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Millennials and Our Future

I am not a big fan of business books. So many are one small idea blown into a book and poorly written too. But I recently read a book with some ideas useful to any small business or non-profit.

When Millennials Take Over by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

This is an optimistic look at the future of business. It is a short, easy read. Better yet, you may already being doing parts of what they suggest is the future of business – to be digital, clear, fluid, and fast. As you know if we have met, I am not a big fan of the hype surrounding the millennials. They are not so different or so bad but are much like past generations were in their 20-30s. What they do bring is a different view of many technologies and of data-gathering. The book recognizes the hype early but uses them to organize its premise of the changes hitting most organizations over the past five to ten years and how millennials expectations can offer some solutions.

Digital refers to ‘organizing and working in ways that leverage’ the possibilities of digital technology.
Clear refers to the ‘value of clarity’ inside organizations. And many small businesses do this just to stay in business and grow.
Fluid refers to how the ‘heirarchy shifts and morphs decision-making’ as needed to be most effective.
Speed refers not to incremental steps but to the mindset and practices that allow your to leap forward as needed.

The book helps you make sense of ways to reduce the administrivia that stops many people from contributing all which they can. It not only demonstrates the critical aspects of your organizational culture to your success but also shows how that impacts the […]

By |December 29th, 2015|Business planning, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on Millennials and Our Future

Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Locally there are many official and area celebrations of Veterans Day and many military installations, so it may mean more to us than just another ‘sales holiday’.  Obviously, it means more to me.  But what could it mean to your business or organization?

It could mean that your business thrives by hiring veterans as well as providing services or products to them. There are many local resources to help you in attracting and hiring veterans. Veterans offer you:

a wide range of technical skills,
ability to deal with high-change environments
experience in demanding and fast-paced environments,
commitment to your mission and values, and
in-depth training and experience in supervisory and interpersonal skills.

Military spouses and family members also form an excellent labor pool to draw from. You can work with the family center offices at area military bases to attract both veterans and spouses. These include both the Employment Readiness Program and Transition Assistance Program at the centers, named as below
Army: Army Community Service
Navy: Fleet and Family Support Center,
Air Force: Airmen and Family Readiness Center,
Marine Corps: Marine Corps Readiness Center, or
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Work Life.
These programs usually accept job postings. Many run employer days and job fairs. Contact the installations closest to you.

The US Department of Labor has an excellent guide to help you in the process of developing your ability to hire transitioning military effectively – “Hiring Veterans – Step by Step Toolkit for Employers”

An excellent toolkit for hiring veterans, based on extensive private sector research, is available from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

In Virginia, ‘Virginia Values Veterans’ is a training and certification program on hiring veterans available here

Maryland also offers support for employers seeking to hire veterans  here .

So this year, when the anniversary […]

By |November 8th, 2015|Business planning, hiring, Smart practices|Comments Off on Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Performance Management 8: To SAVE or to FIRE?

Early action to identify and resolve problems is the easiest way to solve them. Quick action reduces demands on your time and improves productivity throughout the work unit. You have the most options and the best chance of success at this time. And saving an employee who knows your organization and has been productive in the past is both time-saving and cost effective. Address and resolve problems early rather than let them continue!

First, clearly identify the problem. If you have not fulfilled any of your own responsibilities, correct this situation now. Once you have provided the needed guidance and tools, assess probable causes and possible courses of action. Document the problem with specific examples.

Second, talk to the person. Describe your concerns factually with specific examples of the problem performance or attitude and the impact on the work unit or others. Seek the person’s input and assess it honestly. Ask for their plan to address and correct the problem. Develop an action plan together and follow-up on it. For a first occurrence or a minor problem, this can be done informally and without written notice to the person. Make this a constructive discussion with a positive tone. But it is smart to keep some notes on what you discussed.

If resolution is not achieved, the problem re-occurs, or the initial problem is in a critical aspect of the work, your options are more formal. There are three potential options, other than ‘termination at will’, although the first two are useful only in rare cases. You can restructure the job, transfer the person, or take performance improvement action.

Restructuring the job is worth considering only if the person has very good skills in critical areas and the person […]

By |October 5th, 2015|Communications, Performance Management|Comments Off on Performance Management 8: To SAVE or to FIRE?

Managing Performance 7: OH NO! Documentation

Many managers and most small business founders hate the thought of documentation of employee issues. “I don’t have time.” “I don’t want to upset him by writing it down.” “I don’t know what to say.” Standard excuses all. But wrong.

Recently I was talking with a store owner about a problem employee – one who did not follow basic practices, had a tendency to hide from work, and often got angry. We had talked about dealing with this employee on these same topics 18 months ago. Now the owner was quite upset that the unemployment decision had gone against the company.
But, had he done any of the documentation over this period of time – no. Did he document his discussions with the employee about the problems before firing him – no. Is this unusual? Sadly also no.

Documentation can be done quite easily much of the time. Got an employee coming in late time and again? Make a simple record on your calendar if you do not have an automated time-keeping system. Talked with an employee informally about a problem? Make a short note for your records so that if it happens again you have the info you need to refer to that informal counseling when you have to write a warning or more.

The value to you of doing simple documentation of positive and negative performance or attitude issues is quite high. It allows you to know who to promote, who to give pay raises to, who might benefit from some training, and who needs more formal efforts. When it is about a problem, your records can help you avoid paying higher unemployment costs and deal with regulatory or legal challenges.

You can maintain ‘working records’ in […]

By |September 11th, 2015|Performance Management|Comments Off on Managing Performance 7: OH NO! Documentation

Managing Performance 6: Coaching and Counseling Employees

Smart Coaching

Coaching is the best way to develop talent and productivity. If you think back on your own life, you can probably identify teachers, relatives, sports coaches, or previous bosses who coached you for success.

What did they do to help you grow and develop?
What common methods can you identify?
How could you apply these techniques to developing your staff?

Research indicates that common characteristics of good coaches include:

a. creating an atmosphere of support and trust
b. recognizing and building on the strengths of an individual
c. expecting excellence
d. providing continuing information on the company, its goals and the role of the work unit in the organization
e. providing clear guidance on expectations and priorities
f. letting the individual have freedom to do the job

You can become a good coach. Coaching requires generally consistent behavior on your part. This starts with being a good role model for those behaviors you expect from others. When you recognize that your own and the company’s success are built on the success of each member of your staff, recognition of their partnership and needs becomes easier. Basic actions you can take to become a good coach include:

solicit and be receptive to others’ ideas
provide guidance, information, and advance planning details routinely
explain your actions and decisions or reasons for procedures
provide training and support needed
establish and communicate performance standards and hold individuals accountable
provide periodic feedback on job performance routinely
give visibility, recognition and credit to individuals

Coaching is a pro-active behavior in which you help others to grow and develop.

 

Effective Counseling

Counseling is the key to changing problem behaviors into productive performance. Counseling differs from coaching in that it is in response to problems in work performance or behaviors. Since counseling is often seen as criticism or punishment, many managers do […]

By |August 24th, 2015|Communications, Performance Management|Comments Off on Managing Performance 6: Coaching and Counseling Employees

Managing Performance 5: Communication Tips

Communications are a critical aspect of every manager’s role. Successful growth and many performance management processes involve feedback situations. The need is for timely, objective and specific feedback to reinforce good performance and to correct problems before they become bad habits. These discussions require specific skills including good communications, active listening, coaching and counseling.

The Supervisor as Communicator

Communicating is a basic function underlying most of your management activities. You have four primary audiences: higher management – if you are not the founder, your peers, your staff, and those outside the organization.

Higher management should be informed of:

problems or difficulties in achieving your goals
suggestions for improving operations in your unit
praiseworthy performance of your staff

Your peers need to know things which help coordination or impact their work:

problems or difficulties which hinder their effectiveness
progress or data which assists their planning
suggestions for resolving common problems

Your staff must know your expectations and objectives:

role of the work unit and how it fits into larger picture
goals and objectives of the unit
work unit performance – achievements and issues
feedback on personal performance

Persons outside the company may also need to be communicated with to:

explain the contribution of your work unit to their needs
describe company actions, policies, or plans
respond to questions or criticisms

As a manager, a prime function is to get things done through people. Your ideas become effective only as they are communicated to others and thus achieve the desired actions. Employees’ ideas and suggestions are also vital to your success as an organization. Thus your communications need to be designed to encourage understanding and willingness to contribute. You communicate with words, attitudes, and actions. How well you manage depends on how well you communicate in that broad sense.

“Top Ten” Communications Tips

10. Clarify your ideas before […]

By |August 12th, 2015|Communications|Comments Off on Managing Performance 5: Communication Tips

Managing Performance 4: Getting Work Done Effectively

A key managerial role at every level is guiding and developing employees. The performance and success of your staff is the key to your own success. Your ability to build trust with your staff and to keep them actively involved in the company’s and their own success will improve your own and your work unit’s productivity. Research shows annual performance appraisals have no significant effect on individual productivity. What does work is an interactive program where manager and employee meet regularly to discuss work plans, performance, expectations, problems, and goals.

The best leaders have constant check in with their employees and inherently understand how to balance a team to focus on the “we” and the “me” — they have a pulse on their workers so that everyone has a sense of how to make the team work together towards a common goal (focus on the “we”) but to also balance the individual so that each worker knows that they are playing to their talents and strengths (focus on the “me”.)  Marcus Buckingham, SHRM2015

Tip 1. Work Planning and Standards

Work planning underlies much of a supervisor’s and work unit’s effectiveness. It is important to ensure work is completely effectively, on time, and within allocated resources. Standards are the established expectations on how work will be done. These are also often driven by the demands of customers, regulatory/industry or ISO standards, and the need to create a consistent environment for achievement. They include:

clearly identify expectations for performing the work
specify requirements and minimum levels of acceptable performance
define accountability
provide reference points for measurement
support improvement efforts and excellence

Tip 2. Manager Defines Work Objectives

A manager’s role in work planning is to establish specific work goals and measurements which enable the work unit […]

By |July 28th, 2015|Performance Management|Comments Off on Managing Performance 4: Getting Work Done Effectively

Managing Performance 3: Delegating Work

Delegation involves entrusting the work and goals of your unit to others – a passing on of authority. While simple tasks are included early on, effective delegation also includes work that involves independent action, decision-making, and the ability to change as the situation demands change without referring back to you.

This means you must ensure that the person you select to do a job:

knows what you want
has the authority to achieve it
knows how to do it

To do this requires, first, that each team member has all the relevant information flowing in as needed. Second, you must allow them to exercise control on your behalf which means you must train your staff to apply the standards you do.

Delegating successfully depends on knowing your team members well. You start small with tasks which can be done by the person with a little ‘stretch’ and then add tasks as the person achieves success. This presents the person with the opportunity to use their knowledge more and to increase their knowledge and skills in a supportive environment. Further, you must set up a progress reporting process at the onset so that you have the knowledge you need to provide support and feedback – as well as to keep you comfortable enough not to destroy the process.

When you delegate, you need to be clear on what results you expect. While ineffective, many managers delegate a task and then expect the person to do it exactly as the manager would. This does not usually result in effective delegation since it does not allow the person to develop their skills or learn from the process. In fact, your way may not always be the most effective way either. So be clear about […]

By |July 17th, 2015|Performance Management, Smart practices|Comments Off on Managing Performance 3: Delegating Work

Managing Performance 2: Orientation for Success

When a job offer is accepted, the individual begins a period of transition which is critical in setting the tone for success. Research indicates that most people start a new job with enthusiasm and a very positive view of the company and the job opportunity. They want to succeed and grow.

Management failures in both hiring and the first few months are directly responsible for most attrition within the first two years. Yes, and for most performance problems as well. You can avoid many problems with an effective hiring and orientation process. Once you have hired someone with the right skills, attitude, and abilities, you control most other success factors. These factors are knowledge, tools, and motivation.

Smart employers begin supporting the new employee before the person starts. You should make arrangements for the tools the person needs so that all are available when the person starts work. These tools includes work space/facilities, equipment, materials, and information on important procedures and practices.  You may want to send required paperwork out to the person before they start so that they can fill it out and bring it with them on the first day and minimize that aspect of orientation.  Staying in touch, especially if it will be 3-4 weeks before the person starts, also can be done with a few quick interesting texts or emails.

Inform other employees of the new person’s function and background so that they are prepared to welcome and assist the person. You should introduce the person to other employees as quickly as possible after the person starts work. Start with the immediate co-workers and then others in the organization with whom this person will interact.

The smartest way to help develop a successful employee […]

By |July 9th, 2015|productivity|Comments Off on Managing Performance 2: Orientation for Success

Managing Performance 1: What’s the Process?

The goals of any performance management process or system are productivity, continuing improvement, and accountability. If you are hiring effectively, most employees want to contribute and succeed in their work! Founders, executives, and managers play key roles in ensuring that individuals have the skills, tools, support, and knowledge to do so.

Performance management is an on-going work routine designed to help ensure that each person becomes and remains a highly productive, effective contributor. It is a cycle which includes action from orientation through termination.

There are nine discussions which have been shown to have a major impact on productivity. These are:

Orientation to the work unit
Initial work assignment discussion
Orientation follow-up
Agreeing on work assignment plans and measurements
Career coaching
Recognizing consistent progress
Recognizing above-average performance
Counseling and correcting substandard performance
Regular,on-going performance discussions

Note that some of these are relatively formal, scheduled discussions.  Others can be ‘catching the person doing something well’ and saying so, on the spot skill coaching or advice, or other less formal communications.

New employees want to know about the overall business and where and how they fit in. Providing the information they need to succeed, as in the first three above, helps convey your expectations clearly and provides a blueprint for success.

Discussing and agreeing on work assignments affects the individual’s sense of positive involvement. It gives both of you an opportunity to address issues and clarify expectations. When work plans in whole or in part are developed jointly, the risks of misunderstanding and poor performance are reduced. Realistic standards are more achievable. So is success for you both and for your company!

Career coaching involves providing information and feedback. It includes ‘how to succeed here’ talks, discussions of the individual’s goals, as well as future plans of the organization so that an […]

By |July 5th, 2015|Smart practices|Comments Off on Managing Performance 1: What’s the Process?