It’s amazing how life and business is a cycle. I pulled this from the archives. I wrote this ten years ago, but I could have written it this morning. See if there’s something in here that resonates with you…
I recently read the McKinsey & Company Report on Global Leadership in which they site the two primary concerns for global executives: 1 - The Economy; it's recovery has not been as strong and doesn't look as if it will be as strong as anticipated six months ago, and 2 - Retaining Employees; how to retain talent?
The economy continues to challenge many, torment some, and benefit others. Much of it has to do with which industry you are in; much has to do with your business management skills. However, retaining talent, affects all industries and like other tough business issues, it doesn't have an easy short-term fix.
Sure, we can throw more money and benefits at our employees and hope our "bribes" will work. But then we're confronted with overpaid, unhappy employees, and unproductive employees. The key to retaining good people, is to have a work environment that is so enjoyable, energizing, challenging, productive, profitable, and fun for them, that our employees would rather spend time at work than many other places. Sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky doesn't it?
Well, it's really not. You see, this is the same type of problem many volunteer organizations face. How do they get and retain volunteers when they can't pay them? The successful organizations have a very clear purpose and ensure that the time their volunteers spend supporting their mission is meaningful, productive, and enjoyable. Why else would people choose to give their time and energy to this organization instead of another - or to their families?
In the business world, we have to provide the same clarity of purpose for each employee who works with us. We have to ensure that each employee has the opportunity to support us in fulfilling our mission in a way that is meaningful, productive, and enjoyable for him or her. If we can do this, the increased profits we realize from the higher quality work provided by our employees will allow us to reward them for their efforts. If we don't, we'll be faced with unhappy, unmotivated, and potentially overpaid employees whose less-than-stellar work costs us money.
The choice is ours. Either we start now to create an environment that draws employees in, or we maintain one that has employees watching the clock and bolting for the door at the end of the day. The choice is ours:
Retain and Grow or Retain and Pay.
Copyright MMXIV Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
On my return flight from a recent speaking engagement, I started talking with the gentleman sitting next to me as both he and I worked on our laptops. Roger was a senior level manager for a 250 person, defense contractor and was traveling to meet with his company's leadership team for an off-site management and strategy meeting. Roger was finishing his notes on what he wanted to present to help create greater clarity, energy, and productivity throughout the employee population. When I shared with Roger what my company did, he asked if I'd mind critiquing his ideas. (Poor Roger, he had no idea who he'd just asked to critique his ideas!)
As I read through Roger's ideas, his intent was solid. His passion for helping the employees was clear. His acknowledgement of current and prior management missteps and failures was honest and bare. However, Roger's plan for improvements was flawed by a common leadership over-sight: Roger wasn't using the right terms consistently to enhance clarity, consistency, and action. It became quickly evident, Roger didn't know the strategic planning terms he was using. He was making the same mistake many in leadership make, they believe they know how to use the terms because they've heard them so many times before, but they've not really used them as a management and leadership tool before. As a result, like many others, Roger was setting himself, the leadership team, the employees, and company up for embarrassment, confusion, mixed messaging, and frustration.
Roger had outlined the very real need to clarify the company's vision for the employees. The employees needed to know what the leadership team expected. That's true and important. However, Roger's company doesn't have a clear vision. Instead they've historically focused on "winning contracts." To provide clarity, Roger outlined their vision as: Win Contracts; Double in Size; Implement Well; Strive to be the Respected Industry Leader; Integrity; Teamwork; Profitability. Those are nice ideas, but Roger just blurred goals with values. A vision is the big goal your organization is trying to achieve; how you behave are your values. Roger had, in fact, suggested a vision: Double in Size, he had just buried it among everything else.
The mission statement Roger included in his notes was clear and without fluff. In one sentence, it outlined broadly what his company did; why it existed. Perfect.
Roger didn't have values specified. As noted above, he had included some basic expected behaviors (i.e., values) in his proposed vision. I explained to Roger, that he may want to consider suggesting a handful of behaviors (actions) expected of everyone to help them and all the employees move towards their vision. Things such as: Share Knowledge, Take Risks Wisely, Communicate Clearly and Often, Take Ownership of Problems, Consider the Big Picture Impact, etc are sample values that he and his peers could consider as these behaviors would cause employees to think, learn, share, and grow -- all of which align with an organization that wants to grow.
Roger had listed strategies he believed the company needed to pursue, yet, like many managers when outlining strategies, the list of strategies Roger had created was a mix of organizational development changes needed, R&D actions, numerous administrative tactical actions, and a few long-term goals. When I asked Roger to clarify the difference between strategies and goals, he looked at me, opened his mouth, closed his mouth, then said, "I don't know." Strategies are big picture themes of HOW you're going to move forward. So, ideas such as: Improve Employee Engagement, Increase R&D Production, Reduce Waste and Inefficiencies are big picture ideas. To implement them, you need specific actions. You need goals.
Strategic Goals are the big chunky projects your organization needs to take on (over and above current operations) to move your organization towards your vision. Goals have due dates, specific deliverables, and are comprised of numerous sub-goals and projects. The sub-goals and projects are what are divvied out to staff to help move things forward.
As I walked Roger through the terms, how to use them, and how to tighten up his plan, his eyes lit up. "Thanks. That could have been really confusing to everyone and I wouldn't have been able to defend or clarify my ideas. You really do need to know what you're talking about to be an effective leader." Yes you do.
Copyright MMXIV Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
Many organizations and individuals get into trouble attempting Stage 2 Leadership when the time isn’t right. The problems arise because, more often than not, organizations promote the most technically proficient doers into supervisory, team leader, or management roles. However, a great Stage 1 Leader doesn't necessarily make a great Stage 2 Leader.
The skills needed to be an effective supervisor, team leader, or manager are vastly different than those needed to be a proficient doer. Doers are the front-line, hands-on, do-the-work people. They’re usually responsible for their individual output and for their specific, defined responsibilities. Effective doers utilize systems and processes to help them do their jobs, but they still do the work themselves. Supervisors and managers, on the other hand, use the systems and processes to leverage and coordinate the work of many doers and thereby enhance the individual team member and unified team efforts. Supervisors and managers also are responsible for ensuring the work of the various doers is getting done on time, within budget, and in accordance with quality and customer specifications. Managers drive productivity and efficiency. Managers are responsible for ensuring the organization’s resources (i.e., people, materials, facilities, money, etc.) are being utilized most effectively, here and now, to meet the organization’s near-term goals and objectives.
Promote with Purpose
Even though great doers often lack the interpersonal, communication, multi-tasking, and organization skills needed by effective supervisors and managers, upper management continues to promote the most technically competent doers because they’re the best! Right? As Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman state sarcastically in First, Break All The Rules, "We still think that the most creative way to reward excellence in a role is to promote the person out of it."
If we want great people in management, does it make sense to promote the best doer? Not necessarily.
If you'd like to learn more about this grab my book:
Something Needs to Change Around Here:
The Five Stages to Leveraging Your Leadership.
I’ve pulled another article from the archives as I believe it’s something we as business owners need to keep in mind….
I had breakfast this morning with one of my sisters at a nice little restaurant in Denver. The waitress sat us immediately, and then started listing all of the house specialty coffees. When my sister and I both said, "Just plain coffee please." The waitress laughed, and said, "I like it plain too, but I've got to tell every customer the specials." She then took our orders, and within minutes brought our coffee, food, and casually, yet, efficiently checked up on us during our meal. As we were leaving, I said to my sister, "She's really very good." My sister's reply was, "Yes, too bad she won't last here."
Her comment struck me because it was so true. This waitress probably wouldn't last at the restaurant. Her confidence, positive attitude, and efficiency were so apparent, if I had a staff position open in Denver, I would have talked to her about interviewing; she made that much of an impact. I'm sure other customers who are business owners or managers will pick up on her attitude and appeal too. Someone's sure to steal her away.
With companies downsizing right and left, organizations are struggling to maintain productivity with a smaller and smaller workforce.
The only way to help assure success, is to have staff on hand with the right attitude. People with positive attitudes tend to get more done in less time, provide better service to customers, and make fewer mistakes. With strategic interviewing, finding the right person with the right attitude is somewhat achievable. Training them to learn new skills is relatively easy. However, keeping them once you've hired them is your biggest challenge.
Just as I noticed this waitress' potential, other employers seeking "good help" will notice the potential in some of your staff - and may well try to steal them away. To keep them, the value of staying with your organization has got to out-weigh their perceived value of going elsewhere. So what's of value to them? What do you offer in isolation or as a "packaged deal" to make the scales tip in your favor? Is it the money, learning opportunities, camaraderie, co-workers, benefits, advancement potential, job security, flexible hours, work/life balance programs, closeness to home, support, being valued as a person, nice physical work environment, or something else?
Think about your employees for a minute, especially those with great attitudes.
Ask yourself, "If they were teased with an offer from another firm, what do we offer that would make them want to stay here?" If you have a hard time answering that question, I can guarantee your employees will find it relatively easy to move on. Why? Because whoever has made them the unsolicited job offer, WANTS them. That alone is incredibly appealing. In addition, the new organization, may offer some of the benefits listed above to add further appeal.
If your employees don't feel wanted, valued, and supported with at least a few benefits (and notice not all of the benefits listed above cost money), you're in a vulnerable position.
To help maintain your organization's productivity and viability, value your employees - and treasure those with great attitudes.
Copyright MMII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
Here’s an article pulled from the archives. It’s sad to say, but what I wrote in 2002 is still right on target – if not more so – today.
“At this moment, America’s greatest economic need is higher ethical standards, enforced by strict laws and upheld by responsible business leaders,” (President) Bush said in a speech delivered to the Association for Better New York. “In the end, there is no capitalism without conscience, no wealth without character.” (July 9, 2002)
Who ever thought the Golden Rule would come back to bite so many?
Who ever thought we’d need legislation to enforce its theme? Who ever thought a lack of ethics could rock the global economy? Not only have the greedy actions of a select few business “leaders” destroyed companies and driven down the financial markets, but they’ve also caused tens of thousands of innocent, hard-working people to lose their jobs; lose retirement fund security; and lose confidence in the economy, in businesses, and in their futures.
According to the September 16, 2002 edition of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a recent survey of nearly 13,000 employees by Watson Wyatt found that worker trust and confidence in senior management has fallen over the past two years and, unless reversed, presents a major threat to future corporate competitiveness.
According to Linda Trevino a professor at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business Administration, “research shows that employees take their ethical cues from their companies’ leaders”. Not surprising, many organizations are planning to install “Ethics Officers” to monitor the ethical behaviors of not only senior staff, but also of all employees in an attempt to curb this downward spiral in confidence and financial security.
Really, it all comes back to the basics.
As a leader, you are by default a role model. Whether you like it or not, that responsibility comes with the title. As a leader, it is imperative that you do your job and work for your organization’s success. However, you also must personally exhibit day in and day out, the types of behaviors and attitudes you expect of your employees. Your employees follow your lead – or they follow what you allow. If you exhibit true excitement about your customers, products, and organization – your employees see it, feel it, and can be infused up with that same excitement. If you exhibit greed or deceit – your employees see it too, and they may be overcome with disdain for those behaviors. Worse yet, if they see greed, they may mimic those same behaviors. If they distance themselves from their jobs or the organization – or worse, mimic unethical behaviors - your poor behaviors are now being duplicated throughout your organization. So don't be surprised when you see productivity numbers drop, employee turnover costs jump, and customer dissatisfaction skyrocket. They're following your lead. They're following your version of the Golden Rule.
Copyright MMII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
“When you’re a leader, not everyone will like you” is advice I recently shared with a manager. This manager is not a newbie manager. She’s not inexperienced or passive by nature. Yet, in dealing with a challenging employee situation, she was struggling with doing what needed to be done for fear of others labeling her as “mean” or “uncaring.” I shared with her what I’d previously outlined in my book Don’t Let ‘Em Treat You Like A Girl – A Woman’s Guide to Leadership Success.
Not Everyone Will Like You
The most important leadership lesson I ever learned from my dad - I learned at his funeral.
My dad died of colon cancer in 1992. Four days before he died, I had the opportunity to spend several hours alone with him. During that time, he shared stories of his childhood and stories of other good and bad times in his life. He also shared something that I had never known. Each fall, Dad would personally drive excess clothing and goods from the St. Vincent de Paul store in my hometown in Wisconsin to an Indian reservation in South Dakota. The people on the reservation would then tear up the clothing, weave the cloth into rugs and other products, and sell their work.
In sharing this story, Dad described how the manager from a neighboring St. Vincent de Paul store would not readily cooperate in providing excess clothing nor would he readily contribute money for gas. This man's behavior frustrated my father. The manager stonewalled my dad every year because he didn't believe donating the excess clothing would help more than a direct infusion of cash. However, Dad wanted to help the people on the reservation gain access to needed supplies so they could produce their own products and make their own money, not simply hand money to them. He believed it would help them maintain their dignity, creativity, and self-reliance.
At Dad's funeral, a man approached me to convey his condolences (or so I thought). He shook my hand and introduced himself. His name meant nothing, until he said where he worked and how he had known my father. Then it hit me. This was the man my dad had talked about just four days before! This was the manager from the other St. Vincent DePaul store! After introducing himself the man said, "You know, I never liked your dad." (I tried my best not to interrupt him to ask if he'd ever heard of Funeral Etiquette 101 - i.e., Don't insult the deceased.) But then he continued, "But your father was a good business man. He was a leader."
Those words hit home. This man's need to convey his respect for my dad overrode his personal dislike of my dad.
His comment changed my life and how I viewed my professional responsibilities. From that moment on, I no longer felt the need to please everyone or have everyone like me. Because my dad had stayed true to his beliefs, he had earned this man's respect.
Because of this new awareness, I finally realized that just as I had never liked everyone in school, not everyone had liked me. At work, I didn't like everyone, so why should I care if everyone liked me? I didn't want to be friends with all of the people at work. I simply wanted to work well with them. However, until then, I had run myself ragged trying to please everyone. I had tried to keep them happy and had tried to make sure they were happy with me. No more.
I finally realized I could now focus on doing what I needed to do to the best of my ability and I could forget the rest. Not everyone would like me no matter what I did, because not everyone would share my views. All I could do was do what I believed was right and potentially earn the respect of others. Regardless of the outcome, I'd be comfortable with myself.
Be comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like you at work, in your neighborhood, and in your community activities; they never will.
Jesus, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa weren't liked by everyone. So how can you and I possibly expect to attain 100% adoration? If we try to achieve that, we'll bend and flex so much no one will know what we stand for - including ourselves. Be true to yourself and your values. It’s important that YOU like yourself and what you stand for. When that happens, others will stand with you.
I, of course, love leadership training. However, I find it even more valuable when there's an easy way to double your training take aways without additional cost.
At the conclusion of a leadership training project with a client recently, one of the senior managers said, "In order to keep this learning going, I'm going to pull my notes once a quarter just to see what else I should be working on." I wasn't quite sure what he meant by his comment. When I asked for a clarification, he provided a brilliant insight for me, "Liz, quite often I find that some of the notes I make during training sessions or a conference workshop only make sense to me. They're not even related to the topic you or the speaker may be making at that time, but something you just said, spurred an idea in me that caused me to jot a note to myself. Later, when I look back through my notes, I often find good ideas for new techniques or things I could or should do to improve my outlook, productivity, or management skills -- and they may have nothing to do with what you just presented."
His insight resonated with me as I often find myself doing the same thing. If the training or presentation support materials are developed well, there is often little need for me to take many supplemental topic-specific notes. However, as I listen to the presenter and consider how to apply what the presenter is sharing, I invariably jot very specific notes relevant to my company, my team, and myself. These notes are typically specific to one of our projects, clients, or to a team member's task. Often these non-speaker/trainer specific notes are hidden gold and not only increase productivity, but obviously double the value of the training and presentations I attend.
Why not pull out your old training and workshop notes?
What gold can you mine and apply as you double your training take aways?
Copyright MMXIII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
Leaders Need to Learn to Think so They Can Speak the Truth ... Clearly
Why are so many supervisors, managers, and even some big dogs with the snazzy three letter titles: CEO, CIO, EVP, etc., incapable of communicating clearly? Why are so many managers unable to provide honest commentary on work performance without belittling the employees, skirting the real issues, or confusing the employees with nebulous, non-specific examples? Why do so many managers suck at speaking the truth in ways that will help and not hurt employees?
I'm fortunate to work with incredibly bright, creative, and driven business owners and leaders. Yet, they're often quick to tell me, they don't know how to provide clear feedback that's helpful. And they're right. They don't. I've observed far too many staff meetings and planning sessions in which the leaders ramble on about the teams' failings, lecture individual employees, or otherwise berate the teams on theoretical, non-specific changes needed. Are their comments interesting? Somewhat. Helpful? No. Demoralizing? Absolutely. So why do leaders continue to do it? From my perspective: it's habit; it's quick; and most importantly, it doesn't require any work or change by the leaders. The leaders spew and the employees are expected to react.
Here's the real problem though, in these situations, the leaders aren't viewing their responsibilities correctly. The leaders in these circumstances view the employees as pawns, workers, doers or some other beings that work to produce the organization's services or widgets. The leaders lead; the doers do. That's fine in theory, but if leaders truly want doers to "do" at a higher level, the leaders need to learn to lead at higher levels as well. And, that takes time, work, and changes on the part of the leaders first. And that requires the leaders to think, to analyze their current situations, to assess the various drivers of the problems, to assess their roles in creating the situations and drivers, and to assess the teams' actions, reactions, and needed new actions.
After all of that thinking, the leaders need to develop clear ways to communicate those thoughts to their teams. It means the leaders will have thought, specifically, about what they want and need to say so it's truly helpful to their team members. They're no longer just spewing ideas and words and expecting the team members to form some meaning from them. They no longer practice the behavior of: You need to figure out what I'm trying to say because I haven't taken the time to get my thoughts and words straight before I open my mouth. Leaders who choose to lead at a higher level will take the time to think and identify: What does my team need to hear from me to help them understand, learn, grow, and move themselves and this organization forward? Then, how can I say it with specifics, examples, data, analogies, visuals, or some other means to make sure everyone understands? What can I do to communicate more clearly?
What these leaders are trying to communicate to their team members is the truth. What these leaders are trying to communicate to their team members needs to be said. What these leaders are trying to communicate will help the employees enhance their performance, improve services to customers, and move the organization. But how they're saying it sucks. So what needs to change in organizations? Leaders need to learn to think more often before they speak. So when they do speak to provide feedback, what they ultimately say is thoughtful, truthful, intentional, helpful, and clear.
Copyright MMXII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
Having and following a consistent sales process allows you to easily move through the process as you transition leads to prospects to satisfied customers. Here's a basic 10 Step Process I've shared with my clients.
Clarify Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) -
You need to be able to quickly, clearly and confidently answer the question: "Why should I do business with you?" What's different or special about you versus every other company out there that does basically the same thing as you? Whatever that difference is, that's your Unique Selling Point or Proposition. It's what sets you apart from everyone else. It doesn't need to be earth-shattering, just different enough so your targeted prospective customers understand it and want it. For my strategic planning clients, my company's USP is: We help you workable one page strategic plans that are not open to interpretation. That may not be the sexiest of statements, but my busy clients don't want more than one page and they want whatever the plan is to be clear and not open to interpretation.
Communicate Your Message -
All of your messaging (paid marketing pieces & unpaid - i.e., word-of-mouth promotions) need to align, reinforce your USP, and speak to your targeted Tier 1 & 2 Customers. You want to ensure all of your marketing efforts are leveraging one another.
Qualify Leads to Identify Prospects -
Be comfortable in that not everyone is a good fit for you, nor are you a good fit for every potential customer. Identify (Tier 1 -4) your prospects and target your paid marketing to your Tier 1 & 2 prospects, those that will help you take your business where you want it to go.
Approach Targeted Prospects -
Once you are clear on your prospecting Tiers, approach your prospective customers in ways that most effectively resonate with them. Tier 1s may respond best to professional referrals from a colleague, Tier 2s may respond to a quick, focused telephone call, etc. Do your homework and connect in the mode that's right for the prospect.
Assess Needs -
When you have the opportunity to speak with your prospect, use your Active Listening & Questioning Skills to identify triggering comments (i.e., opportunities) to help your prospects & customers with one of your products or services that could help them with the most impact.
Offer Benefits & Solutions -
Share the benefits your customers can realize with your products or services more so than detailing your products' or services' features. No prospective new customer for a bank wakes up and says, "I want a home equity loan!" But, people do say, "I want a finished basement" or "I need to repair my roof!" People want the benefits of products and services provide.
Address Questions & Objections -
There's no need to become defensive when the prospect raises questions or objections. These are simply opportunities to listen to their push-back, to provide more information, or to restate the benefits in a more clear manner. Also, keep in mind, NO" often means "Not now."
Close the Deal -
When you sense their movement to accept your offer, close the deal by simply confirming their acceptance and stating you'll take care of the paperwork so they can realize the benefits they want sooner rather than later.
Provide the Service or Product -
Deliver. Do what you do exceptionally well.
Follow-Up to Get Referrals & Testimonials -
When the project is done or the service is completed, circle back to ensure the customer is still satisfied. If so, ask them to specify what they appreciate most about working with you and your products or services. Then, ask them to introduce you to others who they believe would also appreciate what you do. If they like what you did, why keep it a secret?
When a change occurs (i.e., new software program, new employee, new product or process, etc) it brings positives and negatives. Often an employee's fears of change (loss of control, fear of failure, fear of letting go, etc) will kick in and the employee will resist the change out of fear.
Because of this, it's important to clarify what specific processes, behaviors, etc will need to change or end to allow the organizational change to occur. However, it's also important to clarify what processes, services, and behaviors you do not want to see changed or to end (i.e., personalized customer service and interactions, leading-edge innovation, etc.)
When an organization undergoes a major change (i.e., introduces a new product or service line, or upgrades a software program), according to Dr. Price Pritchett, roughly 20% of the employee population immediately gets on board & supports the change; roughly 50% are benchsitters as they do not yet have enough information to determine if they will support it or resist the change; and roughly 30% will actively resist the change. Too often, as managers, we spend our time trying to convince the resistant, vocal 30% to change their minds, when we should be spending more time & providing more information to the 50% to help them get on board!
We have a greater chance of converting some of the 50% to support our efforts if we can simply provide them with the information they need to help them understand why and how to help us. Don't waste time battling the resistors. Focus on educating and clarifying the change for the undecided. They'll appreciate the time and attention you spent with them helping them to understand the change better. You'll gain greater commitment from them and you'll have a better informed and educated team in the end!