Re-Inspire and Engage Your Team with These Simple Tips

inspire engage teamIt’s easy to lose focus on the fact that your team’s work is part of a strategic plan to accomplish the company’s big picture vision and mission. You can get so caught up your own focus and tasks that you assume everyone else is automatically aware of how their work connects to the company vision and mission. Consequently, your team and its work becomes mundane, reactive and uninspired. This kind of atmosphere can lead to higher turnover and lower productivity and engagement.

This disconnect between vision/mission and daily work happens in part because you forget that leading others requires you to continually make the connection between their work and the company’s vision, purpose, and mission. Also, you might be making assumptions that others can read your mind and that they know why they’ve been asked to complete various tasks. People are not mind readers. This is why you must be transparent, explicit, and quite frankly, redundant. After all, it’s said that people don’t really “get” something until they’ve heard it 7 times.

When you don’t share the vision and overall outcome with your team for a project or individual assignment, you’ll likely experience less cooperation between team members because they will focus only on their piece. Your team doesn’t volunteer their perspectives or participate in problem solving because they can only see as far the tip of their current task — they don’t see the bigger picture or the final aspiration. When your team is this myopic, they can become defensive when mistakes happen and look for someone else to blame. After all, they did what they were assigned.

Daily work happens routinely and re-actively; direct reports are uninspired; and your team dreads meetings because they are boring. Even one-on-ones become simple updates with little discussion or input from your employees.

How To Use Vision to Re-Inspire and Engage Your Team

To inspire your team and to increase their engagement in their work, use these tips to re-connect daily work to the big picture vision and mission:

  1. Communicate the vision and mission regularly. At the start of a project, during meetings, or when processing through mistakes or failures, make a brief introductory statement to remind everyone involved why you’re working on what you’re working on and what overall end results you’re headed for. Embrace any chance you get to remind your team of the big picture for why your company exists.
  2. Connect the dots from general vision to daily work. When assigning work to your team, describe the general outcome desired and why this outcome impacts the world, your customers, the team, etc. Then describe how the team’s work is meant to contribute to moving the company in that direction. Doing this provides your opportunity to discuss which aspects of the work are critical along with the timing of the work to reach milestones.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

5 Beliefs That Are Wasting Your Time

jugglingFeel like you don’t have time to get around to important tasks? You might be frustrated that you are extremely busy but aren’t accomplishing the important stuff that would move your strategy forward. Underneath, you may be angry or resentful that you have to do it all. What if you are wasting your own time because of a few of your own subconscious beliefs? These five beliefs are counter to time mastery and could be causing you to waste your time:

1. “No one else will do it right.”

Have you ever found yourself working on a project or task that you could have delegated or assigned to someone else because you didn’t have faith that others would do it correctly? You are the victim of a perfectionistic belief that only you know how to do things to high standards. That may or may not be true, but does everything need to be done perfectly?

When assigning a task to a direct report, make sure you describe the quality standards required. To keep things on track, schedule follow-up meetings to check in and encourage your employees to check back with you if there are questions about how well something needs to be done.

2. “I can’t count on anyone else to get it done.”

Do you find yourself working on something that a direct report should be doing because you don’t trust them to get it done? Similar to perfectionism, you might have a trust issue around the timeliness of completion. In addition to deadlines and check-in points along the way, counter this belief by working with your employee to prioritize the work. This may include identifying other tasks that can be postponed, re-assigned, or dropped altogether. This way, you can keep things on schedule for timely completion without doing it yourself.

3. “I’ll pick up the slack because my employees are already overworked.”

It’s not a bad thing to assist your team with task work once in a while. However, you know it’s a problem if you believe you need to rescue them often. Also, you may feel resentful that you are picking up slack even though you chose to do it for them. When you frequently take on the work of others, you often bury yourself with work that is not of strategic value for your own role.

Before being tempted to ride to your employees’ rescue, help direct report prioritize their tasks. Often, they will be able to see where they are spending too much of their time on tasks and projects that are not that important at the moment in favor of those that are more pressing and strategic.

4. “I need to be available to everyone 100% of the time.”

When you put yourself at the mercy of the needs and timetables of others, others will interrupt your attention and focus frequently. You might “need to be needed” or “need to be liked”. It’s not selfish to schedule some uninterrupted time to work on your own tasks. It’s akin to being in a meeting when you wouldn’t expect others to interrupt you for routine questions.

To counter this belief, train your staff that a closed door means “I can’t talk to you now.” Also, build some predictable “open door” time into your schedule, when they are welcome to pop in. Finally, train them to save non-urgent questions for regularly scheduled meetings, such as weekly one-on-ones or weekly team meetings.

5. “It’s easier to do it myself.”

Yes. You can do many tasks faster than your employees because of your experience and knowledge. However, when you do this, you deprive employees of the experience. You also deprive them of the lessons they could learn from making a few mistakes along the way. Either you’re showing off or you are falling victim to a notion of false expediency.

Making time to delegate the task with clear expectations and a reasonable timeline will save you time in the long run as you build up employees’ independence and competence. Over time, you’ll be able to delegate more and more to them, saving you more time in the long run.

As a leader, your main job is to facilitate the work of others based on strategic priority. Your job is not to mire yourself down in the task work of others. When you catch yourself with these beliefs, you’ll find that they are really about you wanting to show that you can produce the work like a sole contributor. Great. But that’s not your job anymore. Time to pass on your know-how to your direct reports and free up your time to lead.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with business leaders who want to increase productivity and retention by shifting their focus from daily tactical work to the strategic work required to move their companies forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

The Hidden Meanings Behind Those Pesky Interruptions by Employees

“Hey, Boss. Do you have a minute?” How many times a week do you hear that? It can be frustrating to hear those words when you

interruptionswere finally getting some momentum on your own projects. What can you do to maximize your own time at work by minimizing interruptions by your direct reports? First, you need to understand the hidden meanings behind them.

Hidden Meaning 1: “Should I even start this?”

Employees will interrupt you to get clarification about what you really expect them to do. This occurs when employees are unclear about your expectations or when you have a habit of jumping in to do their work (aka “micromanaging”). To counter this, get clear about how your time is best spent and which tasks and meetings could be delegated to direct reports. Also, clarify your expectations by defining the scope of work you assign them, along with deadlines and check-in points.

Hidden Meaning 2: “I’m not touching this with a 10-ft. pole.”

When things “blow up”, employees will interrupt you to solve the problem they see as “above their pay grades”. Often, you can avoid these types of “fires”. Minimize this type of interruption by exploring “why” things went sideways to begin with by using The 5 Whys technique. Once you know the root cause of the “fire”, you can put things in place to avoid these types of events and the interruptions that result.

Hidden Meaning 3: “This isn’t working the way it should.”

When processes aren’t working consistently to produce the expected results, you’re likely to get an unannounced knock at your door with a question about how to do something. Decrease interruptions due to process questions by spending time up front to (1) clarify ownership of processes, (2) automate what you can, and (3) fix the root causes of backlogs, poor hand-offs, and errors.

Hidden Meaning 4: “When are you gonna be around to discuss this?”

Your employees will interrupt you haphazardly if they are uncertain of your availability for questions and consultations. It pays to create predictable and consistent opportunities for them to give and receive information they need to do their jobs. To do this, ensure you have scheduled, timely meetings with direct reports – in groups or individually — for reporting back, checking up, and checking in. This allows you to stay abreast of what’s going on and encourages employees to save their updates for your next scheduled meeting.

Daily huddles and meetings on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis can cover the strategic and tactical information that needs to be shared. Additionally, you can schedule a couple hours throughout the week where your door is open for employees to talk with you for up to 15 minutes about the inevitable “things that come up”.

Instead of getting annoyed at interruptions, take the time to assess the reasons for the interruptions. Then, create the clarifications, processes, and meetings that give your direct reports the access to you that is warranted and productive.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with business leaders who want to increase productivity and retention by shifting their focus from daily tactical work to the strategic work required to move their companies forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Employee Engagement: Ready to Call Off the Wedding?

employee engagementTired of hearing about employee engagement or ready to give up? For some companies, it is an elusive concept that’s been around for decades. So, it’s telling that companies are still struggling to figure out the magic formula for attaining employee engagement nirvana.

Perhaps the quest to attain the optimal level of employee engagement comes from the fact that “engagement”, “motivation”, and “satisfaction”, while related, are confused as the same phenomenon. I think of these terms like this: engagement is how committed employees are to taking action that will benefit the company; motivation is the reason someone will put forth effort and take action to benefit themselves or the company, and satisfaction is how employees “feel” about everything once it’s all said and done.

Engagement, therefore, is intentional, committed action taken by employees to contribute, which is the opposite of being on auto-pilot. It happens when employees are so involved in their work that they take ownership in what the company produces because the see big picture for how they fit into the whole.

It all starts with respecting employees for their talents and contributions. While there may be generational differences, every employees wants to be respected and know that their contributions to the overall endeavor count for something.

With that, Liz Stincelli, DM. of Stincelli Advisors suggests these 4 actions you can take to create greater employee engagement.

  1. Be seen so each direct report knows you as a real person. Know at least basic personal information about your employees and retain appropriate workplace boundaries in place. “I do care about you, but we’re not friends – I’m still your boss”.
  2. Communicate the big picture. Give employees information about company goals and how they contribute to achieving them, basic financials, and what’s on the horizon for the company and the industry.
  3. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Find out what’s going on at the employee issue and follow up on what you did with the information you gathered.
  4. Invest in employee professional development. Bolster their skills to further company goals and to build their capacity for future career development.

If your company is still struggling to achieve greater employee engagement, don’t call off the wedding or give back the ring yet. Be mindful that you might need to adjust the way you operate to move closer to your employee engagement goals.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their companies by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

 

Liz StincelliThis post was inspired by a conversation with Dr. Liz Stincelli. Find out more about her and her company Stincelli Advisors:
Her blog site: stincelliadvisors.com
Twitter: @infinitestin
Google+: Elizabeth Stincelli
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stincelliadvisors
LinkedIn: Liz Stincelli

8 Reasons Your Employees Want to Break Up With You

February is the month we think about our relationships. While you might not go so far as to call them your “valentines”, do you have good relationships with your employees? Having good relationships with your employees increases productivity and retention of top talent. Leaders who don’t foster good relationships with employees will find themselves rejected and abandoned like a jilted lover.

Beware of these eight reasons your employees might want to break up with you:

1. You’re Incompetent. Employees want a competent leader who knows how to communicate, sets clear expectations, addresses all relevant issues (even tough ones), gets results, and holds everyone accountable. In short, they want a good leader. If you’re not at least average in these areas, you’ll see higher than average employee turnover rates for your industry as employees say, “It’s just not working for me anymore.”

2. You’re Not Credible. (Note: there is a difference between lacking credibility and being “incredible”.) Employees want a leader who says what she means, means what she says, and does what she says she’s going to do. These admired leaders have character and integrity. Employees notice when a leader’s conduct is inconsistent with her stated values and when promises are broken. In that situation, employees will dump you for someone else as soon as something better comes along.

3. You’re Not Personally Committed to the Organization’s Mission and Goals. While you ask your direct reports and other employees to give their “all” at work, do you put the effort and time into achieving your company’s goals? As a role model in your organization, you of all people should be working hard. To do this, use your time wisely and put in the planning it takes to fulfill the requirements of your leadership role. Otherwise, your employees will break it off saying, “I’m not saying it’s you; but I know it’s not me.”

4. You’re Rigid or Stuck. While “resilience” might be an over-used, trendy buzzword right now, your employees don’t want to be involved with a boss who can’t roll with the punches. Employees want a leader who can bounce back from failure, who can cope with the disappointment of an unrealized goal, while renewing their sense of hope and re-energizing them as the company gets back on track. If you can’t bounce back when you fall, your employees will break it off and find someone else they can admire on this score.

5. You Are Focused On Your Own Needs First. Do you seek personal ambition over putting the needs of the company first? When you egocentrically put your own desires and ambitions first, your employees understand that you are simply using them to enhance your own status instead of the company’s brand. Employees provide better value to customers when they feel they matter and their leaders care about their well-being. If you’re a “user”, employees will kick you (and your company) to the curb.

6. You Are Not Committed to Employee Success. Do you think your employees should just know what to do with little guidance from you? Employees want to know how they can improve. A good leader understands that talent must be continually developed for the good of the organization. Leaders who don’t, lose bench strength quickly. Without giving specific and frequent feedback and without supporting employees to gain skills, you might just miss out on some of the best employees you could have ever asked for. They will be the “ones that got away”.

7. You Don’t Admit to Your Mistakes. Can you admit when you are wrong? Or do you stubbornly insist on being right? Leaders who admit to their mistakes show humility and courage and emphasize that taking risks may not always lead to the ideal outcome – and that’s OK because you learn something along the way. Leaders who admit their mistakes teach employees that failure is a part of trying and can be more helpful than success.

8. You Need to be Liked Instead of Respected. This is the romantic equivalent of being co-dependent. These leaders curry favor with employees in the hopes of making a friend at the expense of their duty to do what’s right for the company. Of course, it’s ideal to be both liked and respected, but if you have to choose one, choose respect. Employees will see you as unbiased and consistent (fair) if you do. And you’ll respect yourself in the morning.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: www.bethstrathman.com.

Three Leadership Behaviors That Increase Employees’ Happiness (and Productivity) at Work

collaborateA happy employee is a productive employee. Studies have shown that happy people are more successful generally, experience increased employee satisfaction, earn higher pay throughout a career, and exhibit enhanced job performance.

Specifically, research shows that compared to unhappy employees, those who are happy at work are:
· Twice as productive;
· Stay 5 times longer with an employer;
· Are 6 times more energized;
· Use 10 times less sick leave;
· Are helpful to colleagues 33% more of the time;
· Achieving 31% more of their goals;
· Are 36% more motivated than their colleagues; and
· Raise performance issues 46% more often.

Sounds like a manager’s dream! So, what must leaders do to create “happier” (and more productive) workplaces? The answers are simple and not necessarily easy.

1. Help Employees Use Their Strengths; Don’t Focus on Weaknesses.

To create happier places for employees, help them focus on their strengths. (This is good advice for yourself, too.) Now, this seems a bit odd, since you’ve probably believed that bolstering weaknesses would make people “better”. Although it might be counterintuitive, the research is clear.

In a psychological study, bowlers were divided into groups. After receiving instructions, the groups practiced bowling. Some groups were videotaped; others were not. Of those videotaped, one group saw only positive things they did, and the other group saw only the negative. Those who saw only the positive improved significantly over the rest of the bowlers (videotaped and not). Among the most unskilled bowlers, those who saw only the positive videotapes improved significantly more than anyone (Cooperrider, 1990). (Having second thoughts on how your company does performance evaluations and give feedback in general?)

What do I mean by a “strength”? I don’t mean simply the activities and skills employees are good at, although that’s a start. Marcus Buckingham takes “strengths” a step further when he says that strengths are the things that you are good at AND in which you lose yourself while doing them AND that energize you.

Have you ever been working on a project at home or work and looked up to see that much more time had passed than you realized? Maybe you spent an evening dancing with friends, writing, painting, listening to others tell their stories . . . if the time passed quickly and you felt energized after doing it, you were in what is known as “flow”, and that activity could be a strength for you.

Once an employee determines her strengths, help her find ways to do more work activities that them. Build more of activities that use her strengths into the job or encourage an employee to apply for another job in your company that could incorporate more of her strengths.

So, while maintaining an adequate level of competence at something that isn’t a strength is usually required on the job, employees are better served (and by extrapolation so is the company) if they can do more work activities that showcase their strengths and get more feedback about how they are doing with respect to their strengths.

2. Create a Sense of Belonging and Contribution

So, what type of work environment leads to happiness at work? According to the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, happy employees reported a stronger correlation with the 5 C’s:

Contribution– feeling your efforts make a difference
Conviction – short-term motivation
Culture– feeling you “fit in” at work
Commitment – long-term engagement
Confidence – belief in your own abilities

Thus, if employees do not perceive they are making a difference, fit in, or are having impact, chances are they are not happy. And if they are not happy, they are not as productive as they could be. These themes are echoed in the Gallup Organization’s Q12.

One way to increase employees’ sense of belonging and contribution is to allow them to use their strengths as noted above, which allows employees the opportunity to do what they do best, let’s employees know you care about them as a person, gives you the opportunity to talk about their progress at work, and lets them know you care about their skill and career development.

3. Cross the Losada Line

The final tip to creating more happiness at work rests squarely on the shoulders of those in charge. To increase happiness and productivity at work, count the ratio of positive to negative interaction you have with your employees. According to research by Marcial Losada, supervisors need to have more positive interactions than negative ones with their employees. Specifically, a phenomenon known as the “Losada Line” says you must have 2.9013 positive interactions to every negative interaction you’re your employees to make your team moderately successful. To lead teams to their very best work, you need to raise that ratio to 6 to 1! (Losada, 1999). How many positive interactions or communications have you given your employees or received from your manager lately? See. Not as easy as it sounds . . . especially if your motto has been “no news is good news”.

What small thing can you start doing today that will increase your employees’ happiness at work?

UPDATE: The validity of Losada’s research was challenged in 2013 by Nick Brown, a graduate student in applied positive psychology, who maintains there is no evidence for the ratio found by Losada.

3 Tips to Increase Your Personal Productivity

personal productivity, time managementYou’re smart. You’re hard-working. You have the necessary resources and good employees. Yet, you feel as though you get nothing done during most days. Most of the time, you feel off-balance and pulled in a hundred different directions. You spend to much time feeling unfocused and wondering why you can’t get the “important” stuff done.

In short, you feel overworked and “unproductive”.

When looking to increase employee productivity, many leaders often look at the structure of their business, employee performance and engagement, and work processes. And these are excellent places to tweak to make sure the business is hitting on all cylinders. However, when it comes to your own personal productivity, it’s something you probably weren’t taught in school.

You might underestimate the impact you have on their employees, not realizing that your energy, habits, values, and focus radiate throughout your company or area of responsibility. For this reason, any productivity gains from improving company-wide work processes and employee performance can be hampered if you haven’t examined your own ability to be more personally productive.

Being personally productive doesn’t mean you need to be pitching in and doing the work that is assigned to and more appropriately done by others. Rather, it requires you to do the work appropriate to your leadership role effectively.

To maximize your personal productivity, start with these three ideas:

1. Design your calendar to reflect business priorities.

Your company’s current goals come from the strategic plan. In turn, your calendar must reflect these strategic goals and priorities. For example, if your company is aiming to increase revenues by 10% over at 24-month period, you must schedule the appropriate weekly activities that ensure you are doing your part to achieve that goal.

Examples of these types of valuable tasks might be (1)  recognizing employees who are going the extra mile toward the company goals; (2) meeting with your direct reports to monitor progress toward the overall goal; or (3) working with a team to help them determine how work processes can be improved to help achieve the goal.

It seems like such a simple concept. Yet it is easy to get caught up in the daily swirl of “administrivia” and lose track of the next steps you must do or follow up on to keep the larger goals and initiatives moving forward.

And you really probably need to concentrate on these goal-driven activities about 20% of the time you spend at work (or about 10-12 hours per week). The remaining hours of your weekly calendar will reflect the routine activities that normally consume your time – meetings, phone calls, email, keeping up on industry trends, reviewing financials, board business, meeting with key customers, processing through the information that lands in your office, etc.

2. Create a personal workflow system.

Make sure you are comfortable with the way information flows through your office. Then, consciously and intentionally dedicate time everyday to process through the information coming into your office via your physical inbox, phone, email, and other systems in use within your company. Again, the goals from your strategic plan help you prioritize the items to do or delegate to others.

3. Delegate more.

And speaking of delegation . . . .  Because your aim is to be productive rather than merely busy, make sure you are doing the work that is appropriate to you goal. Other tasks can be delegated to others. Be sure to fully utilize your administrative assistant and direct reports. Delegating to others will free up time for you and give opportunities to develop through delegated tasks to those who have the skills and expertise. Delegate work if it is not critical that you perform it and if it’s work that is appropriate in responsibility level for the position to which you want to delegate it.

You will find that putting these simple steps in place keeps your mind clearer and more focused and reduces stress by creating a framework that helps keep your most important work moving forward and in perspective.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.