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Have the negatives taken over time and focus?

If you think for a minute about your average workday, how would you divide that workday between focusing on positives versus focusing on negatives?  Do you tend to catch people doing something wrong more often than doing something right?  If you answered “yes”, you might be adding to the overall negativity, yourself.

Praise or Condemn

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This negative focus may be a byproduct of our own culture.  Pull up any of the major news websites at any given time and you’ll see that a high percentage of the headlines usually have negative undertones.

While we might be quick to blame the media, our own behavior feeds the fire when it comes to this trend.  For example, in a 2012 study, Outbrain, a marketing firm that specializes in internet traffic, found that negative headlines had an average click-through rate (meaning people were actually clicking on the headlines to go to the source content) 68% higher than positive headlines.   There are many different reasons as to why negative headlines receive more attention, but the end-result is still the same.

Even television may be lending a hand.  I admit that I enjoy my own fair share of reality television.  Look at how many reality programs exist on various channels (ex: what happened to the good ‘ole days of MTV just showing music videos?).  Most of those shows thrive on drama, such as verbal arguments or fights between the characters.  Drama and negativity clearly sell.

However, a study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that those who watched reality television or even violent crime dramas that included verbal or relational aggression between characters tended to have more aggressive responses to threats related to ego.   Does this mean that if you watch reality television that you’re automatically going to get in a fist fight at work?  Probably not, but you have to question how is this might be affecting behavior in the workplace.

To add to this, two sayings come to mind that I’ve heard all throughout my careers at different places of employment.  There’s a good chance you’ve heard these, too:

  1. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
  2. “No news is good news.”
Yelling

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Number 1 is especially important, because solving problems makes up the bulk of most jobs.  Yet, this has trained us to spend our most of our time focusing on those problems, whether the problems are task-related or people-related.   If you have someone reporting to you who is under-performing, it’s likely that individual will take up more of your time and focus compared to your top performer.  Just because “No news is good news” when it comes to your top performer doesn’t mean that they should simply be ignored.

FineAwards.com published a press release in which it reviewed data from a series of Gallup polls on the topic of employee engagement.  They put together an excellent infographic that you can find here.  Some of the interesting data they found is as follows:

  • 35% of respondents consider lack of recognition the primary hindrance to their productivity
  • 16% of respondents left their previous job based on a lack of recognition
  • 17% of respondents stated that they have never been recognized at their place of employment
  • 69% of respondents stated they would work harder if they received increased recognition

In other words, if only the squeaky wheel is getting the grease, you might look down one day and find that some of your wheels have simply disappeared while your ride is sitting up on blocks.

It takes effort, but intentionally finding people doing things right can have a positive outcome on your work environment, such as lower turnover and higher productivity.  If you can train yourself to also be on the lookout for the positives, you can turn it into a habit.

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Is “meaningful work” actually meaningful?

Employee engagement is a hot topic these days.   According to a Gallup poll estimate, disengaged employees cost the US between $450 – $550 billion each year in terms of lost productivity.  Could you be contributing to that figured by not finding out what’s truly meaningful to your employees?

EmployeeWorkPassion4According to The Ken Blanchard Companies own research on the topic of Employee Work Passion, there are five job factors that can have a direct impact on retention: Autonomy, Workload Balance, Task Variety, Feedback, and Meaningful Work.

Over 800 individuals responded to a survey asking them to rank these factors by order of importance.   While all five factors are important, Meaningful Work was most commonly ranked as being the #1 priority.  In other words, respondents feel that employees need to know that the work they do has a direct positive impact on their organization, whether that impact is internal or external.

It makes sense, right?  If I’m an employee who feels my job duties are really just “busy work” that aren’t contributing to my organization’s success, will I really be engaged in my work?  If I don’t see my own work being important, how motivated will I be to go the extra mile?

offonThink about those fabulous people who work in IT.  Lots of companies, regardless of what business they are actually in, rely on the systems and technology maintained by these individuals.  While IT support may differ entirely from the type of work being done to maintain/grow a customer base, that doesn’t mean the work is any less important.  If you have a frontline IT help desk representative who doesn’t see that their own contributions have a direct impact (i.e. employees from other departments could not complete their own work without the assistance of IT support), their quality of work may suffer.

A common trap leaders fall into is to assume that just because their organization is in the business of making positive impacts on customers and people, that their employees see it that way, as well.  Leaders need to be proactive to ensure that their people also see the benefits of the work they complete.

ASK your employees how they feel about their work.  Be sure to check this barometer on a regular basis.  It’s easy for people to forget their importance in the grand scheme of the organization’s success.  If your company has ever been through a series of changes, you can probably relate.

SHOW them the results.  Ensure they know that they make a positive difference based on positive outcomes.

PRAISE them when praisings are due.  If they did a good job, be sure to tell them!  If you hear from another employee or customer that that they did a good job, pass that along to the employee!

How do you personally make sure your employees understand their contributions are meaningful?  Leave your comments!

The Customer Experience: Generation-Driven?

Are expectations from the younger generations driving changes to customer service and product support?

genyEarlier this week, I came across an article on Forbes.com titled What Kind Of Customer Experience Are Millennials (Gen-Y) Looking For?.  In the article, Micah Solomon, the article’s author, attempts to summarize the expectations of the Millennial generation when it comes to expectations around customer service and customer experience:

Millennials are looking for the same customer experience as are older customers–but even more so. (More efficient, more respectful of their time, easier, more reliable, more transparent, with more choices and more control for the customer.)”

Expectations around customer service, customer experience, and product support are definitely on the rise, though I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is specific to Gen-Y.  In general, people want options when it comes to products and services and how they interact with business.

For example, if you’ve ever needed to contact Amazon’s support, you know they offer different methods to contact them via phone, email, or live chat.  They also have a web interface for their customers to do things like initiate a return, track shipments of orders, manage browsing history, along with a list of other options.  As the customer, I can decide my preference for how I want to interact using the various options Amazon has provided.

serviceAlternatively, red tape can slow down or even destroy a customer’s experience.  If I buy a product from a retail outlet and decide I want to return it, why should I have to fill out a form and then provide my driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate, etc…, just to get refund?

I understand that businesses need to protect themselves from fraudulent returns, but if I have to jump through hoops just to make a return as a customer, I may start looking elsewhere for my next purchase from a business with a less-intrusive return policy.  That extra 15 minutes it costs me to do a return as a customer may also wind up costing the business-in-question a future revenue stream.

If you want to improve your customer experience, don’t look at just Gen-Y, but look at your entire customer base.  As cliché as it sounds, ask your customers for feedback!  Most won’t hesitate to tell you what they want or would like to see if the benefit for them is an improved experience, product, or service.  However, you have to be sure to follow through with implementing at least some of those requests (and make it known to your customer base that those implementations are due directly to customer feedback) to show that you’re receptive to their feedback and suggestions.

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The Balancing Act of a Leader

Being promoted into your first management role can be both an exciting and scary experience.  It shows that your employer trusts you to make decisions and lead others.  However, it can also be a major shift in responsibility.  People are going to look to you for direction, and it’s up to you to have the best possible answers for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile most people are told that they will have new responsibilities, there’s one crucial piece that tends to be left out of that promotion-prepared conversation: get ready to start the workload balancing act.

What I mean by that is most people assume that their focus on work shifts to people they lead when coming into a management position.  While that’s true, that only paints half of the picture.  You had your own individual tasks and projects you completed before this promotion, but now that you’re promoted, you’re individual task work doesn’t simply stop (though the focus of that individual work may shift).  In fact, not only are you now responsible for your own workload, but you’re also responsible for the workload of those you lead.

It can be a major challenge when you have your direct reports coming to you needing direction, yet you’re in the middle of trying to complete a project with an impending deadline.  How can you balance the needs of the two?

  1. Start with the open door policy: Hopefully, you’ve heard of this term. If not, the basic idea is that your door is always “open”. If someone you lead has an issue they need to discuss, they can come by your office, email you, call you, etc… at just about any time of the working day. Having this policy can remove a major hurdle and allow the people you lead to get past problems faster than having to waiting until you’re available.
  2. Draw a boundary with your open door policy: While it’s great for your people to be able to discuss issues or get direction at anyJuggle Balls time, it may not always be feasible for you to maintain this policy at all hours of the day. If you have approaching deadlines or your own workload is starting to pile up, block out some time on your schedule. Set a ground rule with the people you lead that you can’t be disturbed during this time unless it’s absolutely critical. Be sure to follow up with step 3 below after establishing your boundary.
  3. Find your second-in-command: You’ve established your boundary, but now what? Your people need a backup plan for time-sensitive issues. After all, customers will only wait for so long before an issue gets out of hand. If you work in an organization with a large workforce, perhaps there’s another manager in the same department as you who can be your backup (also allowing you to reciprocate the favor).
    If you work in a smaller organization and there’s not an immediate manager who can cover for you, perhaps there’s someone you lead who is an expert in their role who can be groomed to take on this responsibility. Not only will it allow you to keep your boundary, but it allows you to tackle another management responsibility of developing your people.

Finding the right balance between being available and completing your own work will always be a juggling act, and you may find yourself needing to adjust and readjust your boundaries depending on the needs of your work and the needs of your people.

Leave your comments!

Quit & Stayed, or Quit & Paid?

If you’re not familiar with the term “quit & stayed”, it is the act of mentally quitting, yet staying in the same physical environment. More specifically, it’s the act of becoming disengaged in the work you complete, whether that’s for a business or just in general.

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Chances are that you work with one or more people who have quit & stayed.  They are people who show up just for the paycheck.  They aren’t passionate about their job.  They don’t have the motivation to go above and beyond.  In a perfect world, everyone would get paid handsomely to do what they love, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Almost every company and organization has employees who fit into this category.

Amazon recently listed this trend in the annual letter to shareholders from company CEO Jeff Bezos along with a plan to deal with employees who have quit & stayed.  The idea behind this plan is that once a year, employees will be offered a payout to quit.  Depending on how many years you’ve been with Amazon, you could make anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for handing in your resignation.   The idea isn’t to create a high turnover rate, but instead, bring in new blood and energy where existing employees may have no interest in maintaining their career with Amazon.

Personally, I’d be curious to know what this does to their turnover rate.  Will they see an uptick in the number of employees who move on to other companies?  More importantly, are they paying adding unnecessary costs by paying employees to resign who might resign in either case even if they weren’t getting a bonus to do so?

Jeff Bezos says it best: “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”  That is one statement I wholeheartedly agree with.

Be sure to take a look at The Ken Blanchard Companies Quit & Stayed Leadership Livecast.  You can even view 17 minutes of the Livecast for free.

Leave your comments!

Who Do You Trust?

If you’re an avid YouTuber, you might have heard of ze frank (listed under the channel zefrank1).    I personally know of him for his “educational” videos on animal species mixed with his colorful commentary.  Even if you’ve never heard of him, before, you may have heard of BuzzFeed, where ze frank is also the Executive VP of Video.

He’s posted a video to his channel on the topic of trust using two performers from Cirque du Soleil.  This video is more of an artistic and emotional look at what trust really is, but in the end, asks this simple question: “Who do you trust?”

This also leads to another question: “Do people see you as trust-worthy?”

If you haven’t, already, be sure to take a look at the TrustWorks model which breaks down 4 main characteristics of trust.  Also, be sure to take a look at one of our sister-blogs at www.LeadingWithTrust.com for regular tips on building trust as well as leading others.

Leave your comments!

Say What? – 4 Recommendations for Effective Communications

“Do yooouuuuu understand the wooorrrdddsss that are coming out of my mouth?”

If you want to be successful, you have to know how to communicate well.  There’s more to communication than just being able to speak or write clearly.  If you really want to “make a statement”, ask yourself the following questions:

How often are you communicating? – Do you provide regular updates, even when there’s nothing really to report?  For example, you might find yourself in a situation where a problem needs to be solved, but the solution isn’t immediately available.  Letting the stakeholder(s) know on a daily to bi-daily basis that there’s nothing new to report, but that you’re still working on it, shows them that you’re fully present in getting a resolution.  Providing regular updates is also one of the keys to providing great customer service!

callPhone, email, or carrier pigeon? – Face-to-face discussions aside, everyone has a preference when it comes to their choice of communication outlets.  Personally, I prefer emailing to phone calls because I can both communicate as well as document my conversations automatically.  Others prefer speaking over the phone because it’s more personal and it’s easier to explain something that might be complex.

Both phone and email have their places, but when starting a communication string or discussion with an individual, start by mirroring their preference.  If you’re sent an email, respond with an email.   If you’re left with a voicemail, call the individual.

If you do see the need to switch forms of communication, whether it is too much of a conversation for email, or perhaps a need to send something electronically, make the suggestion to switch from phone to email or vice versa before actually doing so.

emailIs it clear, or are you putting words in your own mouth? – This one tends to be more of a problem over email than phone calls, but is what you’re communicating clear, or is there room for interpretation?  It’s always a good idea to proof what you’re emailing before it’s sent.  Read what you’ve typed to see if it still makes sense.

For both phone calls and emails, you should also restate what you’re communicating in a different way by using statements such as “In other words…” or “Another way to put this is…”.  This can help set clear expectations and avoid confusion.

Is it to the point? – There comes a time when what you’re trying to communicate can be lost among words.  State what’s most important first, and be as concise as possible.

What suggestions do you have for clear communications?  Leave your comments!

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