“Don’t just stand for the success of other women – insist on it.” - Gail Blanke, President and CEO, Lifedesigns
Maybe being a man writing this undermines all credibility. My career has been all about embracing the importance and value of a diverse workplace. Having a silent or marginalized voice isn’t easy. Being an ignored or disrespected voice is soul crushingly depressing. I’ve long been having this conversation with my female colleagues about the importance breaking the silence and finding my voice.
Let’s not kid ourselves though, there’s still knuckledraggers wandering the workplace halls. The staff room at times is more like a locker room. You need hipwaders every time you pass the watercooler, because there’s so much BS and testosterone fueled bravado surrounding it.
There are talkers in your midst. They’re also getting ahead by only talking a good game. It’s time to rise above the bad smell, of less pay, less recognition, and lesser titles. You’re educated, you’re smart, you have skills, and you work harder than most. You’ve got game. Communicating a great game will raise the bar in your workplace.
Improving your verbal and non-verbal communication skills will get you noticed, will help get you ahead, and make for a better workplace. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Being overly apologetic is undermining. It’s not your fault the network is down, or the caterer messed up the the lunch order. Working late to meet a deadline, don’t apologize for asking your team to join you.
- Your behavior shapes the universe. Your competence and confidence always need to be on display. Showing courage and conviction will inspire and mobilize others to take action. Turning your words into action will get you noticed. Remember the fine line between arrogance and confidence. Speak directly with authoritative tone. Being loud, condescending, or defensive won’t carry the day.
- Do not talk down your achievements or undervalue them when working in a successful group and alongside men. Teamwork matters. Undervaluing yourself in group situations, in front of co-workers or employers, will hold you back. Take the credit and recognition you’re due. Kudos aren’t just a man’s domain.
- Of course there’s merit in wanting to be helpful, and having the get things done attitude to achieve your teams goals. Remember the delicate balance between taking on meaningful tasks versus the busy grunt work nobody else wants to do. You want to be a meaningful and effective contributor. Communicate with the boss about projects that excite you. Let them know what you’d like to work on.
- Ideas are essentially gender neutral. Work at generating good ideas, communicating the value of those ideas, as well as helping others articulate their ideas.
- If direct and open feedback is constructive, don’t personalize or internalize it. Be direct and open in receiving it. Take action on it.
- Be authentic. Know and respect what you are about, and true to your beliefs. You’re more than just what’s on your resume.
- Focus on your own growth and contribute to the growth of the people supporting you.
A truly diverse workplace embraces different voices, with different perspectives. By making your voice is heard and your presence known, you’ll be making a difference.
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypant
About the Author: As VP of Marketing, Bimal Parmar manages the global marketing strategy and execution at Celayix. With over 20 years industry experience, Bimal is responsible for making sure the world learns about the benefits of Celayix’s solutions that include: advanced employee scheduling, time and attendance, employee communication as well as integration modules for payroll and billing. Before joining Celayix, Bimal was Vice President of Marketing at Faronics, a leading provider of IT solutions for the Education vertical where he helped grow revenue over 50% and launched exciting new solutions. Prior to that Bimal held senior marketing and product roles at technology companies such as Business Objects and McAfee Security where he gained significant international experience working with global companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Sony, HP, Orange, Telefonica and Ricoh.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Lois P. Frankel is the President of Corporate Coaching International , an executive coach, speaker, and best-selling author. She has just released an updated and revised 10th anniversary edition of her book Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers. In it she reveals a distinctive set of behaviors that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults and discusses how to eliminate those behaviors. Today, she has shared her Top 10 tips with us. Some you may agree with, some you may not. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Top 10 Tips For Claiming the Corner Office
1. Body Art: Don’t get a tattoo or an unusual body piercing if you’d had even one drink, toke, or snort. You’ll be likely to regret it. Similarly, don’t be goaded into getting one by your sorority sisters, girlfriends, or someone you’re dating who thinks they’re hot.
2. Communication: Resist the urge that screams incomplete when you don’t say everything that’s on your mind. Women, fearing they haven’t explained well enough, can use about twice as many words per day than men (and then wonder why they’re not listened to). We think when we talk more, we make a better case – when in fact the opposite is true. This is a case where less is more.
3. Inappropriate Use of Social Media: Once you post something on the internet, getting it off is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. You have no control over where it goes. Play it safe. Put nothing on the internet that could cause someone to doubt your values, your brand, or your reputation.
4. Giving Away Your Ideas: Get in the habit of asking a question after expressing an idea or making a proposal. Something like, “Are there any objections to immediately getting to work on this?” is ideal. This increases the likelihood of acknowledgement and discussion.
5. Feeding Others: Unless your name is Betty Crocker, don’t bring food to work or have it sitting on your desk. It softens the impression others have of you. Of course if it needs softening because you’re a tough broad, it could be a good strategy!
6. Skipping Meetings: If you think meetings are just a big waste of time, think again. They’re called “meet-ings” not “work-ings.” Even when a meeting seems unproductive, it provides you with the opportunity to market you brand, get information, and be on the radar screens of those who making decisions about your career.
7. Being a Doormat: Pablo Picasso said, “There are only two types of women – goddesses and doormats.” Avoid being the latter by learning to manage expectations about what you can and can’t realistically do (take a negotiations class if you have to), asking for what you want or need rather than waiting to be given it, and trusting your instincts. If you think you’re being taken advantage of or abused, you likely are.
8. Protecting Jerks: Women are like jerk flypaper. Not only do we attract them more than men do, we tolerate them longer than we should. Consciously distance yourself from jerks (and jerks can be men or women) so that you’re not found guilty by association, when you get blamed for the actions of a jerk re-direct the blame to where it belongs, and when the jerk is your boss it’s time to look for another job. You won’t change a jerk, so protect yourself.
9. Making Miracles: Miracle workers get canonized not recognized. In every organization there’s a baseline for hard work that everyone is expected to toe. If you consistently work beyond the baseline you’ll be seen as a worker-bee and just be given more work to do. Learn to not only do your job well, but also be strategic in how it gets done so that you’re seen as more than just a worker-bee. Use all the extra “free” time on your hands to build relationships that will serve you throughout your career.
10. Branding: We are all brands in the workplace. It’s what distinguishes you from everyone else. Write down 3 – 5 words you want people to use to describe you. Then identify the behaviors in which you must engage for others to actually see those traits. When you act in concert with your brand, people will come to trust you.
As I was reading a recent issue of Time Magazine, I stumbled across a feature article entitled “The Art of Being Mindful” and it immediately piqued my interest. The focus of the piece was an exploration of a fairly recent movement centered on learning to shift focus back to the present moment, a remedy for the fractured attention spans and constant multi-tasking that has become not only prevalent, but normal and even expected in our fast-paced, technologically driven society. Though this idea is certainly nothing new, it seems in a world where there are increasingly more distractions and demands for our attention as a result of devices that allow us to be connected around the clock, more and more people are realizing the benefit of focusing on being mindful.
In fact, enough people have begun to see the benefits of mindfulness that there is now a growing industry surrounding it. The article talked about “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) classes that people regularly pay hundreds of dollars to attend to learn mindfulness techniques. In 2007, Americans reportedly spent $4 million annually on mindfulness related alternative medicine, a figure that will be updated later this year. And there is even an Institute for Mindful Leadership, a Wisdom 2.0 annual conference for tech leaders in Silicon Valley, and numerous mindfulness and meditation apps available for our smart phones.
This fascinates me. As I already mentioned, the idea of being mindful is certainly nothing new. I recently began practicing yoga, and one of the key elements of the practice is focus on being present in the moment, most often by paying particular attention to your breath. Yoga and meditation have been around for centuries, long before MBSR classes began to be offered. What interests me most is the idea that more and more people are realizing there is a need to bring more awareness to being in the moment; that too many of us are multi-tasking to the point of complete distraction.
As HR professionals regularly interacting with other people and/or dealing with various people related issues, it would seem to be common sense that we would always be mindful in those interactions. But are we?
How often can you honestly say you are totally and completely in the moment in your interactions with others? Are you really listening, or do you find your mind wandering to the next task on your to-do list, or the next meeting on your calendar? When you have an employee or one of your team members in your office, do you focus on the conversation, or are you multi-taking by reading or answering emails? Are you likely to take a phone call if it rings in the midst of that conversation, or will you let it go to voicemail and center your attention on the person in front of you?
Mindfulness in interactions with others is important for all leaders, but in HR, when we’re often dealing with emotionally charged situations, it’s even more critical. If you can honestly say that you are 100% mindful in all of your interactions, great – keep up the good work! However, if you are like many of us (myself included) and tend to find your mind wandering and your attention everywhere but where it should be, I challenge you to consciously focus on keeping yourself more in the moment. Bring just a little more mindfulness to the work you do each day. It may just make you not only a better leaders and HR pro, but by truly giving undivided attention to the person in front of you, may actually help strengthen your relationships with those around you as well.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
When it comes to attracting and hiring top employees, there are several things you can do to help employ the best and the brightest. On the other hand, there are other things you may do, without even realizing it, that will drive your best employees away. In my experience, here are the seven fastest ways to lose employees – and how to turn those negatives into positives for your business. These are tips that Human Resources should share with every manager, and make sure they are practicing within the company.
#1 Unreachable Expectations
The first way to lose an employee fast is to set unrealistic expectations. This does not mean managers should lower their standards. What it does mean is that they should be in tune with the business and what it takes to succeed.
Instead of setting goals and deadlines that cannot be met, managers should come up with realistic goals for employees. This doesn’t mean they should be easy; goals and expectations should involve hard work. The difference is the expectations should be attainable for those who work hard for the good of the company.
#2 Constantly Criticize
Another thing that managers do to drive employees away quickly is to constantly criticize them throughout the workday. It is difficult for a person to do any job well if they feel that everything they are doing is wrong.
Instead of criticizing every wrong move, managers should acknowledge employees for what they are doing right. You can help them by teaching them how to turn a negative comment into a positive one. Constantly reinforcing this within the company will help others learn to manage this philosophy in a daily work environment.
#3 Managing the Micromanager
By the same token, some managers may find it is easy to be critical when they are constantly looking over their employee’s shoulders. It is difficult enough to do your job without the added burden of having a manager within reach, second-guessing every move you make.
Instead of micromanaging employees, managers should learn to give their employees some room to work and occasionally make mistakes. As long as the mistakes are not career or business ending, this will help them learn the right way to do business in the future.
#4 Pass the Blame
Part of being a good manager is sometimes accepting the blame when things do go wrong. It is not possible for a manager to control everything, and mistakes will happen. It is what happens next which will chart the course for the company’s future.
Instead of passing the blame, Human Resources needs to foster an environment where it is acceptable to make mistakes without fear of a person losing their job. This will make it much easier for both managers and employees to accept both success and an occasional mistake.
#5 Expect Long Hours and Overtime Without Compensation
There is no doubt most top employees work hard, and that is what likely keeps a successful business thriving. However, no one should expect to work long hours and put in a lot of overtime without the understanding there will be some type of compensation or job security gained because of it.
Instead of demanding mandatory overtime every week without any extra pay or benefits, build in a structure that compensates employees in some way. If an employee is constantly working difficult extra hours, without an end in sight, it is likely they will soon set their sights on a new place to work.
#6 Fail to Offer Rewards, Incentives or Bonuses
Along with compensation and pay comes the need for some type of system that rewards employees. No one wants to put in a lot of hard work with nothing to show for it. Big or small, rewarding your employees can go a long way.
Instead of avoiding all rewards, incentives and bonuses due to the drain on a company’s finances, Human Resources should lead the charge in finding creative ways to support employees. An occasional treat, a prime parking spot, or even a paid day off can go a long way when it comes to emotionally uplifting employees.
#7 Treat Employees Only as Employees
Finally, managers and executives within a company need to understand that employees should be treated with respect. If workers are acknowledged simply as “employees,” they will not work their hardest for the good of the company and likely be eager to leave.
Instead of creating a division within the company, Human Resources should encourage managers to create a respectful environment. It is important that employees feel valued and that they feel their opinion is respected.
While the economy may still be recovering for many U.S. businesses, employees will not want to stay with any company that does not respect them or value the contribution they make to the business. Ensuring your company understands what drives employees away will help make it easier for you to retain the employees the company values most.
About the Author: Cassy Parker, social media advocate for CreditDonkey (@CreditDonkey on Twitter), a credit card comparison website, has experience helping small business owners thrive. As the content manager for the business section, she keeps a pulse on the challenges small business owners face.
Frankly, as rich as so many of these books are, we often have a tendency to read them, even have the best of intentions to integrate the principles into our personal and professional lives; yet particularly when we are under pressure, these values are put to the test and we may fall short. We all know full well that it is better to tell the truth than to tell a fib and to be loyal rather than to cave under pressure. Most of us also fully embrace The Golden Rule: ‘of doing unto others as we would have done unto us.’ We are certainly not ignorant of the virtues of the spiritual truths, Biblical principles, and even the many current writings on these values.
Yet, how many of us are really honest with ourselves with how and when we practice our beliefs and values pertaining to ethical behavior? How many of us hold ourselves and our team mates accountable for modeling ethical behavior? What can we do to help each other hold fast to these principles? So, in addition to our own spiritual practices and support groups, what are a few additional steps we can take to truly exercise our ethical muscles?
I read a wonderful article in Talent Management a few years ago which really stuck with me. I am integrating a few points I read in this article by Robert J. Thomas – as I believe he had an interesting and pragmatic perspective. One key point he made, which I thought was particularly ‘spot on,’ was that none of these observations or exercises will work unless we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves. So, keep that in mind – only read further if you are willing to look in the mirror of authentic self reflection and be ruthless about what we find.
Step 1: Honestly evaluate our commitments to others.
At the end of each day, (or if you are really strapped for time, do this on a Saturday morning), think about all the commitments, approvals, obligations, and promises you have made. There will be many – as so many of us say ‘yes’ or ‘I will get that to you’ or ‘I will read that and give you feedback’ without even really thinking about it. We are trying to be supportive, polite, or simply not thinking about it being a real commitment. What happens if we don’t come through? What is the cost to ourselves and to the others to whom we made these promises? Some may say that this has nothing to do with ethics. I disagree. Again, when we say we are going to do something – regardless of how small it may seem to us – it is our word to another. Sure, sometimes we forget, get busy, and it falls off the radar; that can happen. The difference is when it does – do we follow-up, admit our mistakes, make it right, and make a commitment to ourselves to do better the next time? This is how we learn and grow. We observe ourselves, put a practice in place to be aware of our behavior, and from here we can improve.
Step 2: Create a personal “Board of Directors” and career support system
Most of us have support systems of some sort: spouses, families, friends, Bible study groups, civic groups, etc. However, how many of us have a pseudo ‘board of directors’ for our professional growth? Just like a corporate board, our own personal board needs to be chosen for their experience, knowledge, skill set, and unrelenting commitment to the company’s success (in this case the company is YOU). These people will care enough to shoot straight with you – even when their observations may not be what you want to hear.
My suggestion is that these conversations need to be deliberate, not episodic or social in nature. They need to focus on you, your adherence to your values, your foibles, areas for improvement and honest observations. So, what’s in it for them we may ask? Well, in addition to the fulfilling nature of ‘paying it forward’ which they will undoubtedly experience when helping another; we can also offer to serve in that same capacity for someone they may want us to help. This is the cycle of leadership – and this is just one step we can each take as a matter of practice going forward.
Step 3: Establish values which will stand the tests of crisis, challenge, and temptation
Most organizations spend days (and often weeks) establishing their value system. Often, these values end up on the bulletin board or a plaque in clear view for everyone to see and read. I wonder if we would really know what the values were within these organizations without the plaque. Would the behaviors the individuals (and teams) exhibit in the organization represent those values? That is the truth serum, isn’t it? The same is true for us.
We may espouse a certain set of values – yet do we live them? What values would our co-workers say we live? Are they consistent with what our families and friends would say? Are our values the same in moments of stress, crisis and potential conflict?
Imagine all the whistle blowers in the news…..do we have the backbone to truly live our values when we are really tested? Think Sherron Watkins (Enron whistle blower). Then think about Eileen Foster – the Countrywide whistle blower who was ignored and then fired for calling suspicious actions into question. Finally, consider Katsuaki Watanabe, the CEO of Toyota, and all the other companies who had to face the realities of product recalls in recent years. What values and strength of conviction were represented in each scenario? What will we do when our ‘Tylenol moment’ happens? Will our values and ethics remain intact when we have to face the music? Establish values, declare them, and hold ourselves accountable to them.
From my perspective, in life and leadership, exercising ethics is a non-negotiable. As Albert Schweitzer (Civilization and Ethics, 1949) offers: “Ethics are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives us the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life.”
What I also believe is that without putting ethics into action any success we may achieve will be fleeting, unstable, and unsustainable – like a house built of sand. And we all know what happens to sand castles when the tides come.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Women in the workplace, and in particular acceptance of women in leadership roles has come a long way over the years. But despite the progress in this area, women in the workplace still face unique challenges, especially as they assume management roles. A good leadership training program can help give women the confidence they may be lacking due to these challenges.
Women Are Not The Same As Men
The gender difference goes beyond just the physical aspects. The talents, attitudes and problem solving skills differ significantly. So does language. Women find their strength in different ways, and good leadership training recognizes and develops this.
For example, women often have greater powers of persuasion than men. Women are great at absorbing information from multiple sources, and they rely heavily on intuition whereas men are more fact-based decision makers. Women are also more in tune with the emotional motives behind people’s actions. This wide perspective and insight into motivation are great assets when it comes to leadership situations requiring persuasion. Focused management training understands how to cultivate these skills.
Women are empathetic which serves them well in understanding, and overcoming, the prejudices that might present themselves in the workplace. Some men have great difficulty taking orders form women. With the proper management training, women can be equipped with the right skills to handle delicate situations without yielding their authority.
Strong Interpersonal Skills
Women in leadership roles can be trained to take advantage of the natural ability women have at being more flexible, social and empathetic. These are great team building skills that proper training help make even better.
Resistance and Resilience
Men have stronger egos than women in general. This doesn’t mean, however, that women have to transmit an inferior or weak self-image. In areas where women are naturally less skilled than their male counterparts, training pays off big time. Women can adapt to situations faster than men in general. So training them to have a stronger self-image is not only possible, but can bring stellar results to their leadership profile.
This might be a woman’s greatest strength. She is typically more inclusive which leads to strong teams since everyone feels like they are involved. Women are better listeners than men in general, and women like to hear all points of view before making a decision.
Some might find it surprising, but women are more likely to take risks than men. Men are more structured and cautious. Women on the other hand are often more innovative as they are willing to bend rules and not get caught up in worrying about details. Again, these natural skills might not be fully developed, and that’s where good management training can help.
Specific Objectives Matter
A general understanding of the female management psyche is only useful if we have clear objectives for better management skills. Some objects could be:
- Establish a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses
- Set definite personal and professional priorities
- Learn how to lead by providing and receiving feedback
- Decide where to invest energy based on personal cost and benefit
- Acquire networking strategies
- Understand the reach and limits of authority
- Learn how to ask for and interpret feedback
We have seen how women differ from men, and the special challenges that women face as managers. Specific training can help women no only fully develop their natural strengths, but also overcome developmental needs. All this leads to strong leadership in the workplace.
About the Author: Mark Arnold has many years of experience as a HR consultant. He enjoys sharing his perspective and experience with the business community. One of his favorites is focused management training, like that provided by K Alliance. He has worked as a HR manager and consultant for many online and brick and mortal companies. He focus on boosting company’s productivity and culture.
There are lots of ways to do it. You can book yourself into a training course, work longer hours, strive for top sales figures, or even use your network of contacts. Whichever way you decide to do it, managing your career advancement is an essential part of career progression. However, whilst your colleagues are working into the night, you can be more creative, and seize the opportunity of your next 360 as the key to unlocking your future.
As part of performance management, 360 degree feedback continues to increase in popularity, and there are five key reasons women should embrace it.
A comprehensive approach
In traditional appraisals, a boss would comment on an employee’s performance. However, with 360s, comments are considered from other colleagues, customers, and even suppliers. It is a more complete approach, and, as such, gives a comprehensive picture of you and your skills. As a result, you can easily identify any areas for development and act on them to improve your chances of career advancement.
Being comprehensive is good for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for women as it shows clear progression from the male-designed linear process that went before.
The 360 approach gives a more accurate portrait of you. Previously, the boss-versus-employee appraisal system was far too narrow. By involving those around you, 360 feedback gives a truer picture. Importantly, as it provides the participant with a wide-ranging set of views, it is unbiased.
360s provide real evidence. Participants receive hard and fast scores, which can be compared to other participants, so not only is it readily accepted as a valid input into your career development, but it also provides you with data to prove your track record of achievement.
The fact that 360s are accurate and trusted removes the potential for any favouritism based on gender. The 360-degree approach doesn’t entertain any notion of ‘jobs for the boys’.
It’s about how, not what
360s emphasise the importance of how you achieve your objectives. It’s an opportunity for your methods to be recognised, not just your results. Real leaders are identified and promoted not just because they can achieve, but also because they can marry this achievement with the kind of behavior that’s constructive and desirable.
If there is still a perception that men are more concerned with the ends and not the means, then the 360 system is a much fairer one.
What’s mine is yours
When a 360 degree feedback programme is implemented well, it should directly link with a company’s competency framework. There can be no easier way, therefore, of ensuring that your own personal targets directly tie in with a company’s requirements for its people. Career progression can more quickly be brought about when you can prove that your achievements are aligned with how a company wants its employees to behave.
Ensuring individual targets are in line with a company’s competency framework, through the 360, helps women to come to the fore, and is a further way in which balance in the workplace is being redressed.
360s are only the start of the process. If you are to achieve real career progression, the targets drawn up from such a process must be acted on. After all, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and a 360 can help you do just that.
About the author: Samantha Arnold is a senior business psychologist at ETS, an HR consultancy. Sam works predominantly in the field of employee engagement for private sector clients and offers consultancy to support clients in utilizing the research to take engagement to the next level within their business. She is currently working towards Chartered status as an Occupational Psychologist, with a particular interest in organisational development.
I was engaged once. It was 1988 and in between a course of sweetbreads and lamb at the Millcroft Inn in Alton, Ontario, the blue-eyed guy across from me popped the question. I looked at the ring, and I looked at him, and I said, “yes”. In other words, I said (on the inside), “I find you very attractive, I have no idea how this story might end, but yes, I think there are good odds here and I’m game to give it a shot”. After all, we were very young, we had no money, but we had high hopes for the future. We set a date.
During engagement, you buy an expensive dress you’ll never wear again, and you fuss over the strange details of a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. You drive your friends and family crazy. Then once the engagement is over and you’ve settled in, you find true happiness.
I’ve thought about this as it relates to the workplace.
Do we need engagement? Or do we need that sense of settling in and happiness?
I think it is the latter.
I’m not sure we are at our best during the engagement. There are reasons why there are TV shows about bridezillas. There is frenzied anticipation and many, many details. There are a lot of things to balance, with time always seeming to be at a premium. Our goal is to have a lovely wedding. We fret at not being able to see much beyond that day. It is when the engagement is over that we have a routine and new goals and a longer-term outlook. We fall more deeply in love with our spouse. That’s happiness.
I fully realize that not everyone on the engagement bandwagon agrees with me. They argue that an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee and they argue that a happy employee may be happy because their work isn’t challenging, which doesn’t benefit the business. Ok, fair enough. That said, perhaps I’m being overly technical but the definition of engagement does not include the word motivation (in fact, appointment is a synonym for engagement). Ultimately, motivation is another positive side effect of being settled in to a role where you have confidence. Again, during engagement you are not settled in yet.
So how can you achieve a workplace full of happy people? Try these strategies:
- Find ways to include your employees in long-term planning. So often we set short-term goals in our planning without thinking about how this contributes to the big picture. The more employees can see themselves in your organization 3, 5, 7 years down the road, the more likely they will contribute in ways that will ensure the organization is sustainable.
- Love your organization. Love your employees. I’m talking to you HR. Some of the best organizations out there have amazing programs not only for current employees but also alums. Make it a family atmosphere full of positivity and mutual respect by focusing on programs designed to be supportive of the whole employee, at 24 and 64. The workplace should feel safe and a place to find your centre. This can’t happen in a place where there isn’t an environment of mutual trust.
- Lessen the distractions. People focus best when they aren’t surrounded by a myriad of distractions. They’re happy when the details are set. If that means organizing central pick up for dry cleaning, providing access to a concierge service or being more flexible about work arrangements, go for it.
If you think of your employees after the engagement, the onboarding, all that preliminary stuff, and make the workplace feel like an extension of home, you’re well on your way to achieving workplace happiness.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
When you have a team that’s running on all cylinders, it feels great. Your business hums along and everything is easier. But when you have that one employee who is just not performing, it can put a damper on everything. It’s harder to get momentum going for your business. Your confidence as a leader drops, which means you don’t close deals like you used to. It affects everything.
So what do you do? How do you handle that underperforming team member? We asked several business owners to see what their approach would be.
Assess the Situation
“I like to sit down with the employee to establish what the situation is. I point out the problem, offer words of encouragement, and let them know the business is counting on them. We are interested in their success and want to help, not just drive their performance numbers. I ascertain if there is something more they need from us and give them time to remedy the situation. Finally, I make a decision one way or the other. Prolonging this situation affects the morale of other employees.”
- Jim Newton, Philip James Salon
“It depends on the employee. First, we would look and try to see why they are not performing. If it is because they do not understand what is expected of them, their manager would review what is expected of them. Sometimes an employee needs a review and they become an asset to our company. Sometimes an employee does not work out in one department, but can work somewhere else, so if that is the case, we will give them a try answering phones or working in the store. If all else fails, sometimes an employee is just not a good fit for the company. If that is the case, it is better for both the employee and the employer to part ways sooner rather than later. Although it is not pleasant, eventually, it is better to do the right thing for your company and for the employee.”
- David Cohen, Moshells
Ensure They Have the Tools to Succeed
“My first inclination is reflection…have I provided the employee with the proper orientation, training, information to achieve the objective? If not, I make every effort to rectify the situation. If this isn’t the case, I speak opening and candidly with the employee, set dates with deliverables and monitor progress.”
- Mary Rownd, Interactive Project Manager, HIMSS
“Coach them. When someone is not performing, my first question is always to myself. “Have I trained them, given them all the tools and time to be successful?” Only after I have satisfied these questions will I consider a performance plan to set targets to help get them back on track.”
- Jeff Purtell, Chief Operating Officer, Acquirent
“Communication between employees and supervisors is always key in having a solid working relationship; doing it well gives the manager an opportunity to inspire and lead a team. At InterCall, we have a workforce that is all over the world, so oftentimes, employees and their supervisors are not in the same office. We use tools like audio, video and web conferencing, along with web cams, to put faces to names and voices. It really helps to establish and build a rapport, which enhances performance and allows you to do more coaching.”
- Rob Bellmar, Senior Vice President, Conferencing and Collaboration, InterCall
So, there are several approaches to handling an underperforming employee from business owners across industries. How do you handle it? What’s been effective for you?
About the Author: Brad Farris is the founder of EnMast, a community of business owners committed to being better leaders and growing better businesses. He is also principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, with experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Given the amount of advice available on how to be an effective leader, one would think that those who lead would have it down to an art. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to parse through the wealth of sometimes paradoxical information, and I’m sure we all encounter leaders that believe that doing anything to get their own way is the only way to lead. While everyone has a natural leadership style, the potential leader may not know how to deliver this style effectively or compassionately. I’ve found that the following five attitudes, in addition to being easy to remember, help those tasked with the charge to be in charge get in touch with their inner leaders and exercise their skills towards achievement and outer peace.
1. Meditate. I’m not necessarily talking about literal meditation here, but establishing a daily practice can help you achieve the self-awareness that is at the root of genuine confidence. Simply paying attention to your breathing for merely five minutes a day can boost your ability to focus on both the task at hand and the way you present yourself to others. Self-awareness is one of the most desirable qualities in a leader because you need to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to build a team that best complements your skillset. Of course, there are other ways to get to know what kind of a leader you are, such as personality tests, 360-degree assessments, and journaling.
2. Concentrate. A focused leader is an effective leader. Concentration, while supported by practices like meditation, is much more than just tuning out distraction while you work—it also involves believing in a cohesive, coherent vision. Effective leaders know what their goals are, and are able to articulate what they need to achieve that end. Leaders often fail when their main motivation is to be liked or be everything to everyone, and a failure to set boundaries will allow the execution of your vision to become diluted. For instance, if you have an employee that you feel consistently takes projects in her own direction to the detriment of their completion, take the time to respectfully listen to her ideas but be able to restate your clear goals. Be willing to tell your employee how she can best serve these, and what the consequences will be if she does not follow through.
3. Relate. Nevertheless, it is important to treat your employees as people, not pawns in achieving your clear, stated goals. Effective leaders listen and make an effort to understand behaviors and reactions that may not appear to make sense on the surface. Even habitual lateness may have its roots in something understandable. Just as you are motivated by things that are unique to you, others—your employees, your clients—have their own unique life circumstances and deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. People who feel seen, heard, and understood are much more likely to see, hear, and seek to understand when you communicate how they can help you achieve your goals.
4. Communicate. Especially when you find that you were wrong or that you need to change course, be open and honest. Share your vision or strategy with your team, and be clear about what your plan is to see it to its completion. Too much secrecy may make those you work with feel disconnected from your mission and less likely to meet your expectations (especially if they don’t know what those expectations are!) Additionally, it is helpful to establish a standard for communication. Know how you will communicate with those you lead, and stay consistent. This will keep everyone on the same page.
5. Motivate. Provide tangible rewards for your employees’ efforts. People are much more likely to feel like they’ve made a positive contribution if they have something to show for it. Incentives can come in many forms, such as awards, lunches, or even monetary bonuses. It is also helpful to remember that it is motivational to offer five positive comments for every piece of negative feedback, not because you’re sugary or a pushover, but because we’re more likely to remember the negative. Both negative and positive feedback can motivate those you lead towards greater self-awareness. Positive feedback and tangible rewards will let your employees know that you appreciate their willingness to participate in a larger vision.
About the Author: Anna McCarthy is an HR specialist who writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies, a supplier of glass awards and acrylic awards. She spends her free time going on weekend hikes and writing short stories.
Photo credit iStockphoto