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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Building Engagement and Profits in Tough Economic Times

In good times, employee engagement is the difference between being good and being great. In bad times, it’s the difference between surviving or not. In good times and bad, low engagement reduces performance and profit. In good times, consumer demand can disguise the lapses in productivity that disengagement causes. But in bad times, there isn’t any way to hide the performance problems of disengagement.

There are several levers leaders can pull to help employees stay positive and engaged:

    • Clarifying expectations.
    • Providing information, materials and resources needed to do work right.
    • Granting opportunities to do what your crew does best every day.
    • Giving frequent recognition and praise for doing good work..
    • Caring about your crew as individuals.
    • Planning, enabling and encouraging development.
    • Asking for opinions from your employees.
    • Communicating the company’s vision/mission.
Recognition provides employees with a personal, positive indication that they are valued and are necessary contributors. This can be incredibly powerful when the economic news is unrelentingly negative. Managers shouldn’t reserve recognition only for big wins; they should applaud small victories too. Also, when it comes to recognition individualization matters.

WOW point! Research reveals that proper employee recognition has a significant impact on operating margin. Operating margin shows how much a company makes from each dollar of sales before interest and taxes. In general, businesses with higher operating margins tend to have lower costs and better gross margins. This gives them more pricing flexibility and an added measure of safety during tough economic times. According to the data, companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report had operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.

It helps morale to focus discussions on employees’ strengths. Tom Rath, author of Strengths Based Leadership, recommends spending 80 percent of time talking about your employees’ strengths and 20 percent on things they should improve.

What your company’s vision or purpose? To some, that might seem like a pre-recession question, one that no longer resonates when businesses are focusing on survival. Well it isn’t. In fact, it’s essential in this climate. Mission or purpose is the strategic structure that pulls organizations through the worst of times. While nearly everyone in corporate America is cutting costs and trying to stimulate revenues organizations that have a clear vision won’t be looking for silver bullets or grasping at straws or just cutting costs with no clear focus. Instead, they will have more clarity in their cuts and more certainty on how to stimulate revenues.

·    To run an organization effectively, leaders must set visions and priorities, plan, build relationships, influence others, and make things happen. But if you ask followers what they need from leaders, the clear answer is INTEGRITY, STABILITY, CARING and HOPE.

·    INTEGRITY: trust is primarily built through relationships, and it’s important because it’s the foundational currency that a leader has with his team or his followers. Trust is built by being honest with people about the realities of the business and the realities of their performance.

·    STABILITY: In these rough economic times, leaders can’t entirely quell the fears that people feel. But they can promote a feeling of stability from day to day, and that creates a sense of security and engagement. The leader’s biggest short-term problem can be the distraction and even paralysis that comes from anxiety that employees may feel about their own jobs and the jobs of their friends and family members. Predictability is a good antidote for feelings of insecurity. Try to exude as much of a ‘business as usual’ feel and meet people’s need for stability and security so that while they may be hearing bad economic news and while everything else is changing there are some predictable elements in work and life.

·    CARING: The lifeblood of employee engagement is caring—the feeling that your boss or someone at work cares about you personally, that someone encourages your development, and that the people around you care about the work they do. While caring is always an essential aspect of engagement, when employees, feel (Whether their perceptions are real or not) insecure about their jobs, knowing that someone cares is enormously important—and individualization is implicit in caring. You can’t show people you care if don’t know them, so you have to spend with people one on one.

WOW point! Even in the best times, many leaders may be hesitant to show that they care about their employees. They may think that expressions or demonstrations of caring will undermine professionalism, make difficult decisions harder, or have a negative impact on employees’ performance.

In fact, THAT’S WRONG! Gallup research shows that the more leaders about their individual employees, the higher those workers performance will be. Yet when companies are cutting jobs, hours or raises, retreating from personal connections is a natural self-protective instinct. How can you ask a worker about her kids today when you suspect you’ll be cutting her hours tomorrow? But cutting people off can make them more insecure—and make bad news harder to hear too.

Showing you care can keep engagement alive!

·    HOPE: Hope creates an aspirational factor among all the things you are trying to do in your company, and gives people a reason to commit. Hope suggests that the future will better (if not the past) than the present, and that what we’re doing as a company now will contribute toward creating the future. You can’t build hope without trust. You can’t build hope without security and caring. But trust, security and caring aren’t enough. You do need hope to draw people toward a better future and give them aspirations. And it’s a critical aspect of leadership right now. The challenge today is managing fear, then building hope about goals that we can all believe in.

WOW point! Hope requires initiative but according to the Gallup research, leaders are far more likely to react than to initiate—even though leaders will more often than not say they are proactive and not reactive.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reinforcing the Importance of Using Positive Reinforcement to Motivate Others

Using Positive Reinforcement to Motivate Others

In these uncertain economic times, it is easy for employees to become negative. To make sure employees do not become negative, all managers must help ensure their employees are engaged.
Engaged employees are more likely to be productive and less likely to leave as the economy continues to improve. One of the most overlooked and simple ways to engage employees is by expressing honest, sincere appreciation for their efforts. By expressing appreciation for the positive other people contribute, you will benefit as much as they will. The way you treat others is a direct reflection of the way you think about them. Train your brain in a positive direction, and you will find it increasingly easy to work cooperatively with others - even if they are negative.

Acknowledging other's strengths can also go a long way towards helping you get along with difficult people. Each individual's social effectiveness is rooted in his or her self-concept. When he or she is critical, hostile, or unkind, it is almost always because his or her self-concept is threatened. As a manager, you are responsible for fostering positive environments. This environment can require managers to work with employees and challenge them to change their attitude. So next time you give a compliment, instead of just saying "good job," offer a sincere strength comment that has the following attributes.
  • Identifies a trait that you respect, admire, or appreciate in the individual.
  • Expresses your admiration for the trait.
  • Supports your opinion about the trait with specific evidence - something you have observed the person doing.
By making strength comments, you can build or alter a person's self-concept for the positive. Your work environment will be filled with most positive and engaged employees.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Uncertain Times, Provide Steady Leadership

Leadership is challenging even during good times, but when business takes a downturn it can become especially difficult. Here’s some advice for keeping morale healthy even when the business environment is looking sick:

Share some good news. Tell employees the honest truth about what’s happening, but be on the lookout for any signs of hope you can share—an unexpected sale to a big customer or a money-saving idea. A little bit of positive news can have a big impact when everything else seems dark.

Coach more. Spend more time with your employees on improving their skills and performance. Concentrate on what they do well so they don’t view your attention as “punishment.” Emphasize how coaching and training benefits them, not just your organization.

Look for something new. Don’t keep repeating the same old strategies, no matter how well they worked in the past. Embracing new venues like Twitter and FourSquare may lead to new sources of revenue and growth, and learning them will give your employees something to distract them from their worries.

Renew your focus on customers. Stop obsessing about your own problems, and look outside your company for ideas and opportunities. Talk to customers about their problems, and you may find new business opportunities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Big Ideas for the 21st Century Leader

Creating a New Corporate Value Proposition
·   Rather than trying to get more out of people, organizations are better served by investing more in them and meeting their multidimensional needs in order to fuel greater engagement and more sustainable high performance.

·   It’s not how much time we invest into our work that determines our productivity but rather the value we produce during the hours we work.

·   We must learn to embrace opposites. By celebrating one set of qualities and undervaluing another—courage or caution, confidence or humility, tenacity or flexibility—we lose access to essential dimensions of ourselves and others.

·   Because all virtues are interconnected, any strength overused ultimately becomes a liability. Honesty without compassion, for example, is cruelty. We create the highest value not by focusing solely on our strengths or ignoring our weaknesses but by being attentive to both.

·   The mind-set shift leaders need to make is from focusing too much on competency, the skills necessary for a given job and too little on capacity, the fuel people need in their tanks to bring their skills fully to life.

·   The best leaders strike a balance between challenging their people to exceed themselves and regularly recognizing and rewarding their accomplishments.

·   Leaders who default to negative emotions to motivate others may get short-term performance they’re seeking, but the costs over time are high.

·   Because the impact of “bad” is stronger than “good,” the first rule for an effective leader is the same as it is for doctors: above else do no harm. That means avoiding devaluing emotions such as anger, intimidation, disparagement, and shame.

·   Leaders who avoid conflict often cause even more harm than those who are more direct. The key for leaders is to balance honesty and appreciation, always keeping in mind the value of the other person, even when being critical of a particular behavior.

·   The best evidence of an organization’s values and purpose is to consider the behavior of its leaders. Transactional leaders focus narrowly on the “what”—how to get things done. Transformational and servant leaders are more focused on the purpose of their action and on meeting the needs of their employees.

·   Most employees are less inspired by a leader’s personal charisma than by a compelling purpose to rally around everyday. The most admired and effective leaders are those with the most inspiring vision and the greatest humility about themselves.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What two things drive employee performance?


We often hear that the most baffling part of a manager’s job is the people part. The same leaders who can easily manage their inventory, manage their facilities, manage their books, and manage their profit margins, are often the same ones who find themselves at a loss when it comes to managing the behavior and performance of their employees. “Why can’t they just do what I tell them to do?” is the management cry heard around the business world.

Let’s remove the mystery about employee engagement once and for all. If your employees aren’t performing with excellence in every way, every day, with no exceptions, there are only two reasons why:

1) They can’t.
2) They won’t.

There’s no mystery really, no psychological complexities, and no complicated management theories. There are just two simple root causes. Either your employees lack something essential which prevents them from performing with excellence, or they don’t achieve excellence because they simply don’t want to.

Managers need to think of these two root causes as separate disorders which require accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Just as band-aids won’t fix a broken bone, a how-to training class won’t fix a broken spirit. Successful leadership requires more doctoring and less managing in order to keep the people part of the operation healthy.

Employees Don't Because They Can't

No matter how much you request, demand, cajole or beg your employees for a certain level of performance, sometimes they don’t give it to you because they can’t. If you’ve been a manager for more than a week, you know there are some employees who put no creativity into their work except when it comes to excuse-making. These are the masters of “can’t.”

It is a huge mistake, though, to assume that every “can’t” you hear is nothing more than a justification for laziness. There are some (usually many) legitimate barriers in every operation that make it difficult or impossible for employees to complete their tasks, make their deadlines, and generally meet your expectations.

Identify Barriers to Excellence

You can separate legitimate barriers from unfounded whining by asking your employees one simple question: “What makes it difficult or impossible for you to do your job with excellence every day, in every way, with no exceptions?” The legitimate barriers that your employees identify will fall into four categories:

·         Physical Barriers
·         Time Barriers
·         Wherewithal Barriers
·         Know-how Barriers

Identifying these barriers is an extremely easy task. Your employees think about them, get frustrated with them, and talk about them behind your back quite frequently! If given the opportunity to communicate without fear of recrimination, your employees will help you compile an extensive barriers list with ease.

Eliminate Barriers to Excellence

Eliminating “can’t” excuses from your operation is then simply a matter of eliminating the legitimate barriers. This is usually a much easier undertaking than most managers would expect. Why? Because your employees have already formulated solutions in their heads which usually sound something like, “If I was running this place I would…” Ask your employees for their ideas, and empower them to implement the solutions. Give them a second chance if the solution fails, and praise them in public when they succeed.

Some Employees Just Don't Want To

The best thing about supporting excellence by eliminating barriers is that it leaves nothing for the slackers to hide behind. When you remove the "can's," all that's left in your operation are employees who excel and employees who obviously need to be replaced.

Replacing employees is not a pleasant task, but don't procrastinate. High-performing employees have no tolerance for just-get-by co-workers and neither should you. Cutting underperformers loose is a necessary part of managing excellence. It raises the bar of performance for everyone, and it's a surprisingly tangible way to reward those who have been picking up the slack for the slackers.

Supporting Success is Managing Excellence

The people part of a operation is not as puzzling as it sometimes seems. When you set your employees up for success by listening to their challenges and eliminating their barriers, the work you receive from them in return will take away most of the mystey of human resources management.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Monday, August 30, 2010

Beware these leadership pitfalls

Beware these leadership pitfalls

Smart leaders know that leadership is about influence, not power.

Resist the urge to exploit your authority by recognizing—and steering clear of—these common management mistakes:

Status. Too many leaders become obsessed with maintaining their position and protecting their careers. To avoid this, you need to put the good of your employees and your company ahead of your own ego. Challenge yourself to help your team double last month’s sales, for example, or to bring a new product to market more quickly than before.

Popularity. Everyone wants to be liked, but in the long run, neither your employees nor your supervisors will like you if you don't achieve results. Aim for earning workers’ long-term respect by making tough but necessary choices. For example: Terminating an employee who isn’t productive may alienate some people, but in time your employees will recognize the benefits of working with top performers.

Harmony. A workplace without disagreements is quiet, but it can quickly become sterile. In order to grow, an organization needs exchanges of ideas even if they lead to conflicts and controversies. Urge employees to share their opinions with one another. Brainstorming meetings are a good way to start doing this.

Keep your crediblity and influence intact by avoiding these leadership pitfalls.

10 Things Every Leader Should Know

10 Things Every Leader Should Know

In working with companies over the years to develop programs for new supervisors/managers - there are some skills, knowledge and competencies that rise to the top of "must have's" for someone in a management role. These are in no particular order, but all are of equal importance to be successful in a leadership role.

1. Planning: The ability to effectively plan projects is important for any manager. This requires sharing the vision with others, getting them on board, creating plans to implement the vision, and ensuring timelines are met and budgets are managed.

2. Feedback: Learn how to give constructive feedback; provide those who report to you with feedback on a regular basis about how they are doing.

3. Influence: Effective managers can persuade others to accomplish the organizational goals; just telling someone what to do doesn't work - even if they report to you. The most successful managers are able to influence others to move in the direction they need them to go.

4. Interpersonal understanding: Managers must understand those around them; not just their staff, but their managers and the other department heads/employees. The ability to understand how others think and what's important to them helps to ensure success in accomplishing your goals.

5. Motivate: Learn how to motivate those around you - what's important to your staff? Not everyone is motivated by the same things and a good manager understands their staff and what motivates them to come to work each day and do a good job.

6. Finance 101: Understand the basics of finance; know how to read a balance sheet, understand how to create a budget.

7. Team leadership: Team leadership requires ensuring the team - whether your own staff or others - understand the mission, goals and objectives before them. A strong team leader builds effective teams that can accomplish the goals of the organisation and enables the team to move toward a common goal.

8. Problem solving: Effective managers know how to understand a situation completely - they plan, they don't react. Understanding the root cause of a situation is necessary in order to effective problem solve the issue.

9. Communication - written and verbal: Strong communication skills is required of everyone, and especially of managers. The ability to effective and efficiently communicate changes, plans, next steps, the direction of the organization, etc. is required to ensure that staff understands where they need to head and how to get there. Effective communication builds trust.

10. Organizational awareness: It's important to understand how things happen within the organization and how things get done. What are the informal paths involved in meeting goals. What is the culture of the organization? How do departments work with each other? This "insider knowledge" about the organization is key to the effectiveness of the manager and ensures the ability to get things accomplished.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Can I Grow as a Leader?

How Can I Grow as a Leader?

Personal growth and by extension, leadership growth, does not happen automatically because people are living or necessarily because they have experiences. Leadership development must be planned, deliberate and consistent. In other words, if we want to realize our true leadership potential we have to work at it daily.

There are three primary ways to develop  leadership capability.

The first is to study leadership and apply the lessons learned. In addition to Smart Development leadership classes there are plenty of of great books, magazines, CD’s and e-learning opportunities, (such as e-newsletters and pod/idea casts) for people to supplement their formal leadership education.

The second way is to learn from your experiences at work. For example ask to be assigned to a challenging project that will provide you an opportunity to exercise your leadership. Remember that leadership is about influencing positive change. Also, stay alert. Observe situations from different perspectives. Watch how different people handle leadership challenges. Have a teachable spirit and ask for feedback and be open to criticisms about your performance. And above all don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll learn more from failing once or twice than from succeeding all the time.

The final way to develop your leadership ability is to find a true mentor. The mentor should have experiences that you want to gain, a genuine willingness to help you along, and a positive relationship with you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Should I Grow as a Leader?

Leadership expert John Maxwell identified a principle of leadership which he called the “Law of the Lid.”

The “Law of the Lid” helps people understand the value of leadership. If people can get a handle on this principle, they will see the incredible impact of leadership on every aspect of life. The “Law of the Lid” states that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness. For example, if your leadership rates an 8, then your effectiveness can never be greater than a 7. If your leadership is only a 4, then your effectiveness will no higher than 3.

Your leadership ability—for better or for worse—always determines your effectiveness and potential impact with others. Yes, someone can have success as a "supervisor," but it's only a fraction of the success they could have as leaders.

Leadership has many facets: respect, experience, emotional strength, people skills, discipline, vision, momentum, timing—the list goes on. As you can see, many factors that come into play in leadership are intangible. That’s why leaders, at any level, require so much seasoning to be effective.

The good news is that your leadership ability isn’t static. No matter where you are starting from, whether you are brand new to management or have had years of experience, you can get better.

The essential element of leadership is influence. If you are in a position to influence someone to move toward a worthwhile goal, you are engaged in an act of leadership.

In order to achieve tangible results with their followers leaders need to influence the intangibles like morale, motivation, momentum, emotions, attitudes, atmosphere, and timing. How do you measure timing before you do something? How do you put your finger on momentum? To gauge such things, you have to read between the lines. Leaders have to become comfortable—more than that, confident—dealing with such things.

Your leadership journey should be open-ended. Most people have no idea how far they can go in life. They aim too low.

The Leader's Digest Blog

Welcome to the Leader’s Digest Blog!

Our blog will help readers improve their leadership skills. It is intended to serve up a dose of insights, resources and tips to help readers leverage their influence with the people they lead. We will also bring you great information from other noteworthy publications and from a host of management and professional development experts. The blog will include quotes, anecdotes, and proven tools that will help you and your team develop your people.

Remember, “If you grow people, the people will grow the business.”