growth

Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

You have seen the big uptick in hate crimes locally and nationally. Perhaps you have read articles about the impact of political divisions on work activities. I remember when I was a kid that racial and religious slurs were common language – and cringe every time I hear someone decry political correctness when what they mean is freedom to say such things again. The SHRM magazine even has a cover this month on “The Age of Rage.”

Are you seeing evidence of employees arguing more or ignoring each other instead? Have you had any incidents of harassment or discrimination in your workplace? Have you felt a need to address these issues but wondered how to do so?  Are you just hoping to avoid this topic?

First, the laws have not changed. If you are covered by EEO laws because you have 15 or more employees, you may wish to remind all employees of the harassment and discrimination rules as a part of an employee newsletter or meeting. Tell them also that diversity has been shown to improve business success and profitability which helps them keep their jobs.

Most importantly, your values have not changed. If your values include respect, ethical behavior, communications, trust, a positive workplace – or many others – remind staff of these values and how you expect people to demonstrate them at work. Pushing a political viewpoint on others or ignoring/harassing those who disagree with one is not a behavior you want to allow in the workplace. Harassing people who are different from one is another area you want to make clear is unacceptable.

If you are not sure if you have a problem, listen to your staff more. Ask a trusted employee about any […]

By |April 24th, 2017|productivity, Smart practices|Comments Off on Politics, Fraught Employees, and Management Actions

Creating a More Effective Organization

Do you look for ideas and innovation from your employees? Does your work require creativity? When you think about these questions, if you look to continue to grow your small business, the answer almost always turns out to be yes. Management is a critical aspect of ensuring growth and continued success. Ed Catmull’s book CREATIVITY, INC is worth your time. Not something I say about many business books.

While this book is about building Pixar and focuses on artistic creativity, his management insights apply to most organizations. The theme of trust runs strongly through the book but always with real business insights and ideas. For example, on the issue of micro-managing:

“One of the biggest barriers is fear, and while failure comes with the territory, fear doesn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.”

The issues of managing the organization and inevitable failures are another frequent theme.  For example, on leading an enterprise:

“When I say that the fate of any group enterprise, and the individuals with it, are interconnected and interdependent it may sound trite. But it’s not. What’s more, seeing all the interdependencies that shape our lives is impossible, no matter how hard aor long we look. … Acknowledging what your can’t see – getting comfortable with the fact that there are a large number of two-inch events occurring right now, out of our sight, that will affect us for better or worse, in myriad ways – helps promote flexibility. You might say I’m an advocate for humility in leaders. But to be truly humble, those leaders must first understand how many of the factors […]

By |April 17th, 2017|culture, Executive development|Comments Off on Creating a More Effective Organization

Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore

Communication Tips – Listening Skills

Listening, really hearing what someone else is saying, is a skill. Why are listening skills so important? Listening skills are critical to many aspects of managerial work including interviewing for open positions, coaching and counseling, gathering data, customer service, working effectively with others, performance management, and so forth.

Many, if not most, people tend to have an inner monologue going on when they are ‘listening’. This may be a disagreement with what is being said, preparing the answer, or worrying about something else entirely. Not effective, but common.

Exercise

Think for a moment about a person you worked for who was not a good listener. Try to clearly see in your mind’s eye what happened in a discussion. What made the person a poor listener? What did s/he do or say that communicated the message “I’m not really listening” or “I don’t really care about your ideas”.

Now think about how you felt. What effects did the poor listening skills of the person have on you?

 

What are the benefits you can derive from good listening skills? Here are some:

You show the person that you are interested in and concerned about their needs and interests, not just your own. This is especially useful in interviewing job candidates, counseling, and customer interviews.
You find out why an individual did what they did, how they made their choices or decisions, and attained or missed goals. This is useful in resolving problems, coaching, and job interviews.
You give the person an opportunity to be heard and feel understood so that they will reveal much more information.

These tips are designed to help you learn more about listening effectively. Good listening skills can be acquired with practice. They provide real benefits in your professional and personal life. […]

By |January 27th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills

TO HIRE … OR NOT TO HIRE?

Some entrepreneurs rush to hire too many, too soon and cannot support them. Others wait too long and do too much low margin work hindering their success.

The decision about whether and when to add staff is always a tough one. And these economic times make it more emotionally charged. Getting the help you need to grow and succeed is critical.

So how do you decide when or whether to hire?  Ask yourself:

Question 1: Is the need actually long-term and at the core of my business?

In this case, an employee may be the best bet. Example: if you are a small organization and can hire a person who will directly support current clients, you free some time to grow the business. A retailer may be able to add hours or serve customers faster and thus increase revenue with an extra hire.

Question 2: Would out-sourcing be worth considering?

Even with a core mission and long term need, you may want to consider other options. Some functions are smart to out-source due to the technical nature of the work or the need for constant personnel/equipment upgrading. IT services come immediately to mind. Others that are critical to your success may also be in this category. Functions may also be done by a contractor, such as a bookkeeper or a virtual assistant.

Question 3: Is the need for a specific period of time?

Such work, whether for a brief period or many months, may be most effectively done by hiring someone specifically as a short-term employee or via a temporary staffing agency.

Question 4: Does the work require expertise you don’t have?

Here you may consider hiring a management or specialized consultant or a freelancer, depending on the type of work, project demands, and […]

By |September 8th, 2014|hiring|0 Comments

No, No… Not Me, Not Networking

Research consistently shows that it is the entrepreneurs with the extensive network who are most likely to succeed. Yet many small business founders do little to grow and enhance – or even use – their network. How about you?

A real value of a good network is the connections it allows you to make to ideas, services and support you need to develop your business and succeed. You want people with technical and business expertise that complements yours. Add those with wide-ranging interests and specialists – both help you with the future. Plus friends for support and peers for inside info. Attending professional events, including those the Alexandria SBDC offers, is an easy way to meet new people who may be valuable in your network.

When you need to hire employees, your network can often provide referrals who match your needs far better than an ad or job posting. The trick here is to be specific about what you need, what results you expect from the new hire, and what your company offers and expects. Clearly communicate all that to your network and ask for help. The candidates you receive this way are generally better qualified in terms of the job and a better match in terms of your culture.

The same process is useful when you need outside services, advisors, or referrals to competent attorneys, CPAs, consultants, etc.

Network Effectively

Start by carving out a bit of time daily over two weeks to look the people you know already. Decide how to connect or re-connect. Will you use LinkedIn, another online tool, the phone, or what? Improve your most relevant connections first. What do you want and what will you give in return? Don’t forget your community or personal contacts, they offer a lot more […]

By |September 4th, 2013|networking|0 Comments