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Abused and Confused

Remember Blockbuster? 

That video store that charged you a late fee if you returned the movie after a “magical” timeline? 

What about the customer service at the post office in the 1990s? The term “Customer Service” and "Post Office” never existed in the same sentence unless you included the term “lack of.”

Blockbuster had a monopoly on the video rental game. Their customer service was horrendous. I remember arguing with a Blockbuster employee because he wouldn’t take off a “rewind fee” for a DVD I returned (Yes a DVD. The employee was reciting policy and refused to see the idiocy of his argument).

Then Netflix came along, gained traction, and all of a sudden Blockbuster does away with late fees (And retrained employees on how DVDs work).

Then there is the post office. They couldn't care less how long you waited in line. When you finally got to a human being they made you feel like waiting in line for 40 mins was that just the beginning. Now with the surge of alternative choices like Fed Ex, UPS, DHL, and email, the postal service isn’t only trying to make your experience enjoyable, but they treat you like a human being as well.

Too little, too late.

Blockbuster doesn’t exist. They were reduced to a blue rental box in Save-A-Lot.

The postal service is a dwindling entity. Some areas reduced Saturday deliveries while increasing the price of a stamp. 

These are great examples of organizations that let the lack of competition dictate how they treat customers and mistake their loyalty for a dollar sign. As soon as customers feel abused, they will jump ship to a better relationship. 

The lesson:

When you have a niche in your game, don't take your customer’s loyalty for granted. Always find ways to strengthen that loyalty; even if it is already solid. 

I should know. I’ve been a loyal Netflix customer since 2003.  

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Coaching Vs. Discipline

Managers:

Do you know the difference between coaching and discipline?

Are they one in the same?

How do you know which one you are administering?

The answer is simple:

You “coach" when an employee doesn’t know a specific process or procedure.

You "discipline" when the employee was already coached, or should have known of the specific policy or procedure, and chose not to follow it.

Employees are set up to fail when they are coached when they should disciplined and disciplined when they should coached.

However, communicating it with sincerity will ensure your message, whether its coaching or discipline, will be understood.

The employee will decided whether the message is worthy enough to be followed.

The manager’s leadership skills are sharpened depending on how they respond to employee re-actions.

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Assemble the Team!

When assembling a team of professionals to solve a problem, we tend to look towards people we like and trust. We also tend to turn to people just like us because lets face it, you don’t have time to learn new names and mannerism. Or maybe we turn to people who won’t cause a ruckus because it creates less friction. It’s just easier that way. 

Think about it.

Do you really want to attack an issue with a team of 25 professionals who are all alike?

It’s a waste of time. 

But what if you surrounded yourself by people who work differently than you? People who think, listen, learn, and communicate in a different fashion? People who are not afraid to disagree with other people and engage in healthy conflict? People who are not afraid to tell it like it is without a self-serving agenda other than the one that will solve the issue at hand?

These are the people you want on your team.

The people who don’t necessarily think outside the box, they just have to think outside the box you are currently thinking in. 

 Whatever issue your boss wants you to solve, take the time to assemble a team of diverse backgrounds and points of view. 

 Are you a free spirited professional? Seek out people who are systematic.

Are you an extrovert? Seek out people who are introvert. 

You get the picture.

Team fo 25 people who think alike = Issue attacked by 25 people in the same way.

Team of 25 people who think different = Issue attacked by 25 people from 25 different angles. 

 

Try it.

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5 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty

Let's face it. 

The days where employees dedicate their entire career to a single company are long gone. Business leaders spend thousands of dollars each year on recruitment only to find out the “perfect candidate” jumped ship six months later. Managers need to come up with unique ways to retain talent and create employee loyalty. Doing so would appease business leaders (who speak the language of numbers and want a return on investment) and create a dynamic workforce where employees have a vested interest in the bottom line. 

These 5 steps will help you foster the loyalty needed to create a dynamic workforce:

1. Hire the right person. When a position becomes available, managers scramble to fill that position because they do not want to fall behind on productivity. The sense of urgency is understood, but if more emphasis is placed on “filling the seat” than ensuring the right person is hired for the position, then you’re going to end up with someone who will soon realize this job isn’t for them and will either jump ship or create a disciplinary portfolio. Either way, the company loses. Take the time to hire the right person for the right job. You don’t have to hire the person with the most credentials. You just need someone who has the minimum qualifications, is willing to learn, and most importantly, fits in the culture because he/she wants to be there; regardless of the direction of the company. 

2. Connect with your employees. Picture this: A manager shows up to work, says good morning to the employees, then the manager is never heard from again. I remember when I was a customer service representative for First USA Bank in Lake Mary, Florida. I worked there for a year and saw my manager twice; the day I was hired and the day I resigned. I was shocked at how shocked she was that I was resigning. This step is pretty simple yet, it’s the one that is constantly overlooked. An employee’s day is made up of 24 hours. If any given day was split evenly, it would look like this: 8 hours at work, 8 hours with family and friends, 8 hours of sleep. A manager has a window of opportunity of 1/3 of the employee’s day to make a connection. There is no excuse not to! Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing. Get to know their likes, dislikes. Look at them as "Mike" or “Maria" rather than an employee ID#. Find out what kind of music, food, movies, hobbies they like. Of course, there are some employees who do not want to let anyone into their world, and that’s fine. Once you’ve been put on notice, let it be and don’t pursue further. But for the employees who “let you in,” take advantage of the opportunity and run with it. 

3. Empower your employees. Not every employee wants to be the next VP of Operations. Some employees are perfectly happy doing the job that they are currently in. Meet with your employees regularly and create a career path that they want; not the one you want for them. 

4. Do not micro manage. You hire an employee because they have a talent the team needs that you are willing to pay for. You have complete confidence in their ability to perform the task they were hired to do. Why violate that trust by constantly looking over their shoulder to make sure they are doing their job properly? If you have to do so because they just do not know how to perform their duties, then you need to revisit step 1. 

5. Show employees how they affect the bottom line. Employees perform their best when they know the job they do makes a difference. Sometimes it’s easy for an employee to see that difference, sometimes it’s not. A manager can always see it. That’s why it’s important for the manager to constantly meet with their employees and show them how their jobs affect the big picture.

Trust me. These steps work. Doing so would create a following so strong that employees would turn down extra money from another company because they find your culture is more valuable. 

How about that?

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Can You Hear Me?

Listening.

The oldest, yet most underused tool in the human toolbox. People think they are great listeners, but most just nod their heads in agreement/disagreement and wait their turn to talk. 

Have you ever had a heated discussion with someone and right after you finish making your point the other person, in less than a millisecond, already has a response for you?

They weren't listening to you.

There is no way this person took in your message, processed it, and formulated a thoughtful response in a millisecond. 

As a matter of fact, this person made up their mind about your argument half way through your message. They are arguing your point based on 50% of the information you just gave them. It's the reason we have issues with conflict today; we are too eager to give our points of view without fully understanding what they other person is arguing. To make this even more frustrating, you think the person just isn't smart enough to understand where you are coming from which creates even more conflict, which then turns into a more emotional debate, without the logic.

It's frustrating. 

So next time you are debating a good argument and your "opponent" is done speaking take a breath, process the message, formulate your thoughts, then respond. 

You would be surprised how much you could accomplish. 

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Leadership: Explained!

There are many ways to explain what it is to be a “leader.” 

The fact is, there is way too much “talking" and not enough “doing.” 

Below is an example I gave my students in my HR Management class a few months ago: 

Let’s say a building represents a company and your position in the building is relative to your job title in that company. If you are on the first floor you are in an entry-level position with the company and sit in a cubicle. Your position requires a lot of technical expertise and revolves around policies and procedures. If you look outside your window you can only see across the street. You would like to know what’s beyond the street but because you work on the first floor the street is all you can see. As you move up in your career you move up in the building. When you look out the window you can now see beyond the street to the other side of the smaller buildings. The higher up you go, the more you can see in the horizon. When you get to the top floor you are in an office where you can see a level of the horizon that other floors can’t. Your job as the leader is to clearly communicate to the person in the first floor how their job affects the goal in the horizon, although they themselves cannot see it.

The higher up you go the less technical you have to be and the more influential you have to become. 

If the people on the first floor follow you to something they can’t see but believe it's there, then you’ve done your job:)

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The Comfort of Discomfort

Diversity Training.

To some people just hearing these two words put together makes them cringe. Some people embrace it just because it gives them a break from their daily routine. Others just don’t care; they just yawn in protest. Some trainers go to great lengths to make the training fun, but no information. Other trainers (out of fear of the subject) focus too much on information but no energy. Neither one of these approaches would yield a tangible return on investment. There is however, one key emotion that if left out of the equation the training would be completely worthless...

I’m talking about "discomfort."

The main purpose of the training is to provide information. But without energy the information would fall on deaf (and sleepy) ears. If you want the audience to truly understand the meaning of the training initiative and “live” the culture, you need to throw some emotion into the mix. They need to truly understand that not everyone thinks like them, talks like them, and believe in what they believe in. The best way to show them is to take them out of their comfort zone and lead them on a walk on the "discomfort side.” They need to see how real world issues are currently solved, should be solved, and how that translate into their actions at work. 

However, a trainer needs to be very careful how they lead that journey. Going down this road has the potential to open up old wounds. An trainer should be able to gauge the audience and effectively facilitate the journey in a way that enhances the audience’s understanding of the initiative. 

In other words, it’s not for the faint of heart. Business leaders should always consult with an experienced facilitator. Doing it on their own would cause more harm than good. 

Trust me.

I’ve seen enough disasters. 

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Hire The Right Person Already!

Let’s say you own a business with 50 employees. You have a vacant position that requires a bachelor’s degree to perform the essential functions of the job. You interviewed five candidates and picked the one with two bachelor degrees, ample experience, and a skill set to match. You're excited for the new addition. You are confident their background would add value to your business. But what happens if the new employee doesn’t get along with the rest of the team? What if the new employee just isn’t performing like you thought he would? If there a way to predict this behavior in the interview process?

Yes. There is….. 

If you know what to look for.

Remember, just because you hired the person with the most credentials doesn’t mean they are going to use those skills. In the right hands, a hammer can be used to build a great house. In the wrong hands, that same hammer can be used to build a house that falls apart almost as quickly as it was built.

 Same hammer, different carpenter. 

 When recruiting for a position a successful candidate would need just three things:

-Minimum qualifications

-Fit in the culture

-Eager to learn

If you have a candidate with these qualities then you have an employee who will add value to your business.

Focus on the carpenter, not the hammer. 

Try it.

See what happens:)

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How to Protect Your Brand with the Word "No"

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is talking to different clients who invite me into their world. They care about their employees enough to call in an outsider and invite them to see the inner workings of their operation, find areas of opportunity, and work on solutions. It truly is a fulfilling experience and I am grateful to be a part of it. 

But what happens on the rare occasion a client calls you for help and want you to fix a problem but don’t give you the means to do so?

Picture This:

A client asks you to develop and deliver a team building event for his employees. According to the client, the employees are not getting along and it’s affecting productivofity. As you probe for more information to get a better understanding of the issue, you ask to speak to the team. The client asks why that’s necessary. You tell him you need to spend some time with the employees to get an understanding of why team building is needed. You want to make sure you fully understand the root cause of the problem in order to come up with a good solution. The client said that’s not necessary because he knows the problem; the employees just do not get along. You explain your position again and after a short back and fourth, he still insists on “checking the box” and deliver a training session for the employees. At this point you realize the real problem; it’s the client. 

What do you do?

Put on your suave language arts cap! 

You need to have a candid conversation with the client. Reverse roles. Have him see what you are seeing and hearing. Explain (without insult) that in order to truly create a workplace where employees work in harmony, he needs to be flexible enough to both listen to what the employees have to say and have the courage to do something with that information. Explain how he would come out as the hero to both his employees and his superiors to be the one who turned the morale around. But most importantly, he would have the respect of everyone because he did the one thing nobody else would do; he listened. 

But what do you do when the client still won’t budge?

From a short-term business perspective, the client is always right, and you do not want to lose their business just because he doesn’t want you to talk to the employees. After all he is the one writing the check.

But from a long term strategic perspective, if the client won’t budge, the best thing you can do is respectfully decline the job. Sure you can make a quick buck by accepting the job. The client has a business need that you can fulfill. But without honing in on the real issues you are going to deliver a training program the employees will love (because they are getting a break from their regular routine) without getting to the core of the problem. When it’s all said and done the employees will go back to the same ways that caused the client to call you in the first place. Then six months down the road when the client is golfing with other clients and they ask “Hey, how did that team building event go?” what do you think he is going to say? 

Exactly.

Word of mouth travels fast. In order to protect your brand, you sometimes have to pass on the quick buck. 

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The 10-Minute Rule

I love what I do. 

I’m both an HR practitioner and an adjunct professor. I get to work with brilliant minds from both worlds. One of the things I enjoy the most if helping students develop skills they can use today and not necessarily something a textbook say they need, but do not use. One of the ways I get to do this is by using my "10-minute rule."

The HR classes I teach are about five weeks long. I pepper the students with different theories that make HR what it is today, and how they can apply this information to solve tomorrow’s problems. It’s a lot to take in. Throughout the five-week course the students know about a dreaded final team presentation. At the end of week four I pull four articles from the Wall Street Journal. I split the class into four teams and give them each an article. I tell the students they have a week to prepare a presentation on how to solve the problem outlined in the article using what they have learned so far in the past four weeks. 

I gave the students just one rule:

-They have 10 minutes to deliver their presentation. If they go over by just one second, they lose half their grade for the assignment. 

At first glance, students hated this rule. They thought it was unfair and unrealistic. They had just 10 minutes to attack a real business problem using information that was gathered over a four week period. But when the teams met throughout the week, they realized they needed to determine what information was crucial and what wasn’t. Each team member had their own idea on what information should stay in the presentation and what information should go. They each had to present a business case to each other to show why their piece of information was crucial and how it added value to the assignment. Then, as a group, they made crucial decisions.

You know, those skills needed in the workforce. 

I didn’t tell them they had to do all this.

I only gave them one rule. 

That’s all they needed to show off their talents. 

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The “Yes” People Who Sink Ships

When leading a team, the worst thing you can do is to surround yourself with “yes” people. 

You know who they are.

They are the ones that will agree with everything you say and do. Some leaders may like a frictionless team but it is a recipe for disaster. After all, when the ship sinks the "blame placers" aren’t going to look at the crew, they are going to look at the one in charge; the captain. The one person who depends on his crew to give him crucial information, even if it’s bad news. 

In order to succeed you need to surround yourself with people who are not afraid to speak up and tell you exactly what’s on their minds; regardless of seniority. 

It is your responsibility to welcome the information and foster a culture of openness.

Better yet, a team needs a leader that isn’t afraid to ask members the four most powerful words a leader can utter:

“What do you think?”

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Skill Vs. Behavior

Picture this: You own a business. A profitable one. You want to attract and retain talent so you decide to pay your employees based on their skill set. You decided to pay them even more if they acquire a new skill. Your employees are LOVING this; especially since all they need to do is show you a certification of their newly minted skill and voila! More money!

The problem?

You are not seeing an increase in productivity.

A problem indeed!

When it comes to motivating employees, you have to make sure you are rewarding the right thing; behavior. 

If you reward employees for their competencies alone, you run the risk of employees going out and acquire more skills so they can be paid more, but never use them. After all, the reason you reward employees is so they can use their talents at work right? Don’t get me wrong, it is important to have the right aptitude to do your job, but what good are those skills if they never get used?

What good is a race car without a great driver?

If you reward behavior, you motivate employees to produce for you at a level that will significantly outpace employees who get paid for the skills they bring to the table.

Why?

Because what gets measured gets done.

It’s that simple:)

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Don't Let Goals Get In Your Way!

Ever notice how a business (or a person) steps up their “A” game when competition comes knocking?

Think about it.

Nobody has ever heard of a touchscreen smart phone until the iPhone came along in 2007. Fast forward to 2016 and nearly all smartphone makers have an answer to it (and gaining ground fast!).

Why is that?

Why is it that organizations need "competition" to bring out their true potential?

The answer is simple: Complacency

When companies reach their destination they become complacent. That is until another company threatens their spot.

There is a lesson to be learned here.

Lets say you want to lose 30 pounds in three months. You embark on an exercise regimen and change your diet. You pretty much altered your lifestyle. After three months of hard work you reached your goal. You’re pleased with yourself. You set a goal, you worked at it, and reached it. 

Now what?

Do you continue with your exercise regimen? Do you continue counting calories? Are you going to abandon the system that helped you reach your goal? You conquered what you set out to do, so what’s next?

When organizations reach what they perceive as their “mountain top,” the worst thing they can do is stop the momentum that got them there in the first place. Much like a marathon runner who stops running at the finish line. The way to stay ahead in business (or any venture for that matter) is to do away with the finish line altogether. Focus on the goal, but shift your energy on the system designed to reach the goal rather than the goal itself. If you don’t, your "better prepared" competition will swoosh right past you. 

Don’t let your focus on the goal keep you from staying ahead. 

Keep running!

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