2008 - First Quarter

"Are You Listening?"

It's that time again!

Well, thank the winds of change that Spring is finally here. With this season comes all manner of references to change, growth, and all things fresh and clean. One such reference is the concept of Spring Cleaning.

Personally, I am not so much tied to this in the literal sense, of cleaning every nook and cranny in my home and cleaning out all the closets to boot. What I do aspire to is what I call the philosophical version of Spring Cleaning, particularly in my work, but also in my larger life.

What I mean by this is that it is an excellent time to take stock of how we are managing, leading and thinking about our employees and partners. It is a great time to blow the cobwebs from our minds that have settled in during the winter and take a good look at how it looks and feels around here, wherever "here" is for you.

Instead of cleaning the clutter around your desk, determine if you need to clean the clutter in your mind, your meetings, your coaching and your caretaking of the people around you.

To get you started on this cleaning ritual, we have delved into five areas that we look at this time of year and thought it might jump-start your thinking as well. So in this issue, you will read about Renewal, Replenishment, Revitalization, Recognition, and Restoration— all things that remind us of how we should be leading and managing. Once you have done this check-in of your work life, go back and see how you are utilizing these same principles in your personal life as well.

Okay...take a deep breath — see, Spring even smells different — and read and reflect and take action. Make this your Spring Cleaning project, and then you can forget about the closets!

Replenishing the human resource... Growing Great Employees!

A few weeks ago, I was browsing in a bookstore and came across a book called Growing Great Employees...Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers by Erika Andersen. Spring was here and this seemed to be a relevant read. I was intrigued by the metaphor of the premise: that growing great employees is like cultivating a garden.

Ms. Andersen, a business teacher and executive coach, puts forth simple but powerful ideas regarding how to manage employees so that they achieve their full potential. I believe this is the number one goal of any true leader and Ms. Andersen shares her insights and practical guidelines to help managers accomplish it. The analogy of the garden may be a bit much for some readers, but the old English teacher in me really appreciated it.

The strength of the book and why I would recommend it is that Ms. Andersen shares case studies, communication models, implementation guides and practical tools to help any manager in growing and nurturing great employees.

The fundamental managerial skill (fertilizer) that she proposes to develop great people is attentive listening. This is certainly not a new concept, but she explains that sincere listening affects all working relationships and affects a manager's ability to interview, to coach, to give effective feedback and to delegate. She explores listening skills and asks the reader to practice these skills in the workplace using a guide from the book.

She also shares The Social Style Model, which is a tool for understanding that people approach their jobs in a variety of ways. It measures the levels of assertiveness and responsiveness that employees demonstrate and how this affects their communication and decision making. It is similar to many assessment tools that are available for managers to use to evaluate stylistic differences on a team.

Have you done an assessment with your team recently? It is definitely a way to develop and replenish employees so that they can self-assess and grow and develop in their roles. As Andersen attests, in most companies, you will have a "mixed bouquet" and a manager's role as gardener is to nurture and cultivate employees so that they reach "full bloom."

I think this book is the managerial version of The Farmer's Almanac; it contains tools and techniques that you can use with your teams to nurture and ensure great performance. So buy the book and get diggin'...

"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before." ~ Vita Sackville-West

Reaping the Benefits of Recognition

Recognition is one of those things managers are constantly struggling with — how to do it, when to do it, and where to do it. The mistake we often make is recognizing and rewarding our people in the way we ourselves would want to be recognized and rewarded.

The truth is each individual is engaged and motivated by something different, and our job as mangers and leaders is to find out what it is that will flip the switch and make the lights go on in our teams heads and hearts. When we connect with the heads and hearts of our people, we create the win-win we are looking for.

First, however, you need to get clear why you are looking to recognize your employees. If you are recognizing them so that you can get them to do something for you in the future, you are walking a dangerous path. Although this option is better than no recognition at all, soon your people see through this and see your recognition as a "set up" for getting them to do more. Instead, recognition is most effective when it comes from a deep-seated need to recognize teams.

Most effective leaders have an unparalleled concern for their people and are compelled to improve the overall lives of their employees. This type of recognition reaps loyalty, respect and trust, which are the roots of building great teams. So now that you have your reasons for recognition straight, let's answer some of those initial questions.

How to give recognition:

  • Genuinely — do not fake it; people know and it has the reverse effect.
  • Publicly — I am a big fan of public recognition and this doesn't mean you have to rent out the ballroom of some swank hotel. Whether it is 2 people or 200, letting people know their value in a forum that allows other leaders and peers to recognize them too, is great. The additional perk of this is that others see this and strive to get the same.
  • Thoughtfully — it's never a good idea to "wing" recognition. Have something planned and thought out. Site examples, use your heart, and be clear. Do not drone on and on — this loses effectiveness.

When to give recognition:
Most recognition does not come with big price tags and hefty bonus checks. Those things should happen, too, but the day-to-day stuff is huge. So give recognition a lot, consistently and continually. Please do not buy into the concept that if I give too much, it will lose meaning. This is only true if it is not genuine. Enough said.

Where to give recognition:
Determine what the event is. If it is for 15 years of service, a bigger demonstration of your recognition is in order. If it's the outstanding job they did on a project, a lighter approach may do.

The bottom line is anywhere is good, but don't wait; if you wait for the right time, place and circumstance, you will lose the impact and momentum that genuine recognition can bring.

One more thing...if you are not "on to" the generational stuff by now, get with the program. Almost everything you do as a manager needs to be looked at from a generational perspective. Xers, Nexters and boomers have different ways they like to be recognized and rewarded. Make sure you know what floats the boats of each generation.

Try this:

There are hundreds of ways to recognize people, but to get you started, just try this one:

Write one, hand-written "thank you note" a day to someone who has helped you or moved your company purpose or goals forward. You will find you never run out of people to thank.

Restore Your Commitment to Developing Your People

One of our clients, who just recently experienced some significant growth, was describing to me several of the current challenges that the organization was facing.

At the top of her list was a concern she had regarding her supervisors. Many of these supervisors were newly appointed and had "come through the ranks". They were seasoned employees, who were more than competent at their job and knew what needed to get done in the department; however, they were struggling with how to manage others to get things done right — sound familiar?

Oftentimes, those who are promoted from a staff position to a supervisory role struggle with how to supervise others. Without the necessary training to be successful as a supervisor, these individuals begin to lose confidence in their abilities, and their productivity, motivation and commitment may lessen.

Furthermore, it is unrealistic and unfair to assume that a new supervisor will automatically have the confidence, knowledge and experience needed to successfully manage a team.

So, how do you address this? Here's the answer: begin by restoring your commitment to developing these employees. For instance, knowing how to do a job successfully is a very different skill set than being able to interview for that same position. You must create a plan that will get your supervisors the necessary skills and training that they will need to be successful in their new roles.

As a leader, it is your job to create training and development opportunities for your people. If you have fallen down on this, start fresh this Spring, and restore your commitment to developing your people and take action today!

"An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success." ~ Stephen Covey

Is it Time to Revitalize?

It's not uncommon during any training process to hand a trainee some sort of manual and ask him or her to read up and ask any questions when he or she is finished. Sure enough, the trainee returns with questions, only to be told we don't do it that way anymore.

Have you heard that in your organization? Have you said it yourself? How many we don't do that anymore's do you have in your manuals? It could be time to add new life, new vitality and new vigor to your manuals. Whether they are training manuals or standard operating procedures, it could be time to revitalize.

Thankfully, most often early on, someone took the time to document how things were done, step by step, bit by bit.

These historical documents serve as a great reference point to reflect on what made you successful in your formative years. Yet times change, people change, business changes, and manuals tend to sit on the shelf until someone comes along and starts to recreate the information from scratch. However, these new creations sometimes lose the feel and the essence of the organization.

Well, there is a cure for this quandary and that's to create a system where manuals are reviewed on an annual basis. Put together a small taskforce to review not only the accuracy of the procedures, but also the language and tone of how these are communicated. Does the written word match the culture, purpose and values that you've set forth?

One of our clients, BR Guest LLC, has undertaken this enormous commitment so that as they grow and as they bring new team members on board, they can, with confidence, distribute training materials that reflect the way business is actually done within their organization.

Not only is the information accurate, but it's presented in a way that engages the learner to be more empowered in their introductory training. With the help of a dozen subject matter experts, 11 manuals are reviewed and feedback and subject matter is contributed. In this way, the workload of revising these manuals is shared as is the commiment to having valuable learning materials.

Manuals are a great resource to help teach others your core business. Just like everything else, however, they need to keep up with the times. How many we don't do that anymore's do you have in your manuals? It could be time to revitalize.

The Power of Renewal

In a time of renewal there is nothing more important to renew than your relationships. Many married couples renew their vows as a symbol of their continuing commitment to each other. I wonder what would happen if we renewed our "vows" of friendship, colleagueship, and support for all the significant relationships in our life.

Over time, all relationships go over bumps and small things build up to resentments, either spoken or unspoken. This is natural in any relationship. However, if I were to truly renew my relationships, I would have them be new again. There would be no scorecard, no built up resentments, no held onto hurts or grudges. Can this really be done? I believe it can.

Step one: Think about what you value most in the relationship.

Step two: Decide to offer forgiveness for the past. (You don't have to verbalize this to the other person, and if your hurts have been unspoken, it's better not to.)

Step three: Tell the person how important their relationship is to you and that you intend to work harder being a good friend or colleague.

Step four: Look to improve your relationship skills, whether they are being a better listener, a more empathetic presence, a more honest partner, or more engaged.

Step five: Have courage. This is not easy; however, it can transform your relationships!

Renewal—it's a great thing to do this spring!

About Ignite
Ignite offers a variety of transforming programs that can propel you and your organization to brilliant successes. And we have experience in a wide range of industries, so we can tailor each session to specifically address your needs and goals.

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Customized program design, superior results and lasting partnerships are key components of Ignite's philosophy and approach to training and development.