Thursday, July 30, 2015

How Potential Leaders Get Overlooked -- and What to Do About It

In the workplace, it’s those who are outgoing, ambitious, dependable and intelligent who rise through the ranks and assume leadership positions.
But are we missing something? Could it be that organizations are overlooking the truly exceptional leadership talent in their ranks that are critical to scaling a business?
Scott Edinger thinks so. As the co-author of “The Hidden Leader” with Laurie Sain, Edinger contends that too often the outstanding employees who truly impact the bottom line aren’t groomed for the C-suite because they may not be the most vocal or friendly person on a team or in a department.
So, they stay hidden – and organizations miss a golden opportunity to thrive under their leadership, he says.
Still, there are still plenty of opportunities, he says, for organizations to spot these hidden gems. For example, a hidden leader is often someone who shows up for meetings without canceling at the last minute or meets difficult deadlines instead of making excuses. In addition, they may not be the most outgoing.
“I think we have to debunk a lot of myths that just because someone is shy or introverted, that means they won’t be a good leader,” he says. “There are many other important qualities that should be considered.”
Edinger says organizations can not only learn how to better spot these hidden leadership gems, but also work to “unleash” their potential. He suggests:
  • Looking for integrity. “This is much more than just looking for someone who doesn’t lie or cheat,” he says. “We all believe we have high integrity, and we’ll never say we can’t be counted on.” That means organizations need to dig deeper to find the employee who shows integrity every day by keeping commitments, speaking honestly when asked for feedback and being responsive in a timely way. It’s often the worker who “shows up” in a lot of smaller interactions, willing to show courage by offering an opinion that may not be popular or consistently delivering even in difficult situations, he says.
Because of this person’s integrity, “team members know they can depend on this person to get a task done, ask management for resources or tell the team the truth (read more here)

Photo: situationaleadership

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Signs Employees are Thinking About Leaving -- and What to Do About It

Managers know that disengaged workers are a problem, but they may not realize the truly big impact such workers have on the bottom line — and how much better engaged workers perform.

For example, disengaged workers cost their organizations an average of $3,400 every year for every $10,000 in annual salary, according to statisticsfrom McLean & Co. On the other hand, companies with highly engaged employees had an average three-year revenue growth of more than 20% compared to the average 9% revenue growth rate.

Further, an AON Hewitt study finds that organizations that actively managed employee engagement as compared to their counterparts during the economic downturn are now seeing dramatic and positive impacts to their revenue growth.

So, it’s clear that ignoring employees who become disengaged — or failing to take action quickly enough — can not only hurt a team, but an entire company. Here’s how to recognize the signs that employees are becoming disengaged and what to do about it.

Puts in Little Effort
This worker doesn't even meet minimal requirements and cares little for the job or the organization. He is likely to watch the clock and take long breaks.

The solution: Sit down with such employees and make sure the basics are being met. Does the employee have the right tools and resources to do the job? Are expectations clear? Gallup research shows that getting the basics right is often critical to engaging workers.

They Gossip
This is someone who isn’t looking for the good in anything or anyone. He sows seeds of discontent wherever he goes and is known to make snarky comments under his breath during meetings.

The solution: Try challenging this worker in a new way by cross-training him in another department or sending him to a learning event (read more here)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Analysis: Honesty Can Backfire in a Performance Review

When can telling the truth be counter-productive?

During a performance evaluation.

In a recent analysis by Ivan Marinovic of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, it was found that honest appraisals actually boost costs and cut profits because they increase the chances of erratic efforts that people put into their jobs.

Marinovic came to this conclusion after building a model that treats a job as a sort of game tournament, using employee competitiveness to drive results. For example, if a manager was less than honest about how well an employee performs, then he can put the pressure on that person to work harder to beat colleagues. Such fudging of the facts can even spur slackers into putting more effort into their work because they worry they're going to get fired.

However, managers have to be careful with this strategy. If employees think the manager is not being honest about their performance, they brush it off and their performance changes very little. It's only when employees buy into what the manager is telling them during performance reviews that they work harder and try to improve because they're more worried about losing out on raises or promotions.

It's important to note that Marinovic is skeptical about the value of performance reviews, just like others on this blog who have expressed frustration with this pervasive practice. But if managers are going to continue to use them, he thought it was important to look at how they impact the bottom line.

His analysis reveals that the ups and downs of employee performance related to performance evaluations can cost companies more because workers simply don't like volatile workloads and will automatically want more money to make up for it. While employees may not be aware of it, they will eventually link what they see as truthful performance reviews with unpredictable schedules that may include after-hours work.

“We show that the value of a firm decreases when the perceived truthfulness of the feedback is higher,” Marinovic says. “The value of the firm is highest when that communication is perceived as worthless.”


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SEAL Team Six Member Shares Leadership Lessons

When a Navy SEAL comes up against an obstacle at work, he doesn’t head for the nearest pub where he complains about his problems or blames his inaction on a lack of resources. You won’t find him dragging his feet when times get difficult, and you won’t find him abandoning teammates because he thinks they have lousy ideas.
Well, sure, you might think — that’s because he’s a SEAL. These elite fighters are trained to never give up, and it’s unlikely that they’d sit around flummoxed by a shipping error in Toledo or a software glitch in Anaheim.
But what if you could train your team to respond to difficulties and challenges just like a Navy SEAL? Retired Chief Petty Officer Rob Roy of SEAL Team Six says it can be done.
In a new book, “The Navy SEAL Art of War,” Roy outlines how he trains business leaders to use SEAL skills to overhaul departments so that they are staffed by resilient, tough, competitive and smart teams ready to take on any challenge.
It all begins with letting go of limitations we place on ourselves, he says.
For example, if you ask a Navy SEAL how many pushups he can do, he won’t say he can do 20 or 45. “I can do at least 100,” he will respond. Roy explains that this isn’t bragging, but rather an indication that the SEAL has been trained to see possibilities, not barriers.
Such a mindset can be part of any team, whether it’s in a factory or high-tech office, he says. The key is understanding that “everyone wants to be part of something,” and leadership must communicate the mission and why it matters.
“We tend to limit ourselves and what we think we can do. We play it safe,” he says. “What I’m saying is that you can get people to push themselves and have a real sense of satisfaction. I’m not talking about overworking your employees – but getting everyone on the same page so they know what the goals are and what they need to do.”
An organization that keeps team members apprised of what’s going on – and encourages them to take the ball and run with it – will have a team that is smarter, more strategic and more focused, he says.
Here are some ways Roy says any team can be just as strong, well-trained, resilient and successful as a SEAL team:
Be ready
SEALS often spend days, weeks, or months training for one assignment. They are given enough information and training so that if their plan needs to change, they’re ready. For example, close quarters defense (CQB) is one of the most difficult things a SEAL does because it can require intense hand-to-hand fighting and actions “aren’t debated or deliberated over, but are performed without hesitation,” Roy says.
“When you are well-trained, everything becomes instinctual,” he says. “That’s the game changer.”
For a business, it’s the same story. An organization that has a culture of endless training will deliver better results and better value. Employees will (read more here)

Image: CBCnews

Monday, July 20, 2015

4 Ways to Ensure You're Not Overlooked at Work

No one likes to be passed over for a promotion or big project, but if you ask even the most successful people if it's happened to them -- they will probably respond "Yes."

But if you're continually passed over for a promotion or denied access to important projects (or people), you may need to look deeper at the root cause.

One thing to consider is that the boss or other senior leaders just don't believe you "get it." To be more specific, they don't believe you truly grasp the company's goals and how to help achieve them on a consistent basis.

What are your organization's three top priorities? Who are its biggest competitors? What is the top challenge your industry faces in the next five years?

If you can't answer all these questions -- and quickly -- then you know that you're missing some key knowledge. Chances are good then, this is why you're also missing out on key opportunities.

Another thing to consider: Do you even care about your organization's goals? Do you care about the goals your boss has been tasked by his or her manager to deliver?

If not, then that's a clue that maybe it's time for you to move on and find something about which you do care. Your lack of enthusiasm is not only detrimental to your career, but to your colleagues and your boss. That's not fair to anyone.

Once you decide that you do care enough to hang onto your job and want to be more successful, here are some things to do:

  • Study the boss. It's time to be observant, ask relevant questions and try to understand fully what's important to the boss and why. Chances are good that the boss has aligned his or her goals with that of other senior managers, and that means these goals also are important to the CEO. So, while you may not have access to the CEO, you certainly can glean what is important to him or her -- and that's critical information.
  • Strategize. What can you do to help the boss achieve his or her goals? When presenting these ideas, try to use the same language as the boss. That makes it easier for him or her to understand your focus. Often, ideas are shot down simply because you don't use some of the same jargon as the boss, and he or she tunes you out. Once he or she hears familiar key phrases or words, then the boss is much more likely to tune in and think "this person gets it."
  • Make it a habit. Once you start to see what really matters to the organization and your boss, don't make it a one-time thing. That's not enough to get you a raise or promotion. You've got to incorporate it into your daily habits so that the boss consistently sees that you "get it." Make sure you document your efforts so that you can clearly demonstrate you're not a one-trick pony.
  • Be a trouble-shooter. If you're having trouble coming up with ways to demonstrate your worth -- then be the person who can demonstrate what NOT to do. Sometimes that's just as important as blazing a new trail. For example, become a diligent proofreader of key data being presented to clients, so that there's no chance for errors. Or, be the one who double-double-checks that a key shipment will arrive on time -- and have a backup plan in place in case something goes wrong.
The key is showing the boss that not only are you dependable, but that you're invested in the company's success -- just as if you owned it. Once that becomes clear, then you will start to see more opportunities come your way.

Photo: dailymail

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Problem Must be Defined Before It Can Be Solved

When a program, strategy or project fails to achieve its goals, the reason can often be traced back to the very beginning when no one seemed to clearly define or agree on the problem.
That may sound a bit strange – how can any organization move forward with a solution unless they clearly understand the problem?
Yet, it happens more often than anyone would probably like to admit, which is why Satish P. Subramanian provides a clear framework for getting a better handle on defining a problem in his book, “Transforming Business with Program Management.”
“Some organizations have a tendency to jump the gun,” when moving toward a solution and can lead them to rush through defining the problem, he explains.
“This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process, and doesn’t require a lot of structure,” he explains. “But without a framing up of the issue, you won’t be able to meet your goals.”
In other words, a team that takes action without a clear agreement and definition of the problem is a waste of manpower, resources and time.  “Whatever journey you’re on, you’re not going to be able to achieve the outcome you want,” he says.
For program managers, he says there are some ways that the problem can be better defined using techniques such as:
  • An environment scan. These scans are aimed at identifying and making a structured analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in organizational strategy. You want to look at operational assets and liabilities. For example, Subramanian explains that an asset such as an extensive distribution network is a strength, regardless of environmental factors.
“This puts the emphasis on an ‘outside-in’ perspective by identifying and analyzing what’s going on inside the organization and also to look at the business drivers in the marketplace,” he explains.  “An environment scan not only ensures the transformation initiative will tackle the right strategic problem, but also creates the burning platform for a business to transform.”
He stresses that it is important that there is a detailed description of the issues such as strengths and weaknesses and how each of these is analyzed and mapped.
  •   The voice of the customer.  This technique is used to “capture customer insight on their pain points, what they value the most, expected business outcomes (read more here)

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Ask for Help at Work and Not Look Stupid

Look around your workplace right now and chances are you will see one or two interns.

You may observe them making some really stupid mistakes -- and you may observe them making some really smart decisions.

But one thing you're sure to see is those interns asking questions. It may be something as simple as "how do you turn on this coffee machine?" or something more complex such as "can you help me fix this mistake?"

While observing these young interns, it's a good time to think about how you ask for help at work. For example, are you like the intern that fumbles around with a requests, inciting impatience on the part of the listener?

We're often told that there's no such thing as a stupid question, yet many of us DO feel we will look stupid if we ask for help at work. After all, everyone else seems adept at handling the new phone system, for example, while you've disconnected three customers within an hour.

Still, you can't sit in silence and just hope that you'll magically find the answer to a question that is stumping you -- or that you'll miraculously grow another brain so that you don't need to ask for help.

If you find yourself getting getting stomach cramps at the thought of raising your hand for help at work, here are some ideas to help you get past it:

1. Not asking for help is going to cause further headaches. If you don't ask for what you need right away, then you're going to fall behind. Imagine yourself a few months from now, explaining to your boss why you're so far behind and in danger of losing an important contract because you didn't ask for help when you needed it. Worried about looking stupid? Well, now you do.

2. Do your homework. Don't ask for help the minute you hit an obstacle. Bosses like people who are resourceful and show initiative, so try to solve the dilemma for yourself before asking for help. Do you have a network of friends/colleagues who might be able to offer some guidance? Is there someone in another department who has a similar position who might be able to help? By doing your homework, you are able to show others that you tried to answer your own question before seeking answers. This also helps you to be able to eliminate the things that won't work, which saves time for everyone.

3. Use the "but" request. "I've been researching how to get this project online, but I just can't seem to get it to work. I'd really like to learn how and was wondering if you might be able to help or know someone who can," you might say. Admitting you don't know something is not a show of weakness when you acknowledge you're willing to learn.

4. Ask for follow-ups. Once you get the answer you seek, it may be that there will be only more questions down the road. Let the person know that you're going to try -- but could you ask follow-up questions? This prepares the person that you may be calling again, and ensure he or she will see this as a learning experience -- not as a way for you to get someone else to do your work. It's always nice to let him or her know when you're making progress, and express your appreciation for the help you've received. (This also gives your helper a way of telling you if you've gone off track and need to make corrections.)

Remember that diverse workplaces offer such valuable resources that it's a silly waste of time to not ask for help when you've tried to handle an issue on your own and are getting nowhere. Seeking input shows a collaborative spirit, and a willingness to learn. That's never a bad thing for your career.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Could a Cup of Coffee Lead to Better Employee Morale?

There’s been much written about how we all dread Mondays, but a new survey finds that twice as many workers feel “energized and productive” at the beginning of the week as compared to how they feel when they reach Friday.
So what happens during the week that leads only 17% of workers to feel they’re on top of their game by week’s end?
That’s a question being pondered by Xavier Unkovic, global president for Mars Drinks, whose parent company is Mars Inc. The poll of 2,034 American employees was sponsored by Mars Drinks and Ipsos.
“I think the results of the poll surprised me personally,” Unkovic says. “I think many of us make assumptions about what energizes people and makes them productive. It’s the reason we did the poll.”
Mars Inc. is ranked among the top 25 Best Multinational Workplaces by Great Places to Work, but Unkovic says the company isn’t resting on its laurels and knows that it must keep its 75,000 worldwide workers engaged if the company wants to remain competitive and innovative.
At the same time, it believes it has some information to share on how it’s reached that top 25 milestone, and has launched a new campaign called “Rethink the Daily Grind,” which seeks to inspire other leaders and workplaces on how to engage and energize workers.
Taking a page from the popularity of coffee shops as a place to meet and form a community, Mars is suggesting that workplace changes can be as simple as setting up a Monday Happy Hour. By offering hot beverages and snacks as a way to get workers and managers to communicate and collaborate in a comfortable space, it’s much more inviting than a sterile meeting room.
“For me, I think the most important thing for leaders is to build a workplace that intentionally keeps the workers going – something that focuses on keeping them very energized,” Unkovic says.
Companies that are not thriving often have the same ailment: They don’t understand what engages their workers and fail to show appreciation for what they do, he says.
“As a business manager, it’s critical that you understand people are your No. 1 asset. Your people bring your brand to life. We are all competing for talent, and if you don’t do a good job (with employees), they’re going to leave. And the No. 1 reason people leave is because of line managers,” he says.
Unkovic agrees with the Gallup research that shows great workplaces have several things in common, such as:
  • Workers know what is expected of them.
  • They have the materials and equipment to do the work right.
  • In the last week, workers have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
“Here’s something you must understand: Companies that get kudos from employees as great places to work also out outperform other companies. There’s no secret here,” he says. “You inspire people, and they give back.”
He says that when employers show employees they care about them, then employees deliver greater customer service, and that boosts the bottom line.
The key, Unkovic says, is that it’s not hard for any manager in any sized company to deliver the same kind of leadership that Mars offers. That’s why Mars (read more here)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

4 Things You Must Know Before a Job Search

When you're out of work or desperate to leave your current job, sometimes you're not thinking clearly about what you need to do to get a new position. You just need a new job. Right. Now.

So you fill out a bunch of online applications and throw together a resume by making a few updates on the one you wrote two years ago. (Or was it three?)

Still, by entering your job search is such a rushed way, you're likely to make mistakes. Those mistakes, of course, could cost you a new job.

First, take a deep breath. A well-planned job search will beat a panicked one any day. Take the time to gather your thoughts so that you will craft a resume that will grab the attention of an employer.

The key is figuring out the areas that most employers -- no matter the job or industry -- are sure to look for on a resume and ask about in an interview, such as:

1. Performance. Think about the experiences that have given you important work habits. How are your successes tied to such competencies? What mistakes have you made that helped you improve and led to performance improvements? Are you adaptable -- able to rebound from setbacks? How do you handle pressure so that you remain respectful and don't take it out on others? How do you ensure your opinions are supportive and not personally critical of others? How would you stand up to someone who asked you to do something illegal or unethical?

2. Interpersonal skills. Do you provide support and encouragement to your team? Do you challenge outdated ideas and present new ones in a persuasive way? Are you a good listener and open to the ideas of others? Are you able to accept negative feedback and channel it toward improving your performance? Do you work well with diverse people, and adopt your work style to accommodate any differences? What steps do you take to help clients or customers reach satisfactory outcomes?

3. Habits. Do you have personal accountability, such as always telling the truth and avoiding gossip? Do you make decisions based on an employer's mission statement? Do you manage your time and complete assignments on time? Are you organized and efficient with your time and resources?

4. Tech skills. What resources, information or systems do you know how to use and implement on a regular basis? How have you improved your technical skills?

This should help you see that shooting off a resume with little thought to these areas will get you quickly tossed in the "reject" pile. These are common areas that employers will ask about -- how will you answer?


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why All Leaders Need to Understand Big Data

Do you only care about statistics when discussing fantasy football? Is the only knowledge you have of data is how to spell it? If so, you better wise up – fast.
While data and statistics are changing the way companies like Google and Amazon do business, they also are impacting industries from manufacturing to health care. Managers and employees who are clueless about the subjects may find themselves standing on the sidelines as key projects continue without them or senior leaders pass them over for promotions.
Susan Athey, a Stanford Graduate School of Business economics professor, has consulted for companies like Microsoft and other technology firms. She says that while these companies require their managers to be knowledgeable about data collection and statistics, it’s a trend that’s starting to seep into other industries.
She explains that more companies are collecting and analyzing data as a way to stay competitive and innovative. It’s been shown that when companies inject data and analytics deep into their operations, they can boost productivity and profit that is 5% to 6% higher than the competition.
In other words, managers can no longer just ignore Big Data or trust the IT department or an outside firm to deal with it. If they value their jobs, they need to become more informed.
For example, data can show whether the price point on a product needs to be altered, whether to open a new store in another city or if television marketing efforts are failing. But if you’re a manager in marketing or sales, then being clueless about that data means you can’t ask smart questions – or know when there’s a problem, Athey says.
In addition, while your company may not be collecting a lot of data right now, what about your competitors? Your suppliers? Are others collecting data and making decisions based on data analysis that will eventually impact your product or business?
“I think it’s a smart idea to become more familiar with data and statistics,” Athey says. “There are free online courses, or you can go to executive training sessions. If you’re getting your MBA, go take a programming or statistics course.”
Athey says she isn’t suggesting that all managers become fluent in statistics or data analysis, but she says “you want to be able to look at data instead of waiting for someone else to interpret it for you.”
Keep in mind, she says, that while someone in IT may understand the more technical aspects, they may not have your knowledge of a business’s strategy or grasp the importance of certain information to a key project. So, it’s important that leaders at any level “have an understanding of what kinds of questions they should be asking” when they’re (read more here)