How you may be sabotaging your relationship with employees

unhappy employeesWe are getting ready to remodel our kitchen, and I contacted several contractors to visit our home to discuss the project and provide an estimate. One didn’t return our initial calls, one came out and we had to follow up three times before he sent the estimate, and one called us back within a day and sent his estimate within two days of our meeting. It was not a hard to decide who to hire for the job.

Responsiveness and follow through are crucial for any business, and unfortunately many organizations fall short of making this a practice. How a person responds and follows up says a lot about an organization and their service. These actions set the tone for the relationship, or it dissolves the relationship before it has even begun.

This applies to leaders and their employees. Every interaction you have with your employees sets the tone for that relationship and either deepens the relationship or chips away at it. Unfortunately, many leaders take the relationships they have with employees for granted and don’t see the impact of the daily interactions.

Below are common examples of how leaders can damage the relationship with employees:

  • Showing up late to meetings
  • Shifting a meeting you have with an employee because another “priority” came up
  • Not providing feedback
  • Not giving an employee their performance evaluation on time
  • Not showing appreciation
  • Always being too busy to support or coach
  • Not providing clear expectations and deadlines
  • Not being prepared for a meeting you have with an employee

You have an opportunity every day to bring your best leadership to your people. How you interact with and treat your employees sets the tone for how they will treat your clients. Accountability starts with you. Do you model accountability with your employees? Do you do what you say you are going to do? I believe our employee relationships are the most important. If you put your employees first, they will in turn put your clients first. If employees feel appreciated and cared for, they will exhibit the same approach toward clients.

An exceptional leader models positive behaviors and views the relationships with his employees as one of the most important relationships to cultivate. An exceptional leader is never too busy to write a thank you note, show appreciation, meet with his employees, provide meaningful feedback, and conduct performance evaluations. An exceptional leader knows it’s his job to make employees a priority and ensure the relationship gets continued focus.

I’d love to hear what you do to cultivate the relationship with your employees. Share one thing you do to ensure your employees feel they are a priority in the comments section below.

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

My Tips for Increased Energy

I just returned from a relaxing getaway in Cancun with my family and it was just what I needed to recharge and refocus. One of my personal goals this year is to schedule more downtime. I can very easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and sometimes neglect to take care of myself and ensure I am getting the time I need to recharge.

So what does this have to do with leadership? In my experience, many leaders get so caught up in work, that they leave little time for leisure. I used to be one of those leaders. I enjoyed my work, and would often work long hours. I would come home mentally and physically exhausted, which left very little time and energy for exercise, eating right, and taking care of myself. I like to keep busy, and at the time, leisure time sounded unproductive.

I admit that I sometimes still struggle with prioritizing leisure time, but I have made consistent progress and continue to focus on making small changes. To be an effective leader, we need frequent mental and physical breaks to de-clutter our minds and recharge physically. We can’t possibly run on overdrive and be effective. Attending to the physical, emotional, and spiritual side will ensure we have the energy and mental capacity to bring the best to our work.

Below are some changes I am implementing to make sure I can work at peak performance and have the energy to bring my best to my work.

Pre-schedule vacations and getaways. I used to do this backwards. I would put all of my work commitments in my calendar, and then a few months before I wanted to take a vacation, I would try to fit it in. This caused more stress since I often didn’t have room in my schedule for any time off. This past year, I started scheduling my downtime first. I blocked out several weeks I wanted to take off (even if I didn’t have a destination yet), and committed to taking that time I need. I also blocked off at least two full days a month with no commitments so that I could use that time for planning and creative thinking. Blocking this time in my calendar has served as a constant reminder that this time needs to be a priority.

Make health a priority. This is nothing new, and I think it’s easier said than done. When I am busy, I grab convenience foods like unhealthy snacks. My family is working on cutting out most processed foods this year and planning our meals ahead of time. This can be challenging–like when my husband bought four box of Girl Scout cookies this weekend–but we are making small changes that are really adding up. I follow a website that has been an excellent resource called 100 Days of Real Food. Check it out here: www.100daysofrealfood.com. I have used many of these recipes to make food on the weekends to have for the week.

Get some sleep. Unless you are a giraffe (they only need a total of 1.9 hours of sleep a day), you probably need at least eight hours of sleep a night. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they would feel better and more prepared for the day if they got more sleep. Technology is one reason why many people don’t get enough sleep–they stay up surfing the Internet, watching television, working, or playing games on their phone. This is one area that is non-negotiable for me. I aim to get about nine hours a sleep a night (as long as my 3 year old and 1 year old cooperate!). If I get less than eight hours, I absolutely feel a difference the next day–I’m tired, sluggish, and have very little motivation to focus.

Get clear on limiting beliefs. I ended last year exhausted and ready for a break. I had been running at full speed all year, and felt like I didn’t have the breaks I needed to regroup and relax. When I reflected, I realized that I had a subconscious belief that work should always come first. This limiting belief was apparent in my decisions, and it was having a negative impact in my life. I would choose work over things that I said were priorities, like exercise and meditation. If something for work came up, I would often shift personal commitments to accommodate my work schedule. I realized that this had to change. There will always be work. And if I treat the personal needs as optional, they will never rise to the top of the list. Now I schedule my personal needs in my calendar months ahead of time to make sure they get the focus they need. Sometimes I will need to shift something, but I am making a lot of progress in prioritizing my leisure time.

Small habits lead to big changes. As a leader, I know you have a very busy schedule. Adding more commitments probably seems impossible. Start with small changes and build from there. In my work with leaders, I find that the most successful people are those who make small habit changes and are consistent. They stick to the changes and focus on improving and making better choices in each moment. It’s great to have a big plan, but it’s even better to get results.

What is one thing you do to recharge and re-energize?

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

Making The New Year Awesome

Only 8% of people achieve their new year resolutions. Is it even worth setting goals? I believe the answer is yes. There is a way to set realistic goals and make significant progress in the new year.

Like many people, I take time to reflect and make commitments for the fresh new year approaching. I believe in setting goals and improving, and over the years, I have enhanced and changed my process for creating “resolutions”. I’ve figured out what works for achieving my goals, and most importantly, what doesn’t work. I don’t believe there is one formula for making changes;  each person is different and will respond differently.

Here are the lessons I have learned for achieving new year goals:

Lesson 1: Less is more

I used to make a laundry list of goals for the new year: learn Italian, improve piano playing skills, exercise more, etc. You get the picture. What I found is that when I set too many “stretch goals,” I become overwhelmed and just give up. I end up feeling worse about myself because I failed to achieve the goals I set. A few years ago, I started taking time to imagine my ideal life. What would the ideal look like in health, relationships, and business? I keep my goals realistic. I really take time to think through what resources and time I have and I focus on making progress instead of achieving a list. I would rather make significant progress on three goals than very little progress on ten goals. I have learned how much I am capable of taking on and create my goals accordingly. This creates freedom. Rather than being  chained to a list, I work on making incremental progress.

Lesson 2: Measure each day

I find small steps lead to bigger progress for me. I switched from setting weekly goals to setting daily goals. I take the ideal life I envisioned and think about ways I can close the gap. I focus on making an impact in this day. Focusing on today takes the overwhelm and judgment away and gives me permission to make choices that feel good now. Inevitably, I end up succeeding with more of my goals when I focus on today. At the end of the year, if I can look back and see progress from the year before, to me that is success. The compound effect is very powerful.

Lesson 3: Focus on the being, not the doing

I am a doer. I love lists and crossing things off. I love the feeling of accomplishment. And when I focus on checking things off, I often lose the intention of my goal. For example, for years I have wanted to incorporate meditation into my ritual. I read books on meditation and tried to meditate, and my mind was racing. I was trying too hard to “do” meditation correctly. I often found myself wanting to check it off my list rather than get the full experience and benefits. And that’s just pointless. This past year, I focused instead on the “being”. The purpose of meditation is to clear and quiet your mind. So, I sat quietly with music, closed my eyes and kept quiet. I am not great at it, but I get benefit from it, and I am improving over time.

What has worked for you when setting goals?

Wishing you an awesome year!

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

The Power of Simplicity

I believe many organizations are suffering from self-imposed complexity. I am frequently hearing from leaders that they have too much on their plate, and that the pace and demands in their organizations make it almost impossible to accomplish anything. They’re in meetings all day, they have 25 projects to complete this year, and their employees are overwhelmed and overtaxed.

In the quest to achieve so many goals, many executive teams are overambitious, over-scheduled, and over-committed. They are mired in so many competing demands, that they lack the ability to focus, which holds them back from achieving very much of anything. They may be really busy, but they are not producing much. This complexity trickles down to all levels of the organization and can paralyze a company from getting anything done. This has become such the norm in so many organizations, that some leaders have convinced themselves that there is no other way of operating.

Don’t get me wrong. Things aren’t always easy. New technology needs to be implemented, new employees need to be hired, and new ideas need to be created. I’m not saying leaders don’t need to juggle multiple priorities. But how many is too many? How often do we add a level of complexity by trying to do everything at once? In the quest to make everything a priority, we make nothing a priority. Not a lot gets done.

There is power in simplicity. When a leadership team can make things uncomplicated and clear, that’s where the magic happens. That’s when people at all levels can really focus and make things happen. That’s where you can really create traction and begin to produce awesome results.

Take a look at your organization. Does everyone know what the top three to five priorities are? Can employees at every level tell you what they should be focusing on? And do their answers align with the true priorities? To be able to communicate what your employees should be focused on, you first have to be clear about the top priorities yourself.

 

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

Leadership Lessons From a 2 Year Old

It was another crazy morning of getting everyone ready and out of the house. We were walking to the car and my two-year-old daughter, Olivia, wanted to stop and smell the flowers (literally) in the front yard. I tried to rush her and managed to get her into her car seat. “My do!” she yelled (this is toddler talk for “I want to do it!”). She wanted to buckle her own car seat. Why did these things always happen on the days I am running late? I knew I wouldn’t win the battle, so I tried to patiently encourage her to quickly buckle the strap because “Mommy has to get to an important client meeting”. Of course she took her time; after all, she was on her timetable, not mine.

I was reflecting on this experience a couple of days later, and realized there was a lot of learning for me in this interaction. I like to do things quickly–check things off my list, make the decision, move forward on a project, achieve a goal. I like it when things are organized and go as planned (when I was expecting Olivia, my husband used to joke that when she was born she would come out with a Franklin Covey planner). Sometimes I just have to laugh when Olivia dumps milk on her school outfit three minutes before leaving, runs in the opposite direction when I tell her to get in the car, or throws herself on the floor in a tantrum when I tell her to put on her shoes. But I digress.

Oftentimes in our leadership, we are so focused on getting things done, that we are not present in our relationships. We put off giving that meaningful feedback to our coworker; we don’t get a chance to tell our employee how much we value her work; or we don’t have enough time in our day to get out and interact with staff members. We rationalize that we have important things to do. Yet slowing down and being a deliberate, purposeful leader is what will make us most effective. We forget that building and maintaining these significant relationships is what leadership is all about. It’s the people side of the business that often gets neglected.

Questions to ponder:

·         Who do I need to recognize?

·         What work (or personal) relationship have I not been giving 100% to?

·         Who on my team have I not thanked lately?

·         Who on my team needs more focused development?

I wish I could say that I will never feel the need to rush my daughter again. I can’t change my busy and productive nature, and patience is not one of my strengths. But I have learned a lesson about being present in each moment. She is stretching me in a new direction, and I realize I can learn a lot from a two year old.

Just last week my husband was taking Olivia to school (he’s much more patient than me) and she was slowly walking down the front path. I waved to her from behind the door, anxiously waiting to get back to my office to prepare for a conference call. She must have recognized I still hadn’t  quite learned the lesson of being present. She turned around, put out her arms, smiled at me and said, “”Hug?” Of course I did what every mother would do. I ran outside, threw my arms around her, and gave her a big kiss and hug. That is a moment I wouldn’t miss for any conference call. And then I cried. See, I do have a softer side.

 

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

Working on Vacation

Greetings from North Carolina! I’m enjoying a nice vacation with my family in the beautiful southern state. I love vacations not only for the family time and relaxation, but also because it gives me the reflection and planning time I need for my business.

A few days ago, my husband said that every time he looked over at me, I was on my phone or my iPad. I wasn’t really enjoying my time away because I was too preoccupied. I know many experts say you should completely disconnect when you’re on vacation, but I find that unrealistic. I would feel stressed the entire vacation if I didn’t fit in some work. However, after my husband’s comment, I knew I needed to set some boundaries.

I decided I would only work during the two hours when the kids are (hopefully) napping. The rest of the time I would be completely present with my family and really enjoy our time together. I already have some of these boundaries set up back home, and they’ve worked really well to ensure I’m not overdoing it at work. For example, I don’t work or check emails after 8 p.m. on weekdays, and at all on Sundays.

One practice I will be implementing when I get home is to reserve two work days per month with no appointments or meetings. These two days will be my time for planning and thinking. Rather than overload my schedule, I will make it a priority to have some downtime to generate ideas.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you find it hard to disconnect on vacation? What are some of the things you do to set boundaries?

Naptime is almost over, so I’ve got to go!

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

My Confession…

I have a confession to make: I struggle with delegation. My mind is often in overdrive, and stopping to ask for help is not one of my strong points. A couple of months ago, I came to a breaking point. I was printing out materials for a leadership program, and the ink in my printer ran out. I didn’t have another cartridge, and I had to run to Staples in the middle of the day to buy more ink. In that moment, I thought of the all the important things I needed to be doing, and it was not buying ink.

My business has been growing, and I was wearing many hats as a business owner: coach, consultant, accountant, marketer, and administrative assistant. I was becoming so bogged down in the details, that I wasn’t able to focus as much on the strategic side of my business. I realized I could not reach the next level in my business if I didn’t learn to work smarter and focus on the most important areas. I decided to hire an assistant, and I’m already seeing an increase in my productivity and a decrease in my stress level. I see her as the backbone of my business; she takes care of very important things behind the scenes so that I can focus on what I do best.

Most of us know we should delegate more. We may be very busy every day, but most people aren’t very productive. And on some level, we become addicted to the busy feeling because it makes us feel we are getting something done; even if it’s not the best use of our time.

 

Here are two strategies that helped me “train” myself to delegate more:

 

Envision leading at a higher level. Take just 15-30 minutes to think about what your leadership would look like if you were operating at the optimum level in your position. For me, I envisioned a clean, organized office, systems in place to run my business (like an accounting system), having more space in my calendar for creative time, being proactive in marketing my programs, an updated and refreshed website, developing new programs, and consistently sending resources to my clients. I realized many of these things I don’t have to do myself (accounting system), and having someone else do them would allow me the time and mental energy to focus on the other areas (developing new programs, sending resources to clients). This motivated me to want to delegate.

Keep a log. Throughout your day, keep a running list of things you are doing that are not the best use of your time. At the end of the day, determine which of these tasks can be delegated to someone else and write that person’s name next to the task. After one week of logging, set up a meeting with your team or the individual to teach them how to handle the tasks (and in many cases, no teaching is involved; it’s more about letting go). Here is a partial list of my items: filing, invoicing, bookkeeping, registering for conferences/events, contacting a vendor for information, ordering supplies, and updating my website.

A trait of highly successful leaders is the ability to focus on key areas and delegate lower level tasks. It is a core leadership skill, and often determines if a leader will move toward success or derailment. Just remember: you can have it all, but you can’t do it all.

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

Where You Should Spend 80% of Your Time

Have you ever left the office at the end of the day, knowing you worked really hard, but unable to pinpoint what you really accomplished? I used to have many days like this; days where I was really busy, but I wasn’t able to find the time to work on the most important areas that would make the biggest impact in my role as a human resources executive.

There is one exercise you can do that will dramatically change your leadership and how you work. If you do this exercise, you will become massively more productive and save so much time in your day, that you will be able to really focus on the areas that are important in your role as a leader.

The exercise is to define your key result areas. The key result areas of a position are the three to five main results that you must accomplish to perform the job successfully and make the maximum contribution.   It’s the value the position brings to the organization; the reasons why the position was created. The key result areas can’t be delegated (although you may delegate tasks or duties that support your key result areas) or outsourced. Defining your key result areas gives you clarity around what you should be doing so that you can focus, be highly productive, and make the most impact in your role.

Most leaders struggle to be productive and get results because they are very vague about what they should be doing on a daily basis. They spend most days being reactive and putting out fires. Defining your key result areas identifies the most important areas you should be working on; where you should be spending at least 80% of your time.  

Here is an example of possible key result areas for a human resources executive:

1. Create a strategy to develop and maintain an exceptional work culture that engages employees

2. Coach and develop the human resources employees to be successful in their jobs and reach their highest potential

3. Create a strategy for developing the organization’s leaders into highly effective, engaging and successful leaders

4. Create a talent strategy to attract and retain the most exceptional employees in the metro area

Your key result areas may be different based on the size of your organization and the company’s strategy. But notice they are not low level tasks that can be accomplished by staff members. Most leaders spend 80% of their time on tasks and 20% of their time on key result areas. To be an effective, successful leader, you must spend 80% of your time on key result areas.  

What are your key result areas? Set aside a half hour to get clear on your key result areas and then evaluate how you are currently spending your time. Delegate or outsource the tactical areas that can be handled by someone else. If you find yourself saying, “I am the only one who can do this task,” then develop a staff member to handle it. Remember that delegation doubles your productivity. Review your key result areas when planning your month, week and day, and you will become much more productive, effective leader.

 

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

Are You This Type of Leader?

Forty years ago, there was little talk in business about engaging employees, coaching and developing direct reports, or cultivating the company culture.  Many people stayed at the same organization for most of their career. Traditional managers, who were task-oriented and provided a lot of direction but very little inspiration, were tolerated. The command and control style of leadership prevailed.

The landscape of the work environment has changed. Employees have more choices, and will leave an organization where they don’t feel valued or appreciated. Traditional leaders won’t survive in the best organizations; there is only room for modern leaders.

We all have heard horror stories of ineffective, bad bosses. But in my experience, most  traditional leaders are not narcissistic and power-hungry. They are mediocre managers (and executives) who lack the necessary leadership skills to be successful. They aren’t naturally inclusive, approachable, and engaging, and their leadership style reflects that.  To succeed in leadership today, managers need to be modern leaders. A modern leader is approachable, engaging and focused. The modern leader promotes an environment of productivity and positivity.

You may be a traditional leader and not know it. But trust me, your employees do. They are talking about it behind your back, and your high-performing employees are looking for a quick exit (if they are still there). Read below for what distinguishes a traditional leader from a modern leader:

Traditional leader:

• command and control

• doesn’t provide feedback

• focuses on finding mistakes and reprimanding; holds people accountable through fear

• very little engagement with employees

• no coaching or development

• believes the paycheck is the reward for work

• thinks he/she should know all the answers

• more task-oriented and in the weeds

• thinks he/she worked hard to advance and deserves leadership

Modern leader:

• encouraging and inviting

• provides timely, constructive, consistent feedback

• focuses on learning from mistakes; holds people accountable in a positive, principled way

• finds ways to consistently engage with employees

• sees coaching and developing as a top priority

• actively thanks employees and shows appreciation

• solicits ideas and suggestions from employees; encourages employee involvement

• more proactive, strategic, and visionary• sees leadership as a privilege and enjoys serving his/her employees

The first step to transitioning from a traditional leader to a modern leader is awareness. Take time to reflect on your leadership and determine in what areas you need to develop. The best organizations only hire and keep modern leaders.

 

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail

Combating Negativity and Gossip

In one of my recent leadership programs, an executive expressed her frustration about organizational gossip and negativity. Her company was going through some changes, and the leadership team was frustrated with the rumor mill. Through the discussion, she came to the realization that the leadership team had not done a good job of communicating the changes and managing the impact.

In the absence of information, people make things up. If there is a lack of communication in an organization, employees will fill the void with their opinions and perceptions, which breeds gossip.

Dave Ramsey has a no-gossip policy in his organization. His mantra is, “negatives go up, positives go down.” Anyone who has a complaint or issue should only send it up the chain, never down. Complaining to someone who cannot solve the problem is not tolerated.

Here are three strategies for combating gossip and negativity in your organization:  

Develop a communication campaign. Most organizations don’t spend nearly enough time communicating important information throughout their organization. The executive team may spend hours each week behind closed doors, but often important information is not shared with employees, or worse, different messages are sent by different leaders.  To reduce gossip and negativity, leaders should have a well thought out communication campaign to ensure important information is disseminated throughout the organization. I’m a big fan of Umpqua Bank and their CEO, Ray Davis. Ray regularly walks around and asks employees, “What is it you need?” He also hosts quarterly broadcast calls and meets with select employees quarterly over dinner to talk about important organizational information. You can listen to my free interview with Ray Davis to find out how Umpqua purposefully creates an engaging environment:Umpqua Bank Interview

Conduct a listening tour. In her book, Motivate Like a CEO, Suzanne Bates recommends that leaders sit down with influential employees and figure out what is demotivating or getting in the way. I am amazed at how many top leaders in organizations turn a deaf ear to what is really going on. It’s almost like if they don’t hear about the negativity or issues, they don’t exist. Effective leaders seek out the issues and take responsibility for creating an environment of truth and engagement.

End executive meetings with a communication recap. In your executive or leadership meetings, take the last 10 minutes to discuss what you will communicate and how you will communicate information throughout the organization. This increases the chance of the correct message getting out to your employees, and reduces gossip.   The bottom line is that if your organization is doing an excellent job communicating, negativity and gossip will be the exception. Communication needs to be a planned effort and not an afterthought. What does your organization do to reduce gossip? I’d love to hear your comments. Hit “reply” and let me know!

 

FacebookGoogle+TwitterPinterestEmail