Abraham Lincoln wrote: "Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated; it is the lawyer's avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business, if he cannot make a speech."
When Lincoln spoke of extemporaneous speaking, he did not mean making totally unprepared speeches--"winging it" we might call it today. Few speakers can trust the moment or raw talent for a good speech. Very, very few.
Years ago I knew a woman who had a brief career as a keynote speaker. Several times she boasted to me that she never gave a prepared speech. She told me the audience deserved something new every time. She liked to believe that it was a good thing that her every utterance was something new, something never heard before, never thought of before. It occurred to me that she herself may never have thought of some of the things that she said. Many of her thoughts were new to her, too.
For a while she was in demand because she was a high-energy speaker, witty and intelligent, and well informed about corporate life.
But she relied entirely on her wits, and the moment. Clients never knew what kind of speech they would get. Sometimes her presentation would be brilliant. Other times embarrassing.
Today she is out of the speaking business.
I know another speaker who took a different path. He is witty and intelligent and well informed too, but he prepares carefully every time--even when he makes an announcement at a local meeting or introduces a relatively unknown guest speaker.
"You never know who's forming an opinion of you," he once told me. "I never have been able to understand how a professional speaker could even think about getting up to speak without preparing." Neither can I. Not surprisingly, this speaker is in demand year after year.
In case you'd like to acquire the reputation for giving great extemporaneous speeches, here's a checklist of what to do if you are called upon to make a short presentation. (A keynote presentation has additional rules, but adheres follows these basic principles, too.)
One. Know what your opening sentence will be. If this opening sentence can be witty and short and safe, good. If not witty, then short and safe. By "safe," I mean something that you know will work, not something that might ricochet.
Two. Create a script, if not on paper at least in your head. Know the main points that you need to cover—when, where, and why if an announcement. If an introduction, who the speaker is, what are his/her credentials, and why his/her message is worth hearing. If you are called upon to acknowledge or recognize a number of people, for god's sake, prepare a list in advance. You will almost certainly omit someone important if you don't.
Three. Know how you will conclude. When you are getting up to speak, have in mind how you will end. For the short presentation, the close generally is more important than the beginning. Don't just trail off or abandon control with Q & A. If you do Q & A, keep back something strong for your conclusion-- a thought-out sentence or quote or a very short and apt story to illustrate your point.
Lincoln knew and observed those rules. We know because some of his notes that he used in the courtroom have been preserved. Lincoln would prepare a rough script--how he would open, the illustrations he would use, the points he would make, and how he would conclude.
Moreover, Lincoln spent a lifetime acquiring material that he could plug into his speeches--ready-made modules to fit the moment. He memorized poems and Bible passages. He immersed himself in newspapers and books and written sermons. He knew thousands of jokes and humorous stories and even carried a joke book with him so that he could adapt traditional stories to local situations.
Lincoln spent a lot of time preparing for his extemporaneous presentations.
It's a mistake to sound too slick, too smooth, too over-rehearsed; but it's a greater mistake to sound unprepared, inept, and unprofessional. Let all speakers who ‘wing it' prepare for painful crashes. There are more winds that hurt speeches than help them.
About the author:
Gene Griessman is a professional speaker, executive coach, and author of The Words Lincoln Lived By and co-author of Lincoln Speaks To Leaders: 20 Powerful Lessons From America's 16th President, with Pat Williams and Peggy Matthews Rose. Griessman's website is http://www.presidentlincoln.com.
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
Abraham Lincoln wrote: "Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated; it is the lawyer's avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business, if he cannot make a speech." When Lincoln spoke of extemporaneous speaking, he did not mean making totally unprepared speeches--"winging it" wGene Griessman, Ph.D. Articles
In today's economy business leaders can't afford to accept under-performing personnel in their companies. Yet, in a recent survey 44% of them reported being unhappy with the performance results of their employees.
In order to solve a problem such as this, employers need to first identify the cause and then create viable options for applicable solutions. There can be many reasons why employees under-perform and some leaders may point to poor attitudes, low motivation and individuals' inability to work with others, or accept and adapt to change.
Although those reasons may be absolutely valid on the surface, there are always underlying issues that have led to the causes identified by the business leader.
There are only two aspects to evaluate with under-performing employees. It's either due to an individual's:
1) ability, or
2) their attitude.
In either instance, the employee is not at fault.
There are three primary mistakes business leaders make that prevent employees from being engaged in their workplace and contributing at higher levels.
1) The organization has not given the employee a reason to be engaged and motivated, or to contribute more than minimum effort.
2) The organization has created an environment that is actually de-motivating and dis-engaging.
3) The employer failed to hire the right person for the job or to ensure the person hired is working in a role that fits their talents, skills and interests.
Business Leader Mistake #1 - Not Giving Employees a Reason to be Engaged, Motivated & Contribute
Many business leaders mistakenly believe that providing someone the privilege of a steady income and certain quality of life via a paycheck should be enough to create a motivated employee.
Yet, studies continue to show that salary and benefits, although important for providing base levels of motivation, is not enough to generate higher levels of engagement.
Many managers and leaders say they are frustrated with the feeling they have to continually find ways to light a fire under their people to get them to do what needs to be done. Instead they should be investing energy in connecting to their employees on a personal level to instead find ways to light a fire within them.
One extremely effective way to do this is to apply the Employee Motivation Equation.
The Employee Motivation Equation begins with creating an inspiring vision for the company that employees at all levels will be excited to contribute to. Daniel Pink, in his 2010 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us identified "Purpose" as one of the key motivating components for a 21st Century workforce.
Business Leader Mistake #2 - Creating a De-Motivating Environment
In any new relationship there is always a honeymoon period where all the parties involved have good feelings about the possibilities moving forward. It's the same when a new hire joins a company.
Unfortunately, a survey of about 1.2 million employees at mostly Fortune 1000 companies in the early part of this century conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence, and revealed in 2005 that in 85% of companies, employee morale sharply declines after an employee's first six months on the job, and continues to fade in ensuring years.
In a significant number of companies, as this Sirota research shows, something is occurring in these work environments that causes an enthusiastic and engaged employee to change their attitude.
Many factors can be attributed to this drop off, some of which include:
a) Poorly communicated job descriptions and responsibilities causing uncertain performance expectations for the individual,
b) Inequity in managers addressing inappropriate behaviors and poor performance of co-workers,
c) Managers that play favorites and communicate disrespectfully in the workplace,
d) Lack of positive feedback for contributions made
Business Leader Mistake #3 - Making a Wrong Hiring Choice
In the haste to fill positions, often those making the hiring decisions fail to invest enough time in making sure the new hire is a good fit for the position. A "good fit' includes assessing skills, talent and job experience perspective, plus checking into the potential new hire's personality, including beliefs, attitudes and motivations.
Additionally, sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances employees are asked to fill roles not originally intended, and for which their skills and talents are not the best fit.
In these situations, despite the employees best efforts they are unable to meet desired performance expectations, and both the employee and the employer become disenchanted with the relationship. Yet, the onus must be on the employer to get it right when inviting someone into his or her work culture.
Before proclaiming employees are unmotivated, and/or unwilling, to perform to expectations and bring positive attitudes to the work environment start evaluating these three workforce mistakes from an organizational leadership and communication perspective to see if there is room for improvement.
About the author:
Skip Weisman is The Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert. Skip works with the leaders and teams in small to medium sized businesses and not-for-profits to improve communication, collaboration and teamwork in a way that delivers champion level results. You can find out more about Skip’s work at www.HowToImproveLeadershipCommunication.com .
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
In today's economy business leaders can't afford to accept under-performing personnel in their companies. Yet, in a recent survey 44% of them reported being unhappy with the performance results of their employees. In order to solve a problem such as this, employers need to first identify the cause and then create viable options for applicable solutions. There cSkip Weisman Articles
Two startling facts regarding issues absolutely impacting the bottom line of manufacturing companies in today's challenging economy:
*The Gallup organization, an international research company with a division that focuses on employee engagement and motivation, estimates $300 billion is wasted every year in lost productivity at U.S. companies due to un-motivated, dis-engaged employees.
*Another research firm, Sirota Survey Intelligence, reported in 2005 that in 85% of Fortune 1000 companies, employee motivation and morale "declined significantly" within the first six months of employment and continued to go down after that.
Those statistics are startling with regard to the potential impact on bottom line results of companies today. But, it is also not surprising.
Research I recently conducted of over 3000 subscribers to the Workplace Communication Expert blog (www.WorkplaceCommunicationExpert.com) showed 44% of business leaders are unhappy with employee performance.
When you look around your workplace and evaluate the productivity, motivation and morale of your people, how much might your organization be contributing to that $300 billion?
And, in evaluating the cost of hiring, on-boarding and training new employees, if not being done effectively, could this be another place where company profits are stealthily slipping off the financial statement?
Here are three specific strategies manufacturers can apply to develop, maintain or recapture employee motivation, morale and engagement so that your employees are truly assets bringing high value to the work environment:
1) Define your "Championship Game"
From the first day of training camp everyone that is part of an athletic team at any level from little league through the professional ranks knows the ultimate objective and vision for their team (organization) is to reach the Championship Game (for baseball it's the World Series, football The Super Bowl, soccer it's the World Cup, etc).
It is the inspiring vision to win the championship that keeps everyone focused, doing the right things for the right reasons so they can contribute to the team's success, while also being able to reap the well-defined, and not so-well defined, individual and collective rewards and opportunities that come with their contribution.
The same type of culture can be created inside any business. It takes strong, visionary leadership and consistent communication to make it successful.
2) Jointly create an agreed upon set of core organizational communication and behavioral values
Many organizations have their "values" hanging on posters in the hallways while managers and leaders both engage in, and enable others, in behaviors inconsistent with those values.
With no one holding anyone accountable to the values on the walls, performance and behaviors deteriorate and subsequently default to what is witnessed and experienced in the halls.
This, too, is a strategy that is both easy to create, plus easy to maintain when two processes are applied:
*Bring your team(s) together to jointly create the organizational communication and behavioral values and commit to a "team agreement" that everyone, literally, signs on to.
*Leaders, managers and teammates agree to address violations of the values and team agreement immediately (or, at the earliest possible opportunity after a documented and witnessed behavior).
NOTE: One client that recently concluded this process reported employees were self-regulating themselves and their teammates six months after installation of the above strategy.
3) Create a communication "Forum" that includes a "feedback loop"
Communication is always among the top three issues or problems identified by employees in organizations. The challenge with this generic, vanilla statement is that there are too many aspects of communication to fix the problems.
It must be more clearly defined.
In a recent client project three different teams in one focus group identified communication as an organizational problem. Yet, each defined it differently from a completely different context.
One simple way to resolve this issue is to create a formal forum for communication that includes a two-way feedback loop.
This sounds much more complicated than it really is. It simply means that regular, structured meetings are facilitated to bring issues, problems, ideas and suggestions to the fore for company leaders to address and respond to.
There are four key steps for doing this successfully:
1) Schedule meetings at regular and consistent times
2) Invite a cross section of participants representing the various departments, divisions, etc.
3) Collect ideas, chunk them into related categories and prioritize
4) Create a system through which company leaders can respond to every item in a reasonably timely manner.
Often company leaders are leery of developing this type of communication process for fear of the meetings devolving into gripe sessions. These fears are valid and can be eliminated by doing these three things:
1) Setting clear guidelines at the outset,
2) Ensure that all ideas and suggestions are articulated in a positive, constructive manner, and
3) Following through with prompt feedback on all ideas so that those contributing feel as if their contributions were taken under consideration and were valued (it is perfectly okay to say "no" to an idea as long as it comes with a credible reason).
Manufacturers that have implemented some, or all, of the three above suggestions have been able to generate dramatic results, such as:
. $900,000 in waste eliminated within 12 months of implementation
. 300% increase in pre-tax profits over a five-year period
. 100% increase in pre-tax profits within four months of implementation
. 65% permanent improvement in workflow processes and 22% waste reduction within 12 months.
With results like that no business leader in Western civilization can argue that they can't invest the time, energy and resources to learn how to implement the three simple strategies outlined above.
Give it a try.
About the author:
Skip Weisman is The Leadership and Workplace Communication Expert based in Poughkeepsie, NY. Since 2001 he has partnered with business leaders and their teams to transform communication in workplaces in a way that offers dramatic increases in productivity, profit margins and the bottom line. You can find out more about Skip at www.TheEmployeeEngagementExpert.com
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
Two startling facts regarding issues absolutely impacting the bottom line of manufacturing companies in today's challenging economy: *The Gallup organization, an international research company with a division that focuses on employee engagement and motivation, estimates $300 billion is wasted every year in lost productivity at U.S. companies due to un-motivatedSkip Weisman Articles
Information-sharing meetings, also known as staff meetings, are one of the most common meetings held by organizations, and for good reason; communication is the lifeblood of any organization. When everyone within an organization knows the same key information, then there will be alignment and synchronization between different members of the organization (Davis 2001). Meetings can be a tool used to codify strategic objectives, posturing teams for organizational effectiveness. Meetings are held by managers at various levels of an organization to disseminate pertinent information to subordinates or lower-level managers. Staff meetings are a great venue for discussing organizational changes, collecting updates on complex projects and communicating organizational expectations with employees.
In many cases, new managers are unaware of when meetings are appropriate. Some never hold meetings and just communicate electronically, whereas others hold multiple meetings per day or per week. Holding ineffective meetings cultivates a disdain for meetings and stagnates productivity. Ineffective meetings can cripple operations and organizational effectiveness, leading to potential profit losses, eclipses in project timelines and poor organizational morale. Below are keys managers can utilize to drive staff-meeting success.
Key #1 - Know if a meeting is required: If you get a reputation for conducting useless meetings, the busiest and best people won’t show up (Booher, 2012). Managers should establish open-door policies and promote an environment where communication is free and unhindered. Managers shouldn’t use meetings as the only source of communication with team members. A manager who holds meetings to communicate information that’s not applicable to the team displays a lack of concern for others’ time, creating a negative perception of meetings. This eventually leads to lack of participation, absenteeism or subordinates wanting to provide written inputs to the meeting instead of attending. Hold a meeting when collective feedback is warranted.
Key #2 - Create an agenda: Organization is the cornerstone of meetings. Agendas are a key ingredient to the recipe of successful meetings. There may be criticism that an agenda will make the meeting too formal and that participants may not have the opportunity to freely express their thoughts but that’s not true if the meeting is facilitated effectively. An agenda is an outline that helps the facilitator to keep the meeting focused and on target. When a meeting is focused and targeted, it facilitates problem solving and information dissemination. Always make a list of agenda items according to their importance (Parker 2006). Listing items according to their importance helps the facilitator ensure there is sufficient time to discuss the most important items. It is highly inefficient for subordinates to leave their desk and convene around a table to discuss items of low importance that could have been discussed via electronic correspondence. The agenda should be sent out as far in advance as practical so participants can contribute appropriately.
Key #3 - Ensure that participants know their roles: Often times multiple representatives from a department will attend a meeting and it’s not clear who is speaking on that department’s behalf. This can degrade the quality of the meeting experience as the ambiguity of who officially represents a department can distract from the main points and throw participants off track. There should be a person identified to record outcomes and solutions as meetings are often used to assign tasks and distribute information. The minutes are a solid method of identifying who is accountable for the outcomes and suggestions made during the meeting.
Key #4 - Select an Appropriate Venue: The venue of the meeting is imperative to its efficacy. When a meeting location is conveniently located and properly prepared, it’s easy to overlook the logistical planning and effort applied to it. Ineffective meetings are partly the result of poorly planned logistics, location and preparation. Handling logistics is like a backdrop to a play; few notice unless something goes wrong (Davis 2001). The chair of the meeting should select a place that’s centrally located to all participants and annotate it on the agenda. The room should be equipped with all the appropriate equipment and media i.e. climate-controlled room, projectors adequate lighting, meeting table and comfortable seats. A proper venue postures all involved for success.
Key #5 - Get everyone genuinely involved: Most meetings are considered boring which drives low participation and effectiveness. To make meetings productive, the participants should be engaged and the team leader or facilitator should bring everyone into the discussion. The facilitator can accomplish this by empowering members of the team and earnestly soliciting their inputs. Develop a thought of the day to open the meeting and rotate that responsibility among team members. This increases engagement, provides members with a stake in the meeting and makes the meeting fun.
Key #6 - Chair with balance: An effective chair will demonstrate the ability to articulate the principles of fairness, equality and common sense in a clear and compelling manner (Mina 2000). Set clear ground rules for participation at the inception. Meetings can be derailed when participants talk out of turn and endlessly debate.
In today’s fast paced business world, it’s become increasingly challenging to work and communicate across organizational structures and operational demands. Managers must be highly skilled practitioners of time management, by ensuring they facilitate meetings that are highly productive and not detested by team members. These six steps can help managers ensure that the team gets the most out of staff meetings.
Booher, D., & Booher, D. (2012). Tip 1. In Leading effective meetings 72 tips to save time, improve teamwork, and make better decisions.
Davis, J. H. (2001). Planning and leading productive meetings.
Mina, E. (2000). The complete handbook of business meetings.
Information-sharing meetings, also known as staff meetings, are one of the most common meetings held by organizations, and for good reason; communication is the lifeblood of any organization. When everyone within an organization knows the same key information, then there will be alignment and synchronization between different members of the organization (Davis 2001). Meetings can be a tool usedJonathan McRoy, M.S., CM, CLC Articles
"Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off."
Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable, if you're honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you'll avoid the tough decisions, you'll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you'll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally "nicely" regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.
"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that youdo not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."
If this were a litmus test, the majority of CEOs would fail. One, they build so many barriers to upward communication that the very idea of someone lower in the hierarchy looking up to the leader for help is ludicrous. Two, the corporate culture they foster often defines asking for help as weakness or failure, so people cover up their gaps, and the organization suffers accordingly.
Real leaders make themselves accessible and available. They show concern for the efforts and challenges faced by underlings, even as they demand high standards. Accordingly, they are more likely to create an environment where problem analysis replaces blame.
"Don't be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world."Small companies and start-ups don't have the time for analytically detached experts. They don't have the money to subsidize lofty elites, either. The president answers the phone and drives the truck when necessary; everyone on the payroll visibly produces and contributes to bottom-line results or they're history. But as companies get bigger, they often forget who "brought them to the dance": things like all-hands involvement, egalitarianism, informality, market intimacy, daring, risk, speed, agility. Policies that emanate from ivory towers often have an adverse impact on the people out in the field who are fighting the wars or bringing in the revenues. Real leaders are vigilant, and combative, in the face of these trends.
LESSON 1 "Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off." Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable, if you're honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: yPowell, Colin Articles
If you ask any historian to name the greatest leaders in western civilization, there's a good chance the 16th president of the United States will make the list. He willed his country to victory in the gut-wrenching Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and facilitated the eventual ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.
A number of traits contributed to Abraham Lincoln's greatness. He possessed a brilliant intellect. He had an uncommon amount of common sense. He was a thinker, someone who philosophically examined the world and crafted a rationalized set of personal beliefs by which he steadfastly lived.
While he was blessed with many talents, Lincoln's greatest attribute may have been his ability to communicate. He was a skilled orator who eloquently wrote many of his own speeches. He listened sincerely when others spoke. He empathized. He mastered the art of interpersonal communications several decades before the term "interpersonal communications" was coined.
It wouldn't be a stretch to credit Lincoln as one of history's greatest communicators. But of all the communications techniques he so successfully employed, there was one where he especially shone.
Abraham Lincoln was a remarkable storyteller.
Lincoln succeeded under some of the most difficult leadership conditions any U.S. president has had to face. To communicate is such times, he often resorted to stories. Instead of berating the incompetent generals who blundered in the Civil War's early battles, Lincoln educated and motivated them by using stories. To smooth over ruffled political feathers with members of Congress, Lincoln would pull out a story and use it to establish common ground.
Among history's eminent leaders, however, Lincoln was not unique in his reliance upon stories. Political leaders throughout the ages have moved the masses by using stories to communicate their political platforms. In modern days, big-time CEOs use storytelling to mobilize international staffs in the quest for billions of dollars of profit. Jesus Christ himself used parables and story-based lessons to enlighten his disciples.
Indeed, stories pack a punch. They're powerful. They paint pictures. They work, because our human brains are conditioned to listen to and be receptive to stories. Long before the written word, and long before Gutenberg invented the printing press, people used stories to communicate histories and traditions as well as norms and expectations. In other words, our ancestors sat around the fire every night and told stories. The propensity to tell and listen to stories is essentially a part of our DNA.
So, if people are so receptive to storytelling, you and I would be foolish not to use stories in our work. Good storytellers tend to be effective leaders and successful salespersons. If you manage people, teach them and motivate them by conveying important information through stories. If you sell products and services, use a story to paint a picture in your prospect's mind. By making the product or service part of a story, prospective clients mentally project themselves into the story. Once someone makes that kind of psychological commitment, they're much more likely to buy.
Let's say we asked the same prospective client to sit through two sales presentations for competing products. Both salespersons touched on features and benefits. Salesperson One was very straightforward and focused on delivering factual content. Salesperson Two was accurate but explained the features and benefits using stories. A couple of the stories were about previous clients who enjoyed positive results from using the product. I guarantee the second salesperson has a higher likelihood of landing the client.
One of the most important skills in sales is the ability to overcome objections. Well, if you get an objection, tell a story to keep the deal alive. Are you ready to deliver your close? Make it more desirable by couching it inside a story. Has the process become mired? Advance it by telling a story.
Whether you are managing a staff, selling a service, delivering a speech, trying to persuade voters to elect you or attempting to resolve a conflict between two of your colleagues, make it easier by spinning a yarn. Stories reassure people and disarm them.
As you make a commitment to including more stories in your daily work, keep a couple things in mind:
1. Stories must be relative to the situation at hand.
2. Know when to shut up. If a story goes on too long, it loses its effectiveness
3. Think about the work you do and determine what kinds of stories could be effective in certain situations.
4. Catalog stories in your mind. Look back on your own experiences as well as the experiences of your colleagues. Make a list of stories to have at your disposal, so you can use them whenever it's expedient.
Every product, service, business and person has a story, probably multiple stories. The trick is to pull out these stories and use them to your benefit at the appropriate times. After all, if President Lincoln used stories to save a country, we would be wise to use them to save our businesses and careers.
About the author:
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques.You can learn more and follow his "Business Motivation Blog" at www.JeffBeals.com
If you ask any historian to name the greatest leaders in western civilization, there's a good chance the 16th president of the United States will make the list. He willed his country to victory in the gut-wrenching Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and facilitated the eventual ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. A number of traJeff Beals Articles
This is a short story about a small high tech company that in spite of some developing employee relations issues has been very successful. In order to protect the guilty, we will call this company Wacko Technology.
On the surface everything at Wacko appears to be rather calm. They are making money so little else seems that important. Oh, there are one or two tell-tale signs of trouble brewing beneath the service such as Wacko’s rising 18% turnover rate. Also Wacko’s break room is filled with “toxic gossip” as well as the not too small matter of constant employee gripes and complaints. To say the least, all was not well at Wacko.
While considering Wacko’s situation, I began to get those same uneasy feelings you get when watching a documentary on volcanoes. In the program’s opening scene you are speeding in a helicopter towards a tropical island paradise, surrounded by clear blue water and white sand beaches, covered in softly swaying palm trees and beautiful tropical flowers. But just before the first commercial break your dream of this island paradise becoming your next vacation destination is totally destroyed by the shattering forces of an exploding volcano. The shock is so great to your senses you grab the remote and quickly begin searching for an escape, but you end up settling on another disaster by watching the Red Sox blow a seven game lead in the AL East.
It has not been that good a day. After having spent your entire day fighting fires at work and now to see you vacation dream being consumed by smoke and ash followed by watching another year of the Curse of the Bambino play out on ESPN has about pushed you over the edge.
If you are experiencing pre-volcano anxiety concerning your organization, this may be a good time to intervene with an employee driven organization development program that is based on the principle that, "the person closest to the problem is the best expert on the problem". Don't worry, this solution is not going to replace you. In fact, it will contribute greatly to strengthening your position of leadership at all levels of the organization. The leadership principle at work here is simple. Give your employees a voice by “asking employees their opinion, listening to what they have to say and acting on it”.
You begin by first asking your employees in confidential one-on-one interviews; “What three things, if done extraordinarily well, will have the greatest impact on the quality of work and the quality of work life for you, your fellow employees, customers and your company?” These interviews are best conducted by your HR department or an outside consultant. Once you have completed interviews with each of your employees (or a representative percentage), organize their suggestions in order of importance and provide your employees access to your listing through feedback meetings or by email. This lets employees know you value their opinion. On the front end, if there are any suggestions you will not be implementing, it is very important to let your employees know what you will not be doing and explain why. Don't be afraid to say no as long as you explain why.
Next go to work on a “quick start plan” by announcing and implementing any suggestions that can be put in place quickly and that you feel are critical to addressing employee dissatisfaction. In order to address the remaining employee suggestions create an Organization Development Committee (7 to 9 member committee) made up of a cross section of employees, which should include two or three well respected front line managers. This committee will be responsible for developing, for management’s approval plans and programs that address employee concerns and suggestions taken from the employee OD interviews. The manager’s involvement in the committee is to act as the “boss interpreter” directing the group’s recommendations towards plans that will be accepted by management. Allow the committee to own the process and the chairperson of the OD committee to be responsible for communicating to employees all aspects of the committee’s activity including announcement of action plans and programs developed as a result of employee input. An OD Plan of this type has a six month shelf life so I strongly suggest someone in senior management take responsibility for championing the OD committee work.
By asking your employee’s for their opinion you begin a participative process that will change the culture of your organization. But what is so remarkable about an employee driven OD program is not only will your employees effectively address issues that threaten employee morale and productivity but the program will also empower employees companywide by giving them a voice. Your employees’ voice will be expressed by:
*Creating a belief that they can make a difference by seeing their ideas are valued and implemented.
*Taking greater initiative and action to make things better.
*Taking responsibility to do the right thing and not always waiting for management direction.
*Taking leadership by being willing to help others move in the right direction.
*Becoming self-correcting by making themselves accountable to the standards they set.
*Becoming more confident and proud of the work they do and the organization they work for.
*Working in a more collaborative way to help assure the best thinking and employee support made part by the critical plans as they are implemented.
*Taking responsibility for developing and maintaining a positive employee culture.
Strengthening relationships that are built on trust.
*Expanding of the social circle within the organization where employees feel like they belong to something bigger them themselves.
Creating peer pressure for the majority who are no longer willing to accept difficult, nonproductive employee behavior. These problem employees then become isolated and their counterproductive attitude and behavior will be minimized. These employees will either slowly change for the better or will become so uncomfortable they will leave the organization. This is how you create positive turnover.
Volcanologists tell us that the study of volcanoes is not a perfect science and that there is much more to learn before they are able predict a volcanic eruption. The same may be true for predicting the eruption of employee relations problems, but there is a way to prevent these nasty employee eruptions …. simply give your employees a voice.
About the authors:
Michael E. Hackett is a retired Human Resource executive and management consultant based in Brentwood Tennessee. www.hacketthrconsultant.comj Michael has distinguished himself in the field of Human Resources Management and Organizational Development, with more than 40 years of human resources consulting, management and executive level experience in business, industry, government and healthcare. Michael has served as an Adjunct University Professor for more than 25 years, where he has taught a variety of management, leadership, customer service and strategic planning courses. Hackett has authored a number of management articles; and as conference leader, he has conducted training programs for business, industry, government, hospitals, universities, and professional associations. Michael’s academic credits include a BS and MS degrees from The University of Memphis. You may reach Michael at email@example.com
P. Daniel Hackett is a Construction Project Engineer with J. E. Dunn Corporation in Brentwood Tennessee. Dan’s academic credits include a BS degree in Building Construction Science from Auburn University and a MS degree in Sustainable Practices from Lipscomb University in Nashville. Dan was also a intern assistant with Hackett and Assistant while attending Auburn University.
This is a short story about a small high tech company that in spite of some developing employee relations issues has been very successful. In order to protect the guilty, we will call this company Wacko Technology. On the surface everything at Wacko appears to be rather calm. They are making money so little else seems that important. Oh, there are one or two teMichael and Daniel Hackett Articles
Leaders are transitioning into the global arena at a greater frequency than ever before. This is the ideal time to address how to approach this transitioning. This article will briefly describe the utilization of cross-cultural transitioning as opposed to mere cross-border transitioning.
It has been stated again and again: most organizations are more global than local. When one considers the vendors with which an organization deals or the employees they hire or the software they utilize, there is a global flavor and dimension to even the smallest enterprise. However, there are legitimate events that occur that cause organizations to begin planning to take their actual operations global. Rising costs of resources, transportation issues, political conflicts, fluid tax regulations and an impoverished talent pool are but a few of the obstacles that may best be overcome by crossing business borders and becoming a truly global organization.
Crossing business borders as well as cultural borders may seem to be a daunting task when it is first approached. That need not be so. Moving to global operations requires some fundamental actions on the part of the manager(s) involved, but it can be accomplished. Briefly, consider the broad, sweeping moves that will be necessary when beginning the new global initiative. Why change operations at all? Identify the reasons behind the global expansion. Reduced transportation costs from factory to end user are a real concern; becoming global just because IBM is global is not a justifiable cause. Where shall the new operations be located? There’s no point in setting up the latest factory in Bangladesh if your customer base is in Switzerland; try moving a little closer. Bangladeshi prices may be just wonderfully affordable but the cost of getting product to consumer will be astronomical — donkeys have to eat as well. Is there a talent resource pool that can be easily accessed or do you have to know the Prince’s son-in-law to get the best people? These are but some of the logistical questions that must be answered when expanding globally. However, global expansion is much more than just spending the money and setting up shop in another land. The remainder of this article will address the most important aspect of global organizational expansion: the cultural crossing.
While crossing business borders can be daunting enough (remember those donkeys), crossing cultural borders is infinitely more exciting, challenging, and rewarding. Nuance plays such a critical role here. Glances and gestures, the position of the eyes or the posture of the body can all be communicative devices if one knows what it all means. Unfortunately, for most North American business people, these things mean nothing; only direct confrontation makes sense. This is understandable as these are the cultural lenses through which most North Americans peer. Though North Americans seem dominant on the global stage; this is often a cultural misunderstanding. In North American business schools and cultures, one is taught to be direct in communication with others. Those who work specifically for one manager are often referred to as “directs.” However, being direct in this manner will often derail an intercultural business proposition before it ever has the opportunity to be examined. In truth, one of the best instructions for North Americans breeching the cultural walls of global business is to “close mouth and listen.”
Having drive and initiative is often a highly desired trait in business. Initiative can actually erect barriers as one enters into global business relationships. Firoz, Maghrabi, and Kim, state, “research indicates that most management techniques are not portable and that cultural-specific training is desperately needed within the ranks of multinational organizations.” In other words, leaders do not rise to the place of global leadership without developing certain techniques that work for them in their current management arena, yet these very techniques may need to be “un-learned,” and new techniques developed in the global business scope. Communication is one place where this variance is clearly noted. Many people in other cultures operate in a “shame” or “face-saving” manner. Direct disagreement will virtually never occur as this may cause the new manager to lose face and cause the direct report to lose face if she is wrong. Instead, indirect communication is likely to take place. For example, the direct report may refer to a non-existent third party in order to place any possible shame on a party that cannot be injured. Again, remaining silent and listening often prove to be the very best means of leading.
Beginning an international venture is much like returning to college. One often learns the most by remaining silent, taking careful notes and practicing excellent listening skills. Additionally, developing intimate relationships with “locals” will give one a mentor to which to turn prior to making a cultural misstep. Global leaders “consciously seek out a sophisticated understanding of how complex data fit together, an understanding that has to be lived, not taught.” Global leaders will value the additional education that is needed to success on this level and will earnestly pursue opportunities that will allow them to improve their global “I.Q.” “Global leaders observe, deliberate, and ponder. They know that reflection, or meditative thinking, ‘does not just happen by itself.’”(Ibid, p 58) It is out of this observation and reflection that global leaders grow and eventually succeed.
By being inquisitive and committed to continual learning, the global leader takes charge of her success and direction. She continually seeks to know more about the culture she inhabits and compares those studies to that which she currently practices. This only happens with intentionality. The global leader understands that “the learning process of individuals in a cross-cultural context requires the creative destruction of barriers to learning and the broadening of access to new sources of knowledge and experience.” Destroying the barriers to learning is often no more than opening up oneself to that which is unfamiliar and agreeing to examine it from the understanding that a difference in leading does not necessarily indicate an inherent wrongness in either approach. It is vitally important for the global leader to allow herself to be a sponge for absorbing the information and cultural clues that will present themselves as she observes the characteristics of doing business in her new culture. By not allowing oneself to exhibit prejudice for one’s own business acumen and understanding that there are numerous ways of doing things across the world; a global leader will develop into one whose specialty is the reinterpretation of techniques so that they may cross cultural barriers and borders. Herein lays the value of the truly global leader: that she can adapt the strategies and policies of her global corporation to the culture in which business is conducted without diluting the strategy or denigrating the culture.
Unending learning will be the global executive’s lifelong associate, servant and guide. It is impossible to place a value on the outcomes that will arise out of this commitment to learning. Developing this habit of continual learning; learning to be found in every circumstance and not halls of education alone, will lead to success in every aspect of life: business, family, and faith. The path toward global leadership must begin at the restructuring of assumptions. One does not reach this level of executive success by virtue of technique, but by a propensity to know what one knows and what one does not know. This follows along the lines of Kolb’s research (1984) concerning experiential learning theory (ELT). “[One] reason to enlist ELT to understand cross-cultural learning lies in its focus on the interactive nature of person and environment in the learning process.” It seems simplistic but often global executive development is of the nature of “diving in and finding out.”
To summarize, the global executive faces one of the most exciting and enduring experiences available to business leaders: that of experiencing a culture different from one’s own and learning to develop one’s technique and style of management within the context of a culture composed of people, laws, governments, and structures that are different by far from what one knows. With this exciting opportunity come challenges and barriers to try the hearts of the strongest individual. By combining the traits of effective listening, experiential learning, inquisitiveness, relational development and pre-developed business and management skills; the global executive will be one of those fortunate few who truly can leave an impression in the global landscape by virtue of their presence. The first step is to close mouth and open ears allowing one to be influenced by her new culture prior to her influencing said culture. There are very few more rewarding experiences than to transform oneself from the selfish and prototypical American business executive into a global executive success.
About the author:
Ralph Johnson is a student at Regent University
 Firoz, Nadeem, Ahmad S. Maghrabi, and Ki Hee Kim. “Think Globally, Manage Culturally” International Journal of Commerce and Management, 2002, Vol.12 No. 3 & 4.
 Black, J. Stewart, Allen J. Morrison, and Hal B. Gregersen, Global Explorers: The Next Generation of Leaders, New York: Routledge, 1999. Page 56
 Gahfoor, Shahzad, Fukhaia Kaka Khail, Uzair Farooq Khan, and Faiza Hassan, “An Exploratory Analysis of Experiential Narratives and Implications for Management, Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, June 2011, Vol 3 No 2
 Yamazaki, Yoshitaka and D. Christopher Kayes, “An Experiential Approach to Cross-Cultural Learning: A Review and Integration of Competencies for Successful Expatriate Adaptation,: Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2004, Vol 3 No 4.
Leaders are transitioning into the global arena at a greater frequency than ever before. This is the ideal time to address how to approach this transitioning. This article will briefly describe the utilization of cross-cultural transitioning as opposed to mere cross-border transitioning. It has been stated again and again: most organizations are more global thaRalph E. Johnson Articles
Mainly because a great many among us continue to misunderstand the far reaching implications of effective leadership, I find myself amazed at the number of middle and senior level managers who are dying and desperate for results and through poor planning and time management, find themselves too busy to lead. That leadership is one of the most valuable assets any manager could bring to the table would seem lost on a mentality that looks upon leadership as little more than a word and with the enthusiasm that most of us reserve for a dental appointment or a colonoscopy.
The obvious and immediate human concerns that would arise out of this reluctance to engage and challenge staff members aside, the very real business impact is tangible and decidedly negative. If you can imagine a boat in the middle of a stormy ocean without a compass, you can visualize a business or organization lost, floundering and at risk of disaster. Leadership is the compass for any business or organization and as such provides direction toward that safe port in a storm or, more hopefully, allows us to plot a course toward strength and prosperity.
I have worked for more than one organization that goes to great lengths to engage senior managers in all aspects of the business, which should be a great thing but when hours and days are taken up with meetings and the preparation of reports and discussions of strategy, forecasting and results, there is no time left to engage staff members, check progress or verify the great and wonderful things we had thought were being done were actually taking place and more importantly, there is no time to lead.
Human beings are highly complex creatures, who at their best can astound you with their initiative and ingenuity but at their worst can thwart your best intentions and frustrate you with their failings and unpredictability. They are just very needy as compared to a printer or a web site and this in particular if you are not there to lead them.
A former client of mine, not one I would describe as entirely successful, once described leadership to me as his creating a new policy and his posting it on the wall. As far as he was concerned the very second he tacked a policy on the wall, his job was done and it was up to his staff members to follow the policy or get out. I would tell you that over time an awful lot of his staff members chose to get out and when I suggested to this business owner that his approach might be the problem, he told me that to him it was obvious that he had hired the wrong people and he just needed better people. He maintained that attitude until the day he sold the business, never once entertaining the idea that it was his lack of leadership that kept his policies from being fully implemented and his unwillingness to engage his people that led to constant turmoil and staffing turnover. People need to know what is expected of them, they need to know that their efforts matter and they need to be encouraged along the way. In short, people need to be led.
Organizationally the greatest threat to effective leadership is too many senior level meetings, discussions, demonstrations, brainstorming sessions and policy round tables. It doesn’t matter the quality and urgency of these events, if they are consistently pulling managers away from their teams and consistently creating a separation between the task at hand, the team members and the leader, they are a detriment to the tasks we are performing and a threat to the success of the organization.
Standards should never be arbitrary, quality and excellence never just happen and productivity is much more than the perfect process. Leadership and the oversight it provides assures our standards are met, verifies the quality and guarantees our process. If our leadership is buried in meeting on top of meeting, our leadership is absent and unable to deliver the excellence we had expected and had been looking for. Leadership is that critical ingredient in moving us from good to great. If it a choice between meetings and success, fewer but better meetings might be the more prudent choice.
Leadership is a very intimate interaction between us as leaders and our staff, giving us the opportunity to reinforce the many good things we are doing toward accomplishing our goals but also giving us the opportunity for mid-course corrections toward that same end. Plans and projects rarely go entirely as conceived and an important aspect of leadership lies in our taking counsel and adjusting the things we are doing to assure success and our hitting our goal. In the same way, the meetings, discussions, brainstorming sessions and round table discussions are designed to review progress and communicate where we are to our various stakeholders but when this gets in the way of effective leadership, we have to make a choice between talking about what and how we are doing something and actually leading us toward doing something and accomplishing something. Without the leadership, accomplishment becomes a less likely outcome of our efforts, no matter how good the plan or process, no matter how good our staff. Visible leadership is that important.
Action in the absence of leadership may or may not be supportive of our organizational goals but more often than not, it occurs out of confusion over what is or is not expected and ignorance about what we are trying to accomplish. It cannot rightly be called initiative or going above and beyond what was expected because the leadership has not been around to set those expectations. In too many of these cases we have no idea of what is wanted or where we are going. Too often it is a sign of a motivated staff, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Quality leadership would provide that direction and move us toward accomplishment.
In the end leadership is not about the perfect plan or process. It is not about the latest analysis or the most up to date intelligence. It is taking the people assigned to you, letting them know what is expected and when and letting them know what success looks like. It doesn’t matter that you accomplish this in a huddle around the coffee maker in your office or in a teleconference covering three time zones and two territories but you need to connect, you need to expect and you need to inspire.
As Colin Powell said “Leadership is solving problems. The day your people stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership”.
Not being there is a great way to show that you don’t care and an ever better way to lose your people’s confidence. Maybe we should have a meeting to discuss all of this. Or maybe not…
Leadership is about accomplishment and being there for your staff. It’s not about meeting, it’s about leading!
About the author:
Brian Canning is a regular contributor to weLEAD and a business analyst working in the federal sector. For the past thirty years he has worked in the automotive repair industry, most recently as a leadership and management coach with the Automotive Training Institute in Savage, Maryland. After serving as a tank commander with the 1st Armored Division in Europe, he started his career as a Goodyear service manager in suburban Washington D.C., moving on to oversee several stores and later a sales region. He also has been a retail sales manager for a large auto parts distributor, run a large fleet operation and headed a large multi-state sales territory for an independent manufacturer of auto parts. His passions are history, leadership and writing.
*image courtesy of pakorn/freedigitalphotos.net
Mainly because a great many among us continue to misunderstand the far reaching implications of effective leadership, I find myself amazed at the number of middle and senior level managers who are dying and desperate for results and through poor planning and time management, find themselves too busy to lead. That leadership is one of the most valuable assets any manager could bring to the tabBrian Canning Articles
The frequency at which the word "engagement" appears in any discussion about employee communication has begun to make me wonder whether we clearly understand what the term means. More importantly, do we understand what it means to our clients, particularly CEOs, when they talk about engagement? We have engagement tools, but can we really say that these tools actually engage employees in the process of change? Or are employees merely engaged with the tool itself?
There is only one question that you need ask yourself to find out whether your employee communication strategies are going to engage employees, rather than simply inform. That question is: Can you establish whether the tools and methods you are using to communicate with employees are changing attitudes and behavior or providing information?
Employee engagement is a shared understanding of the issues that affect the business, and that understanding leads to changes in employees' attitudes and behaviors. Unless employees truly understand the issues and make a meaningful connection between their jobs and those issues, their attitudes and behaviors will not change. To achieve engagement, three things have to happen: The business issue has to mean something to the employee personally, the employee has to understand the issue (and I mean truly understand it, not just read about why it is an issue), and most important, each employee must be made to feel a part of the change process.
As communicators we have the opportunity to become creative in how we communicate and engage employees. The ultimate aim in employee communication has to be to create the "Aha!" moment. This is the moment when employees have the necessary information and can say, "Now it makes sense," "Now I understand, " "Now I can do something about it."
Tools are important in this process but generally they just communicate information. What we need to strive for are creative communication methods to engage employees in the process of change.
There are five steps for identifying what the "Aha" moment is and they include the following:
1. Focus group research. Ask employees about their thoughts on the organization and its competitors.
2. Identify the largest gap between what customers think and what employees think customers think.
3. What would create a paradigm shift in employee's thinking?
4. Can you measure the impact of the change in thinking?
5. How significant is it to achieving the business objectives?
So let's look at an example that would be familiar to communicators: the annual report announcement. Typically an online annual report would be made available to employees via the intranet. Some employees read it, but most tend to scroll down to the last pages to check the annual salaries of the senior executive staff and then close the document.
Let's imagine that the results in this annual report are very poor and the CEO is determined that employees understand the issues surrounding the poor results and become fully engaged to help turn the company around. Here's how one organization accomplished this.
The company held four brown bag lunch meetings over four weeks where employees could attend for free for one hour and hear from an outside professional about how to invest in the share market. Importantly, there was no obvious link between the meeting topic and the organization the employees worked for. At week three, they were analyzing annual reports and generally deciding whether they would invest in a particular company based on the information contained in the report. By the fourth week they were given another annual report and asked the same question, "would you invest in this company?" The answer was overwhelmingly no. And of course this last company was the one they all worked for, which brought them to the "Aha!" moment. Now the organization's employees understood and were engaged and ready to become involved in turning the company around through teamwork and new initiatives.
Here are some steps you can follow to ensure that you can come up with creative ways to communicate with employees and engage them in the process of change.
To challenge beliefs that your employees have about your organization, you need to have facts. The marketing department is an excellent source of facts about the business, with research on brand image, customer satisfaction, customer and non- customer views on competitors and information about market segments. Each of these areas provide valuable information on opportunities to link employees with business issues that can be measured. For example, the organization should have facts about how customers feel about the service provided by the organization's call centre. Employees will also have an opinion about how the believe customers perceive their service. By taking the results of the customer feedback and presenting it to staff this often creates an "Aha moment" because customer feedback is typically better than what employees anticipate. Once you have shared this information, the objective is to then explore ways that employees can become engaged in further improving that customer feedback. Focus groups are another excellent way to find out what employees think about different aspects of these areas and how their beliefs can be challenged as you need to help them better understand the issues that affect the business.
Key sources of business data are customer experience data, business results by product or service stream, competitor customer feedback, and measures of the attributes of your brand. These are sources of data that you can use as a measure of improvement as a result of your employee engagement strategy.
When selecting business outcomes as a measure for your employee communication strategy, you need to be quite certain that the strategy you implement can actually affect the business outcomes you have decided to focus on.
Finally, when it comes to any employee engagement strategy, whether it be total transformation of a business or improvement in one aspect, you can rarely go it alone. Partnering with other areas of your organization including marketing and human resources will ensure that the optimum outcome is achieved for your organization.
About the author:
Marcia Xenitelis is a recognized authority on the subject on change management and has spoken at conferences around the world. For access to case studies and more information on the types of strategies you can implement to engage employees visit http://www.communicationatwork.com for a wealth of free informative articles and resources.
*image courtesy of franky242/freedigitalphotos.net
The frequency at which the word "engagement" appears in any discussion about employee communication has begun to make me wonder whether we clearly understand what the term means. More importantly, do we understand what it means to our clients, particularly CEOs, when they talk about engagement? We have engagement tools, but can we really say that these tools actually engage employees in the proMarcia Xenitelis Articles
- Employee engagement
- Employee motivation
- Leadership Development
- Leadership Principles
- Leadership Styles
- Leadership Tips
- Management development
- Organizational Culture
- Organizational Design
- Organizational leadership
- Personal leadership
- Sales Techniques
- Servant leadership
- Transformational leadership
- Workplace Challenges