professional development

Developing Employees

Developing the skills and knowledge of your staff is critical to your business success and to retaining top quality people. Still, many small business owners do not see the options available to do so at low cost. Like taking vacations, you also need to invest in your own development as well. Here are some ideas to support development.

1. Ask employees what their professional development goals are and how they relate to your organization.

This encourages people to think about their needs. Many will have goals you can assist with at little to no cost. These might include:

skills that other employees have and can teach the person,
ideas for new approaches or projects which will also benefit your organization,
support for volunteer work, and
more traditional education or training.

Offer to assist with those which make the most sense to your business.

2. Involve employees in organizing meetings, events, and new hires.

Your first line supervisors and those staff you feel have potential can learn from helping to organize staff meetings, presenting a training topic at all-employee meetings, and/or arranging other events you provide or sponsor. You need to provide clear guidance upfront about what is needed and any resources; then step back and let the person do the work. Be available to answer questions without imposing too many controls.

If you bring in a new hire or have summer interns, select an employee to be their guide. This person could be tasked with ensuring all needed equipment or space is ready, explaining any specific equipment or access procedures, training the new person on your basic practices and security, and making sure that there is someone to lunch with regularly during the first few weeks.

3. Ensure employees have an […]

By |May 21st, 2017|culture, Smart practices|Comments Off on Developing Employees

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 […]

The Missing Link: Listening Skills

Probably you have not been told to ‘shut up and listen’ lately…but do you really know if you are a good listener? Or why that is important to your own and your organization’s success?

The old line that ‘god gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason’ reflects the common problem: most of us do not listen well. Research shows that in the USA a far higher percentage of managers are extroverts than is the overall workforce. And many extroverts are better at talking than listening.

Listening well is a critical skill: good listeners are

more likely to learn of potential problems and solutions early;
better at assessing employees, job applicants, and potential partners or vendors;
more aware of changes which may affect them.

Good listening skills require some attention and effort to learn and use. They take an effort to turn off one’s own internal discussions, to think about what one is doing in a conversation, to ignore one’s phone or other distractions, and to change one’s talking habits. But your listening skills can be improved. And this will help with your personal life as well as your business!

Tips for more effective listening include:

listen for understanding of both what is said and what underlies the words or tone.
turn off your tendency to be defensive or think of your reply while the other person is speaking.
engage yourself fully in listening: make eye contact, say an encouraging word or nod periodically, take notes as needed.
ask relevant questions: for further information and to clarify your understanding of what you think you heard.
don’t interrupt or assume you know what the rest of the statement will be.
don’t give advice unless asked to.

Start by making a real effort […]