productivity

March 2016 News You Can Use

Many of my clients have some form of ‘respectful workplace’ policy or practice to guide employees on discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. Whether you have such a policy or not, you may want to decide what you want to do about guns in the workplace if you are a Virginia employer.

While Virginia allows both open and concealed carry and makes many restrictions on carrying guns limited, employers can prohibit guns in their workplace. You cannot prevent them generally from being locked in cars in parking areas though. As you consider a new policy or statement in your employee handbook, consider adding other potential weapons to it.

A sample statement:

Organization name X strictly prohibits the possession, use, and/ or sale of all types of weapons on work premises or while engaged in company business off premises except where expressly authorized by X and permitted by state and local laws. This policy applies to all employees, including those who have a valid permit to carry a firearm. Weapons include but are not limited to all types of guns, explosives, and knives or other edged weapons.

Further you may want to consider whether you need a plan, employee guidance, and training related to ‘active shooter’ issues. There are very good resources listed and linked on this Homeland Security page:
https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

Many local police departments will assist in assessing vulnerabilities and provide resources to support your planning and training.

NEW: Virginia Safety Poster Requirement

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has updated their job safety and health protection poster. This is now effective and you need this new poster. Additionally there are new accident reporting information. All fatalities, injuries, or illnesses that result in patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an […]

By |March 13th, 2016|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on March 2016 News You Can Use

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

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 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 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?

May’s WWII and Military Lessons for Your Organization

May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

VE Day (70th Anniversary – May 8th) recognizes victory in Europe in WWII.
Armed Forces Day (May 16th) recognizes those currently in service.
Memorial Day (May 25th) recognizes those who died in war.

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Leadership and Management Lessons

Military planning is the basis for strategic and business planning in most companies. While military leaders understand that all planning is overcome by events, they also know that smart planning is the basis for success. That is true for your organization as well! Too often we are so busy with reactive work and daily demands that planning drops to the bottom of a to-do list that we already never get to.

A plan will help you succeed faster and better. No small to mid-size organization needs some elaborate plan put together at great time and expense. Book an hour a week, preferably not in your office, and try to capture your vision of the future you want. A one-page summary would be a real achievement. And one that can be readily shared with employees, board members, or other stakeholders!

A recurring lesson, since President Lincoln replaced General McClellan after Antietam, is the importance of execution to success. Your ability to execute is what keeps your future positive. At far too many clients, I have seen the results of endless debates about next steps or conflict avoidance […]

Tips – Culture and Success

I talk often with clients on the topic of their culture and how it is manifest in their daily activities, procedures, and practices. Culture is critical to business success.  Yet many organizations have not designed or managed theirs, so it exists more by default than intention. Even more have developed significant differences between what they say and what they do. Think how many say they want teamwork but all rewards and raises are done individually, for one common example.

This SlideShare presentation by Reed Hastings is an excellent example of how to think about an organization’s culture and what it really values. It is clear about many of their choices and decision points. Their culture is not something you want to copy, you may agree with it a little or a lot. Still, it should give you ideas to consider. But the presentation is a great way to get your brain thinking about culture and what that really means in daily actions.  http://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664

Your organization’s culture needs to be based on your business reality and values. It needs to support your business goals and drive your policies and practices to be effective.

An effective culture also reduces your risks and enhances productivity as people understand what it takes to be successful and what is valued. Changing a bad culture is far more difficult work. Far better to think about your organization’s regularly and tune-up as needed.

One of the interesting assignments I have done recently was a part of a turn-around process that included culture reassessment. The client CEO and team worked through a values clarification exercise together and then turned that into behavior expectations. We developed practices based on that. Several years ago I did a similar […]

By |August 5th, 2014|culture|0 Comments

Culture – Fad or Real?

‘Culture’ is again a hot topic in the business world. Studies show it has significant effects on success and growth. Yet few smaller organizations focus on creating an effective culture.

Whether you consciously planned it or not, your organization has a culture. And when you try to do something new, you see the negative effects often. But the positive aspects of culture can help you succeed if you develop them.

When I do organizational assessments, a common result is a divergence between what executives say they have as a culture and what their practices actually are. Too often, basic practices and policies have simply been borrowed from other organizations but are wrong for this organization’s needs and goals.

Perhaps you never consciously tried to create a culture. Or the culture you originally developed is not what you now need. Or worse, the culture you thought you had created is not what you actually have. Aligning your culture, your policies, and your actual practices is critical for success. As you look forward, take a look at your existing culture and practices.
* Are they what you want?
* Are they what you expected?
* How do you know if your answers are truly correct?

Will the existing culture support your strategic and business plans? If not, what are you going to do? How?

More from a pioneer on the importance of culture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Schein

By |September 30th, 2013|culture|0 Comments