Your English teacher isn’t going to like this. Don’t get me wrong; the grammar and composition you learned in high school English class are critically important, but those rules don’t necessarily apply all the time.
Allow me to explain.
Your old English teacher would have preferred you write, “By carefully employing certain words, a professional gains a powerful advantage when selling his or her products or when trying to persuade others to accept his or her ideas.”
Here’s a slightly different version: “By carefully employing certain words, you gain a powerful advantage when selling your products or when trying to persuade others to accept your ideas.”
What’s the difference?
These two statements essentially say the same thing, but the first one is written in “third person,” while the second one is written in “second person.” English teachers would prefer the first statement. In formal writing, it is generally frowned upon to use the words, “I” or “you.” Scholarly journals, text books and respected periodicals are normally written in third person.
Proper English is a beautiful thing, but when it comes to succeeding in today’s loud and crowded marketplace, you benefit by catching people’s attention. You are more likely to accomplish your goals if you relate to people. Using the word “you” (and “your”) helps you do that.
No matter what your profession, there are times when your success depends on your ability to sell, pitch, market, convince, persuade, trade, suggest, coach, counsel, explain, and/or motivate another person. That all becomes easier if you address your reader or listener directly in the second person.
So, if you’re explaining something in an email, try to use the word “you.” If you’re giving a speech to prospective clients, paint a picture with “you.” If you want to empower and motivate your colleagues, use “you” to make your message resonate with them.
The word, “you” personalizes a conversation. It brings down barriers and erodes the formalities that may exist between you and the other person.
“You” can help prospective clients picture themselves using your products and services. For instance, if you are selling a time-share condo overlooking the ocean, your would-be buyer might be receptive to this marketing message:
“Picture yourself spending two weeks here every year. You can sleep in each morning in this king-sized bed, windows open with the sea breeze gently waking you up before you head over to your ultra-modern kitchen for your morning coffee. You step out onto your deck overlooking the massive resort pool. Your only problem here in paradise will be deciding what to do. Will you relax by the pool or will you take one of the hundreds of day adventures waiting for you in the surrounding area?”
Where do I sign up?
When I’m writing books or delivering speeches, I try to put “you” into the text even if the story I’m telling is about somebody else. When I use a highly successful person’s life or accomplishments to illustrate a point, I occasionally like to slip in “you” and “your” when I’m really talking about “him/his” or “her/hers.” Audience members are more likely to remember the point, if they feel like they are part of the story.
YOU will be a much more effective seller, marketer and persuader if YOU simply remember to transpose YOUR audience into YOUR stories.
One last thing – I have one important disclaimer for you.
There is a particular use of the word “you” that may backfire on you. Careful communicators avoid saying, “you must,” “you should,” “you better” or “you have to.” That’s bossy. It turns people off. Such language reminds you of when you were in trouble as a kid, like when your mother demanded:
“You have to clean your room!”
“You better finish your homework before you go outside!”
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
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" 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.” Read More >Gene 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. Read More >Skip Weisman Articles
The world is becoming a smaller place. Many businesses, in order to thrive, must enter the global marketplace and become global organizations. As a result, the people in these organizations will cross cultures and encounter all the complications that entails. By providing insight into communicating effectively with people from other cultures, this article will be a help to leaders of emerging global organizations and their people in avoiding culture clashes.
Key to Success – Mindfulness
To communicate effectively, we must be thoughtful and look closely at the unique attributes, attitudes and behaviors of people before making predictions about them. In other words, we must listen and understand from where the other person is coming.
Many of our communications are habitual as we hardly pay attention to our communication behavior. However, when we face a new situation, such as a cross cultural encounter, we seek clues to guide our behavior. As we become comfortable in the new situation, we revert back to more habitual communications, and are no longer mindful of the other. We often categorize people with whom we communicate based upon physical and cultural characteristics, or their attitudes and beliefs. The problem with categorizing is that it creates blinders in us that prevent us from truly hearing and knowing the people with whom we are communicating.
To improve the effectiveness of our communications with all people, in particular, people of other cultures, we need to be aware of how we communicate – we must be mindful. Awareness of our communications and the related competence can be described as a four-step process: 1. unconscious incompetence – we misinterpret others’ communication behavior but are not aware of it; 2. conscious incompetence – we are aware that we misinterpret others’ communication behavior but choose not to do anything to change; 3. conscious competence – we are aware of what we think about communication behavior and modify our behavior to make the communications more effective - we become mindful of our communication behaviors; and 3. unconscious competence – we have practiced the skills of effective communication and it becomes second nature to us.
Cultural Considerations in Communications
Low and High Context Cultures
Some cultures are low context and some are high. This refers to the communication process. A high-context communication process is where most of the information being communicated is in the physical context or in the person and not in the message. A low-context communication process is where the information being conveyed is in the communications – clear and direct. The United States is a low-context culture, where communications are direct and complete. We have sayings such as “get to the point” or “say what you mean” that clearly demonstrate the low-context. On the other hand, Japan, China and Korea are high-context cultures where people make a greater distinction between insiders and outsiders and where the individual communicating expects the hearer to know what is bothering him without being specific. There are advantages to high context cultures in that people raised in high-context systems expect more of others than do the participants in low-context systems. For us low-context communicators, we want things clear and out on the table, and we get annoyed by communications done in an indirect fashion. The point here (and I will get to the point for us low context people) is that it is important to understand the form of communications that predominates in a culture in order to correctly interpret and understand the behavior of those with whom we are communicating.
Monochronic and Polychronic Cultures
A monochromic culture is one where people have involvement in one event at a time. A polychronic culture is one where people are involved in two or more events at the same time. In extremely monochronic cultures, people focus on a single task or project and see anything outside of the task or project as an interruption. Conversely, in more polychronic cultures, people have involvement in several activities, moving back and forth between them easily. In a polychronic culture, an unexpected customer dropping in would be considered part of the normal flow of tasks and not considered an interruption. In Arab nations, it is common for a leader to have several people in his office discussing and working on separate and unrelated tasks. For us monochronic Americans, we have our agendas and work through each item, one at a time. It would be a large distraction to be in an office where we have business to discuss with someone and there are five other people transacting different business, and all happening at the same time. Again, the point here is that it is important to understand the predominate mode of operation in the culture in order to correctly interpret and understand the behavior of those with whom we are communicating, so we can adjust ourselves.
Most Needed – Organizational Glue and An Environment of Trust
Edward Hall says that culture is communications and communications is culture. Whether a husband-wife relationship, a friendship or in an organization, success is dependent in large part by the effectiveness of communications. As can be seen above, adding a cross cultural dimension makes effective communications more challenging. What can leaders do to encourage effective communications? First, they can make sure that their organization has in place a core ideology which brings its people together – the glue that holds its people together. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, “Built to Last,”, define the core ideology as “that which provides the bonding glue that holds an organization together as it grows, decentralizes, diversifies, expands globally and attains diversity.” The core ideology is made up of two things: core purpose and core values. The core purpose is the fundamental reason for being – the importance people attach to the organization’s work. It is the organization’s identity. Core values are those essential and enduring tenants that have intrinsic value for and are important to the people inside the organization. The core ideology holds the organization’s people together, like glue, no matter from what culture they are, by unifying people toward the achievement of the organization’s purpose.
A second thing leaders can do is to create an environment of trust. Trust is the first and foremost leadership attribute, as determined in the GLOBE Study of 17,000 people in 62 countries. Trust comes from being in relationship, where people see us in action and see that we are not in this leadership thing for ourselves, but that we are pursuing a higher purpose. It is determined by the leader’s communicative and supportive behaviors, as the amount of information received about the job and the organization helps build trust in top management and direct supervisors. Trust takes a long time to build, and it can be lost in a moment by one significant and selfish act. People watch leaders. People are looking for leaders who do what they say they will do – this is integrity. They look for leaders who do the right thing at the right time for the right reason, as stated by . Bruce Winston in his book, “Be a Leader, for God’s Sake.”
Trust theory has established that leader behavior has a great deal to do with creating a culture of trust. It has also established the importance of trust in organizational effectiveness. An important role of the organization’s leaders is the establishment of relationships characterized by confidence, trust and reliance. As determined by Jeffrey Cufaude in his 1999 article entitled “Creating organizational trust”, the following factors are associated with a culture of trust in an organization: the depth and quality of personal relationships; clarity of roles and responsibilities; frequency, timeliness and forthrightness of communications; competence to get the job done; clarity of shared purpose (core ideology); direction and vision; and honoring promises and commitments.
Edward Hall concluded that his many years of study convinced him that the real job is not understanding the culture of another, but that of your own. Culture has a huge impact on how we live our lives. If we are to relate effectively with people from other cultures, then we must know how our culture impacts us. One of the most effective ways to learn about ourselves is to take seriously the cultures of others. By doing this, it forces us to pay attention to the details of our lives and what differentiates us from others. It gives us a sense of vitality and awareness. It keeps us continually learning and growing as people. Effective communications results when we walk in the shoes of another. This means making ourselves vulnerable with other people, something people are more willing to do when they work in a culture of trust.
About the author:
Paul Dumais is Director of Asset Management and Investment Planning at Iberdrola USA, a family of electric and gas utilities serving customers in New England and in the State of New York. He is second year student in the Doctorate of Strategic Leadership Program in the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Regent University. Mr. Dumais holds an MBA from the University of Southern Maine. He lives with his wife Kathleen in Webster, New York and may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
The world is becoming a smaller place. Many businesses, in order to thrive, must enter the global marketplace and become global organizations. As a result, the people in these organizations will cross cultures and encounter all the complications that entails. By providing insight into communicating effectively with people from other cultures, this article will be a help to leaders of emerging global organizations and their people in avoiding culture clashes. Read More >Paul Dumais Articles
Mastering the Art of Asking Questions is essential if you want to succeed. It's not simply a matter of getting in the habit of utilizing questions in your interactions with people. It's really about learning how to ask the right questions at the right time.
Whether you're having sales conversations, coaching conversations, or working to develop others, learning how to ask good questions can be the difference between success and failure. What does asking the right questions at the right time mean? It means asking questions in such a way as to better understand the other person, their needs, and their motivations.
Since the questions asked and the flow of an effective conversation varies from person to person and from situation to situation, the best way to illustrate the Art of Asking Questions is by way of example.
Here is a sample sales conversation, conducted by someone not skilled at the Art of Asking Questions:
Hi Bob, I'm calling about the great widgets my company sells. Do you have a few minutes to speak?
Great! Are you familiar with our brand?
"No, not really."
We offer widgets that solve a number of problems and have some great features. The new V210 - our mid-grade model - consumes 20% less energy than our competition and is 10% smaller. It comes in three different colors - red, black and white. Can I schedule a time with you to come by and show it to you?
"What's the price?"
It normally sells for $199, but I can offer it to you at a 25% discount - only $149.
"Do you have something you can send me?"
Sure... what address should I send it to?
"123 Main St."
Great! I'll give you a follow-up call in about a week. OK?
"Yes, that would be fine."
If you've been in sales, you already know the outcome of that conversation. The likelihood of closing a sale is slim and the salesperson will no doubt continue to try to reach the prospect again until they get discouraged and give up.
The next example is the same conversation conducted by someone who is better skilled at the Art of Asking Questions, but is not quite there yet:
Hi Bob, my company helps companies like yours solve their widget problems. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
Do you currently use widgets in your business?
"Yes, we do."
Have you been pleased with the ones you have?
"Well, for the most part we are, but nothing's perfect."
The newer design of widgets have a number of improvements over older models. Would you like to hear more about some of the improvements?
Well, feature 1... , feature 2..., feature 3... We have a number of different models available. Do you have a budget in mind?
"Well, we haven't been actively looking up until now. Can you send me some information?"
I'd rather come by and show you first-hand so you can really see what I'm talking about. Which would be better for you, Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon?
"How about Tuesday morning."
Great! I'll see you Tuesday morning then!
While it is possible that this salesperson may make a sale, it's far from a sure thing. Even though the prospect set the appointment, the salesperson really doesn't know anything about the prospect or the prospect's motivations.
The conversation would unfold very differently if the salesperson was skilled in the Art of Asking Questions:
Hi Bob, my name is Paul and I help companies like yours solve any widget problems they have. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
Do you currently use widgets in your business?
"Yes, we do."
How often do you use your widgets?
"Pretty much every day."
To what extent? How much?
"About 3-4 hours every day."
It sounds like you rely on them pretty heavily.
What aspects of your widgets work best for you?
"Well, for one thing they've been really reliable. We've had them for over 4 years. Also, we need the automated feed feature and that's been a life-saver. And the supplies are easy to find and affordable."
Sounds like they've served you well. Have you had any problems with them?
"Well, the only problem we've had is that they sometimes misfeed."
When you say they sometimes misfeed, specifically how often does that happen?
"Only once or twice a day."
Are there any features or functions you wish they had?
"It would be nice if they had a bigger bin so we didn't haveto re-stock them so often."
Anything else? Would it help if they could automatically stack the finished product?
"Can they do that?"
Ours can. I think it would make sense for us to get together. I can show you a widget I have that has a 99% reliability record, high-speed automatic feeding without jamming, a large bin, and automated stacking. Do you have about 25 minutes on Tuesday morning or would something like Wednesday afternoon work better for you?
"Let's do next Tuesday morning."
As you can see, the last sales conversation unfolded very differently than the prior two. In the last conversation, the salesperson asked good questions - questions which uncovered what mattered to the other person, along with some motivations for making a change. (We didn't have time in this article to uncover all the motivations.)
Having a conversation like this helps the prospect to clarify what features he needed and highlighted problems and desires. Both parties knew exactly why they were getting together and the likelihood of closing a sale was extremely high.
When you master the Art of Asking Questions, you learn to ask questions which uncover motivations and you'll do a better job of selling, coaching, and developing others.
About the author:
Michael Beck is a Business Strategist and Executive Coach. For more articles on leadership, personal effectiveness and personal productivity, please visit www.michaeljbeck.com.
*image courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net
Mastering the Art of Asking Questions is essential if you want to succeed. It’s not simply a matter of getting in the habit of utilizing questions in your interactions with people. It’s really about learning how to ask the right questions at the right time. Read More >Michael Beck Articles
Because of thunder storms in Atlanta, the flight from Dallas to Atlanta had been delayed twice. On the third attempt, we were boarding and I felt hopeful of actually getting off the ground. My hopes faded fast when the tired-looking flight attendant came down the aisle quietly announcing that if we were not permitted to take off in the next 15 minutes, the crew would have exceeded their 16-hour work day and we would have to taxi back to the terminal and await another flight.
We were not given permission to take off, the crew's time expired and as we taxied back to the terminal I felt mixed emotions. I kept thinking, "But we were right there ready to take off. How could 1-1/2 more hours matter?"
Just as airlines are concerned about overworked pilots and flight attendants, employers should be concerned about overworked employees. Why? Errors, accidents, and low productivity for a start.
My mixed emotions as we taxied back to the terminal are similar to the signals our culture sends today about long work hours. In one breath we agree with employees having a pity party about how hard they work and with the other breath, we award employees a "red badge of courage" for having the guts to go the extra mile.
A study by the Families and Work Institute concludes that overworked employees should be taken seriously. Employees who are overworked are more likely to exhibit anxiety, make mistakes at work, harbor angry feelings about their employer for expecting them to be on the job for long hours and resent coworkers who don't pull their share of the load. The study documents that nearly half of employees who feel overworked report that their health is poor and 8 percent of employees who are not overworked experience symptoms of clinical depression compared with 21 percent of those who are highly overworked.
Helping Employees Feel Less Overwhelmed
What can the organization do to help employees feel less overworked while still finishing their tasks in a given day? Using time efficiently at work is an individual and an organizational issue. On the organizational side, managers can help employees reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by:
- Training employees in time management principles
- Discouraging the practice of eating at the desk and working through lunch
- Insisting employees taking vacation time
- Permitting flexible work hours when appropriate
- Encouraging non-interrupt zones in the day when workers can focus on their tasks
- Assigning tasks well in advance of the drop dead date
- Helping Employees Be More Effective
A tried and true principle states that to be efficient, you must first be effective. For instance, the maker of buggy whips might be highly efficient in manufacturing techniques, but if no one buys the buggy whips, the process is not effective.
To encourage efficiency and effectiveness, managers can:
- Have clearly stated goals with built in deadlines
- Insist employees make a daily "to do" list
- Make certain equipment works properly
- Supply the necessary materials for job completion
- Train employees on software packages that enable more efficient work
Ensuring the above items are taken care of is essential to help employees leverage their time while in the office and be more productive.
Realizing a Productivity Culture Change
Managers should make a concerted effort to grease the wheels of productivity, and not be the stick that gets caught in the tire spokes, catapulting the rider from the trail. By attending to these issues, managers can help workers feel less overwhelmed and enable them do more in less time. You'll like the results.
About the author:
Karla Brandau is CEO of Workplace Power Institute. She offers keynotes, workshops, and retreats to move your organization forward in the chaotic environment of the 21st Century. You can contact Karla at email@example.com visit her blog at www.FromTheDeskofKarlaBrandau.com
Because of thunder storms in Atlanta, the flight from Dallas to Atlanta had been delayed twice. On the third attempt, we were boarding and I felt hopeful of actually getting off the ground. My hopes faded fast when the tired-looking flight attendant came down the aisle quietly announcing that if we were not permitted to take off in the next 15 minutes, the crew would have exceeded their 16-hour work day and we would have to taxi back to the terminal and await another flight. Read More >Karla Brandau Articles
The greatest victory any leader can enjoy is mission or task accomplishment. That is what we are here for and the standard by which we will be measured but before we achieve that lofty goal, before we get to celebrate that success, we have to do something toward getting our people to do the things we want them to do. That, of course, is what leadership is all about but too often that is where the seeds of failure are sewn and where we miss the opportunity to assure a complete and overwhelming success.
For good or for ill our people are a reflection of our leadership and if marginal successes and marginal victories are what we are celebrating and what we are accepting, I can promise you the paradigm will hold true and that staggering collapse across the finish line that you use to mark the successful completion of a task or project, will show itself in how your people mark their own milestones and wins. Not begrudging any success but aiming just a little higher, pushing just a little further, both assures the win and sets a standard for something just a little better. Excellence is nothing more or less than our not accepting the norm or commonplace and holding out for something better. As leaders we get to define success, though too often we are not taking that time or insisting on anything beyond the ordinary. If you are asking for ordinary I am guessing that is just what you will get. I am suggesting that as long as we’re asking, we might as well ask for something better.
One of the scariest and most challenging things any leader will ever face is putting the fate of a task or project in the hands of another human being. As leaders we are tasked with delivering results every day, in every task, project or mission we take on and in the final analysis we are either effective leaders and deliver the goods, or we are something else. Our success or failure will always be tied to how effectively we lead, empower and motivate our staff. If we are finding ourselves in that “something else” category, maybe it is time to take a look at how we lead.
The very best staff member you could ever ask for is one who will do all the things you would ask, with the initiative to go one better and do the extra things that would assure a quality result delivered ahead of our expectations. There is no doubt that this is a rare bird in most work places but that is more a reflection on our failures as leaders than it is testament to the rarity of the species. Our people are what we make them. Behaviors like initiative only occur in work places that support and empower their staff members. Initiative only exists where it is encouraged and when there is enough confidence to act and to step beyond what is expected. It is not the responsibility of a staff member to show initiative, it is our responsibility as leaders to encourage and reward this type of behavior when it occurs. Extraordinary is always the result of leadership that empowers people toward something better, with the confidence to act.
In our setting expectations for something better, it is very important that we paint that picture for our people. In training, in planning and in communicating, we do everything possible to support their efforts toward this new frontier, correcting our course as necessary and celebrating our victories along the way. George Patton once said “Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results”. Initiative and the courage to act we had talked about only comes in an environment that encourages innovation and imagination in finding solutions. There is a risk in delegating responsibilities to other staff members. To whatever degree we are able to train them, to whatever degree we are able to communicate our expectations, we mitigate that risk and create an environment that goes beyond what is expected, assuring success, time and time again. A side benefit to our empowering our staff members is in their confidence. A confident worker is one who displays that initiative we had talked about and one who will make suggestions and share ideas and grow and learn and become more productive. There is no doubt that there are risks through all of this but that journey from good to great is never without challenge or setbacks but it is always worth the effort. Effective leadership is the key.
In staff surveys I have seen over the years and in productivity studies I have participated in, I am amazed and astounded at how often I run into whole populations of staff members who don’t know what is expected of them. Nearly as often I hear from business owners and senior managers that they are frustrated with the lack of initiative and willingness to act they observe from their staff members. As a leader it is easy to blame your staff when things are going wrong but if you are failing to set expectations for excellence and if you are failing to train and encourage their efforts, any shortfalls or failures rest squarely on your shoulders. If you, as the leader, are not defining success, how can you reasonably expect your people to deliver the results that you were looking for? When I ask this question I am nearly always presented with a “common sense” argument that seems to say that our people should know what is expected and that ‘we shouldn’t have to babysit them’. Really?
I am one of those old dogs that happen to believe in people. I believe that if we do a good job in defining our expectations for our staff members and if we train them in such a way as to assure their ability to perform the things we are asking of them and encourage them and celebrate their successes, most people will go beyond what you had wanted and deliver that high end success we should all be looking for. There are exceptions; those rare and misguided individuals that, despite the explanations and training and encouragement, just don’t ever seem to get it. Another important aspect of leadership is in our recognizing those among us who are not willing or not capable of delivering on the tasks and responsibilities we have laid in front of them. As painful as it might be, they have to go. I would tell you to be patient and give them every reasonable chance to succeed but if they are not contributing to your success, for whatever the reason, then they are hindering it and you need to move on. Remember, the leader’s greatest responsibility is task or mission accomplishment. Nothing or no one can stand in the way of that. People always need to be given the opportunity to do the right thing and if you have helped them define that, they might just surprise you.
In ‘Leading Change’ John Kotter said “Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.”
Who have you motivated or inspired today?
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.
The greatest victory any leader can enjoy is mission or task accomplishment. That is what we are here for and the standard by which we will be measured but before we achieve that lofty goal, before we get to celebrate that success, we have to do something toward getting our people to do the things we want them to do. That, of course, is what leadership is all about but too often that is where the seeds of failure are sewn and where we miss the opportunity to assure a complete and overwhelming success. Read More >Brian Canning Articles
To produce healthy plants it takes the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care. Too much water or too little sunlight may hurt your plants. The best gardeners learn through experience and reflection what flowers need to grow and develop. In a similar way, seasoned leaders know what it takes to help people and organizations achieve their potential. They provide the right amount of direction, discussion, coaching and feedback to help people succeed. They have a balanced approach in areas like the following:
1. Task and People
The seasoned leader focuses on both the task and the people. Some leaders are too task-focused. For example, Ralph led a group of seven people. With him it was all business. No small talk or reaching out to people as people. For him the only thing that mattered was results. On the other hand some leaders are too focused on pleasing people at the expense of solving problems and getting the work done.
2. Talk and Listen
What’s your ratio? We have all met leaders who are ineffective because they don’t listen. Remember the God given ratio—two ears, one mouth. On the other side of the equation I met one leader who was a great listener but his employees didn’t know where he stood on key issues. The seasoned leader engages in the appropriate amount of both talking—stating their views and listening to ideas of others.
3. Plan and Do
Planning is important, but so is execution. Some leaders over plan and under execute. Of course some leaders do just the opposite. They’re busy having meetings, doing power point presentations but making no improvements in the operation. Is there a “right” balance? It depends. In some situations an hour spent planning makes the implementation go more smoothly. In a crisis situation you may have only 60 seconds to plan—quick action is required.
4. Results and Process
Some leaders only focus on results. In meeting after meeting they ask, “What’s the bottom line?” Results are important but so is process—how things are done. However, putting all your attention on process is also wrong. Results count! The seasoned leader focuses on both what is being accomplished and how it’s being accomplished.
5. Firm and Flexible
There are times to be firm and there are times to be flexible. The overly flexible leader is unwilling to take a firm stand. They are wishy-washy and often flip flop on their position. On the other hand, the overly firm leader is rigid and sees every issue as black and white. Seasoned leaders have the wisdom to know when to hold the line and when to be flexible.
6. Coaching and Letting Go
An important part of a leader’s job is to coach people on how to be more effective and efficient. However, there is an important difference between too little and too much coaching. Too much can frustrate initiative. On the other hand, too little coaching and guidance can cause failure. Sometimes failure can be the best thing, life lessons often come out of failure. Other times it can be catastrophic – in the case of accident, injury, or other severe loss. Seasoned leaders know the difference between providing too much and too little coaching.
7. Facts and Feelings
Getting the facts is important. But tuning into your feelings is also important before making important decisions. Some executives fail to identify the danger signals because they repress their feelings as if feelings are something to be avoided. I like the way author and blogger Mary Jo Asmus stated it in a recent blog— “Connect with your heart when your head wants to rule. Connect with your head when your emotions are threatening to take over.”
8. Work Life and Family Life
Some leaders get totally consumed by their job and neglect their family. In his book, Better Under Pressure, Justin Menkes, interviewed Ralph Larsen, retired CEO of Johnson and Johnson. In the interview Larsen stated, “…you’ve got to make sure that you have the right balance between your work life and your family life, that you take care of your family and kids so you don’t have chaos at work and at home.”
What would you add to this list?
Seasoned leaders know the importance of balance. But finding the right balance doesn’t mean moderation in all things. Rather it means being versatile and flexible. It means using the appropriate mix of various ingredients to help people grow and blossom. Great leaders have the wisdom to know what actions are needed and necessary to achieve success.
Kaplan, R.E. and Kaiser, R.B. “Developing Versatile Leaders.” MIT Sloan Management Review
Menkes,J. Better Under Pressure. Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.
About the author:
Paul B. Thornton is the author of numerous articles and 13 books on management and leadership. His latest book, Leadership—Off the Wall, highlights the guiding principles some well-known business and political leaders keep on their desks or post on their office walls.
In addition to being a speaker and management/leadership trainer, he is a business professor at Springfield Technical Community College. In the last 20 years, he has trained over 10,000 people to be more effective managers and leaders. You can find out more about Paul at www.PBThornton.com and contact him at PThornton@stcc.edu
*image courtesy of Simon Howden/freedigitalphotos.net
To produce healthy plants it takes the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care. Too much water or too little sunlight may hurt your plants. The best gardeners learn through experience and reflection what flowers need to grow and develop. In a similar way, seasoned leaders know what it takes to help people and organizations achieve their potential. Read More >Paul B. Thornton 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 process of change? Or are employees merely engaged with the tool itself? Read More >Marcia Xenitelis Articles
There is a lot of attention directed at small businesses this year. President Obama talked about the need to help and support small businesses in his State of the Union address. And one outcome was the launch of Startup America. Also, states are talking about easing regulations and the tax burden on small businesses in their quest to reduce unemployment.
Is this the year of the small business? Possibly.
Is this an opportunity for you as a small business owner? Maybe.
Now, a Warning to Small Business Owners...
As a small business owner, however, it is not a good strategy to hope that the federal or state governments will pass the right legislation and write regulations, which will help you succeed in the next 12 months. Hope may spring eternal, but it is not a good business strategy.
Be wary of generalizations about how the economy is doing: who the winners are and who the losers are or will be. It's distracting and frankly, it's filled with conflicting information.
It's like trying to decide on what is the best way to add 10 years to your life. You would be correct if you said – it depends on whom you ask. A dietician will tell you to focus on good nutrition. A trainer will tell you to exercise and use protein supplements. Some physicians would say hormone therapy. As the adage goes: when all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.
Yes, we'll admit that the economy is showing signs of recovery, but the real question is... whether it's showing signs of recovery for you and your business. To answer this question you need to stop thinking like a small business owner and start thinking that you are running a multi-million dollar enterprise. Why, because many small business owners tend to think like a small company. And the answer to growth is to think big.
Here Are 7 Questions to Think About and Respond to When Planning for Business Growth:
1. Do you have a strategic vision that outlines your business direction for the next 12 – 24 months? And if you have employees, do they know it?
2. What is your stated mission (or purpose) statement? How is it communicated to your employees, and how does it help drive business decisions?
3. Do you have stated, written and practiced company values to align how you and your employees work together and serve your customers?
4. Do you have a branding strategy that promotes how you want to be seen by prospects and clients and articulates your competitive advantage or differentiation from your competitors?
5. Do you have standard monthly financial reports to track the financial health of your business and to help drive your decisions?
6. Do you have outstanding customer service? If you can't answer based on your customer's feedback, loyalty, references and testimonials – your answer is not yet.
7. Do you have an exit strategy for your business? Every business needs to have a sense of what the end game will look like. It drives growth and helps focus business decisions.
How did you do in answering these questions? Did you have thoughtful and detailed answers for each question? When we talk to small business owners about these questions they often remind us that they are small businesses and not GE, Nordstrom's or Zappos. And that's the problem.
We have also seen companies that believe answering questions such as these is a waste of time.
Why Our 7 Vital Questions for Small Business Owners Who Want to Grow Their Business Is NOT a Waste of Time!
A small research oriented company who had been in business for 10 years was modestly successful. They were concerned, however, that although they were able to come up with a strategic plan every year, they were not disciplined enough to implement the tactics required to achieve the plan.
And they really didn't have to. Business came in and they were comfortable. You have likely heard us reference that success can be your greatest inhibitor to growth. And, the issue for them was that they weren't growing.
They decided to re-focus their efforts on growth. To do that they:
1. Looked deep inside themselves and their business and discovered they were missing a number of ingredients for small business growth success.
They uncovered this realization simply by honest answering our 7 questions.
2. Established company values to guide their work together and in serving their clients
3. Created their strategic vision (ideal future state)
4. Refined their purpose (or mission) statement
5. Identified key strategies and tactics to implement the vision and created accountability by assigning those to lead individuals. Progress on tactics was reviewed quarterly, with general updates given monthly.
6. Candidly discussed how they worked together and how work should be distributed to take advantage of each partner's strengths
7. Identified their target market and the market niche
8. Created tracking and reporting tools and a process to monitor sales
9. Created a financial reporting system, reviewing it monthly and using ratio analysis to do a year over year comparison
10. They are embarking on a re-branding strategy
11. They are working to identify and develop an exit strategy
They started this initiative in 2008. 2009 was the best financial performance year they had in the company's 10-year history. 2010 was almost 40% higher than 2009. And note this was accomplished in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
So what really happened? Were they lucky? Were they in the right place at the right time? No - neither of these can explain their growth. What they did was stop thinking small. They stopped behaving like a "mom and pop shop" and decided to focus on growth.
So, we encourage you to take a dispassionate view of your business. Stop listening to the generalities and honestly and thoughtfully respond to your own market-focused questions we suggested. Thinking small will keep you small; thinking big and planning big will lay the path to your growth.
About the authors:
Sara LaForest and Tony Kubica are management consultants with more than 50+ years of combined experience in helping organizations improve their business performance simply by improving the leadership effectiveness of top management. You can find out more about their work at http://www.kubicalaforestconsulting.com
*image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net
There is a lot of attention directed at small businesses this year. President Obama talked about the need to help and support small businesses in his State of the Union address. And one outcome was the launch of Startup America. Also, states are talking about easing regulations and the tax burden on small businesses in their quest to reduce unemployment. Read More >Sara LaForest & Tony Kubica Articles