about in business? Is there such a thing as good confrontation? Can a business leader intentionally invoke confrontation with team members? Is this a healthy management style?

Here are three occasions when the answer to that question is yes:

1.) Confront a team member immediately when it is doubtful that they've been completely honest with you. This is where things get a little slippery. When you discover that an employee is not being completely honest with you, then you should first give them an opportunity to explain. I've always said that if you took the time, money, and energy to hire that person, then you obviously believe they are of good character. Perhaps this instance is a misunderstanding or could even be a lapse in good judgement on the part of the employee. Either way, this calls for good confrontation. Your employee needs to own up to the dishonesty and make things right. Let them know that you believe that their "yes" is their yes and their "no" is their no. They should be using winning words at all times, which includes being honest without having to begin the conversation with "honestly." Do not let this incident just work itself out--- it won't! Address dishonesty the very moment it is discovered.

2.) Confront a team member immediately when you notice that their performance is slipping. Do not excuse this behavior and hope it will get better. The employee needs to own up to why they are not performing up the level you know they are capable of. You may uncover some personal issues or it may be that they are unhappy with a recent act on your part, but didn't want to share it with you. Take time to find out why. If it is a problem at home such as a result of domestic violence, take the time to learn how you can help that person. It is to your benefit as well as theirs to find out and resolve the issue.

3.) Confront a team member immediately when you suspect that they've not been loyal to you or the business by insulting customers or stealing. Both cases are cause for dismissal, but I suggest that you find out the circumstances first so that you can make things right for the customer and take any legal action if needed. Unfortunately, even after doing all the screening, all the background checks, all the reference calling and all the interviews, an employee may still hurt your business by stealing from the company or doing some kind of harm to the business by insulting or somehow scaring customers away. This is a cancer that needs to be dealt with right away. Termination is the only option. Yes, you can try to help this person, but not while they are still employed. Their character flaw is costing you and you should not have to put up with it. After determining what happened, take what legal action is necessary and have this person removed from the business.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Madness of it All

"A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world." --- John Updike

I recently spoke with a business leader who was offered a great sum of money to sell his business. This leader is facing quite a few challenges in regard to employee relations and to him the offer is looking quite appealing. He told me, "I must be mad to continue doing what I'm doing with the problems I'm facing, but I just find it hard to let it all go."

We're all like that in some respects. We build our business, nurture it, give it all the right nutrients for growth, so that when an opportunity arises, we find it difficult to part with it. Some leaders, like the one I spoke with, would not even entertain letting the business go if they didn't have to deal with petty employee issues all the time. That business leader also shared with me that he feels like the business family he thought he had is turning their backs on him.

Like the elimination process of the current March Madness basketball tournament, leading employees requires a process of elimination that include three key areas:

1.) Eliminate indecision- Empower your team members to make decisions on their own. This does two things: it frees up your time to oversee the picture and it instills trust and confidence into your employees. Indecision stagnates your business and turns your employees into robots. You didn't hire robots. You hired walking, talking, thinking, creative humans. Empower them to be human. Their trust in you will increase and their sense of ownership will give them confidence to give only their very best.

2.) Eliminate the need to litigate- Use the tools found here and at our site to protect you and your business. Remember to put in place good communication tools such as job descriptions, employee handbook, and mission statement to communicate what is expected of each employee and how their job contributes to the success of all.

3.) Eliminate rights- This is a controversial one, but is needed in today's business environment. Although we want to empower team members and give them the freedom to make mistakes, that doesn't mean that they own the farm. Occasionally, some business leaders still need to let employees know who the boss is and that "if the employee doesn't work, he doesn't eat." Some employees have a sense of entitlement that the employer owes them and that they should get paid for just showing up. Obviously, this person should have been weeded out during the interviewing stage, but if some have slipped by, it is time to let them know that their right is to give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. If a sit-down is needed, have someone else present with you and inform the employee that they might not fit into your organization unless some things change. For most of these employees, a simple chat will either correct the situation or send them packing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trade Shows 101

If you’ve ever worked a trade show, you know the challenges can be endless. From reserving floor/booth space, to organizing help, scheduling meetings, ordering promotional items, and advertising location. These all can take a toll on a business and its team. One of the best ways to begin a trade show event is to look at it as an architect or a building contractor would when designing or building a home--- from the ground up.

I’ve worked trade shows before and I notice that there is always one or two booths where attendees tend to gather near the end of a show day. They don’t necessarily go there because they are interested in the vendor’s products or services. No, they go there to give their pups a rest. I’m talking about their sore, tired feet. These folks are standing in that particular booth space because that business is using comfortable flooring. The attendees are enjoying a cushy comfort. They recognize that a good floor helps to cut down on fatigue for those tending the booth.

Since we are beginning at the floor, the smart players will include their company logo on the flooring because they know that not every attendee is looking up and around. In fact, studies show that as the body gets tired, we tend to look down more often. Why not take advantage of a captured audience and have your flooring imprinted with your logo or other company information. We still do trade shows for exposure, advertising, and getting noticed, right? Take advantage of all of your booth materials and place your name and logo so all eyes can find you. Remember, begin at the floor, and then build upward. If your event takes you outside, place your name and logo on the canopy of your booth. Always be thinking about every marketing angle when it comes to trade shows.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lessons from Lindsay Lohan

"Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion." --- Jim Rohn

Believing that the employer has a responsibility for its employees is step one toward building a great team. Responsibility however, should not be translating into hand-holding and pampering of employees, but creating a safe working environment with fair pay and benefits, and an opportunity to grow with the company.

That is a broad, general description that doesn't include other factors that come from the heart of a business leader such as caring for a team member injured on the job (above what is required by Uncle Sam), and celebrating with an employee the birth of a child. These fall under the term, "responsibility."

There is, on occasion, where an employee might take advantage of the employer's responsibility. Those are rare, but when it does happen, the employer should know when to part ways with that team member. In other words, it is okay to cut the cord... cut bait and move on...okay, I'll say it: fire them.

When faced with a difficult employee that wants to continue in a pattern of behavior that is unhealthy for both the employee and the business, there are three things you should do:

1.) Right the situation- Use all means possible to salvage the difficult employee. Although this sounds counter-productive, remember that you put a lot of time, energy, and money into bringing this person on board. You obviously believed in him or her, so there must be something there that you want to hold onto. Do all you can to keep or make that person whole again. If, as in the situation with Lindsay Lohan, the team member has a problem with addiction or troubled behavior, send him or her to your EAP or offer other services that might be available from your insurance provider. Allow them time off for recovery. If your company can afford it, do it with pay. Also, be on the lookout for domestic violence situations. If this person is a victim, be sensitive to his or her needs and provide the right resources. We offer a domestic violence policy for free to be included in your employee handbook. Also, take this quick READ

2.) Right now, right away- If you find that you cannot or don't want to try anymore with this person, severe the relationship. Fire him or her. Do it now. If you've tried to salvage this person, stretching yourself to the limit to provide resources in the form of medical help, financial assistance, more training, etc, then you've down all you can do. Do not continue to baby this employee. The rest of the team members are watching and they know what is going on. This person is dragging down the team. When you've made your decision to let him or her go, don't dance around it. Do it right away, and not halfway. Be sure to have someone present with you and do offer severance if you can.

3.) Right down everything- Okay, the grammar isn't correct, but it fit the sequence. The point is to document, document, document. Write down every thing that has transpired regarding this employee. Be sure to include time and dates and the names of any witnesses that may have been present. Your only defense if you terminate this employee, is to have a running record of everything. No special forms are needed. A simple legal pad and pen should do the trick.

You don't need to have a repeat offender in your midst. Do all you can, but don't be afraid to fire someone. Most of the time, when a business leader lets a problem team member go, the other team members get stronger. They were waiting for you to make a move.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Behind Motivation

"Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can't miss." --- Lee Iacocca

There is nothing more frustrating in business than to have a talented, unmotivated employee. Nothing is more detrimental to your business either. An employee that is not motivated will eventually bring down other team members working close by.
Its been said that it is easier for someone on the floor to pull down someone standing on a chair than it is the other way around.

But, a leader that creates an environment where the vision and purpose of the business, as well as the work itself, oozes with a culture of motivation will find strength in numbers. The magical motivational factor will begin to take shape.

There are many factors that can be applied when embarking on developing a culture of motivation. Here are three that can be implemented immediately:

1.) Tell the story. We've listened to leaders complain about this employee or that one that is just not giving their all. We've heard, "They don't seem motivated and don't care about the business like I do." This is usually true and it is no wonder, they don't have much to get excited about when the leader isn't communicating what there is to get excited about. True, you are motivated and on fire to make the business extremely successful, but your team members have no clue what you are feeling. They haven't heard the war stories of how much blood, sweat, and tears came out of you to get the business where it is today. Take the time to tell your story. Let them know how passionate you are about the business because of where you see the business going. Believe me, they do not know.

2.) Show the way. After you've painted a picture of where you've been and how you feel, now show them where they are going. Let them know repeatedly the destination of the journey as well as the course that will be taken to get there. If you don't, your team members are floundering in the water and after a while they lose steam. To keep them motivated, constantly communicate to them where you are taking them and remind them that they are in the driver's seat as well.

3.) Celebrate the journey. Company parties shouldn't be just for the major holidays. Celebrate as many successes in the company as possible. Celebrate the lives of your team members. If an employee closes a sale, recognize it and celebrate it. If an employee has a baby, celebrate it. If a project is completed on time, a customer sends in a note of appreciation, the leaking faucet in the bathroom gets repaired--- CELEBRATE!

Adopt these three right way and watch the culture begin to change. You are on your way to a more motivated workforce.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Leading Like Joe Paterno

"A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd." --- Max Lucado

You've probably heard that Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach, died this past weekend. If your only knowledge of him was that he coached and was fired as the result of a scandal involving one of his assistant coaches, then have missed out on some good lessons on developing and leading people.

In a 2010 Sporting News interview, Paterno was asked what it is that he tries to communicate to his recruits, Paterno responded, "It's a great opportunity for a kid. Get a good education, understand what football can do for them, a sense of loyalty, commitment, how as a group you can get some things done, good things. But, most of all, they better go to class." JoePa's coaching style was not winning games at all costs, but using the football program to help kids develop discipline and instill hard work for winning in life.

There are many takeaways that can be gleaned from analyzing JoePa's coaching style we can apply to our businesses, but let's look at four strong ones:

1.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires caring. Joe Paterno and his wife, Sue, used to open up their modest home to tutor players who were falling behind in their studies. Paterno once said that there are many pro football players playing today that sat at his kitchen table every morning to get help from Sue. Paterno cared for his players. He felt a responsibility for them. Not just so they would do well on the football field (not just so your employees will do well on the job), but so they will achieve individual success. Your concern for your team member's success only enhances their potential and their success in your business. Some side benefits include loyalty and dedication to their jobs.

2.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires sharing. Paterno gave not only of his time, but he gave a huge chunk (in the millions) of his income to Penn State. He could not legally give money to his players, but when in want he used his network to get the help his players would need--- whether it was assistance for a player's family or helping a player with gainful employment after graduation. Sharing your resources, including paying top dollar for top performance, increases chances for your team's success.

3.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires sacrificing. When Paterno was coaching Penn State, he would often bench a star player for an infraction. This would often cost the team in terms of performance, but Paterno knew that if a team member wasn't working toward the team goals, that player would eventually act as a cancer destroying morale throughout the team. Paterno was willing to sacrifice in order to mold particular players into the full potential he knew they were capable of. There are times when the player (employee) must be cut free. It is a sacrifice and you may even have to step in and take some of that employee's workload, but the alternative may be too costly.

4.) Leading like Joe Paterno requires patience. Paterno knew he had a foundation of players to work with, but that a championship win would only come if everyone came together as a strong team. He knew that took time. He was willing to work with each team member in order to get them to a level that both he and the player knew they could be. In business, cutting loose an employee too early is costly. If your hiring process is solid, you know the potential of the person you are bringing on board. Don't give up on them until you are certain there is no way they will ever fit on the team. Developing a good team requires patience.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Always Learning

"Miss a meal if you have to, but don't miss a book." --- Jim Rohn

We so often expect our team members to stay abreast of new developments and new trends that affect our business. We may offer trade magazines or email links to various sites and news bulletins and then expect all of that information to be absorbed to be used when the need arises. This is a good thing and may help in some situations. But what about long term? Is there an approach we can take for our employees that will help to build a desire for continual learning?

I may have the answer. While conducting a job analysis for a client, I was interviewing an employee who confessed to me that she has never read a book. This employee was in a key position that required her to stay informed regarding timely information about financial markets.

Now, I know a lot of people who would rather read magazine articles and short snippets on the internet, but this employee was in a sales position that I would have assumed at least read some sales books that could help her in her job. She told me, "I think I would have a difficult time getting through a book and would probably find it boring."

I found this astonishing, so we did a informal survey while continuing with the analysis and found that many more of my client's employees do not read books. It is not that a business cannot succeed without its employees reading books, but I do believe it will help accelerate the success. As a side road to the project I was hired to perform, I suggested to the client that he create a business library for his employees. This suggestion started a discussion that extended for several days and eventually included six of his team members.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." --- Groucho Marx

We encouraged them to start a book club that can meet twice a month to discuss various business, sales, philosophy, communication, and personal development books. The client wants to create a team that is always learning, always stretching to be more so they can do more and the business and the employees can earn more.

Learn more to earn more... works for me! For some suggested reading, check out the Shelfari bookshelf on the right side of this page.
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