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Monthly Archives: October 2011

When you give positive feedback, be timely

Last week, I showed you exactly how to ensure that the positive feedback you give your employees has the encouraging impact you want — I told you about how critical it is to be specific. This week, I want to talk about another necessary and important component of praise — timeliness. This short video explains what I mean.

So … how good are you at making sure that your praise is “immediate”? What gets in the way?

What’s stopping you from creating a high-functioning and high-performing work team?

Aaah … a team of talented results-oriented people who are tight-knit yet self-sufficient; resourceful and imaginative, yet keenly focused on your departmental and organizational goals; collaborative, yet openly welcoming of healthy conflict.  Only a dream you say?  Why?  Why can’t it be a reality?

On Wednesday November 16, I’m leading a live Audio Conference on exactly this topic — how to create a high-performing team in YOUR workplace — and I’ll be opening the lines for questions. So tell me — what is your biggest challenge when it comes to creating a dream-team in your workplace? Go to www.AskMerge.com to ask your question and I’ll answer as many as I can on November 16.

And while you’re at www.AskMerge.com, be sure to complete the self-scoring evaluation — Do You Have A High-Performing Team? Find out how you’re doing right now.  Just click on the link on the bottom left of the screen.

When you give positive feedback, be specific

As a leader, many of your tasks can be difficult or challenging.  Which means that when you find an opportunity to give positive feedback to your employees, it’s even more enjoyable.  Praising your staff for a job well done is one of the most pleasant responsibilities that comes with being a  supervisor, team leader or manager.  So if you’re going to do it, you want to make sure that it counts!  This short video demonstrates first how not to give positive feedback to an employee, and then follows it up with a much improved version.  The difference — specificity.  See for yourself.

I may have been sincere in all the situations, but because I was SPECIFIC in the latter examples, I was much more effective. My praise had the positive impact that I wanted it to have. Do you see the difference? Your thoughts and comments welcomed.

When you’re faced with resistance, ask questions

If you’ve ever had to pitch an idea or persuade others of your point of view, then you know all about the natural reaction that bubbles up from within when you hear the word “no”, or when others begin to question or criticize your perspective.  Instinctively, we tend to get defensive, and we try to immediately fight back and defend our position or project.  But in my experience, it’s actually far more effective to take a completely different approach – to ask questions.

The next time you face opposition or resistance, hold yourself back from verbalizing all the reasons why you are right or why your project should get the go-ahead.  Instead, ask a few well-chosen questions.  “Why do you think that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?” will force others to articulate their assumptions, and will not only give you a useful insight into where they are coming from, but may also cause them to re-evaluate their position.  I have found that asking questions  not only helps me keep my defensiveness in check, but perhaps more importantly, takes my conversations to a deeper level.  It allows you to get beyond the immediate disagreement and find out more about what the motivations are on all sides.

So have you found this to be true as well?  Please … share your experiences, positive or negative.

Three things that will make you persuasive

Whether or not you have “sales” in your job title, you are a salesperson.  Even if you’re not selling a product or service, you’re selling your ideas, your points of view, and yourself.  The ability to get others to see things from your point of view is a key determinant of professional success.  Persuasive communicators are seen as confident, credible and trustworthy.  They’re likeable.  They get things done!  And the research shows that persuasive people are characterized by three specific traits.  In the latest issue of CGA Magazine, I explain this “triple threat” of persuasiveness.  Read the entire article titled Skillfully Convincing Others.

So … are you persuasive?  Which of these three characteristics do you find to be the most significant?  Please share your experiences.

Seek out advice from impartial sources

One of the lesser-known of the famous Murphy’s Laws is the First Law of Expert Advice.  It states:

Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut.

Like all Murphy’s Laws, within the humour lies an essential kernel of valid and legitimate advice.  If you’re in a position of leadership, then you often have to solicit and rely on advice from others.  After all, you can’t know enough about everything to make sound decisions solely on the basis of your own knowledge and experience.  But always evaluate where you seek out your guidance.  Yes, you should go to an expert when you are seeking counsel on any subject, but continually ask yourself whether the advice may be biased.  Does your advisor have a vested interest in one decision over another?  Ideally, you want the person who guides you to be impartial and unprejudiced and not likely to gain an advantage from one alternative over another.  Independence from the outcome is always a good measure of the quality of the advice received.

Having said that, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should completely ignore any counsel that comes from someone who will benefit from your decision.  However, you must temper any advice you receive from such a source with a healthy dose of pragmatic skepticism.  Always remember, if you ask the barber whether you need a haircut, the answer will always be a resounding “yes”, even if it isn’t true!

A colleague commented: is is even possible to get an independent expert nowadays?  It just seems that everyone has a hidden agenda?  What do you think?

Are your employees speaking up?

A short time ago, in a leadership session I was conducting at a client company, I raised the point that employees are the best source of intelligence when it comes to uncovering inefficient and ineffective processes in organizations.  That clearly struck a nerve, because several of the managers immediately jumped into the conversation.  “I’ve asked,” said one.  “Over and over again, but the team just doesn’t offer any input.  I know they are aware of what we could change for the better, but I can’t seem to get them to speak up.”  His comments were echoed repeatedly by the rest of the group.  In an attempt to get at the root cause of this reticence from employees, I asked them to take five minutes and write down their answers to this question:

“WHY do you think they’re not speaking up?”

Interestingly, once asked this blunt question, their responses were candidly honest.  And three responses, by far, were the most common:

  1. It’s not my job to raise the flag
  2. That’s the way it’s always been done
  3. There’s no point in saying anything, nothing ever changes

Not long after, they came to a very crucial conclusion.  It isn’t good enough to just ASK for input from your employees.  You also have to do two more things:

  1. You have to create an environment in which “doing the right thing for the organization” is everyone’s responsibility.
  2. You have to make a commitment to follow through and act on legitimate identified changes.

And these come from action – through being a role model, setting an example for everyone else to follow, and demonstrating that you will make changes as needed.

Are your employees speaking up when they observe inefficiency and ineffectiveness?  Why or why not?

Why it’s so important to return phone calls

Recently, a colleague suggested I contact a specific company because she’d been made aware that they were seeking leadership development training for their people.  Given what I do, it seemed like a perfect fit.  While my colleague couldn’t direct me to a specific person, she was quite familiar with the company and so was able to direct me to the right department.  I called and spoke to their receptionist, who promptly transferred me to the appropriate manager, who I’ll call Kara Close.  I left a voice mail for Kara, explaining who I was and why I was calling.  I acknowledged that she may not be the right contact for this particular matter, or the company may have already met their requirements through alternate means, but asked her to call me back to let me know or to direct me elsewhere.  I also gave her my email address.  That was two weeks ago.  I’m still waiting for a response.

Now I know all the likely reasons Kara Close didn’t call me back – she probably gets hundreds of phone calls from potential vendors, the company doesn’t need my services, I called the wrong person, she is too busy.  But here’s why she SHOULD have responded to me.  This company is a well-known corporation in the cruise industry.  And so I am not only a potential vendor, but I am ALSO a prospective customer.  Kara Close’s lack of response to me as a possible vendor is ALSO a very visible indicator of what kind of customer service I might expect from this organization as a consumer.  The cruise industry is fiercely competitive with many top-notch lines aggressively battling to get vacation dollars.  So, the next time I plan a cruise holiday, how high on my list do you think this company is going to be?

Kara Close may not have the words “Customer Service” in her job title, but she is definitely (not) a customer relationship ambassador.  It doesn’t matter what jobs your employees do, they are always representing your company, your brand and your organization’s values.  By not responding to my call, Kara Close gave me an unexpected insight into this organization’s values and culture, and in the process, did her company a great disservice.

So what do you think?  Am I right?  Or am I being too sensitive?

The piss-off factor. The short-sighted stupidity continues

So regular readers will remember my posts about how the short-sighted and small-minded managers at a certain company are doing really stupid things, and in the process, discouraging and demoralizing their employees.  Back in June it had to do with an employee’s expense statement, and later in July, it was about a “thank you” event for their employees.  Well, they’re back at it again.  Last week I got yet another update in this continuing saga of stupidity and short-sightedness.

Many of the employees at this company travel for business, working with staff at various remote locations to implement a new version of a computer system.  While away from their homes, as is usual in most organizations, the employees are permitted to claim their meals and other expenses on their routine expense statements.  Occasionally, if they’ve spent the day working with a local staff member who has assisted greatly in getting things done, the traveling employee will invite the local worker for dinner, both as a thank-you and as a way to continue the business discussion after work hours.  Well, it’s coming close to the end of the fiscal year and budgets are tight.  In order to reduce expenses, management has issued a mandate that these types of dinners are no longer permitted unless they are approved in advance and in writing, and after demonstrating just cause.  Most of the employees are puzzled by this management decision.  For the relatively small cost, these dinners which are actually not that frequent, are an easy way to build goodwill with key local staff and go a long way towards assuring teamwork.

After the edict was issued, one (brave and fearless) employee spoke up Continue reading