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The Human Dynamics of Coaching, Counseling, and Disciplining Employees (April 28, 2016)

Fear of conflict and confrontation keeps many managers from stepping up to the plate when employees need feedback regarding their substandard performance. Many managers allow an employee’s poor performance or off-purpose behavior to continue because the manager fears the reaction he or she may receive from the employee if confronted.

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The tremendous success of my Accountability Management Workshop has spawned the need for another results-oriented training program that further enhances the skills of executives, managers, and supervisors in one very specific area of their managerial responsibilities.

During the Accountability Management Workshop we explore the Eight Core Competencies of Management™. Of these eight competencies the one managers seem to struggle with the most is how to coach, counsel, and discipline employees who are not performing to expectations or standards.

Fear of conflict and confrontation keeps many managers from providing employees with feedback regarding their substandard performance. Many managers allow an employee’s poor performance or off-purpose behavior to continue because the manager fears the reaction he or she may receive from the employee if confronted.

Managers tell me what scares them the most about counseling employees is fear the tables will be turned on them during the disciplinary session, with the manager ending up in the hot seat instead of the employee.

Innovative Management Group offers a new management training workshop that gives managers the self-assurance and skills needed to confidently coach, counsel, discipline, and, when necessary, terminate employees who perform below expectations. The workshop is entitled “The Human Dynamics of Coaching, Counseling and Disciplining Employees,” since it focuses on the often difficult interpersonal aspects of performance counseling.

 

Workshop Format

 

The two-day workshop begins with a half-day of instruction on the necessity and legalities of coaching, counseling, disciplining, and terminating employees. These entail the “whats” of performance counseling.

The next day-and-a-half of the workshop deals with the “hows” of conducting counseling sessions. It entails group discussion and role playing of actual case studies that the participants bring to the session from their real-life managerial experiences. Attendees role play their interaction as they response to various performance or behavioral challenges they face in their day-to-day dealings with employees. They learn how to confront these situations head on. The role playing practice sessions build the participant’s confidence in their ability to maintain their composure during difficult performance feedback consultations. The workshop provides them with numerous techniques for controlling the feedback session to ensure actual performance improvement occurs.

During the role plays the participants in the workshop act as consultants and coaches to each other. They share their successes and failures in handling similar situations. At the end of each role play the facilitator provides the group with a plethora of additional tools and techniques to address the specific challenges presented in the role plays.

Interspersed throughout the case studies that the participants bring to the workshop are “rapid-fire cases” provided by the instructor. These fast-paced scenarios further hone the counseling skills of the managers. Attendees learn how to resolutely keep the counseling session focused on the employee’s performance while avoiding the interpersonal sparring that often occurs in confrontational settings.

 

Workshop Content

 

During the workshop participants learn how to face and resolve some of the most common counseling challenges, such as:

 

  • How to pinpoint and specify the root cause of a performance or behavioral problem
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  •  How to ask probing questions and never be stumped by the employee
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  • How to keep the feedback session focused on the performance or behavioral issues instead of on the employee or manager
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  • How to draw out employees who refuse to talk or who won’t address the real issue
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  • How to deal with criticism, pessimism, negativity, and resentment
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  • How to overcome placating, passive resistance, and superficial cooperation
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  • How to resolve personality clashes, gossiping, and backbiting
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  • How to light a fire in those who procrastinate, are indecisive, are slow to respond, or fail to follow-through
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  • How to deal with crying, anger, depression, withdrawal, and other emotions
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  • How to respond to intimidation, threats, hostility, or violence
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  • How to get employees to stop blaming others, finding fault or feeling
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  • How to deflect personal attacks or attacks on the company
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  • How to deal with lying misrepresentation, half-truths, or distortions
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  • How to keep from being manipulated by employees
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  • How to get agreement and ensure change occurs
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  • How to follow-up and reinforce the need for change
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    The Human Dynamics workshop is designed to get employees to change their performance or behavior. Participants learn how to accelerate an employee’s performance improvement and behavioral change by using the Four Phases of Personal Development™. The main focus of the workshop is to help managers understand the human element — the psychological implications — of performance counseling, and thus help the employee through the often difficult process of self-improvement. This requires great skill in moving an employee through each of the four phases of personal development.

    Of course, the first step to employee improvement is manager improvement. Managers have to deal with their own insecurities and inadequacies regarding coaching, counseling, and disciplining employees. The two days of the Human Dynamics workshop allows managers to work through and overcome any personal issues that may be keeping them from fulfilling their management role of giving performance feedback. Attendees leave the workshop fully prepared to competently coach, counsel, discipline, or terminate non-performing employees. They leave knowing how to effectively deal with the human dynamics of coaching, counseling and disciplining employees. §

     

    If you would like a shareable version of this article, please email me at mac@imglv.com and I will send it to you immediately.

     

     

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 08:17 am    0 Comment(s)

    Communicating Your Expectations is as Easy as 1-2-3 (January 26, 2016)

    Conflict often occurs between two people at work – or at home – when either party fails to clearly communicate one’s expectations. Here’s a simple way to communicate what you want.

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    One of the most important things you can do when assigning a task to an employee is to clearly state the results you expect. You particularly need to specify the level of quality you wish the employee to deliver as he or she performs the task.

    For some tasks a high quality output is crucial regardless of the time it takes to complete the task. It is more important to take whatever time is needed to ensure the results are perfect. But there may be other tasks where speed of delivery is more important than quality. For example, being first in the market with a new product sometimes can be more profitable than having a late-entry product of greater quality. Not every task has to be performed perfectly. There may be times when it is in the best interest of the company, or your interests as the manager, to get the work out on time at an acceptable level, rather than late and perfect. Conversely, there may be times when it is better to be late and right, than on time and wrong.

     

    Need to be Clear

    I learned the importance of being clear in my performance expectations while raising my young son. For many years I got irritated when he didn’t clean up his room when I told him to do so. It seemed to be a constant battle to get my son to do what I wanted. I’d tell him to clean up his room and, like most children, he’d always say: “I will in a minute.”

    After several minutes I’d return to my son’s room and find the room had not been cleaned. He was still playing his video game.

    I told you to clean up your room,” I’d say again, this time telling him a little louder.

    I WILL in a minute,” he’d whine.

    Do it NOW!” I’d demand in a threatening voice, as I angrily turned and walked away.

    A short time later I’d return to my son’s room and get furious when I’d see him still playing video games and the room not clean. That’s usually when I’d rush into the room, grab my son up off the floor by his arm, swat him on his rear, and say: “YOU DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD! GET THIS ROOM CLEANED UP NOW!!!”

    This always made my son cry; but the room finally got cleaned.

    Sadly this little battle went on for several years. Then one day, when my son was eight, I realized this method of getting him to clean his room did not work. I needed a better way of getting through to my son. I wondered why he didn’t do what I asked him to do when I asked him to do it. So next time I wanted him to clean up his room I asked him.

    I’m curious as to why you don’t clean up your room when I tell you?” I said.“I’m your father and I think you ought to respect my wishes. When you don’t do what I ask it makes me feel like you don’t respect me and you are ignoring me. That’s why I get angry. I don’t want to get angry at you. I just want you to clean your room. So why don’t you clean your room when you’re told?”

    Because I don’t know what you want?” my son replied.

    This confused me. I thought it was obvious – I wanted him to clean his room. What’s so hard to understand about that? So I repeated that I wanted the room cleaned.

    Yes, but what do you want?” he pressed.

    It’s simple,” I stressed, getting frustrated that my son wasn’t understanding men. “I want you to CLEAN . . . UP . . . YOUR . . . ROOM. What part of that don’t you get?”

    That’s when my son started to cry because he didn’t like me treating him like a child. “But what do you WANT?” he said through his tears.

    Here is a clue for you as a parent – and as a manager. Whenever you make a person cry, you screwed up. Whenever you make your employees cry or they get angry at you, you’ve done something wrong. They are not the problem; you are! Your lack of communication caused them to become so frustrated they started crying or got angry. So look inward and try to figure out what you need to do differently. Find a different way to communicate.

     

    Know What You Want

    I sat there perplexed for a few seconds. Then I realized the answer to the problem was in my son’s statement — he didn’t know what I wanted. That’s when it hit me. He didn’t know my expectations of how I wanted the room to be cleaned. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I actually have three different expectations – or levels of cleaning – that I could want from my son, depending on the situation at the time when I ask him to clean his room.

    I list the three levels of cleaning here in ascending order of quality, with Level 1 being the highest order of quality:

    Level 3 Cleaning— Get everything out of sight so the room LOOKS clean. Throw stuff in the closet, in a drawer, or under the bed so no one can see it. Pull up the covers on the bed so the bed looks made. Make the room look like it is clean.

    Level 2 Cleaning — Pick every-thing up and put it where it belongs. Make the bed. Straighten everything up so the room IS clean.

    Level 1 Cleaning — Company is coming! Pick up the mess. Put everything away. Change the bed. Dust the shelves. Vacuum the carpet. Make sure everything is SPOTLESS and perfect so visitors will think this is how clean our home is all the time.

    I had no idea I had different expectations for how a room should be cleaned until my son forced me to think about it. Now that I was aware of my true expectations, I asked my son what level of cleaning he thought I meant whenever I asked him to clean his room. He said he thought I meant Level 1.

    But he was wrong. I usually only want a Level 3 cleaning. That’s why I expect it to be done immediately. A Level 3 cleaning should only take a few minutes to complete. So I expect my son to do it immediately without argument. All I want him to do is momentarily put his video game on pause and take the few minutes necessary to do a Level 3 cleaning. That's why I didn’t think I was asking for much.

    But my son thought I expected a Level 1 room cleaning. A Level 1 quality job means he has to stop playing his video game, since a spotless cleaning takes time to achieve that level of quality. That’s why he asked for a “minute” to finish playing his game. He had every intention of doing what he was told, but, since it would take him away from his game, he felt I should respect his need to finish the game before starting the task. In his mind he wasn’t asking for much.

    A Level 3 room cleaning can be done in very little time with very few resources. But a Level 1 cleaning takes time, materials, equipment and a whole lot of effort. The same is true at work. A complex Level 1 task may require more manpower and resources to get the work done in the allotted time. Level 3 tasks can be accomplished with minimal effort.

     

    Clarifying Expectations

    A great deal of conflict at occurs in work and interpersonal relationships because of a failure to communicate one’s expectations.

    For example, have you ever wasted countless hours doing a Level 1 job for someone, only to learn later that all the person really wanted was a Level 3 effort? Have you ever prepared an extraordinary, whiz-bang Level 1 sales presentation for a customer who prematurely cuts you off mid-stride because he is only interested in the price? Or have you ever prepared a marvelous dinner feast for someone who would have preferred a hamburger? Wouldn’t it have been nice before you went through the Level 1 exertion to find out you could have gotten by with a Level 3 effort?

    The opposite also happens. Have you ever done a Level 3 quick analysis on a report that your boss wanted right away, only to be grilled in depth with Level 1 questions about your assessment? Has your boss ever dumped a complex task on your shoulders at the last minute and still expected everything to be done perfectly? Have you ever been given an unrealistic deadline with Level 3 time to accomplish a massive Level 1 project? Or, worse yet, have you ever been given Level 3 resources to do a Level 1 job that requires time, materials and staff to pull it off?

    Sadly too many people in too many companies spend countless hours on projects that have little or no value to the company or customers. Likewise, why should my son have to do a Level 1 cleaning of his room when there is no special occasion that warrants it? A Level 2 or Level 3 cleaning should be good enough for most days. And, in many situations at work, good enough is good enough. When everything has to be perfect, few things get done perfectly. Not everything matters at work.

    Level 3 tasks can be done quickly with minimal effort and limited means. Conversely, Level 1 tasks require considerable time and resources. People working on Level 1 tasks need to be given the time and resources to deliver the level of quality expected. You cannot expect a Level 1 result from an employee who only has Level 3 time or resources to accomplish the task. Nor can you cannot expect Level 1 results from an employee who keeps getting interrupted with Level 3 administrivia. Level 1 tasks require Level 1 focus, time and resources. Level 3 tasks can be done immediately with minimal effort.

    Whenever you delegate a task to an employee you should clearly define the level of effort he or she ought to put into accomplishing the results. You should tell them whether you expect Level 1, 2, or 3 results. The clearer you are in communicating what you want, the greater the chances you will get what you want. That’s because clear communication gets clear understanding and specific expectations get specific results. §

     

    Innovative Management Group offers a host of supervisor, manager and executive development programs that teach leaders how to establish clear, specific performance expectations and hold people accountable for delivering on those expectations. Please contact us at 702-592-6431 for a list of our customized management training programs.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 04:57 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Increase the Value, Worth and Competency of Your Employees (February 25, 2015)

    A manager's primary role is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of employees so they can produce more at a reasonable cost. There is a formula by which you can increase the value, worth and competency of your employees.

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    A manager has many responsibilities, but your primary role is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your employees so they can produce more. Everything you do regarding your employees should be designed to make your staff more productive – to help them achieve meaningful results faster, cheaper and better. This is why you exist as a manger. It is what you do to prove your value, your worth, and your competency as a boss.

    Although there are a variety of methods to enhance the performance of your staff, one effective way to improve performance is to be extremely clear regarding your performance expectations and to give candid feedback to your employees about how well or poorly they are performing. 

    In addition to the specific tasks you expect your employees to carry out and the actual results you want them to achieve, you probably also have attitudinal or behavioral requirements you expect from your staff as they perform their work.  The overall value, worth, or competence of your employees is determined by how well they carry out their tasks, accomplish results, and meet all of your expectations.

     

    Determining the Value of an Employee

     

    When your employees meet or exceed your expectations, their “value” goes up. When they fail to meet your expectations, their value goes down. Employees who meet or exceed expectations are of higher “worth” to an organization than those who fail to perform or behave as expected. Likewise, employees who perform as expected are deemed to be “competent” in their role, whereas employees who do not perform to standard are viewed as being less competent.

    The value, worth or competence of an employee is best expressed in a formula I call the Value Equation (see graphic below). The Value Equation articulates the conditions by which an employee either increases or decreases his or her value, worth, and competence by their actions and behaviors. An employee’s overall value to the organization is determined by assessing the difference between the value of his or her accomplishments minus the cost of his or her performance.

     

    The Value of an employee is defined as the worth of the business results accomplished by the employee.

    In addition to specific performance results, an employee’s value or worth to an organization also may include such things as his or her knowledge of the business, relationship with customers, positive influence on other employees, initiative, innovation, reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, or a host of other valuable skills, knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and behaviors. A self-motivated and self-directed employee, for example, has greater value to a manager than an employee who needs constant guidance and prodding before fulfilling a task. An employee who is always on time or who readily works extra hours when needed is of greater value than one who refuses to work overtime or frequently calls in sick.

    Just as the value side of the equation includes more indicators than merely the tasks accomplished, the Cost factors entail more than the monetary measurements of wage, salary, benefits, and other compensation-related perks.

    The cost of an employee might also include the amount of time a manager has to spend with that individual. Some employees are a pain to manage. The hassle-factor of dealing with some people is extremely draining on a manager and therefore very costly in time, stress, loss of brain cells and the impact on one’s peace of mind. Consequently, someone who performs without supervisory oversight costs less than an employee who only does what is expected when the boss is around. Employees who whine and complain cost more than those who do their jobs cheerfully without grumbling. Similarly, employees who cannot get along with their fellow employees or who are not respected by their peers cost a manager more than those who are team players, who willing help others, who share their expertise, or who work well with others.

     

    An Employee’s Value Margin

     

    Managers are often confronted by low-value employees who adamantly declare just how valuable they are to the company. The employee might vehemently state, for example, how she out-performs other workers and makes more widgets per hour than anyone else. These employees often conclude their declaration by stating that they are the manager’s hardest worker.

    Even though these statements might be true, the question remains: At what costs were the valuable results achieved? Sometimes the best worker in the department is also the biggest pain to deal with. The one who accomplishes the most might also be the one who complains the most. The best performer may be the most egocentric and a poor team player.

    True value is measured by the margin between the results an employee produces and the costs; including their attitude and behavior entailed in achieving the results.

    An employee’s Value Margin is the degree of difference between the results the employee accomplishes and the cost of the employee’s performance. The value margin of an employee expands or diminishes relative to the attitude, behavior, actions, and performance the individual exhibits as he or she carries out his or her job tasks. 

    An employee who produces very few results at a great cost to the organization is of little value to the business. Similarly, an employee who produces few results, even though they may not be paid much, also is of little value to the organization. However, an employee who produces a lot, even if their costs are high, may be of great value to the company, provided the margin between the employee’s results and the cost to produce those results is significant enough.

    An employee’s overall value and worth to an organization is determined by his or her above the line and below the line qualities.

     

    Determining the Value Margin

     

    You can determine the value of your employees by making a list of the results, performance, skills, behaviors, attitude, or other qualities and characteristics that increase the value of an employee in your estimation. You also should note those things an employee might do that lessen his or her value.

    If you take the time to think about it, you already know what would heighten your opinion of an employee and what would diminish it. You can tell, either consciously or unconsciously, when someone is going up in value in your estimation or when they are going down. You make those kinds of judgments about people every day, whether you know it or not. The Value Equation is just a way for you to raise to a conscious level the criteria by which you already judge your employees.

     

    Sharing Your Value Assessment

     

    Once you have the list of values and costs, you can use the list to assess and communicate the value of each employee. You should be honest with your employees and give them candid feedback about where they stand on the value equation.

    Unfortunately, many managers fear giving their employees such blunt feedback. They hesitate to tell their high-value employees how much they are valued for fear it will either go to the employee’s head, thereby causing ego problems or the employee to demand more compensation after being told how valuable they are to the organization.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, some managers fear telling low-value employees about their limited value because the manager doesn’t want to damage the self-esteem or face the wrath of the low-value employee when he or she is informed of their limited value. Rather than being specific in their feedback – stating clearly where the employee stands on the value margin – they dance around the issue, hoping the employee will somehow raise their value to the organization without the manager having to mention it specifically.

    Sadly, these managers don’t realize the great motivational value in clearly stating an employee’s value to the individual. If, for example, the manager secretly has been hoping a low value employee would quit, informing such an employee of their low value often motivates them to do just that. When a low value employee is told they have low value, they often refuse to continue working at a place where they are not appreciated.

     

    Improving Performance by Declaring One’s Value

     

     But good managers don’t want their poor employees to quit; they want their employees to improve their performance. Clearly stating an employee’s low value can be the catalyst that finally ignites the improvement process.

    During times of economic down-turn most companies try to cut costs. This usually means reducing staff. Baring union contracts or other restrictive policies, the workers normally let go first in a downsizing are those who offer the least value to the organization. The highest value employees have the greatest job security. Consequently, by telling a low value employee where he or she stands on the value equation you help them realize that their job could be in jeopardy if they don’t raise their value. Your candor motivates them to raise their value to the point that it would be worth it to keep the employee, no matter how bad the economy becomes.

     

    Keeping High Value Employees

     

    Finally, it is important to note that high-value employees are worth keeping. If an employee truly is of high worth, then it should be worth it to fight for the employee during times of economic stress. It also should be worth it to a manager to fight for a raise to keep an employee whose value is being recognized by competitor’s trying to woo the employee away with a higher salary.

    I always tell my employees that I already know my answer if they ever come to me asking for a raise. My answer is an immediate yes. I know I will give an employee a raise. It’s just a matter of when. I will give an employee a raise when he or she is worth it. I will give an employee a raise when his or her value is so high it would be foolish not to. I already know I will give an employee a raise; I just don’t know when or for how much. The amount will depend on the employee’s value, worth and competence. §

     

    Innovative Management Group offers a variety of executive, management and supervisory training programs designed to raise the value, worth and competence of both the manager and the employee. Please contact us at mac@imglv.com for a list of the courses we offer.

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    Mac McIntire is the president of Innovative Management Group, a Wyoming-based training and consulting firm specializing in strategic visioning and alignment, organizational effectiveness, quality improvement, and teamwork. He can be reached at 702-592-6431 or e-mail mac@imglv.com. His website is www.imglv.com

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 10:12 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Create Competent Employees ( 30, 2014)

    There are six reasons why people fail to perform. Innovative Management Group’s Six Block Model identifies the root causes of performance failures and shows how to provide employees with the information, tools, resources, incentive and training necessary to perform well.

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    One of the many challenges managers face is being able to identify the competent workers from the incompetent, the capable from the incapable, and the willing employees from the unwilling.

    Most managers automatically assume they know which workers are good or bad based upon their observations of the employee’s performance, behavior or attitude. But highly competent workers sometimes mask their goodness in off-purpose behaviors. Conversely, totally incompetent employees can fool managers by acting like they are working hard when they really are not. What one sees is not necessarily what one gets.  

    It is impossible for managers to manage employee performance until one knows in which category an employee falls.

    The good news is most employees have the ability (or could have the ability) to be totally competent performers. Only a very small percentage of employees are truly incompetent. Sadly, some employees are incompetent only because their manager is incompetent. The employees fail because their manager has not done all she or he can do to develop competent employees.

    The key to creating competent employees is to determine where to focus one’s intervention. When employees are not performing to expected standards the manager has the responsibility to discover the reason for the performance failure. This requires separating out symptoms from the root cause of the incompetence.

    Several years ago I worked for a company that created internal “consulting” groups consisting of experts from each functional area within the company. There were teams of consultants from operations, finance, sales, marketing, information technology, human resources and the other specialty areas of the company. These internal consultants were organized into what were called Strategic Strike Teams (SST). Like airline crash investigators, members of the SSTs were sent out at a moment’s notice whenever and wherever problems arose within the company that fell within that team’s specialty. The job of the SST was to quickly troubleshoot the problem, find a solution, and fix the problem so it didn’t happen again.

    I was the leader of one of those SSTs. My team was the “human performance” SST. Whenever there was a mass failure of human performance in any department at any level in any of our company subsidiaries, my team was sent out to turn the situation around. We literally had our bags packed; ready to go the minute we were notified there was a human performance problem somewhere in the company.


    The Six Block Model

    After many months investigating human performance “crashes” I noticed a pattern develop showing why those performance failures occurred. I discovered the root causes of human performance problems were consistent from company to company, department to department, or person to person. It didn’t matter which type of business the company was in, where it was located, what the skill or education level of their employees might be, or any other characteristics. Human performance failure always seemed to be caused by the same root issues. And those root issues always fell within the same six areas.

    From these experiences I developed a model that identifies the root causes of human performance failure. I call my assessment tool the Six Block Model (see graphic) because there are only six primary reasons why people fail to perform to standard. The Six Block Model lists these root causes in the priority order in which the root cause of the performance problem can be found.

    Invariably the primary cause of most human incompetence can be found in block one. By far the greatest percentage of performance failures (80 to 90 percent) are caused by block one issues. This means managers should always look first in block one to find the root cause of an employee’s performance failure.

    If the cause of the performance discrepancy is not found after assessing all of the possible issues in block one, the manager next should look for the cause in block two, then block three, and so on through block six. The probability of finding the real cause of the performance problem is greatest in the first block and decreases exponentially through the five other blocks. Very few performance problems are caused by block six issues. Yet, historically, block six is where most managers begin their search for the problem.

    Block six issues resulting in poor employee performance include the MOTIVATIONATTITUDE or WORK ETHIC of the employee.

     

    The vast majority of managers attribute poor performance to motivation problems. They typically describe the reason for a performance failure by saying such things as, “The employee is not motivated,” “They don’t care,” “They have a bad attitude,” “People don’t want to work hard these days,” or “You just can’t find good employees today.” Invariably these statements are wrong. Low motivation or morale, a lousy attitude, or a poor work ethic usually are symptoms of a problem, not the problem itself.

    When I hear managers make statements like these I ask the manager to identify the employee in their work area who they feel has the poorest motivation, the lowest morale, the worst attitude, or the laziest work ethic. I then ask them to describe what that employee’s behavior was like on the first day they were employed at the company. I ask if the employee seemed excited about their job when they came to work on that first day. Did they seem to have a good attitude about being there? Was the new employee anxious to prove themselves as a good worker? Did they want to perform well? In most cases I receive and affirmative answer to these questions.

    If this is true, I point out, obviously at one time the now poor performing employee was motivated, did have high morale and a positive attitude, and he or she was willing to work hard. Consequently, if the employee now lacks motivation, has low morale or a negative attitude, or doesn’t seem to want to work, something must have happened to this employee after they came to work in the manager’s department. In other words, the root cause can be found in something that happened after the first day the employee came to work. Whatever caused the employee to lose his or her motivation, morale, attitude, or work ethic happened at work. Consequently, the root cause is more likely to be found somewhere at work rather than somewhere inside the employee. In other words, the employee doesn't have a problem; the company has a problem! It is not a motivation, morale, attitude or work ethic problem intrinsic to the employee.

    Once I point out the employee's behavior changed after they started work at the company, most managers reluctantly accept the idea that the cause of the employee’s performance failure is not motivation, morale, attitude, or a poor work ethic. Grudgingly they accept that the root cause of the employee’s “incompetence” is not in block six.

    Invariably the manager then will shift the cause of the performance failure to issues that can be found in the fifth block.

    “Okay. You may be right,” the manager usually concedes. “It may not be a motivation problem. Maybe the employee's problem is he's stupid. He can’t seem to do anything right. He doesn't have any common sense.”

    These statements describe causes that would be found in block five – CAPACITY. Capacity issues deal with whether or not the employee has the physical or mental capacity to perform at acceptable levels.

    In reality few employees lack the physical ability or mental capacity to do the job for which they were hired. I usually can stop managers from using capacity as the excuse for poor performance by asking them how many employees they have hired who actually fall into the “imbecile” category on an IQ test. Fearing being accused of falling into that category themselves for hiring the employee, few managers admit to hiring idiots.

    Most employees are intelligent enough to do the job they were hired to do. Otherwise they would not have passed the job interview. Likewise, most employees are physically capable of doing the job as well.

    Blocks five and six are the last two places managers should look for the cause of incompetence simply because they are rarely the primary cause of the problem. Managers should concentrate their performance improvement assessment in the first four blocks, starting with block one. These four blocks focus on the conditions surrounding the employee. Managers will be more successful in finding the root cause of the performance problem by looking at the work environment rather than trying to perform some type of psychotherapy regarding the employee’s motives or capacity.


    Block One

    As stated earlier most performance problems are found in block one. The number one reason why people fail to perform to the manager's expectations is because they lack the INFORMATION necessary to perform well. They don’t know specifically what performance is wanted.

    To achieve exceptional results employees must know exactly what is expected of them. They need to clearly understand their job and what results they’re expected to achieve. They need to know the goals and direction of the company and the goals of their specific position in the company. They need clarity of their role, their boundaries and their authority level. They also need feedback regarding both how to perform well and how well they are performing.

    Unfortunately many managers actually create incompetent employees by not providing their workers with the information they need to do their jobs well. Too often managers fail to tell employees what is expected of them or fail to hold employees accountable for specified results. They don’t tell their employees how well (or poorly) they are performing. Or, worse yet, they give people misleading or unclear information about their performance.

    Clear direction and expectations combined with reliable performance feedback are the best indicators of whether or not employees will exhibit competent performance. To perform well employees need significant, informative, and reliable guidance both as to how one should perform and how well one is performing.

    Block one, the information block, includes everything that deals with guiding employee performance and providing feedback on that performance. The simple act of providing workers with clear information about the goals of their work has more potential for creating competent employees than any other tactic. When goals are clearly defined, objectives set, and work parameters established, employees confidently step forward and accomplish valuable results.

    As stated before, the root cause of an employee’s incompetence can be found in block one more than 80 percent of the time. Managers will have greater success turning employee performance around by focusing on the information provided to the employee.

    Block Two

    If the root cause of the performance failure is not an information problem, the manager next should look for the cause to the problem in block two.

    If an employee has all of the information she needs to perform well and still is not performing to standard, the reason may be because she lacks the TOOLS or RESOURCES needed to achieve satisfactory results.

    A worker is only as good as the tools she has at her disposal. A Front Desk Clerk in a hotel cannot serve the customers in line any faster than the speed of her computer or the time it takes to program the room key on the key-coding machine. A Pot Washer cannot work any faster or clean the dishes any better than the dishwashing machine he uses. A Secretary is limited by the capacity of the software on his computer. A Car Rental Agent can be no faster than the speed of the printer she is using, regardless of her efficiency level.

    Resources entail such things as staff, time, facilities, materials, and the dollars needed to obtain the resources. If there isn’t enough staff to perform the work to satisfactory levels the work will not get done no matter how motivated the few employees might be. When there are seven teller windows in the bank, yet only two tellers, the line will be long even if the two tellers are exemplars of customer service.

    Likewise, a manager who is overwhelmed with work will not take the time to write well-thought-out and thorough performance appraisals of her employees when she has no time to do so, regardless of how well the manager is trained on the proper way to do performance evaluations. People who do not have time to do something seldom do it, even if they have the good intention to do so.

    Companies who lack the money to hire the appropriate amount of staff or provide the tools and materials needed to do the job will find their workers perform at a lower production level than those companies who do provide proper tools and resources.

    Employees who are overworked or working in cramped quarters with faulty or non-existent equipment may initially have the internal motivation to perform well despite these shortcomings, but their enthusiasm will wane unless the situation is rectified. Eventually the struggle to perform well in unsatisfactory conditions will lead to low motivation, poor morale, a negative attitude, and a diminished work ethic (block six).


    Block Three

    If employees have the information, tools, and resources necessary to perform well yet they still are performing below satisfactory levels, chances are they lack the INCENTIVE to perform better. This is the third block.

    Incentives entail the monetary and non-monetary rewards that cause people to move toward a specified result or behavior. Even though an employee may have the information, tools and resources one needs to perform competently, there may not be significant enough incentive to induce the employee to perform to standard. Employees must feel work-related rewards and recognition are directly connected to and contingent upon good performance. Workers who are paid poorly perform poorly. Salaries and wages do not have to be high, but they must be adequate and appropriate to the labor performed. There also needs to be ongoing rewards and recognition to keep people motivated. Inequitable wages or insufficient rewards are a disincentive to those who wish to work hard.

    Sometimes natural disincentives in the workplace can override a manager’s positive effort in the other blocks of the model. For example, high potential employees often are disincented by slothful colleagues who tell them to slow down because they’re making the less productive employees look bad. Marginal workers may tell motivated workers that hard work will get them nowhere. Bad workers often tell good workers their effort will not be recognized or appreciated by management. Unions, in many instances, disincent workers from maximizing their effort in order to create the illusion that more union laborers are needed.

    Managers themselves can disincent their workers by failing to recognize the contributions of their employees. The greatest motivator of people is verbal praise. Yet too many managers fail to effectively utilize this easy and inexpensive communication tool.

    Managers can also dampen the enthusiasm of their employees when they give blanket praise or across-the-board pay raises that reward poor performers as well as the good. Managers lose the commitment of good workers when the exemplary employees see slothful performers go unchecked or undisciplined.

    Incentives need to be directly related to performance. Exemplary performance should be praised and recognized, while poor performance should be corrected. Non-monetary rewards and recognition should be used copiously. Career development and other advancement opportunities also should be tied to performance. Nothing disincents employees faster than seeing poor performing or incompetent employees promoted to higher levels of responsibility. Incompetent managers are the greatest disincentive to competent employees.

    One might wonder why incentives are listed in the third position instead of being the first block. Unions declare that the only way to get workers to produce more is to pay them more. But this is contrary to human behavior. There are countless examples of employees who have left a company to go work for another company for less money. Likewise, there are numerous stories of employees who have stayed with a company even though they were offered more money to go somewhere else. In both cases the employees worked for less money when they could have made more. When asked why they left a company or stayed with a company the answer often has nothing to do with money. It usually has to do with block one and/or block two issues. They left because they could not get the information, tools or resources they needed to succeed -- and they felt unmotivated because of it. Or they stayed because they had all of the information, tools and resources they needed to win at work -- and they felt motivated because of it. Their motivation, morale, attitude and work ethic was affected by the preponderance of, or lack thereof, of the information, tools and resources needed to perform well.

    Looking at it another way, managers could offer to triple the salary of workers who are over worked because of staffing shortages in order to get them to work longer and harder. And, initially, employees may jump at the offer. However the employees will eventually become exhausted and burned out from the lack of staff, the added hours, and the time spent away from their families. In such circumstances employees quickly learn that time off and quality time with their family is far more important than the incentive of three times their pay. Block one and two needs supersede block three needs every time.


    Block Four

    Now on to the fourth block. If an employee has the information, tools, resources and adequate incentive to perform well, yet they still are not performing to standard, perhaps the worker doesn't know how to do the job right. The employee requires proper TRAINING to perform to standard.

    Amazingly, sending employees to training seems to be management's solution to every performance problem. Whenever employees are not performing well, management cries, “Send them to training.” Yet, more often than not employees return from training without being “fixed.” This is because very few performance problems are caused by the lack of skills from the employees. Most performance problems can be found in the previous three blocks. In such cases training is a waste of time.

    Customer service training is an excellent example of people being sent to training when training is not the cause of the performance problem. Many companies send their employees to customer service training because they’ve discovered their employees are not smiling or being friendly around the customers. The managers think that by sending the employees to training they will come back from the session smiling more and acting friendlier. But lack of training is not the problem. How does one know? If the non-smiling and non-friendly employees have ever smiled or been friendly anywhere at any time, then they already know how to smile and be friendly. They don’t need to go to training to learn how to do what they already know how to do. Since they can smile and be friendly the question isn’t one of skill; it’s a question of why they are not doing what they already know how to do.

    Perhaps they are not smiling or being friendly because they did not know it was expected of them. This is a block one (information) issue. Maybe they’re not smiling because they’re frustrated because of a slow computer or other faulty equipment (tools). Possibly they’re overworked because of staff shortages (resources). Maybe they lack the motivation to work because of deplorable working conditions (resources). Perhaps the never-ending high volume of customers makes them too tired to maintain a constant friendly attitude (incentive). Or they may have financial problems at home that are causing them to be distressed and distracted (incentive).  Maybe there is no payoff for being friendly (incentive). Any number of higher level problems could be the real cause of the performance failure rather than a lack of skill. Thus training is not the solution.

    Too often companies invest huge amounts of money to provide training that is totally unnecessary or poorly targeted. Companies send people to training to learn how to do things they already know how to do, but are not doing because no one told them it was wanted or expected (information). Training is often used to rectify a problem when the delivery of simple information could resolve it.

    Training sometimes is given to people who cannot perform at a higher level, regardless of newly taught skills, because they lack the tools or resources needed to perform at exemplary levels. I’m often amused at companies who send employees to computer training to learn how to use computer equipment to which they don’t have access (tools). At the same time, supervisory training programs that teach complex management methods requiring a lot of time to implement will find those tools are seldom used by overwhelmed managers who are to busy already (resources). In the same fashion, employees who go unnoticed or unrecognized for altering their behavior after they’ve been trained (incentive), may soon abandon those behaviors that don’t receive supportive feedback.

    Interestingly, training is one of the least valuable interventions for fixing performance problems. Training should only be provided when an actual deficiency in skills has been identified. When there are actual skill deficiencies it is imperative to determine the best type of training and the best method of delivery for the specific skills that are lacking. Classroom training often is the least effective method of training, while on-the-job training is a valuable way to transfer skills.


    Block Five

    As mentioned above, the fifth block is CAPACITY. Capacity is the physical and mental ability to perform the job to satisfaction.

    Some employees may lack the mental or physical capacity to perform to standard, but capacity issues seldom are a problem. Even if an employee has a specific disability, most capacity failures can be overridden with a tool or resource. Equipment can be altered so an employee with a disability can operate it effectively. A prosthesis can replicate the performance of an incapacitated limb. The work environment also can be adapted or reshaped to meet the physical requirements of an employee with a disability. Flexible scheduling may help by matching the peak physical or mental capacity periods of an employee.

    There are a plethora of tools available to help overcome mental deficiencies such as memory lapses, poor math skills, poor decision making abilities, or other perceived mental inadequacies. For example, a checklist helps people remember things they may forget. Mnemonics can be used to firmly plant in someone's mind something they must remember. A calculator accurately computes the math for those who have problems with numbers. A decision tree takes a person through the logical process for devising an acceptable solution to a problem. Someone with damage to one part of their brain can be taught to use another part of their brain to override the deficiency. 

    If a tool or resource is unavailable to overcome a capacity failure, either the job requirements can be adapted to the capacity of the employee or the employee can be moved to a job that better suits one's capacity. In many companies there is a job that matches the physical and mental capacity of most people. Thus most capacity failures can be rectified with a tool or by moving someone to a job within their capacity.

     Block Six

    As can be seen, most employee performance problems are caused by a lack of information, tools, resources, incentive, proper training, or the alteration of the job to match the capacity of the employee. When all of the elements from the first five boxes are provided by management the odds are great that employee will be motivated to perform to standard.

    However, if an employee still exhibits a deficiency in MOTIVATIONATTITUDE or WORK ETHIC (block six) after a manager has done all he or she can do in the first five boxes, there are only two possible actions a manager can take to rectify the situation.

    The manager can counsel the employee and ask the worker whether he or she wants to continue to work at the company. If the employee answers in the affirmative, all the mangers need to do is tell the worker to start working. The employee already has the information, tools, resources, incentive, training and capacity to perform to standard. The only thing the worker lacks is the willingness to do the work. It is now up to the employee to decide whether he or she wants to do the job.

    If the employee is unwilling to do the work, the manager should set the employee free. The employee is not motivated because he doesn’t want to be motivated. He has a bad attitude because that is the type of attitude he has. He has a poor work ethic because he does not want to work. If this truly is the case, the manager should take the action necessary so the employee doesn’t have to worry about coming to work each day. The employee should be terminated. If an employee really is not motivated, has low morale, truly does have a poor attitude, or doesn’t want to work, then the manager should help that employee achieve his objective of not working. The manager should remove the worker from the place that is causing him to have a bad attitude or to feel unmotivated.

    Managers that truly have done everything within their power to establish a productive work environment wherein employees could be motivated if they want to be motivated should not hesitate or feel bad about terminating employees who are not motivated.

    The key question, of course, is whether or not the manager has done everything possible to help the employee to perform well. Getting productive work from people is not so much a matter of having motivated employees as it is one of having supportive management. Managers can help employees become more competent when the managers view their job as largely manipulating the work environment (rather than the motivations of the employees) in order to achieve greater employee competence.

    Managers themselves increase their own competency when they let their employees know what is expected of them, give them adequate guidance to perform well, supply them with the adequate tools and resources, reward them well, and give them useful training. Competent employees are a result of competent management. §

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    Innovative Management Group offers a highly effective management course designed around the Six Block Model. If you would like more information about how you can use the Six Block Model to create competent employees in your company, or for a free Troubleshooting Guide that identifies the real cause of performance problems, please contact Innovative Management Group at 307-789-3744 or by e-mail at mac@imglv.com.

    If you would like to find out how to create competent managers, please request a copy of the article entitled: “How to Create Competent Managers.”

     

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 12:33 am    0 Comment(s)

    Busting the Myths that Managers Must Be Consistent and Not Have Favorites (April 4, 2014)

    People are wrong when they say managers must be consistent and not have favorites. Since employees are not all the same and don’t perform the same they shouldn't be treated the same.

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    In this article I intend to wax philosophic on several management issues. My management philosophies have been forged over the more than 35 years I’ve worked as a business consultant. I have to warn you that some of my management philosophies are contrary to popularly held beliefs by many noted business gurus. 

    For instance, the moment I heard Abraham Maslow's theory that people have an ascending "hierarchy of needs" I disagreed completely. From personal experience I’ve witnessed many people who sacrifice their lower “survival” needs for things that are much higher on Maslow's hierarchy. For example, countless employees have been fired because they couldn't control their ego, thereby jeopardizing their security and safety needs. Many artists have sacrificed the security of steady employment for the artistic freedom of self-actualization. Other people choose socialization over work, again showing basic survival is not necessarily as basic as Maslow declared.

    Another area where I disagree with the gurus is regarding the need to be continually learning. They encourage managers be up-to-date on the latest managerial practices. I, on the other hand, often try to get managers to stop reading all of the new management books. I do this for two reasons.

    First, I've seen too many managers who have yet to master the basic fundamentals of management. I'd rather have these managers develop a foundation of the old, tried-and-true principles than have them charge off after some new management fad every time they read another business book.

    The second reason why I discourage managers from reading too much is along the same line. Some managers have a tendency to jump from one management fad to the next craze every time they read another book. They never stay in one place long enough to master a technique or principle. They never get good because they're constantly trying to get better. They become the promoter of many management philosophies and the practitioner of none.

    In this article I wish to forever put to bed two prevalent management philosophies I believe are damaging myths in the workplace. These two myths are: 1) that myth that managers must be consistent, and 2) that myth that managers should not have favorites.

     Myth #1: Managers Must Be Consistent

    Perhaps the most prevalent contrary position I take regarding management is that I firmly believe managers should be inconsistent rather than consistent in their managerial practices. I encourage this even though consistency from management is one of the most frequently stated qualities of the “ideal manager” by participants in my Accountability Management training seminar.

    When employees list the positive characteristics they want in a manager they almost always mention they desire a manager who is consistent and fair. On the flipside, favoritism is almost always listed as the most despised trait in a manager.

    Usually these comments stem from a common misconception of what consistency, fairness and favoritism mean. At first brush one might think employees want managers to treat everyone equally. When asked this very question employees quickly agree that equal treatment is what they mean by consistency and fairness. But when the concept is explored deeper, equal treatment really isn't what employees want. That's because deep down most people know that in some situations there is nothing more unjust than the equal treatment of unequals.

    If being consistent actually did mean treating employees equally, then management would treat the poor performer exactly the same as the exemplary performer. If consistency means equality, then management should reward the lazy and indolent worker equal to the diligent and industrious employee. Likewise, management should trust those they do not trust as if they are trustworthy or, worse yet, treat workers they do trust as if they are untrustworthy since some employees can’t be trusted.

    The Declaration of Independence declares that "all men (and women) are created equal" and endowed "with certain unalienable rights." This is certainly true. All men were created equal and all should have certain rights by birth. But then something happens. After birth men become unequal. Differences arise as people travel divergent paths based upon their own ambitions, desires, beliefs and understanding. Some people do well in life while others do poorly. Some people progress while others remain dormant. Some people succeed where others fail. The choices people make and the actions they take throughout the course of their lives determine their position and status in society. Of course, a person’s environment and life conditions also play a part in their developmental opportunities.

    Similarly, all employees are equal the day they are hired. They are entitled to certain basic rights outlined in the core values and policies of the company. Every employee deserves to be treated with basic dignity and respect. But what an employee does after one is hired should determine how he or she is treated beyond the basic rights of employment. Each employee should be treated differently — I might even say inconsistently — based upon how he or she performs and behaves at work. Individual treatment of individuals and a situational response to situations is the only fair way to manage.

    I believe deep down most people hope their company will be a meritocracy, where merit is rewarded. Employees seek an environment where all can rise according to his or her talents. It is the American dream that through one’s own hard work the cream can rise to the top. The poet, Robert Frost said: “I don’t want to live in a homogenized world. I want the cream to rise.”

    At the end of the day I believe most people wish to live in a world where those who do good thrive above those who refuse to do good.

    Those managers who profess and practice the equal treatment of all employees will soon find that all incentives to perform well, and all penalties for not performing, vanish. Where there is no incentive to excel, there is no excellence. Where there is no consequence for failure, people fail to perform. Equality often breeds mediocrity. The fact that the second and third string players on a team must work hard to become first string makes all strings on the team perform better. Performance only improves when there is a payoff for better performance. When everyone on a team receives a trophy, regardless of one’s effort, there is no need to strive for mastery.

    Good managers who are honest or introspective know they shouldn't treat employees equally because employees are not equal. Some people have greater skills and talents than others. Some are wiser, more insightful and capable of making profound decisions; while others are more limited in their scope of understanding. Some workers are fast, producing twice as much as their colleagues. Some are creative thinkers or great problem solvers, capable of designing next generation products for their company. Some employees have more value than others because they accomplish more at far less cost to the organization. Therefore, those who do more deserve more, while those who do less deserve less.

    Bad managers treat everyone the same, falsely believing all have the same worth. And in their consistency these managers are unfair and wrong.

    Good managers know treating every employee with the same consistency can be grossly unfair because employees have different needs in similar situations. One employee, for example, may need great compassion from one's manager while grieving over the loss of a loved one. Another employee may desire just the opposite, wanting the manager to apply more pressure, forcing her to work harder in order to keep her mind off of her loss and grief. One employee may need constant communication and feedback from the manager; while another employee may work better with limited or no interaction with the boss. One worker may put family first and demand more free time; while another employee may be a workaholic and spend long hours at the office. Each worker has his or her unique personal and professional needs, requiring a different style and response from one’s manager.

    Bad managers believe they should treat everyone the same regardless of their situation. They believe what they do for one they must do for all, and what they cannot do for one they cannot do for another. And in their consistency these managers are unfair and wrong.

    Myth #2: Managers Must Not Have Favorites

    Good managers who are honest or introspective admit they have favorites. Good managers favor those who perform well. Good managers favor those they trust over those who only work when the manager is watching. Good managers favor those who do their job to standard and disfavor those who willingly or spitefully perform poorly. Good managers unhesitatingly provide special favors to those who perform favorably because those favors are predicated upon good performance. 

    Bad managers wrongly believe that no one deserves special treatment, even if an employee performs extra specially. They believe there are no exceptions to the rules, even though an employee may be exceptional. They offer no favors, even when performance is favorable. And in their consistency these managers are unfair and wrong.

    Let me emphasize strongly that there is a destructive form of favoritism that bad managers may exhibit. It is driven by personal bias or interpersonal relationships. Any type of favoritism that is not based solely on an employee’s performance is wrong and detrimental to trust and respect in the workplace. Managers must be very aware of their unconscious biases. People tend to favor those who are like them. Or they favor those they like. They favor their "friends." Or, in worse case situations, they favor those to whom they are attracted. Good managers can separate their personal views of an employee from their professional assessment of the worker’s performance. Good managers only favor those who perform favorably.

    Good managers often are reluctant to admit they actually do have favorites and do treat people inconsistently, even though such favorable treatment may be subconscious. But I believe managers should consciously and deliberately treat people differently based upon their differences in performance. Actually this is a fundamental management practice – where those who perform to standard are recognized and rewarded while those who do not perform as expected are coached, counseled or disciplined.

    I believe managers should shout from the rooftops that they will treat people inconsistently. Managers should make it obvious to everyone exactly why some people are treated better than others in the workplace. They should make it known that all of their employees could be their favorite if all perform favorably. They should clearly state that they will treat good performers one way and poor performers another. They should let it be known that those workers who are trustworthy will be trusted, those who are respectable will be respected, those who are supportive will be supported, and those who act dignified will be treated with dignity. Employees need to understand that the way they will be treated by their manager is a reflection of what the employee does and how the employee acts at work.

    It has been my experience in life that friendly people usually have friends. Those who love others are loved by others. Those who are kind receive kindness in return. That which one sows, one reaps. This is true in life and should be true at work.

    I have a special name for this reap and sow truism. I call it the "Life is a Mirror" principle. Life is a reflection of who one is and how one acts. What a person receives out of life is directly linked to what he or she does. Grumpy people tend to see the world as a grumpy place. People with negative attitudes generally see the world in a negative light. Happy, optimistic people, on the other hand, usually see the world as upbeat and positive.

    Sometimes managers need to remind employees that life is a mirror. Contrary to the Golden Rule of treating people as they want to be treated, managers should treat employees how they deserve to be treated. Employees who perform and behave well ought to be treated well while those who perform and behave poorly ought to be treated less well. The message to employees from good managers should be this: "If you like the way you’re treated at work, it’s because you deserve it. If you don't like the way you’re treated at work, then change your performance or behavior. As a manager I'm just mirroring the way you act. I'm treating you the way you deserve to be treated based upon your actions and reactions at work. Life is good when you are good. When you do good you’ll feel good. If you do bad you ought to feel bad. This is a key principle of life because life is a mirror."

    One reason why managers don't treat employees inconsistently and don't have favorites is because they fear what will happen if an employee runs to the Human Resource Department and complains about how they are treated. Reflective Human Resource professionals know real performance management practices are specifically designed to treat people differently. Good managers recognize and reward those who perform well and they coach, counsel and discipline those who don’t. Bonuses are given to those who contribute to the overall profitability of the business. Those who perform well receive pay increases and promotions while those who perform poorly don't. At least that's the way it's supposed to be.

    It is wrong to treat people consistently in the workplace. It is wrong for managers to not show favoritism to those who perform favorably. Hopefully someday all managers will wake up and recognize the negative impact of perpetuating the two management myths discussed in this article. Someday managers will boldly proclaim their intention to be inconsistent and to have favorites. §

     

    Innovative Management Group can help you implement the performance management policies, procedures, practices, processes and systems necessary to get high performance results from your employees. We teach managers how to truly hold people accountable for their work, ensuring those employees who perform well are rewarded while those workers who perform poorly are coached and counseled to improve their productive output. Call us at 307-789-3744 to find out more about how we can improve the performance in your organization.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 07:01 am    0 Comment(s)

    Ten Things Every Employee Should Know: How to Increase One’s Personal Value at Work (February 17, 2014)

    It seems like every employee today is worried about job security, regardless of whether the economy has improved or not.

    As I walk the floors of client companies I hear concerned employees who are stressing about their future. Most feel helpless, believing their destiny is in someone else’s hands. They think there is nothing they can do to protect themselves from being laid off.

    This may be true in some cases where poor management decisions have left companies with no option other than massive downsizing. But in most cases, management makes a decision of who stays and who leaves during bad economic times based upon a value judgment of the worth and contribution of the individual employee. High value employees are more secure in their employment than employees whose worth is questionable.

    Therefore, every employee needs to fully grasp this simple concept: In most situations, the future of an employee’s job security rest squarely on the shoulders of the employee, not their manager. The key to maintaining one’s employment is to ensure one is employable. This applies to both one’s current job and one’s future employment possibilities.

    Employable employees will always have a job. Wise employees realize this. Astute employees know there are very specific things they can do to guarantee they remain employed or employable. Sadly, most employees never learn these basic precepts. These principles are seldom, if ever, taught in public schools or business management courses. Some people may be lucky enough to learn about them from a mentor. But most people either learn these principles the hard way — through experience — or they never learn them at all.

    Listed below are ten important axioms I believe every employee must fully understand and internalize in order to better position oneself for success in the business world. These ten principles come from my more than 37 years of observations as a business executive and management consultant. They are ten unspoken axioms that apply in any organization. They are ten keys to an employee’s current and future success.

    Axiom #1: Your work is a commodity. What you do as an employee only has value if someone is willing to pay for it. If you want people to value what you do, you need to deliver on the “implied promises” that are inherent in your job description. It’s implied that you will be honest. It’s implied that you will be on time to work. It’s implied that you will work hard and provide an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. It’s implied that you will do exactly what is expected of you by your boss. It’s implied that you will never exhibit inappropriate or off-purpose behaviors or act contrary to the good of your employer.

    The better you are at delivering on the implied promises, the greater your value will be as an employee. And the greater your value is as an employee, the higher the odds are that you will always be employed. Do what your company needs you to do, serve your customers, obey your boss and work hard -- that's how you stay employed.

    Axiom #2: The value of your work is determined by others, not by you. As an employee you cannot tell others how valuable you are. You cannot declare how hard you work. You cannot determine the worth of what you do based upon your own perceptions of worth. Your boss – and more particularly, your customers – determines the worth of what you do as an employee.

    You need to find out what others expect from you in the workplace. Focus on your “customers” and what they want. Ask your subordinates, peers and superiors what their expectations are of you. Learn their definition of success for you so you can work toward it. Don’t assume you know what it takes to succeed. Solicit the input of others and then match your performance and behaviors to the feedback you receive.

    Remember, in the workplace other people determine the criteria for your success, not you. You will succeed when you deliver what others expect from you.

    Axiom#3: You get out of life what you give. Make sure you give your honest best effort at work. Show more interest in meeting the needs of the business, rather than your own needs. When you do all that you can at work to achieve the company’s objectives – while suspending your personal agenda – you will find that your personal needs, more than likely, will also be met. When you watch out for others, they usually watch out for you.

    Axiom #4: Be supportive of your boss. Do everything within your power and ability to make your boss a hero. Discern his or her needs and objectives. Do your part (and more) to meet those needs and achieve the boss’ objectives. Be responsive to the directives and commands of your boss. Express appreciation and show your support of your boss whenever possible. Very seldom in the business world can one succeed without the support of one’s boss. The more supportive you are of your boss, the more support you can expect in return, particularly in tough economic times.

    Axiom #5: Be supportive of your teammates. Help out whenever possible. Chip in when work needs to be done. Never engage in gossip, back-biting, or criticism of the members of your work team. Talk positively about your colleagues. Offer encouragement and support to your coworkers at every opportunity. Recognize the accomplishments of others and praise them liberally. Be a team player in all of your actions, words and deeds.

    Axiom #6: Recognize where and how other people have contributed to your success. Few great achievements were ever accomplished individually. Someone helped you get to where you are. People around you are contributing to your success. Give credit to those who support you directly or indirectly. Take only a small piece of the credit for team accomplishments. Don’t toot your own horn too loudly. When you recognize and praise others for what they have done for you, more than likely they will sound your praises in return.

    Axiom #7: Speak up. Be a contributor. Share your opinion and views. Provide input. Offer your perspective. Don’t be a “yes man” when no is the right answer. Help everyone to succeed by identifying and sharing where improvements can be made. But do so wisely and kindly. Know when, where and how to offer suggestions or provide critical analysis. Have sound, valid reasoning behind your statements and never push your personal agenda. Always offer your suggestions in a kind and respectful manner.

    Axiom #8: Be receptive to and a champion of change. Change is inevitable in every job. Work processes continually evolve. Good workers are always looking for ways to accomplish their work easier, faster or cheaper. Never become complacent in your work. Always look for opportunities to improve. Never resist change. When changes come accept them eagerly and adapt to them quickly. Be an early adopter of change and help others to change as well. Show management that you are willing and able to do whatever is necessary to guarantee success in the new business model.

    Axiom #9: Tolerate the idiosyncrasies of your organization. Every company has something strange about it. Usually there is some trivial (or significant) thing about the way a company operates that bothers the employees. Good employees are able to look past it; and it is this tolerance that makes them especially good employees. Bad employees whine and let it affect their attitude; and it is their bad attitude that makes them bad employees. The more employees complain or fight against the idiosyncrasies of their organization the less they become a part of it. Good employees seek to build up their organization, while bad employees tear it down. Do all you can to be a non-complaining, non-criticizing employee.

    Axiom #10: Be a model of excellence. Produce quality results. Provide exceptional service. Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors. Make it happen. Get it done. Do it right.

    High value employees are always “go-to” employees. They are the ones who managers know will get the work done on time, on scope, and within budget. Be an employee that can always be counted on. When you are viewed as the highest value employee, you will either be the last on the list for layoffs or off the list completely. But, more important, high value employees can easily transport their high value to any organization for whom they work. There is always a place for high value employees.

    Employees who consciously remember these ten axioms, and model them daily, will find their value to their company increasing. High value employees are seldom let go. Even during severe economic downturns, most companies will do all they can to retain their highest value workers.

    I wish to stress that these ten axioms should constitute “normal” behavior for all employees at all times. Clearly they are important during a downturn in business, but, even in the good times, employees who model these principles, for in good times high value employees are the most likely to get promotions and pay raises. Management tends to reward employees who deliver on the implied promises, meet expectations, and focus on business results. Management appreciates those employees who support their boss and their fellow workers. Management prefers employees who speak up and offer suggestions for improvement in a kind and respectful manner. The best candidates for promotion are those who are receptive to change, tolerate the company’s idiosyncrasies, and model the appropriate performance, attitude and behaviors each and every day at work.

    Wise employees realize their employment future is within their own hands. To a great extent they control their own destiny in the workplace. They can choose to accept these ten axioms or reject them; and, by so doing, either reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of their choice.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 05:00 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Get the Work Done with Less People (February 5, 2014)

    Even though our economy is theoretically more stable, many companies still are hesitant to expand their employee base. Far too many companies are trying to maintain production levels with limited staff. Some companies, such as those in the gaming industry, are now being forced to layoff workers as their market becomes saturated and overly competitive.

    Managers hope their employees will understand the business necessity for the reduced staffing levels and will continue to perform at acceptable levels without adversely impacting the customers. And, of course, the managers want to maintain the same level of production and quality with less people.

    But is this even possible?

    A building contractor cannot build a building with less material without reducing the quality of the building. A symphony conductor cannot eliminate a section of the orchestra without diminishing the quality of the music. Likewise, a report that previously has taken four fulltime employees one week to produce cannot be completed in the same amount of time with only two employees. Waitresses who can provide great customer service to ten tables at one time cannot cover 15 tables equally well at the same level of quality.

    Something Has to Give

    If your employees are already working at or near full capacity, it will be almost impossible for them to do more with less staff without adversely impacting the quality of their work.

    I like to demonstrate this by holding up four 3x5 cards, each representing 25% of an employee’s time. If 100% of an employee’s time is already taken at work, and you want to give that employee more work to do (represented by another card you wish to add to the deck of four), how is it possible to add more work to the employee’s schedule when 100% of the employee’s time is already gone? 

    Interestingly, it is possible to find more time at work. Historically employees invariably do find time to accomplish the added tasks when bosses load them up with additional work. But where does the additional time come from? If it’s true that 100% of the employee’s workday is filled, then the only way an employee can complete the additional work is to come in early, stay late or reduce one’s lunch or break time to get the added work done.

    In other words, the employee must give up one’s personal time to take on the new tasks. Unless you, the manager, implement some of the techniques I outline in this article.

    Going Beyond 100%

    There is an adage that says: “If you want to get the work done, give it to your busiest worker.” This tends to be true because your hardest worker usually is your most responsible employee. Responsible employees tend to do whatever they have to, to get the work done, even if it means sacrificing their own time.

    Human beings have a great capacity to “kick it in gear” in order to get work done in a pinch. They can do more in less time. They can give 110% of their effort. They can sacrifice their family and personal time for the good of the company. But they can only do this for a limited time.

    It is possible to go to 110% percent on a nuclear reactor and get greater production by doing so. But staying “in the red” too long can have dire consequences. The same is true of people. It is possible to push people in times of great need to do more – to give 110% – but they cannot do that forever without causing damage to themselves or the company. Eventually, the stress of working beyond normal parameters will cause a “meltdown.”

    Getting the Work Done With Less People

    Consequently, if you downsize your staff and still want to get the work done, you need to take certain actions as a manager. One of the greatest problems after a downsizing is that managers typically don’t do anything different from what they were doing before the layoff. They continue going about their own work as if nothing has changed. But a great deal has changed; which means the manager must change, too.

    Just like your employees, your workload increases the moment you lay off staff. There are numerous managerial duties you must perform immediately after a layoff if you want your employees to continue to perform at acceptable levels.

    The first thing you need to do after a layoff is to identify what work is core to your business and what work is not. It’s easy to believe that everything you and your employees are doing is important, but when business is going good businesses typically become bloated and bureaucratic. “Pet projects” and “fluff” are easily allowed when a company is profitable. A downturn in business forces you to look at what you’re doing and determine what really matters to your customers. I can assure you that some of the work your employees are currently doing really doesn’t matter to your customers. They don’t care. Nor does it positively impact the bottom line.

    You need to take a hard look at everything your staff is doing. Identify the work that is core to the business or required by law, and get rid of the rest. Be very clear about what things you will stop doing since you no longer have the staff. Remove all unnecessary tasks and responsibilities from your surviving employees before giving them the additional duties of the downsized employees. Pull unnecessary “cards” from their deck of responsibilities before adding new cards to the deck.

    While you’re looking at core work – what is and isn’t important to your customers – you also should identify which quality and service standards matter to your customers.

    People’s expectations change as situations change. For example, customers who never would have shopped at Walmart during prosperous times may suddenly find Walmart quality to be acceptable during a distressed economy. Customers who expected attention to detail and added-value perks when flying high during the economic boom may quickly lower their standards when forced to pay extra for such privileges during a recession.

    You may have to lower your quality or service standards during a recession since you may not have the staff to perform at a higher level after a downsizing. The good news is your customers may find the lowering of such standards to be acceptable, provided you know what is and is not important to them.

    Obviously, one of the most important things you can do after a layoff is to prioritize the work. During stressful times people can easily lose focus as to what is important and what is not. They can spend too much time on trivial issues and too little time on major priorities. You need to help your employees identify where they should channel their energy and effort. You need to help them focus on the things that matter most. This is particularly important when new duties have been assigned to them that previously were not their responsibility. People tend to do what they have always done unless specifically instructed to do otherwise.

    When people have been given additional duties, you may have to specifically teach people how to multi-task. Don’t assume your employees will know how to link previously unassigned tasks with their current assignments. You may need to walk your employees through each step of their processes and show them which steps can be optimized, minimized, synthesized or altered. Teach them how to do several tasks at once.

    Look to your exemplar employees to discover ways to perform better. Your most productive employees are the ones who have discovered little “tricks” to perform better, cheaper or faster. The best food servers, for example, have learned to scan all of their assigned tables while walking to or from the kitchen. They’ve discovered how to carefully stack the dishes on their arms so they can carry more plates in less trips. They mentally know how much time it takes to cook certain orders so they can perform other duties while they wait. They carry a water pitcher and a coffee pot at the same time, knowing someone will ask for one or the other as they pass by.

    The most efficient production line workers in a manufacturing plant know exactly how to hold a tool or position themselves on the line to better reach the equipment they’re working on. The best auto mechanic can quickly diagnose a problem by asking a few simple questions or probing certain areas of an engine.

    Over time your exemplar employees have discovered tricks that help them perform well. You need to teach the performance enhancing tricks of your exemplar employees to all of your workers so they can perform equally well.

    By now you should realize that a company downsizing means you have to train and cross-train your employees to do the new tasks assigned to them. I’m continually amazed at the number of managers who assign the duties of laid-off employees to surviving employees and expect them to pick up the tasks and perform to standard without significant training. Obviously there will be a learning curve on newly assigned work with a decrease in quality and performance while the new tasks are being learned. You must expect diminished performance and implement the training necessary to bridge the gap between the employees’ current skills and those needed to accomplish the tasks.

    Of course, the best scenario is one where the employees don’t have to learn the new tasks because you give tasks to your customers instead. This may sound strange, but you may be surprised to discover how many tasks your customers are willing to do themselves. For example, when there are less bellmen at a hotel due to downsizing, sometimes all a company needs to do is provide self-serve bell carts at the front desk so customers can take their bags to the room themselves. A self-serve checkout stand at a grocery store may be a better option for a customer than having to stand in line for a human attendant.

    If you use technology instead of people, you many find you don’t have to on-load as much work to your reduced staff as you supposed. During prosperous times companies tend to use human beings to add a “personal touch” to their business. But this personal touch may be completely unnecessary. Some customers may prefer automation, self-service, on-line purchasing, push-button technology and other means of conducting business to having to deal with over-worked and stressed-out employees. Never do manually what could more easily and cheaply be done through technology.

    Finally, from everything stated above it should be evident that your primary responsibility before, during and after a company downsizing is to clarify roles and expectations for your employees. They need to know exactly what is expected of them and the standards to which they must perform. It is unrealistic for you to expect fewer people to perform at the same level after a downsizing as the full complement of employees did before the layoff without significant changes to the way you manage. Life is significantly different for all surviving employees in a company after a layoff, and that includes you. You must manage different. You must undertake specific and deliberate actions to maintain the performance of your employees and satisfy your customers when you have less staff. §

     

    Innovative Management Group provides consulting and training services to help you manage effectively during tough economic times. We show you how to keep your employees focused on the things that matter most. We’ll help you draw out the full potential of your employees at every level of your organization. Call us at 307-789-3744 or email at mac@imglv.com.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 11:37 am    0 Comment(s)

    Why is Good Customer Service so Hard to Deliver? (February 4, 2014)

    Being able to deliver good customer service seems so simple. So why is it so hard for so many customer service providers to get it right?

    I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of being treated so poorly by people who are supposed to be serving me. I’m not very demanding as a patron. I don’t need that much. I just want the basics of customer service. I want people to give me what they would expect if our roles were reversed.

     Bad Service Experience

    This past week I was up in Canada working with a client company. I was staying at the “finest” hotel in the area. Sadly this fine hotel couldn’t even get the basics right. All I wanted was a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable, and fully-functional room. They missed horribly on all five critical points.

    I think some guestroom attendants must clean the hotel rooms in the dark. That’s why they missed so much when they cleaned. This also would explain why the guestroom attendant at this hotel didn’t know that four lightbulbs were out in my room. None of the lightbulbs worked in the bathroom. Makes you wonder!

    These same guestroom attendants apparently also don’t know guests want to sleep in. Since the housekeepers have to get up early I guess they feel everyone should get up early. That has to be the reason why they stood in the hallway outside my hotel room and talked to each other in loud voices at 6:30 in the morning. I have no idea what they thought the “do not disturb” sign on my door meant.

    But I really wasn’t sleeping anyway. In fact, I hadn’t been asleep all night. In order to save money (I assume), the builders of the hotel used only a single door between adjoining rooms. The thinness of the door allowed me to hear every word of the conversation of the people in the room next to me. They must have had a lot to say because they stayed up all night talking.

    My next fun experience was in the shower. Probably in another effort to save money the hotel didn’t provide bar soap in the room. Instead, they had a soft soap dispenser in the shower. What a hassle! Do you know how many times you have to push the button on the dispenser in order to get enough soap to clean your entire body?

    Later that day I went to the store and purchased a bar of soap so I wouldn’t have to go through that experience again. Why do I have to bring my own supplies to a quality hotel?

    My hotel room also didn’t have a drain plug in the bathroom sink. Well, actually it did. It was one of those little rubber stoppers. I haven’t seen one of those rubber things since the 1800s. But it certainly works. The bad part is unplugging the drain afterwards. I had to reach my hand into the dirty, scalding water to pull the plug. Not exactly what I consider to be a fine hotel experience.

    As I left my room that first morning I noticed that the door to my room was open. Apparently the door did not close fully on its own. I hadn’t noticed it the night before when I had gone to bed. That meant the door was open the entire time while I “slept,” while I was in the shower, and while I was getting dressed. I’m glad no one came in and caught me in my unaware.

    Gaining a Customer Perspective

    I think hotel owners and employees should be forced to spend several weeks living in their hotel rooms just as the guest does. Then they would see what I have to go through each week when I travel. Again, all I want is a clean, safe, quiet, comfortable and fully-functional room. It can’t be that tough to get it right, can it?

    Here’s another example of oblivious service providers.

    The other day my wife and I went to a movie at a local theater. It was a very suspenseful movie. Just at the most intense part of the movie near the end two theater employees in the projection room started a loud, lighthearted conversation. We could barely hear the movie over their laughter. When we complained to the manager she grilled us suspiciously about the situation. We had to be mistaken. There was no way we could have heard theater employees talking in the projection room. Then she went on to lament that other patrons had complained about the noise too. She never offered to investigate, never said she’d take any action, and never apologized.

    Why did we even bother to tell her? Because we thought she’d want to know so she could do something about it. But no one seems to care anymore.

    Why Can’t People Get it Right

    I avoid using drive-up windows of fast food restaurants anymore. The odds of getting the wrong order are increasingly high.

    I ordered a pizza delivered this past week. I didn’t notice until after the delivery person drove away that it was the wrong pizza. I wish I hadn’t tipped him so much.

    I seldom ask clerks in stores technical questions about the merchandize. Most clerks have no idea about the products they are selling. It used to be that salespeople learned about their products and those of their competitors so they could help the patron make an informed decision before a purchase. But now it seems clerks only know how to ring up the sale on the cash register. Unfortunately, some don’t even know how to do that.

    I wish when clerks asked if they could help you they really could. I wish people in the hospitality industry would be hospitable. I wish service providers would provide service. I wish I didn’t have to wait for waiters. I wish I could trust that I would get good service wherever I go. I wish I had confidence when I patronize a business that it would be a good experience.

    I would be such a loyal customer to a business if they would just give me what I want, how I want it, when I want it. I really don’t expect that much. I want my hot food hot, my cold food cold. I want what I ordered. I want things I buy to work. I want my bill to be accurate. I want a good night’s sleep in a hotel. Is this too much to ask? Is this so hard to deliver? §

     

    Innovative Management Group provides two-, four- and eight-hour training programs on customer service for executives, managers and employees. Please call us at 307-789-3744 for a list of our customized training courses.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 03:46 pm    0 Comment(s)

    How to Differentiate Your Products and Services to Succeed in Highly Competitive Markets (January 9, 2014)

    Many companies are trying to be better than their competitors. Regrettably, very few companies are trying to be different. Differentiating your products and services is critical to succeed in competitive markets.

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    Robert Goizueta, the former CEO of Coca Cola, once said, “In real estate it is location, location, location. In business it’s differentiate, differentiate, differentiate.” The key to your company’s success, particularly in these competitive times, is to differentiate your enterprise in such a way that it stands out in the minds of the customers and causes them to want your products over that of your competitors.

    For years many business leaders have felt a strong urge to pen a company vision statement with such timeworn and trite phrases as “superior products,” “service excellence,” “high quality,” “added value” or “profitability.” Vision statements at thousands of companies across the nation look insipidly similar. So many hotels, for example, envision becoming a “premier resort destination.” Countless enterprises strive to be “number one” in their industry. Others dream of being the biggest or the best at what they do.

    Businesses today tend to operate in a me-too competitive world. Competing products are becoming more and more alike. Me-tooism means trying to cash in on a competitor’s success. When one company creates a product or finds a market niche that works, competitors quickly launch similar products or implement comparable strategies to attract the same customers. The me-too competitors do it, no doubt, then try to claim that their products and services are superior to any other company.

    Everyone, it seems, is trying to be better than their competitors. Regrettably, very few are trying to be different. So many companies talk about being “the best of the best,” yet very few actually pull it off. That is because copy-cat companies either don’t know how to raise themselves to a higher level of service, or they just can’t do it.

    The fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter whether or not a company can pull off better quality or exceptional service because quality and customer service rarely are unique differentiating strategies. That’s because customers expect your products to be built well. They also expect to be taken care of in a superior way. Quality and service are a given, not a differentiation. No matter how hard you try or how good you become, quality and customer service will not attract new customers. It will not grow market share. Quality and service are great retention strategies, but they will not build your business. Quality and service only keep customers from defecting.

    Another less effective way companies sometimes seek to win business is to try to differentiate the company based upon price. But being “the low price leader” is a poor differentiation strategy. It is bad not only because your competitors can match or beat your price, but also because, by definition, being different should be worth something more. Usually people are willing to pay more for something that really is unique or different. Lowering the price to attract customers cheapens your brand. According to the theory of branding, when done successfully, branding should lead customers to develop an emotional attachment to your products. Once customers are emotionally attached, the cost of the products becomes a less significant issue to the customers.

    In addition to price being a bad differentiation strategy, low prices very seldom build customer loyalty. Research shows that a promotion that emphasizes price does not retain new customers once the promotion is over. The few customers who moved temporarily to take advantage of the low price usually return to their preferred supplier when the promotion ends. Customers know that prices are occasionally reduced so, although they temporarily may take advantage of a bargain, they don’t necessarily stay with that product.

    If your company’s only competitive strategy is to improve quality and service or to lower your prices, it means you’ve decided to run the exact same race as that of your competitors; only you, of course, intend to do it better. But instead of confronting your competitors on their playing field, your strategy should be to run a different race – a race you design yourself wherein you set your company up to win.

     Why You Need to Be Different

     Today’s competitive markets provide customers a wide variety of choices. The only way to survive is to be different. You must stand out among the many choices consumers have in your product areas. You must differentiate your brand and distinguish it from all others. If you ignore your uniqueness and try to be like everyone else (only better), you undermine what makes you novel. You discount your “unique selling proposition” (USP)

    Each of your marketing tactics must emphasize your USP. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer that says, “Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit.” Your proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique in either the singularity of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in your particular field. Your proposition must be so strong that it can pull new customers to your products. Businesses who dedicate themselves to building a favorable image and sharply defining the personality of their brand are more likely to gain the greater share of the market at the highest possible margin.

    To do this, your first objective is to oversimplify your message. Some of the most powerful positions are those that focus on a single word. Volvo is perceived to be the “safest” car on the road. Singapore Airlines is famous for its “attentive” service. DeWalt tools are the most “durable” you can buy. Allen Edmonds shoes are so “comfortable” you don’t have to break them in. Dodge builds trucks that are “ram tough.”

    Don’t try to tell your whole story; center on one product, one benefit, and one message. Focus on one powerful differentiating idea and drive it into peoples’ minds. Coca Cola is “the real thing.” Which means Pepsi cannot be. Consequently, Pepsi had to find its own differentiation. It became the cola of choice for a “new generation.” In Las Vegas, the Fiesta Hotel Casino was known as “the royal flush capital of the world.” No other casino could make the same claim.

    Don’t try to be all things to all people. The more variations you attach to your brand, the more the mind loses focus. New Coke and Classic Coke confused people. They wondered what happened to the “real thing.” If you want customers to remember your products, drive home a single message. Focus on what you do best. Make sure you always deliver. Repeat your message and your delivery until your differentiation is certain.

    Listed below are several ways you can differentiate your company in a simple, single focus.

    How to Be Different

     One way to differentiate your entity is to emphasize that your company was First in the Market. People tend to stick with what they’ve got. If you were there first, it means your competitors had to copy you. This reinforces the idea that your products are better. Research shows being first in the market provides a significant advantage over later entrants. One way to out-position the me-too latecomers is by stressing that you started it.

    Remember, however, that being first is one thing; staying first is another. Being first means you must stay first. To stay first you must continually discover novel and interesting ideas to maintain your leadership position. The claim of being first only has differentiating power if you continue to lead the pack.

    Your product differentiation might be a Unique Attribute about your company or products. An attribute is a characteristic, peculiarity, or distinctive feature of your company or products. Although many products seem to be the same (“If you’ve seen one casino, you’ve seen them all”), most have some distinguishing attributes. There are many nice cars in the market, but BMW is “the ultimate driving machine.”

    The most effective attributes are simple and benefit-oriented. The thickness of Heinz ketchup signals its quality. A safer car implies a better design and engineering. Crest is the toothpaste that best fights cavities.

    Once a product becomes known for a certain attribute, that attribute is no longer available to competitors. Since Crest became the toothpaste that fights cavities, another brand had to focus on taste, while yet another promoted its unique swirl design.

    Sometimes you can differentiate your company’s position by hanging a negative attribute on your competition. During the heyday of “family-oriented” casinos in Las Vegas, one casino improved their position by stressing that they were the casino where adults play. To differentiate their property they emphasized decadent activities at their casino. They identified what real gamblers want and promoted those behaviors. Once they focused on decadence, the casino’s profit margin soared, thus proving they had found the right differentiation.

    As stated above, once an attribute is successfully taken by a competitor it no longer is available to you. Therefore you must find a different attribute instead of trying to copy your competition. You should emphasize the value of your unique attributes, thus staking your claim and gaining your share of the minds in your market.

    Leadership also is a powerful way to differentiate your brand. Being an industry leader sets your company apart from your competitors. Humans tend to equate “bigness” with success, status, or best. When you are seen as the leader, people are more likely to believe almost anything you say about your brand.  Powerful leaders can take ownership of the word that stands for the category. The best leadership position is one where your brand becomes the generic for the category. Statements such as “hand me a Kleenex,” “make me a Xerox copy,” or “FedEx it to me,” show that these companies dominate the category. Customers almost unthinkingly use these products because the company is first in their mind when they need a tissue, a copy, or a package shipped.

    Your leadership position may include a sales dominance (the Toyota Camry is the best-selling car in America). It may entail a choice dominance (Harley-Davidson often is an unreliable motorcycle, yet it still is the motorcycle of choice for real motorcycle enthusiasts).  When you dominate in sales, you dominate in mind-share.

    Your advantage may be a technological leadership advantage (Pentium processors add value to a computer), as a leader in performance (Cray super-computers are the granddaddy of all computers) or it could even be a service advantage (Nordstrom is still seen as an exemplar of service even though their profitability has declined significantly in the last few years).

    When you have a leadership advantage you need to brag about your position. When you get to the top make sure the marketplace knows about it. If you don’t take credit for your achievements your competitors soon may claim what is rightfully yours.

    Heritage is another way to differentiate. A long company history can make people feel more secure about your products. Being around a long time also gives prospects the feeling that they are dealing with an industry leader. Heritage might include a unique company history (Wells Fargo); ownership within a family line (Gallo Wine); an association with a particular community (“the San Francisco treat”), region (maple syrup from Vermont), or country (Swiss watches); or even a heritage built around a fictional character (the Marlboro Man, Jolly Green Giant or Mickey Mouse).              

    Sometimes you can use the lack of heritage, or the wrong heritage, of your competitors to better differentiate your own position. In the minds of the customers the Yugo could not be a quality made car because it was manufactured in Yugoslavia (although some consumers thought it came from Poland). Although Atlantic City may be a popular spot for gamblers on the East Coast, the thinking still is that a person has not had a true gaming experience until they’ve visited Las Vegas. A wine made anywhere other than France or California is not viewed as a quality wine.

    Market Specialty is another differentiating strategy. People are impressed with companies who concentrate on a specified activity or product. They perceive them as experts, often giving them more credit than they deserve. Today generalized companies that are trying to offer everything to everybody are losing market share. Large department stores, like K-Mart and Sears, are losing business to smaller stores that position themselves as experts in athletic shoes (Foot Locker), sexy underwear (Victoria’s Secret), outdoor cooking (Barbecues Galore), or electronic equipment (Best Buy). Again, you need to find out what your company does well, deliver it perfectly every time, and emphasize the uniqueness of your specialty.

    A successful specialist needs to stay specialized. When you chase other product lines you erode your position as an expert. Amazingly, it’s now possible to buy a taco or burrito at McDonalds. They went from hamburgers, to chicken, to fish, to pizza, and now to tacos and burritos. The golden arches are fast losing their identity. Whereas McDonald’s used to be known for good hamburgers and great fries, now their food is mediocre in every category.

    Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, has stayed focused since its inception. A few years ago their napkins said it all: “30 Years – One Mission – Low Fares.” They’ve stayed focused. They’ve kept their unique differentiation by remaining operationally efficient with minimal expenses in order to maintain their low fares. Although other airlines have tried, none yet has matched Southwest’s differentiating strategy and tactics. That’s why Southwest is the number one airline in customer satisfaction. They deliver on their differentiating promise.

    Another way to differentiate is through product Preference. Customers aren’t always sure what they want. When customers don’t know what they want, they follow the herd. They choose what other people are choosing. They buy what everyone else is buying. “Look for a restaurant with a crowded parking lot” is an accepted axiom when you don’t know where to eat. “Nine out of ten doctors agree” means the product must be right for you. A recommendation by friends of a trusted auto mechanic is always believed and appreciated. Anything that tells people what other people think or how other people act is a good preference strategy.

    The best part about this differentiating strategy is you can supply “what other people think” about your products. Is Tylenol really the pain reliever hospitals prefer, or has Tylenol just convinced us of that? Are Nike shoes really preferred by all of those famous athletes, or do they just wear them because they’re given free pairs of shoes? Do nine out of ten doctors really agree that a certain product is better than another? And who are the nine doctors anyway? With some careful market research or a paid celebrity endorsement any product can be the preferred product.

    When your product really is preferred by a segment of customers you need to exploit that differentiation. What other people think becomes even stronger when your claim can stand up to scrutiny. The more legitimate the preference the better your position.

    How a Product is Made can be a unique differentiation. Many products often contain a piece of technology (Pentium III processor), a unique design (White Castle’s square hamburgers), or a special ingredient (the “cleansing conditioners” in Pledge) that set the product apart from the competition. The differentiation may be the way the product is made (Burger King makes hamburgers “your way”), a system innovation (re-chargeable batteries), a process improvement (“in and out in five minutes”), or some other special characteristic. Handmade rugs, for some reason, are perceived to be better than machine made. The cleaning spray 409 claims to have “better cleaning power” (although it doesn’t say why). According to Madge in the television commercials, Palmolive dish soap is supposed to be a good hand softener.  Little mention was made of Palmolive’s dish cleaning abilities.

    In our rapidly changing, high-tech world being the Next Generation product is a great way to differentiate your company. Instead of trying to be better, companies should try to be next. No one wants to buy what is perceived to be an obsolete product. Your company can beat the competition by positioning your products as the newest or greatest. Leading companies are always on the lookout for the next generation of products. They seek ways to improve, redesign, or add technology as a way to create new generation products. They protect their position by staying on the leading edge of their industry.

    Somewhat linked to the next generation strategy is the differentiation of What’s Hot. As stated previously, people are like sheep. They want to buy what is hot and don’t want to buy what is not. If your company is hot you need to tell everyone that you’re hot.

    Customers can easily tell what’s hot and what’s not. What’s hot is what people are buying. It’s what people are doing and where they are going. It’s the trends and fashions of the day. It’s such things as “the fastest growing company in the country,” “the car of choice,” “top of the bestseller list,” “the place to see and be seen,” “America’s store”, and similar claims. Usually these claims are substantiated by sales figures, industry ratings, or declarations by industry experts. However, your claim that you’re hot must be accurate; otherwise your competitors will exploit your inaccuracy.

    Because moods, trends, and whims change, a “what’s hot” differentiation strategy typically is only good as an initial strategic thrust. The story behind your “hot” success should be used to set up a long-term differentiation. Popeye’s spicy chicken is hot because the trend today is for spicy foods. Eventually the trend will shift. So Popeye’s needs to find a reason why customers should stay with Popeye’s beyond the spicy chicken bandwagon. You need to find a way to explain your success other than a mere link to a trend. The fact that you are hot today should be as a result of your being good in other areas.

    Remember also that you can differentiate your business differently in different places or to different customers. Restaurant menus may need to vary in different regions of the United States or in foreign countries. Some brand images or product names do not translate well in some locales. Different cultures call for different approaches. If your company is spread across the country or throughout the world you may have several unique differentiating strategies specific to the locale of the business.

    Staying Focused

    Finally, let me provide you with one word of caution. The key to differentiation is focus. As companies grow they can lose focus. They tend to get caught up in the growth and want to grow even more. This can cause them to want to branch out, expand their product lines, or acquire dissimilar entities. Sometimes adding more to your product mix actually can weaken growth potential. The more you add the more you may risk undermining your unique differentiation. When your company becomes something other than what you are known for, you force people to change their mind about what you are about. You erode your special difference. This is what happened to McDonald’s as it added the McPizza, McTaco, and other incongruent products. American Express lost focus when it got into the insurance business with Fireman’s Fund. Many of the “dot bomb” companies grew too fast and forgot to deliver the product their customers wanted. The companies who do well are those who stay true to their product type, attribute, and segment.

    As stated at the beginning of this article, sadly many organizations think the way to succeed is to emulate those in their industry who are doing well. In doing so, they stray from their unique difference in search of customers that their competitors already own. When they go after someone else’s business their only hope is to be better than their competitors. But even being better doesn’t guarantee customers will switch loyalties. A company can waste all of its time and resources trying to be better than the competition when all that is required is to be different. §

     

    Innovative Management Group offers facilitated executive strategic discussions to help you identify your company’s unique differentiation, value premise, brand position and competitive strengths. We also help you align everything within your company with your strategic objectives so every employee at every level of your organization is focused on the things that matter most.  Call us at 307-789-3744 to find out how we can position your company for long-term profitability and growth.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 03:49 pm    0 Comment(s)

    Stop Wasting Your Time in Boring, Unproductive Meetings ( 26, 2013)

    Managers across the nation report they spend between 60 to 90 percent of their time in group meetings. Yet much of this time is wasted or inefficient. Listed below are effective meeting leading processes to ensure your meetings are productive and meaningful.

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    How much time do you waste in unproductive meetings?

    Managers across the nation report they spend between 60 to 90 percent of their time in group meetings. Yet much of this time is wasted or inefficient. Many managers have a misconception that employees need to meet often in order to ensure effective communication and coordination. But much of what is done in meetings can be achieved through less time consuming methods.

    Innovative Management Group offers a one-day training course entitled “Effective Meeting Management” that helps managers realize that effective teams don’t have to meet together as often as one might think. During the workshop participants learn how to produce quality results without having to spend a lot of time in meetings. They recognize that production occurs on the shop floor, not in a conference room. Consequently, effective managers find ways to share important information and solve group problems without attending long meetings.

    The first thing participants learn in the Effective Meeting Management workshop is how to determine whether or not to hold a meeting in the first place. Several innovative and inexpensive techniques for communicating without meeting are explored during the session.

    Once it has been decided that a meeting is necessary, there are several things a meeting leader can do to make the meeting more productive and less time consuming. 

    First, there needs to be a specific goal or desired outcome for the meeting. The agenda topics to be addressed during the meeting should be designed to achieve the goals for which the meeting was called. Topics that do not move the group toward the goal should be eliminated from the agenda.

    Meetings are more effective when the participants come prepared. Advance notice of the meeting’s purpose and the topics of discussion should be given to those who will be attending the meeting. This means the meeting leader should send out the agenda in advance. When the goals of the meeting and topics to be addressed are published in advance both the meeting leader and the participants will be able to ensure that the right people attend the meeting. There is nothing more wasteful and frustrating than not being able to make a needed decision during a meeting because the right people are not in attendance. Likewise, there is no need to have people in the meeting who cannot contribute to the items being discussed or the decisions being made.

    Attendees at IMG’s Effective Meeting Management course learn how to expedite their meetings by sending out pre-meeting announcements that fully prepare the members to participate in the meeting. The information also ensures the meeting members stay focused during the meeting.

    Another skill taught at the workshop is how to quickly move through the agenda by correctly sequencing the agenda items to accomplish the best possible results. Participants also explore ways to create an open environment of trust and respect during the meeting so attendees feel comfortable participating in the meeting.

    One of the greatest complaints about meetings is that they either start late or go longer than scheduled. This frustrates those who try to plan their day or manage their busy calendars. Attendees in the Effective Meeting Management course learn the value of time control and are given specific tools for focusing and controlling the discussion during meetings.

    One method of controlling off-purpose discussions during a meeting is to manage the expectations of the partici-pants during the meeting. Too often meeting attendees turn minor agenda items into major points of debate. Typically this occurs because the meeting members had an expectation that every topic was open for discussion. Conversely, sometimes meeting attendees are silent when advice or open discussion is warranted.

    This problem can be rectified by letting people know in advance the type of agenda item being addressed. Normally there are four types of agenda items in a typical meeting.

    “Informational” agenda items are not open for discussion. These items usually entail merely sharing information for clarification only. During informational agenda items participants should listen quietly or ask questions for clarification. No other discussion of the agenda item should take place.

    During “advisory” agenda items the leader is soliciting input from the members. The group’s role is to give advice. Meeting attendees should not expect to make the decision or to argue or debate after the advice is given and the decision is made.

    “Problem solving” agenda items are placed on the agenda when group involvement is needed to discuss the item and make the decision during the meeting. Obviously, problem solving issues are the most time consuming items on the meeting agenda, while informational agenda items should be brief. Long meetings result when attendees try to turn informational or advisory agenda items into problem solving issues.

    The fourth type of agenda item is “Solicitation for Help.” This is an item that is not open for discussion during the meeting, but only brought up by an individual who would like help from someone once the meeting is over. The purpose for this agenda item is to stop spending meeting time discussing problems that can be resolved outside of the meeting.

    During the Effective Meeting Management workshop meeting leaders are provided with tools to manage the meeting to achieve productive outcomes. They learn how to control off-purpose behaviors that may arise in meetings. They also receive techniques to ensure action items are assigned, followed-up on, and completed.

    Someone once said, “When the outcome of a meeting is to hold another meeting, it has been a lousy meeting.” Attendees leave the Effective Meeting Management workshop with everything they need so they won’t have to attend another lousy meeting. §

     

    For more information about the Effective Meeting Management workshop please contact Mac McIntire at 307-789-3744 or e-mail mac@imglv.com       

     

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 05:46 am    0 Comment(s)

    Four Ways to Show You Truly Care About Your Customers (June 17, 2013)

    To create customer loyalty your employees must show they truly care about the customer’s needs. Here are four simple techniques employees can use to build strong customer loyalty.

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    Some very simple words and actions go a long way to improve relationships with your customers.

    You can demonstrate your concern and appreciation for your customers through four caring responses that send a message of thoughtful friendliness. Every one of your employees should be well versed in the Four A’s of Customer Service. When used regularly these four qualities show how much you value your customers.

    Acknowledge

    One of the best ways to send a message to your customers of how important they are to you is to simply acknowledge them. Notice people when they enter your business. Be aware of those who are around you. Make eye contact and smile. As soon as you have an opportunity to speak, acknowledge the customer and greet them in a courteous and friendly manner.

    Several years ago I read a survey that asked people to identify the one thing that would cause them to take their business elsewhere. The results were surprising. Only 20% of the respondents said they would take their business elsewhere if they were treated “rudely.” But 86% of those surveyed said they would stop doing business with a company if they were treated “indifferently” — where an employee acted as if their patronage was not important. One of the greatest – and simplest – things you can do to build a relationship with your customers is to merely acknowledge their presence in your establishment.

    Another way to acknowledge the customer is to respond appropriately to customer comments and inquiries. Acknowledge what people say. Never ignore a customer’s comment. If they say it, they want you to hear it. Find a way to acknowledge every comment from a customer. Say something to show you are listening to your customers.

    Some comments call for a quick response, such as when a person mentions a new home, a grandchild, or an upcoming vacation. You can quickly acknowledge the comment with a simple response such as:

  •  Great!
  • That’s terrific.
  • Congratulations.
  • That’s wonderful news.
  • How exciting.
  • You must be thrilled.
  • You deserve a vacation.                             
  • Obviously, all customer concerns or complaints should immediately be acknowledged. Respond with an appropriate apology. Be sure to include in your response the reason for the concern or complaint and tell the person what you will do to help. Here are some examples of what you could say:

  • I’m sorry you couldn’t get into your room. Let me make you a new key.
  • I apologize for the delay. How can I assist you?
  • I’m sorry we’re out of Clam Chowder. The Corn Chowder is equally good.
  • I’m sorry you had to return your laptop. I can transfer your old hard drive to your new laptop if you’d like.
  • I know you are in a lot of pain. I’ll get you in to see the doctor as quickly as I can.
  • Appreciate

    You can show appreciation to the customer during almost any interaction. At a minimum you should include a statement of appreciation at the end of a transaction. For example you might say:

  • Thanks for calling. I enjoyed talking to you.
  • Thanks for staying with us. Come see us again soon.
  • Thanks for being so patient and understanding.
  • I appreciate your willingness to work with me on this.
  • It’s been wonderful seeing you again.
  • You’re my favorite customer.
  • One of the best ways to build customer loyalty is to so show how much you appreciate your customer’s business. Thank them for their business and express appreciation for their continued patronage.

    Affirm

    Affirmations are positive statements you make that compliment others. People feel good when they are complimented. And customers who feel good about a business tend to patronize that business again and again.

    Compliments are easy to make. Be sure you are sincere and really mean it. Don’t invent compliments, but look for the good in others. Find things to praise, such as:

  • Wow! I love your car!
  • Excellent choice, sir.
  • You look cheerful this morning, Madam.
  • What a nice looking family.
  • Your kids are so well behaved.
  • That was an amazing accomplishment.
  • Assure

    Whenever a customer has a need or concern regarding the delivery of your products or services, he or she wants assurance that you will take personal responsibility to resolve the problem. After acknowledging the customer’s concern and expressing appreciation that the issue was brought to your attention, make a confidence building statement that assures the customer you will handle the situation, such as:

  • I’ll take care of that for you personally, sir.
  • I will make sure it is in your room when you arrive.
  • My name is Maria. I will call you back in a few minutes with an answer.
  • I’ll do it myself to make sure it gets done properly.
  • I’ll check into it immediately and contact you as soon as I find out what is going on.
  • Let me take it and get it fixed for you. It will be done when you get back.
  • These four considerate responses go a long way toward the development of lasting relation-ships with you customers. Practice using them with your customers (and your family). Both they and you will be glad you did. §

     

    Innovative Management Group offers two-, four- and eight-hour customer service training programs for managers, supervisors and front-line employees. We custom-design the training programs to instill the right service values and behaviors needed to create loyal customers for your business. Call us at 307-789-3744 to see how we can help you focus your employees on the things that matter most to your customers.

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 09:57 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Maintain Employee Motivation and Commitment after a Layoff (March 1, 2013)

    Downsizing the business is a fast and effective way to reduce expenses, maintain profitability, and ensure the continuation of the business. But how you lay people off will a have long-lasting effect on those who remain with your company. Poorly handled decisions today can impact productivity and morale for a long time in the future.

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    The budget cuts of the "sequester" go into effect tonight at midnight. That means we can expect to see significant reductions in the labor force throughout the defense industry and the private sector. And, of course, those cuts will result in cascading layoffs that will impact even the mom and pop businesses on America's main streets.

    Downsizing your business is a fast and effective way to reduce expenses, maintain profitability, and ensure the continuation of the business. But how you lay people off will have a long-lasting effect on those who remain with your company. Poorly handled decisions today can impact productivity and morale now and for a long time in the future.

    Employees who stay with your company after a layoff often have confused emotions as they wrestle with the changes brought about by the reorganization. A paradox of conflicting loyalties stirs within them. Feelings of concern for former colleagues are juxtaposed with feelings for oneself. Previous feelings of loyalty to the company now conflict with loyalty to oneself. Employees question their previous work effort as they worry about whether they have a future with your enterprise.

    While your employees are going through these internal emotional struggles several other factors impact their future motivation and commitment.

    Invariably surviving employees are expected to take on more work. Normally they are asked to do more work for the same pay or, worse yet, for less pay because of the company’s declining financial position. Since most layoffs are undertaken to cut costs, the downsizing often results in salary freezes for those who stay with the company. Moreover, some former motivators may also have been eliminated, such as company cars, travel and entertainment budgets, or professional development expenses. Finally, there may be less career advancement opportunities after a downsizing, making one’s future with the organization less certain.

    The Importance of Communication

    The most important thing you can do to maintain morale and commitment after a layoff is to openly communicate with your employees.

    Many managers are hesitant to share information with employees after a reorganization, particularly if the information is of a negative nature. However, your workers expect you to bring up all relevant issues in a straightforward manner, especially any negatives that might impact them directly. Avoiding these issues sends a message that either the issues are not important or, worse yet, the employees themselves are not important enough for you to share information with them.

    The absolute worst thing you can do after a layoff is to send a message to remaining employees that they are not important. The more information you share with your employees during difficult economic times, the more they will feel you are concerned about their future. Likewise, the more employees feel you are concerned about their future, the more they will be concerned about the future of the business.

    One critical thing to remember during a reorganization is that when people lack real data, they make up their own. Usually what people make up is far worse than reality. You can stop the rumor-mills that typically run rampant during a downsizing by being up front with the employees.

    There are three crucial objectives you should have for your communication with employees during a reorganization.

    First, you should do everything you can to mitigate the usual fears employees have when an organization is in transition.

    Second, you should view every employee contact as an opportunity to build rapport with your workers.

    Finally, your message should be formulated and presented so well that it focuses the energy and effort of the employees where you want it – on the customers – rather than on the company.  What you say must eliminate from the employees all doubt, worry, gossip, wondering, and hesitancy.

    At the conclusion of your message you want the workers worrying about their work, not worrying about their jobs or their employer. To do this you must understand the psyche of the employees and address the concerns they worry about the most during a layoff.

    What Employees Want to Know

    Invariably there are five predictable questions employees will have during a company downsizing. Although the specific verbiage of the questions highlighted here may not be exactly how the employees would articulate their concerns, the answers to these questions will address most of the issues employees will be wondering about. When you know these questions in advance you can target your communication to address the employees’ concerns before they come up. This in turn shows the workers you are empathetic to their needs, thereby building rapport between you and them.

    Your answers to five critical questions will determine whether surviving employees will remain motivated and loyal to a company after a layoff.

    The questions are: 1) Was the downsizing integral to the business’ overall strategy to survive?; 2) What does the future look like for the company?; 3) Is there still a place for me in the company with continued opportunities for advancement?; 4) Will those employees who are let go be treated fairly?; and 5) What is expected of the employees who remain at the company after a downsizing? 

    Integral to Business Survival

    Employees want to know that the reorganization is not random or whimsical. Remaining employees have to be assured that the layoffs were necessary and not just done arbitrarily. A clear business need for the change must be supported by facts and figures. Employees need to know and understand the business reasons for the layoff and what the consequences would have been had the layoffs not occurred. The layoffs must be logically tied to the future business needs of the company and should have only affected those departments that were non-productive or no longer essential to the business.

    At the same time employees must perceive there is a clearly identified and well-thought-out strategy to return the company to stability and long-term profitability. They need assurance that by downsizing and taking hits now the company will be much better off in the future. Perceptions of unnecessary or illogical reductions in staff cause employees to lose confidence in your ability to protect the future viability of the company. Fears of future layoffs persist when employees see no clear linkage between the reduction in staff and management’s plan to return the company to profitability.

    You must be adept at understanding and explaining the business imperative for the change. Employees can buy-in to a reduction in staff, even the elimination of their own positions, given a reasonable business need for doing so. Managers who want to motivate surviving employees must take workers into their confidence and clearly outline the logic behind the downsizing decision.

    Outlook for the Future

    In a down economy when layoffs are necessary the future is often unknown. People generally are afraid of the unknown. To alleviate their own fears, the remaining employees will latch on to any information they can get about the company’s future plans to return the business to profitability. This is why rumors run rampant during a reorganization. It is the natural human need for information – any information – even if it is false. Surviving employees will remain fearful about the future until they have information that will assuage their fears.

    Before addressing the employees you should have a clear vision of where you want to take the company in the future. Leaders who possess and can communicate a confident view of the future can infuse confidence within surviving employees by sharing their vision. Employees are more apt to follow leaders who have a clear view of what the future entails.

    Although you may not have a clear view of the future when economic conditions have not yet stabilized, you must share what you know, assume or hope for the future. You must help employees to see the future themselves. Let employees know what they can expect to see and experience in the months ahead. Explain what changes or non-changes the company anticipates over the next one, three, six or twelve months. Share your plans. Be as open, specific and precise as possible. Any hesitancy or waffling from you will damage the confidence and commitment you will receive from your employees.

    Opportunities for Advancement

    Surviving employees want to know what their future prospects are with the newly reorganized company. Since traditional career paths may have been eliminated, new opportunities for “advancement” must be created. These typically entail such things as compensation for performance rather than position, greater autonomy and decision making authority, or opportunities to improve one’s “employability” through exposure to more aspects of the business. Employees in the new organization will want to work on projects that develop their skills while achieving company goals.

    You need to identify the advancement opportunities that will be in play after the reorganization prior to implementation of the change. Nothing demotivates employees faster than to have career options for which one has been striving to attain suddenly become unavailable because of elimination of positions or layers within the company.

      Treatment of Downsized Employees

    Surviving employees are greatly influenced by how downsized employees were treated when they were let go. Surviving employees want to be assured, should it happen to them, that laid off employees were “cared for” through severance pay, outplacement services, ample advanced notice, and fair and consistent treatment throughout the reorganization. Employees predict how they will be treated in the future based upon how the company treated displaced employees in the past. You will be wise to remember that employees have a long memory when it comes to company reorganizations. They recall exactly what was said back when and who did what to whom. Be very careful when making decisions about how to treat downsized employees.

    Expectations of the Remaining Employees

    Finally, although employees may not know they have this last need, and therefore generally may never articulate it, workers who stay with the company have an inherent desire to know: What is my charge?

    Once employees have decided they want to stay with the company after a reorganization, they need clarity on what the company expects of them. What do you want them to do? Should they carry on as they have been doing in the past, or should they do something different? What are their new marching orders?

    If you expect employees to change, you must tell them so. If you expect employees to continue doing what they have been doing in the past, you must tell them this also. Never assume that the employees will conclude what you want them to conclude. You must tell them.

    After you have gone through a downsizing you must give the surviving employees their charge. You should share with your employees the things that matter most in the new business model. Tell them:

  • What it takes to win in the new company
  • What they can do to contribute to the success of the company, as well as to their own success
  • What is in it for them if they do contribute to the future success of the company
  • People need hope in the future. Employees need to know that their future will once again be bright as they work to return the downsized company to profitability. Everything you do during a reorganization must be designed to build hope, not destroy it. When you answer point-by-point every question outlined in this article you mitigate the fears of the employees, you build tremendous rapport with them and you refocus their energy and effort on the future success of the business. You get people focused on the customers instead of focused on themselves. §

     

    Innovative Management Group is adept at bringing about successful organizational change, particularly on how to maintain employee commitment after a downsizing. We know how to engage your employees at every level of your company and get them to commit to the new organizational conditions. Please call us at 307-789-3744 to learn how we can help focus your employees on the things that matter most.

     

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 10:08 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Create Trust and Commitment in the Workplace (February 8, 2013)

    People go through a natural, unconscious process before they will commit themselves to an organization, person or course of action. You can accelerate this process by knowing how to consciously and consistently develop trust, respect, confidence and support among team members. 

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    Perhaps one of the greatest challenges today in the workplace, particularly in an uncertain economy, is how to maintain the trust and commitment of your employees.

    Workers have become increasingly cynical and no longer believe that management has their best interests at heart. Many employees have turned inward in an ever stronger resolve to “look out for number one.” Teamwork in America has diminished as companies and individuals hunker down rather than step forward together to ensure the company’s long-term profitability and growth.

    Never before has there been a greater need for people to work together as a team to resolve the problems in the workplace. Now, more than ever, managers must reverse the “every-man-for-himself” trend and unite the team around common goals. The fastest way to do this is to understand the internal process people go through before they will commit to a specific action, person or entity. When you know and apply the steps of the commitment process, you can accelerate the time it takes to acquire the loyalty and commitment of your workforce.

      The Ladder of Commitment

    There is a distinct, specific, step-by-step process to gaining the commitment of your employees. The patented model in the diagram below, entitled the Ladder of Commitment®, explains how to build trust and commitment in the workplace by consciously guiding people through the commitment process.

    The model is depicted as a ladder because people typically don’t commit easily to an action, person or organizational entity. They have to willingly climb up to “commitment.”          

    Sadly people do not start out committed in any portion of life, although it may appear otherwise on the surface. For example, even though one might expect a new employee to be committed to a job to which he or she applied, this usually is not the case. Commitment is not automatic. Most people are reluctant to commit themselves to a task until they fully understand it. People typically don’t openly share their opinions or ideas at work until they’ve assessed whether or not it is safe to do so. New employees invariably hold back until they’ve  achieved a level of comfort and confidence before they completely commit themselves to an organization, individual or course of action. This initial hesitancy to commit, signals that the employee is in the Closed area at the bottom of the ladder.

    Similarly, although newly-wed couples make vows of commitment at the altar when they are married, the fact that 52% of marriages in the United States end in divorce shows that vows of commitment are a far cry from true commitment, just as accepting a new job doesn’t mean the worker is willing to do that job. Newlywed couples and new employees start at the same place in the commitment process – a state of “hope” (not commitment) where one hopes the marriage or the new job will work out.

    To become truly committed one must climb the Ladder of Commitment and go through each successive rung on the Ladder. Deep, lasting commitment only results when relationships are developed and solidified as one climbs up the Ladder. 

    Need to be Open

    The most vital step in the commitment process is to get people out of their “Closed” posture and up to the Open rung on the Ladder. The most successful companies are those that have a culture of open communication between their managers and employees. Successful companies do not leave communication to chance or make assumptions that effective communication has taken place. They ensure every employee has the information needed to succeed at work. Successful companies over­-communicate. They use several different modes and methods to get their message out. They know decisions made in the workplace are only as good as the information from which those decisions are made.

    For effective communication to occur, people must be willing to speak openly. The strongest determining factor of whether an employee will open up is the reaction one gets when they do. If the reaction is positive, they’ll be more inclined to speak openly again. But if the reaction is negative, most people will close down. Extreme negative reactions to employee input can cause workers to permanently close down.

    Employee performance is strongly tied to the reactions employee’s experience in the workplace. Positive reactions typically generate positive results, causing employees to open up. Negative reactions produce negative results, causing employees to close down. Consequently, you need to realize that most of what a manager does is manage reactions. If you want your employees to become committed, you must control the negative reactions in the workplace that cause people to close down.

    Of course the first, and most important, reactions you have to manage are your own. If you react poorly to what you perceive to be stupid or silly ideas or comments from your employees – and cause your employees to close down because of your reaction – you may never hear their good ideas or comments later. Any good thoughts they may have shared will most likely be kept to themselves.

    As a manager you also have to control the reactions of others. You must manage the reactions of your employees. Employees often react poorly toward the customers or toward their fellow employees, causing those people to close down. Customers, too, can react poorly, causing employees to close down. You may even have to control the reactions of your boss, whose reactions often trickle down and stifle the commitment of the workforce.

    Open communication occurs when managers and employees react well to each other’s input, ideas, and perspectives. Department cooperation and coordination is most effective when people learn not to over-react to departmental requests or procedural requirements.  

    The Seven Things That Matter Most

    Once reactions are under control and people have moved into the “open” there are specific and important things that must be discussed in the open area.

    To achieve high levels of understanding and commitment, employees need complete information about what is required of them. They need to know what the goals of their tasks are and why these goals are important. They also need a clear understanding of their role, what is expected of them, their authority level, and the boundaries within which they must perform their tasks. Additionally they require regular, honest, helpful feedback that recognizes their accomplishments or provides constructive coaching when improvement is needed. 

    I call these seven things “the seven things that matter most” because they are critical to moving employees up the Ladder. When communicated well these seven things move people up to the next rung on the Ladder, the level where strong relationships are molded.

     The Level Where a Group Becomes a Team

    Companies that communicate effectively regarding the seven things that matter most are more adept at developing working relationships among their staff that are infused with Trust, Respect and Confidence.

    The trust, respect and confidence rung of the ladder is where real progress is made in a company. Tremendous levels of production can be achieved in organizations where management trusts the employees and the employees trust management. When management respects the opinions, ideas, decisions and judgments of the employees and the employees feel likewise toward management, wonderful things happen. People confidently go about their tasks without fear or concern over the political machinations that take up far too much energy and time in many organizations. Workers in trusting and respectful organizations are more inclined to take risks or think outside of the box in order to improve their part of the business.

    More important, people who trust, have respect for, and have confidence in others are supportive of their colleagues.

    Supportive Relationships

    The tangible indicator of whether or not an organization has a culture infused with trust, respect and confidence is witnessed by the level of support one can sense throughout the organization. This is denoted in how management supports the employees, how the employees support management, how employees support each other, and the evidence of support between departments.

    Effective and efficient cross-functional communication, col-laboration and cooperation are evidence of strong relationships of trust, respect, confidence and support throughout an organization. Department silos, poor communication, blaming, risk avoidance and defensive barriers are indicators of a “closed” work culture.

    Believing in Each Other

    When people trust, respect, have confidence in, and are supportive of one another; it’s easy for them to “believe” each other. It is easy to accept input or feedback from others, even feedback of a personal nature, when they believe the person delivering the feedback is interested in their common good. Likewise, when those in the business are at a level of belief, it is easy to respond favorably to changes that might come along within the organization because people know the changes are necessary to succeed. Since they believe management they accept management’s directives.

    Once people step up to the Belief rung on the ladder, Commitment usually follows realtively quickly.

    The difference between belief and commitment is what a committed person does with, or because of, their belief. Committed people sink their whole heart and soul into that in which they believe. They offer their time, talents, resources, energy and anything else required to succeed at that to which they are committed. Committed employees willingly give of themselves to their colleagues and company.

    Unfortunately, real commitment seldom occurs in far too many organizations because the company never rises to the level where the employees believe management or where management believes the employees. The reason for this lack of belief is because neither party has trust, respect or has confidence in the other. The trust, respect, and confidence are lacking because they have not spent the time openly communicating about the seven things that matter most in the company.

    Sadly, closed organizations may get employees to comply when directed by management to perform a task, but compliance doesn’t equate to commitment. Commitment is only attained when the managers and employees within a company consciously and willingly climb the Ladder of Commitment.

    Companies that actively encourage their employees to honestly and openly communicate up and down the ranks will find their employees more enthusiastically committed to performing their tasks at the expected levels.  §

     

    Innovative Management Group facilitates management and employee training programs that generate solid trust, respect, confidence and support among team members. True team work is developed when workers produce sound business results. We show you how to accelerate the process of moving individuals and teams up the Ladder of Commitment to achieve high levels of performance.

     

    For more information about the Ladder of Commitment order the book “Stepping Forward Together: Creating Trust and Commitment in the Workplace.” It can be purchased for $24.95 at http://imglv.com/resources.htm

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 10:16 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Eliminate Squatters in Your Workforce (January 8, 2013)

    Far too many companies have far too many employees who are doing very little to contribute to the company’s bottom line. There are squatters in the ranks. Squatters are employees who continue to draw a paycheck even though they stopped working long ago. Here’s how to get squatters working again.

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    Several years ago I was working with a group of senior level managers at a large utility company in California. Their assignment was to reorganize a major business unit in order to cut costs and streamline the work at the company.

    Near the end of the organizational realignment, as the new organizational chart was being reviewed, one of the participating managers made an amazing comment. Shaking his head he lamented, “I still have 40 employees in my department. But we could get the job done just as well if I only had three good ones.”

    Although perhaps exaggerated, his statement was probably more true than false. Far too many companies have far too many employees who are doing very little to contribute to the company’s bottom line. There are squatters in the ranks. Squatters are employees who continue to draw a paycheck even though they stopped working long ago.

    I’m constantly amazed at managers who cry for more staff to get the work done when, in fact, reducing the number of their staff might have a more positive affect upon the productivity of their work area. A company with squatters doesn’t need more staff; it needs fewer squatters.

     What Causes Squatters?

    If you accept the premise that most people want to do a good job and want to work to their fullest potential (as surveys suggest), then you have to wonder what caused the workers to squat in the first place. I doubt they were squatters when they first started the job. If they had been squatters from the beginning they wouldn’t have made it past their probationary period. So the real question is: What causes employees who at one time were productive to become squatters?

    I define squatters as employees who are hesitant to take independent action. They wait for instruction before stepping forward. Not clear on whether or not they can or should make a decision, they don’t. Unaware of where the boundaries lie, they stay as far away as possible from perceived pitfalls, not wanting to get into trouble. Fearful of adverse consequences, they retreat to the center of the “field” and they squat.

     How to Eliminate Squatters

    Managers can reduce the number of squatters in their ranks by defining the Field of Play for their employees. The Field of Play*, shown below, outlines the boundaries within which the employees must perform their tasks.

     

    Employees need to know the boundaries surrounding their performance in order to operate to their fullest potential. Knowing where the boundaries are allows the employees to move toward the goal without fear of reprisal if they inadvertently step out of bounds. Employees who are within the defined boundaries should be granted full latitude to drive toward the goal.

    The top boundary of the Field of Play is the Goal Line. The goal line constitutes the measurements by which the employees know whether or not they are winning in their jobs. This may include such things as achieving the company vision, strategies and objectives. It could be achieving key financial results or production levels. The goal line might also be customer satisfaction indices or service levels you wish to reach.

    Managers must be very clear regarding the performance objectives for their employees. These goals should be specific, measurable statements of the desired outcome. Clear communication ensures clear understanding and specific expectations get specific results.

    Once the goal line has been established, employees need a clear definition of the Performance Out of Bounds. The Performance Out of Bounds represents the minimum performance standards that must be maintained by the employees. It also includes the policies, procedures, processes and practices that must be followed in order to reach the goal line.

    Employees who step out of bounds on this line are those who are performing below standard or those who are not following the policies and procedures as defined. Corrective action should be taken to help out of bounds employees get back on the field.

    The boundary line on the right side of the field is called Managerial Out of Bounds. This boundary defines the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, attitudes and actions. This boundary is where the manager clearly articulates his or her expectations. For example, it is not safe to assume that just because an employee works in the hospitality industry he or she knows they must be hospitable. Likewise, employees may have a different definition of “on time” than a manager’s perspective. Managerial Out of Bounds is where the manager clearly defines and articulates what the manager expects of the employee in addition to the performance expectations.

    Managerial Out of Bounds might include unique traits the manager desires in his or her particular employees; such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, a sense of urgency, attention to detail, etc. It also includes those behaviors, attitudes and actions that would please the manager and those actions that would irritate him or her. This boundary line communicates the qualities that will allow the employee to be successful working for this specific manager. It shows how to please one’s manager and raise one’s value as an employee.

    Finally, the left boundary line is called Terminal Out of Bounds. As the name implies, this boundary represents those infractions for which the employees would immediately be fired.

    Terminal Out of Bounds is a clear black and white boundary where there is no gray area. Employees who step on this line are terminated, regardless of their position or status in the organization. If your star performer or highest producer steps over this boundary, they must be fired. Terminal is terminal.

    Terminal offenses are only those infractions where there is no question that the employee should be fired. If the penalty for the infraction is situational, then the offense cannot be listed on the Terminal Out of Bounds side of the field. This is the case for some of the violations that are typically listed as “terminal” in a company’s employee handbook – such as “insubordination” or “no call no show.” 

    If the manager must inquire first as to why the offense occurred before deciding what action to take, then the offending item should not be categorized as terminal. When an employee steps on the Terminal Out of Bounds line they should be fired immediately, regardless of the reason for their transgression. Offenses where it is questionable whether or not the individual should be dismissed based upon the degree or severity of the discrepancy should be listed on the Managerial Out of Bounds or Performance Out of Bounds sides of the field.

    Field of Play Motivates Workers to Work

    When all four boundaries are in place, the Field of Play is set. The employees can now perform their tasks with confidence. Clear, consistent, firmly established boundaries are the key to eliminating squatters from your workforce. Knowing the boundaries gives employees confidence to play the entire field and keeps them from squatting in the middle.

    Most squatters come alive when they know what “game” they are playing, when they know where the goal line is, and when they know how to stay in bounds.

    The simple act of pro­viding workers with clear infor­mation about the goals and boundaries of their job has more poten­tial for eliminating squatters in your workforce than any other strat­egy. §

     

    Innovative Management Group’s Accountability Management Workshop teaches executives, managers and supervisors how to establish the Field of Play for every employee and then hold their employees accountable for performing to standard on the Field. Please contact us at 702-592-6431 for complete information about this highly effective management training workshop.

     

    * The Field of Play is adapted from Charles Coonradt’s book, The Game of Work.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 09:51 am    0 Comment(s)

    Three Levels of Customer Service: Going Beyond Serving and Satisfying to Wowing and Winning Loyal Customers (October 23, 2012)

    Creating customer loyalty requires more than just serving customers in an efficient and effective manner. It takes a caring heart that shows true interest in the expectations and needs of those who patronize your business.

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    A small casino client of mine has carved out a profitable niche in a very competitive city by providing exceptional service. The owner has created a company that delivers superior service by every individual at every level throughout the organization.

    Generally speaking, there are three distinct types of customer service. Each level provides value to your customers, but the third level tends to guarantee customer loyalty.

    Most companies who have any customer focus at all are adept at providing the lowest of the three levels of service. Sadly, few businesses reach the optimal third level in their product and service delivery.

     Level One – “Processing”

    As the name implies, service at Level One is process-oriented.  The service emphasis at this level is on processing customers through the transaction in the most efficient and effective manner. Timely transactions are seen as the key to customer satisfaction. Service improvement efforts at Level One focus on streamlining processes, bundling transactions, eliminating redundancies, removing bottle-necks and making the customer experience as hassle-free as possible. The critical intention at Level One is getting the customer through the transaction quickly so the employee can serve other patrons.

    Fast-food restaurants, airline reservations, utility company bill payment processing and, sadly, many healthcare facilities are classic examples of Level One service companies.

    Employees at Level One service companies are provided with policies, procedures and processes that are designed to serve the customer faster, better and cheaper. Employees are instructed to strictly adhere to the policies and procedures as a way of ensuring customer transactions will be handled consistently and error-free each and every time.

    Obviously this is a very effective way of delivering quality customer service. Unfortunately, if a company limits their service delivery to Level One-type activities the customer interaction tends to become automated, with a focus on rules, methods, procedures and the number of transactions rather than on the individual customer within the transaction. Employees tend to focus on the work – the transaction – rather than on their job – serving the customer.

    The approach to service recovery when errors are made within Level One companies also tends to be depersonalized. Employees at this level typically respond to customer problems or complaints by saying such things as, “I’m sorry, but our system won’t let me do that” or “You’ll have to . . .” or “Our policy requires you to . . . .”  or “Our computer is down right now. You’ll have to call back later when it is up again.”

    Level One service providers invariably retreat to the safety of a policy or rule rather than stepping out to help the customer. Employees at this level typically do only what the policy allows them to do and go no further.

     Level Two – “Satisfying”

    The intent of Level Two service is to satisfy the customer. Obviously this is a noble intention and usually requires employees to go beyond just processing a transaction. It entails meeting both the intrinsic and extrinsic needs of the customer.

    Service providers at this level must have the interpersonal skills needed to interact with the customer. They must be professional, polite, positive, responsive and engaging. It requires employees to be both efficient and personable. It means satisfying the customer at both the transaction and interaction levels. Personality and behavior matter in Level Two companies.

    Customers typically like doing business with Level Two companies. The employees are nice. The food is good. The atmosphere is pleasant. The products work. It’s a nice experience.

    Although Level Two sounds like the pinnacle of where companies should want to be in their service level – meaning great processes and great people – the problem with only satisfying your customer is that 40% of satisfied customers rate the service of those companies as either “fair” or just okay.

    It takes more than satisfied customers to build customer loyalty and word of mouth buzz. Satisfied customers often switch providers for no other reason than to try something else. Profitability and growth come from loyal customers who boast of your products and services and tell others of their experience. Boasting takes more than mere satisfaction.

    Level Three – “Caring”

    People who know me know I like to go camping. Recently I was at an isolated campground in the mountains a few hours north of Las Vegas where, other than the campground host, I was the only camper. While visiting with the campground host he happened to mention the casino client of mine I referenced in the lead paragraph of this article. I asked him if he liked going to that casino. Interestingly, the camp host didn’t say anything about the slot machines, the odds of winning or the food in the buffet. Instead he told me how wonderful the owner is and how welcomed this man makes him feel whenever he patronizes the casino. He said he is always treated well when he is there. He also declared that this casino is the only one he goes to “because they care about me.” He told me it wasn’t just the owner who treated him this way, but every employee at the property. He felt a special bond with the staff there because of the way they cared about him.

    Level Three service providers understand the real key to service delivery is developing a personal relationship with the customer. Level Three companies get to know their customers individually and personally. They know who they are and what they like and don’t like. Level Three providers go out of their way to meet the unique needs and preferences of their customers. They’re flexible in their interactions and tailor their response to the individual situation and customer.

    More important, employees at Level Three service companies take personal responsibility in both serving the customer and resolving any problems that may arise. Employees follow-up and make personal contact to ensure the customer is completely satisfied with the resolution.

    Management in Level Three companies trust the employees and empower them to make the right decision on the front-line. Management recognizes the employees are a far greater asset in wowing and winning loyal customers than any whiz-bang product or streamlined process. Personal, kind, caring, human interaction is the key to customer loyalty and long-term profitability. §

     

    Innovative Management Group is adept at creating company cultures of customer-focused, engaging employees who care about the customers. We offer consulting and training customized to target your specific industry, market and business needs. Please call us to learn how we can help focus your employees on the things that matter most.

     

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 10:00 am    0 Comment(s)

    Quote of the Day (July 16, 2012)

    "You can't be a smart cookie if you have a crummy attitude" -- John Maxwell

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 02:38 pm    0 Comment(s)

    Extra Effort Key to Success (July 5, 2012)

    "The line between failure and success is so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. A little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success." -- Elbert Hubbard

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 10:59 am    0 Comment(s)

    Motivate Employees with a Sprint to the Finish Line (July 5, 2012)

    Several years ago I wrote an article entitled, Winning at Work: How to Instill Enthusiasm and Commitment in Employees. In that article I used a sports analogy to identify nine elements from the sports world that can be used to inspire employees to achieve the same remarkable levels of performance that athletes exhibit when they “work.”

    One of those essential motivational elements from the sports world is that at some point the game comes to an end.

    The fact that one game ends and another begins has significant impact on the way people perform. The National Football League did a study on scoring in the NFL and discovered that more points are scored in the last two minutes of each half than in any other twenty-minute period.

    When players know the game is about to end they perform much harder. As time runs down the players realize they need to put forth the extra effort to protect their lead, to get back into the game, or to win. Having paced themselves for this very moment, athletes produce an enormous amount of energy to score another touchdown in the final seconds of play.

    Professional fund-raisers know 80% of the money raised will be gathered in the last few hours of the event. Items at the end of an auction are sold at higher prices. The fervor of excitement rises as people become motivated to solicit more, give more, or get more as the end of the event approaches.

    Sadly, in the workplace employees often perform repetitive, ceaseless activities with no hope of reprieve or any end to the process. Workers leave the office or factory floor without having experienced the excitement that comes from knowing they’ve edged out the competition or achieved a new “world record” in productivity.

    Employees need to experience the emotion of making a game-winning score in the final seconds of play. They need to feel the exhilaration and personal satisfaction that comes from breaking the tape at the finish line.

    Managers need to find ways to stop the production game clock and assess the score. The most motivational work environment is one where employees can tell every day whether or not they are winning. The best performance feedback mechanisms allow employees to measure their progress, celebrate their success, and recharge for the next production push.

    Managers can motivate their employees to perform at higher levels by breaking up the work into performance periods with a beginning and an end. They need to set performance goals at the beginning of the period and measure the achievement of those goals at the end of the period. They also need to celebrate the victories when the team wins or refocus the team after performance failures. Ending the game gives employees the opportunity to assess their progress and refocus their energy and effort for the next challenge.

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 10:25 am    0 Comment(s)

    How to Get Your Employees to “Get It” (June 18, 2012)

    There are several "its" employees need to get if they wish to succeed in the workplace. And every manager wishes his or her employees would not only get "it", but also do "it." This article helps you figure "it" out so you can be successful at work.

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    Almost everyone who knows me knows I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. When I was a Scoutmaster I had charge of almost thirty 12-13-year-old boys. I was tasked with nurturing and molding their young minds to help them become better human beings. I took my role very seriously and tried to magnify my calling to the best of my ability.

    One night, while we were sitting around the campfire at one of our monthly campouts, I asked my boys this open-ended question: “At what age do people typically tend to get it?” I didn’t explain what I meant by “it.” I wanted to see if they, themselves, got it.

    Wisely, the boys said there is no specific age when people get it. Some people, they concluded, never get it. They also suggested that some people get it at an early age, while others only catch on late in their life. They rightly surmised that some people may only get it after a life changing or significant emotional experience caused caused them to reflect upon their life.

    I then asked: “Who do you feel are the happiest people in this life – those who get it, or those who don’t?” They all agreed that people who get it are better off than those who don’t get it. Those who don't get it, they said, typically struggle in life.

    Finally, I asked these highly astute young men to tell me what the “its” are in life that people need to get if they want to be happy.

    After a very interesting philosophical discussion they concluded there is an “it” in every element of life. There is an “it” in school; and those students who figure it out do better scholastically than those who struggle or rebel against “it.” They said there is an “it” at home and in the family; and those families who know it and do it have a happy home and loving family, while those who struggle or rebel against the “it” of healthy family relationships have problems in their home. They also assumed there must be an “it” at work that, when understood and adhered to, leads to a happy and successful career.  

    YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HELP EMPLOYEES TO GET IT

    As a manager, you’re in an excellent position to help your employees to “get it.” The main purpose of identifying what you want from your employees is to help them to get the major “it” at work – the reason why they exist as an employee. The sooner an employee gets it, the better off he or she will be. Those workers who get it go far in their career – and in life – while those who don’t get it generally struggle until they figure it out.

    There are several key things every employee needs to understand if they want to get ahead in the work world. These things collectively comprise the “it” that every manager hopes his or her employees will get, because once an employee does get it the manager doesn’t have to manage that employee as closely as those workers who don’t get it.  

    THE PRIMARY "IT" IN BUSINESS 

    The “it” of business comprises what I call the major premise of work. If an employee doesn’t get the major premise, she will have an even harder time grasping the subtle nuances at work. If, however, she grasps the big picture and understands why she exists as an employee, she is more likely to successfully fulfill her role and win at work.

    Many employees struggle because they are confused about why they exist as an employee. They believe they were hired to serve the customer, produce a product, accomplish goals, or perform the duties of the  job. Some less dedicated employees falsely believe they are only at work to earn a paycheck.

    But every employee was hired for two primary reasons: Employees exist to increase revenue and/or to reduce costs in order to maximize the profitability of their employer. Everything else that an employee does is a means to these two ends. Every employee exists to either drive greater revenue or to control or eliminate costs in order to improve the company’s bottom-line. This is the major premise!

    Once an employee accepts that he was hired to increase revenue or reduce costs, he can focus his energy and effort toward that end. He can prioritize his work and channel his performance toward maximizing profits, rather than merely accomplishing tasks. All job duties and responsibilities that don’t result in either generating revenue or controlling costs should be revised or eliminated. Everything that matters in the workplace either drives revenue or reduces costs. Everything else is an appendage to these two things.

    Employees who successfully deliver this “it” of increasing revenue or reducing costs greatly increase their value to the organization. This is another major premise: Valuable employees usually reap the rewards of their value. Good employees seldom lose their job. During depressed economic times, when cost-cutting layoffs occur, employees and departments with the least perceived value are usually the first to be let go. Consequently, it always is in the best interest of an employee to understand and commit to the major premise of their organization by doing all they can to increase revenue, reduce costs, and deliver on the implied promises inherent in their job classification.

    GETTING EMPLOYEES TO DO IT 

    Another important premise for you to understand is people won't change their behavior until it is imperative for them to do so. Employees will give you what you want when it is imperative that they do. Your job as a manager is to find the right imperative that will instill the internal desire within your employees to accomplish what you want.

    Sometimes a perceived business imperative is all employees need in order to perform well. For example, knowing that a company might go out of business if the employees don’t improve the quality of the products they produce can often motivate employees to improve their results in order to save their jobs. Seeing the impact a new competitor is having in taking away business from your company can have a motivating effect on a sales force to generate more business. Understanding the fatal impact a production flaw might have in killing a customer can help employees concentrate on job safety. Consequently, finding the right business imperative that the employees can latch onto is critical to gaining their commitment to do what it is you want.

    By far the best imperatives, however, are those that are specific to the interests and needs of the individual employee. Most people will not change their behavior until the consequences are such that they want to. Although negative consequences can cause people to move in the direction you want, the best consequences are those that provide an employee with a positive imperative to perform well. For example, delivery truck drivers who are allowed to go home as soon as all of their deliveries are made are less inclined to dally as they go about their work. Salespeople who get a commission on every sell usually stay focused on selling, rather than loitering around the sales floor. Teachers who are held accountable for student test scores are more inclined to teach rather than babysit. And employees who are paid for performance tend to be more productive than employees who are paid merely for being at work. 

    SUPPORTING THOSE EMPLOYEES WHO GET IT 

    The strongest imperative in the workplace is your support as a manager. There will come a day when every employee will want your support. There will come a day when an employee will want a day off, a special favor, a promotion or a pay raise. When that day comes you will probably be more inclined to support those employees who are worthy of your backing because of how they performed and acted at work.

    In other words, it is imperative for your employees to perform and act the way you want them to because there will come a day when it will be in their best interest to do so. The reason why employees need to perform well today is because there will come a day in theirfuture when they will want to be rewarded for their actions. 

    Those employees who “get it,” realize their performance today determines the support they will receive in the future. This is why I tell my employees not to perform well for me, or for the company, or for the customers; but, rather, to do a good job for themselves, because there will come a day when they will want my support as their manager. I make it clear that I only support those employees who have supported me in the past by performing as I expect. This is the “it” I want them to get.

    When your employees understand the major premise of your business and see the imperative for their work, they generally do what you want them to do. The more clearly you can define and articulate the major premises and personal imperatives, the less you will have to manage your people. When your employees keep the major premise and personal imperatives uppermost in their minds, they usually hold themselves accountable and manage their own performance in order to get the support they will want in the future.

    Let me give you an example of this by discussing another area of our lives where there are major premises and personal imperatives – at home.  

    THE MAJOR PREMISE AT HOME 

    If you are like most parents, you may experience the occasional tiff or tussle with your children, particularly if they are teenagers. This struggle often occurs because there is great disparity between what parents perceive their role to be and how teenagers view the parents’ role. Parents believe they exist to teach, nurture and protect their children. Teenagers seem to think parents exist to either make their lives miserable or to give them money whenever they want it so they can to do whatever they want. This difference in perceptions causes conflict in the relationship between parents and children.

    When my wife and I were having difficulty with our teenage son we found it helpful to clarify for him what we felt was the major premise of why we exist as parents. We wrote the premise down and then talked to him about it so he would know that everything we do as parents is governed by one over-arching purpose. Here is what we told him is the reason why we exist as parents. We call it The Parental Major Premise:

    We love you.
    We would never do anything to purposely harm you.
    We want you to have a happysuccessfulindependent and self-sustaining life
    Everything we do as parents is designed toward that end, 
    So don’t fight against us; we are on your side. 


    Literally everything we do as parents is governed by our desire for our son to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life. It took a while for our son to fully grasp and accept this, but now our son knows when we tell him he cannot do something that the reason is tied to the parental major premise. Our yes or no is based on whether the activity will make our son happy, successful, independent or self-sustaining.

    In reality, we don’t want to say no to our son; we want to say yes. We’re not ogres. But there are some things that are not in the best interest of our son’s future happiness, even though he may think otherwise. So we tell him we’re restricting him from doing an unwise thing today because we are not interested in his momentary pleasure; we are only interested in his long-term happiness. We’ve found with our son that once he accepts the parental major premise that we love him and are interested in his future success; it makes the short-term pain of today’s disappointments much easier to bear.

    Because our son knows our parental major premise is in his own best interest, it is imperative for him to comply with our wishes if he wants to have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining life. He knows everything we do and say as parents is designed toward that end. He also knows our support is tied to his acceptance of and compliance with the parental major premise. Consequently, rather than arguing with us or fighting against our expectations, he usually does what we want when we want because he knows we are on his side.  

    Our son also knows our parental support -- to allow him to do what he wants to do -- is based on his support of us regarding our rules, values, principles, beliefs, philosophies, etc. For example, our son knew that if he was dishonest at age twelve regarding telling us where he had been and what he'd been doing, there would come a day, at age sixteen, when he would want to borrow our car. He knew we would only support him by letting him use the car if we could trust he would be truthful when we asked him where he was going and what he would be doing in the car. Consequently, it became imperative for our son to do today what we, as parents wanted him to do because he knew he would want our support in the future.

    BEING ON THE SIDE OF YOUR EMPLOYEES 

    The “parental major premise” also works in managing employees. It should be a managerial major premise that you are on the side of the employees, particularly if you want your employees to accomplish the major premise and imperatives of your business. Your employees will be more inclined to do what you want, when and how you want it, when they know – and believe it and feel it – that you "love" them and would never do anything to purposely harm them. Everything you do as a manager should be designed to help your employees have a happy, successful, independent and self-sustaining career. When they know you are on their side, they will stop fighting against you.

    Employees are much happier, successful, independent and self-sustaining at work when you clearly identify their goals, roles, expectations, boundaries and authority. They produce more when their is a solid business premise and distinct imperatives to perform at optimal levels. They strive harder when there are clear consequences and measurements of success. They work harder when they know your support is tied to their performance and that there will come a day when you will give them what they want because they gave you what you want.


    Your role as a manager -- the "it" you need to get -- is that you succeed when your employees succeed. When you understand your role -- and do it --the chances are higher your employees will understand their role and will do it. The extent to which you, and your employees, get "it" and do "it" is the extent to which you, and they, will be successful at work. §


    Innovative Management Group offers a highly successful management training program that will help you get the "its" of your job. It also shows how you can help your employees to get "it." Our “Accountability Management Workshop” helps focus every employee at every level of your organization on the things that matter most. Call us at 702-258-8334 to learn more about this hard-hitting, results-oriented management training program.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 09:40 am    0 Comment(s)

    You Have to Get the Process Right to Get the Right Results (June 18, 2012)

    Sometimes Super Bowl-type results can be achieved far easier and much faster by not focusing on the goal, but by dealing with the important process issues that are critical to the team’s success.

    -------------------

    In October of 1995, I attended a fundraising dinner where Steve Young, the former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, was the guest speaker. Young’s comments were so profound I still remember them today.

    As almost anyone knows, Steve Young was the quarterback who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl Championship win in January of that year. He also was named Most Valuable Player for the game. At the fundraiser he shared one of his observations about that win.

    Young said that during the previous year before the Super Bowl win, the 1993-94 season, the 49ers were a much stronger team and played far better than the year they won the championship. In that year they had a 13-2 record, compared to an 11-5 record in the 1994-95 season. But they lost in the playoffs that year.

    One year later, with a less talented team and a poorer win-loss record, the 49ers won the Super Bowl. Why did this happen?

    According to Young, in the previous season the team was totally focused on winning the Super Bowl. They thought of nothing else. They kept that goal at the forefront of their minds at all times. Nothing else mattered. Individual games were not important. One win was not a cause for celebration; it was just one step closer to the Super Bowl goal.

    “We took a corporate view,” Young said. “We stayed focused on the goal. We came to work, accomplished the incremental goal before us, and moved on. We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it. We just did it.”

    During that season the team members hardly talked to each other. They came to work, did their job, and went home. It was not fun; it was work.

    “We were so totally focused on the goal of winning the Super Bowl,” Young explained, “we forgot the importance of the process.”

    And that is why they lost.

    After their playoff loss, Jerry Rice, the extraordinary tight end, told the team he never wanted to have another year like they had had that season. It had not been enjoyable. Rice declared, and the team agreed that the next year they would focus on having fun and worry less about the results.

    Young said the next year the team did have fun. They enjoyed the journey. They developed relationships along the way. They got to know one another and shared special moments. They celebrated after each win and used each loss as a catalyst for moving them closer to the Super Bowl.

    “We used the losses to vent about relationships rather than abilities. We talked about how we handle pressure. And we made renewed commitments to do better in the next game.”

    Young said what his team found out was “even if you don’t get to the goal, you see yourself grow as a person. You enjoy the team process and recognize its value. You grow from week to week as a result of the relationships you’ve created.”

    As a result of having developed a stronger team bond, the team became stronger. They performed better. They became unified and, because of their unity, achieved superior results from a team that everyone assumed was inferior. They won the Super Bowl with a lesser team.

    Conflicts often arise on work teams between members who are primarily results-driven and those who want to “slow down” to address process issues. Steve Young learned the importance of developing relationships among team members. He also realized the value of confronting process concerns around how team tasks are accomplished. He discovered the value of team unity to accomplishing results. §


    For years Innovative Management Group has facilitated team building sessions to help groups of individuals achieve greater results by working cohesively as a work unit. Occasionally teams have to stop working on their tasks long enough to assess whether or not all members are “stepping forward together” to achieve their common objective. As Steve Young learned from his own experience, sometimes Super Bowl-type results can be achieved far easier and much faster by not focusing on the goal, but by dealing with the important process issues that are critical to the team’s success.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 01:17 pm    0 Comment(s)

    How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable (May 2, 2012)

    Someone once said, “Everyone has a right to his own stupid opinion.” Another person of the same ilk said, “You can disagree with me if you want. But you’ll still be wrong.”

    No doubt you’ve been in situations where you disagreed with someone’s idea or opinion. Differences in opinions often lead to defensiveness and closure. One of the difficult challenges of interpersonal communication is having the ability to disagree with someone without causing them to react negatively to the dispute. 

    As a management consultant I’m often asked to mediate conflict between members of work groups or cross-functional teams. My facilitator role is to help people stay open as they work through their differences. I try to provide people with ways they can respond to each other that will encourage open dialogue rather than cause people to close down.

    Here are nine techniques I suggest you use when you find yourself in disagreement with another person. These skills will allow you to disagree without sounding disagreeable.

    Since people always seem quick to interrupt someone when they are in disagreement, the first communication skill is to keep yourself from jumping into the discussion prematurely. You cannot argue with a point you have not heard. Most people start arguing at the first point of disagreement and don’t listen to the other person’s entire statement. This is what I call “arguing in process,” or disagreeing before the person is done. Many times, after being forced to stop and listen to the entire statement, you’ll find there is no disagreement once you’ve heard the entire message. You only thought you were in disagreement because you prematurely judged what the other person was saying.

    This leads to the second confrontational skill. Make sure you understand the other person’s perspective first before stating your view. Or as Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

    Ensure you have a clear grasp of the other person’s position. Find out why they see things and do things the way they do. As disagreements arise use statements like the following:

  • “Help me to understand why you do it that way.”
  • “Walk me through your thought process so I can understand how you made that decision.”
  • “What procedure do you follow when you do X?”
  • “Let me make sure I understand where you’re coming from.”
  • Sometimes when people disagree they really are closer to agreement than they suppose. Unfortunately when disagreements arise most people go right to the point of contention rather than stating the items on which they  agree. This quick rebuttal makes the other party think there is disagreement on every aspect of the issue when, in fact, you may only disagree on a few minor points.

    By breaking down the various points of the discussion you can state where you are in agreement first. Identify what you like about the other person’s idea or actions before you address where you disagree. Tell them how close you are to agreement.

    For example, you could say:

  • “I agree that we should do X and Y. I’m not so sure about Z.”
  • “I like what you’ve proposed about X and Y. I don’t think Z should be changed at this point because . . .”
  • “I’m about 80% in agreement. I just have a couple of questions I need answered before I’ll be fully convinced it will work.”
  • “I see merit in most of your points, but I’m going to need convincing on X, Y and Z.”
  • Some people ask a lot of questions because they’re trying to convince themselves that the other person’s idea or opinion is right. Others ask probing questions as a “devil’s advocate” statements as a way of testing how committed the other person is to their own idea or opinion. In these cases the person actually isn’t in disagreement, but the rapid-fire questions make it appear that way.

    Consequently, to keep from being seen as an adversary, you should state when you’re playing the devil’s advocate role.

    You also should state why you are taking a contrary stance. The majority of people who play devil’s advocate do it to discover loopholes or problems with an idea or opinion. They do it to make the idea better, not to shoot holes in it. They do it to help solidify the idea or opinion, not to destroy it. If, however, someone plays the devil’s advocate role just to stir up trouble or to be divisive, this individual should be the target of feedback about their disruptive behavior.

    In all aspects of your discussion you should avoid using the word “but”, such as in “I agree, but . . .” Instead, replace “but” with “and,” or end your comment with a period where you would normally say “but.”

  • “I agree with Z, (but) and I think we should consider replacing X and Y before we implement Z.”
  • “I see your point (but). Let me share another perspective.”
  • “You’re right, you have been coming in on time lately (but). I expect you to be on time every day.”
  • Before you start offering suggestions for improvement, ask the recipient if they would like your input. People are more receptive to feedback when they have asked for the feedback. There are times, however, when you need to give feedback to people who have not asked for it. Since the probability is high that at some point you will need to give a colleague feedback, you should establish a “groundrule” in advance for how this is to be done should the occasion arise. Ask people in advance if they’d like input from you. Also ask them in advance how they would like to receive that feedback. For example:

  • “I don’t have any ideas right now, but if I ever see something in your area that needs improvement, how would you like me to pass that information along to you?”
  • “I have a couple of thoughts on how you might be able to do X faster. Would you like to hear my ideas?”
  • “We have an interesting way of handling problems like that in our department. Would you like to know how we do it?”
  • Whenever you give someone feedback on how to improve, don’t load the dice. Give them only one or two issues to work on at a time. If you have several concerns, break up your feedback into separate sessions. Let them fix one problem at a time. Compliment them for taking action on the first issue, and then share another concern. 

    If you want to sway other people to your point of view it’s best to acknowledge the other person’s position before you inform them about your view. Acknowledge their opinion or idea before you share yours. Verify your understanding of their perspective before you try swaying them to your position.

    When you acknowledge the other person’s view up front with a responsive statement they normally will be more receptive to listening to your take on the issue. Examples of acknowledging statements are:

  • That’s an interesting idea.”
  • “I can see how you could draw that conclusion.”
  • “You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this.”
  • Sometimes all a person needs to not feel offended is a simple acknowledgement of their concern or opinion. Men (who are from Mars) often raise the ire of women (who are from Venus) when they quickly inform her of what can be done to fix a problem without taking time to hear and acknowledge her frustration. Too often parents are quick to inform their teenagers of their reasons for saying no before they understand what really is being sought by the adolescent. The lack of acknowledgement of the validity of the teen’s request leads to feelings of rejection and resentment.

    Finally, you need to understand that you cannot move another person until you move yourself.  If you want to get other people to accept your perspective or move to your position, you’ll move them faster by first moving yourself to their perspective. Once you have walked in their shoes or seen things through their eyes, you’ll have a much better chance of bringing them over to your idea or opinion. §

    The trainers at Innovative Management Group are masters at facilitating conflict resolution between struggling work teams. We also offer several custom-designed training courses in interpersonal communication and team building.

     

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 09:45 am    0 Comment(s)

    70 Ways to Create Spare Time (February 5, 2012)

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more time in the day so you could accomplish everything you want to get done? Here are 70 suggestions of things you can do to create more spare time in your life.

    1.  Find a new technique every day to help you cut down the amount of time it takes you to do something.

     2. Plan your schedule the first thing in the morning and set priorities for the day. Make a list and tick off the important items first.

     3. Have a light lunch so you don't get sleepy in the afternoon.

     4. Save up trivial matters for a short session once a week.

     5.  Consult your list of goals and priorities once a week (or month) and revise them as necessary. Identify activities that you can do each day that will accomplish your goals.

     6.  Carry blank 3x5 cards with you in order to jot down notes and ideas so you don’t have to take time to remember them later.

     7.  Delegate everything where you do not need to be personally involved. Use specialists to help with special problems.

     8.  Generate as little paperwork as possible. Throw away non‑essential papers as soon as you read them.

     9.  Avoid working on weekends or late at night. This time tends to be less productive because of fatigue or distractions.

    10. Give yourself time off as a special reward when you've accomplished important tasks.

    11. Concentrate your efforts on only one thing at a time. Eliminate distractions that may cause you to jump around.

    12. Start off by working on the most important parts, or high pay‑off items, of a project first.

    13. Focus on projects that provide the greatest long‑term benefits.

    14. Try to handle each piece of paper only once.

    15. Skim books quickly when looking for ideas.

    16.  Examine old habits for possible streamlining. Eliminate unnecessary ruts.

    17. Put "waiting time" to good use ‑‑ relax, read, organize your work, do something you normally would not have done.

    18. Don't waste time regretting failures or feeling guilty about what you didn't get done.

    19. Remember: There is always enough time for the important things. People find time to do what they want to do.

    20. Identify your prime time and then use it for the most difficult or most unrewarding tasks.

    21. Rearrange your time to fit the task. There may be times of the day that are more appropriate to the task. For example, do tiring tasks first and "no‑brainers" when you have no energy.

    22. Use normal periods of down‑time to attend to other people's needs. Use this time for appointments and meetings.

    23.  Set goals and objectives, with prioritized strategies to achieve them.

    24.  Audit how you spend your time each day in order to discover patterns that can be re‑worked.

    25.  Tackle a task the first time an opportunity presents itself.  Do not waste time thinking and rethinking about how to handle it.

    26. Let subordinates handle and monitor the routine, unexceptional matters and make recurring decisions that do not require your input.

    27. Respect the time of your subordinates. This includes saving your own time by not frequently checking up on subordinates.

    28. Learn how to end conversations and discussions once the subject has been sufficiently covered.

    29.  Start meetings on time and end on time ‑‑ even if it means using an automatic timer.

    30. Discourage unnecessary meetings. Eliminate unproductive meetings.

    31.  When calling others begin the conversation by telling them how much time the phone call will take; then take only that amount of time. When others call you give them a timeframe in which to control their conversation.

    32.  Work ahead when you're on a roll so you can ease back when you're feeling less efficient.

    33. Break big jobs down into smaller increments, then perform some of these tasks each day so the project moves consistently forward.

    34. Don't carry details in your head ‑‑ use calendars, lists, and reminders to get them off your mind.

    35. End each day by outlining the priorities for the next day.

    36. Find productive or pleasurable ways to use idle time. Carry reading material, a tape recorder, stationary, etc.

    37. Set aside a specific day or evening each week for personal business.

    38. Assign routine tasks to a regular daily or weekly time slot.

    39.  Spend the first hour of the day doing whatever will move the day's business forward ‑‑ phone calls, letters, meetings, scheduling, etc.

    40. Do first what you dread the most.

    41. Determine the end to your conversations in your opening remarks.  For example:  "I just need quick answers to a couple of short questions."

    42.  To keep visits in your office brief, tell the person early in the conversation how much time they have, meet the visitor in the doorway, put books and papers on your chairs so the visitor cannot sit down, continue standing after greeting the visitor, etc.

    43. In order to keep from being distracted by people who pass by your office, place your desk so you sit with your back toward the door or so you are perpendicular to the door. 

    44. Keep your office and desk as clean as possible to keep your mind from being distracted.

    45. There are four basic causes of procrastination: fear, being in awe of the immensity of the task, disliking the task, or boredom. Understanding the root of your procrastination can help you to determine how to overcome it.

    46.  When procrastination hits, do anything ‑‑ sharpen a pencil, dial the first digit of the number, write "Dear Sir", or anything related to completing the task. Once you have begun your momentum will build up and you will more than likely continue working.

    47.  When procrastination hits, do nothing. Physically remove your-self from the task and ask yourself a series of questions about the job you are procrastinating and what techniques you can use to begin the task. When you return to your desk you will very likely begin the item having once put it off. Typically, in the past you may have reached for some less important task to do just to feel busy. In this case, however, you confront your procrastination and behaviorally manipulate your-self into positive action.

    48. When procrastination hits, create a deadline. No task has a sense of urgency unless it has a deadline. Put the deadline in writing and force yourself to become accountable to the deadline by publicly committing to it.

    49. Create a game out of tasks that usually are boring. If it’s a repetitive task you're tired of doing, challenge yourself to break a speed record or focus on improving the quality of your efforts.

    50. Set a definite "quiet time" for yourself. Let everyone know that you are not to be disturbed during this time. Use this time for planning and creative thinking.

    51. If you do not make contact on the phone, leave a detailed message telling the other person what you want. This gives them time to gather the information you need or to leave a message for you with the answer to your question.

    52. Group similar activities together for more efficient action.

    53. Determine the value of what you do. Maybe it is not worth doing.

    54. Eliminate any unnecessary activities or valueless tasks.

    55. Use a desk and pocket calendar and plan your activities.

    54.  Prepare your discussion when using the phone or conducting meetings.

    55.  Handle all paperwork as soon as you get it ‑‑ at least to determine the priority it warrants.

    56. Go someplace where you can get away from interruptions, but don't make it too comfortable. For some people, working at home is not a time saver.

    57. Use small note pads to keep track of tasks.

    58. Don't write a memo when a post‑it will do. Don’t schedule a meeting when an email will do.

    59. Put all meetings and appoint-ments on your calendar, both work and personal.

    60. Go to work early in order to get organized and settled.

    61.  Group related items, such as telephone calls, errands, meetings, visits, etc.

    62.  Learn to determine between job-related socialization and personal socialization. Greatly reduce any personal socialization on the job.

    63.  Although planning your time takes time, in the long run it will save you time. Slowdown in order to speed up. Plan ahead, map out your approach, determine your objectives, etc. so you know exactly where you are going and how you will get there.

    64.  Turn recurring crises and fire-fighting into routine responses by developing a set procedure for how to respond to these type of situations.

    65.  Every now and then do the unexpected. If you plan to work on the weekend, relax instead. Sometimes a change of pace can energize you so you can get more done later.

    66.  Set a realistic schedule for your day. Don’t schedule for a perfect day without interruptions.

    67.  Find out other people’s time patterns. Know when they are normally in their office, in meetings, at home, etc.

    68.  Determine the consequences for not doing something. Stop doing those things that have no negative consequences.

    69.  Clean out your drawers and closets to make it easier and faster to find things.

    70.  Throw out everything you don’t need in order to eliminate distractions.

     

    And now a bonus hint – SAY NO. Say it often, and mean it. You don’t have to do everything. Not everything is important. Some things don’t matter. Let it go by saying no.

    And here’s the super bonus hint. If you don’t manage your time wisely by implementing some of these hints you’ve just wasted your time reading this article. §

    Innovative Management Group offers several management and employee training programs on time management techniques. Please contact us for more information about these productive courses.

    Posted by: Mac McIntire    at 09:37 am    0 Comment(s)

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