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Email Etiquette

Have you ever hit “send’ for an email and immediately regretted it? Most of us have! Email is such a fast medium, we often act without thinking. Here are five email etiquette tips to ensure your emails are correct and do what you need them to do.

  1. After you compose or respond to an email, wait before sending. Just close the email and save it as a draft. When you have 10 draft emails, review them one last time before sending.
  2. Always use a greeting. If you know the person, just say, “Hi” and their first name. “Hi, Madison.” If you don’t know them or if you want a formal tone, use their title and last name: “Dear Miss Keller” or their full name if you don’t know the gender: “Dear Madison Keller.”
  3. Proofread! It’s easy to assume your email is free of errors, but you would be surprised how often they slip through. Take a few seconds to read the email slowly, looking for and correcting errors.
  4. Use a signature that includes your name, title, and contact information. If your manager or department doesn’t want you to use your name, at least include contact information for questions or follow-up.
  5. Never write in ALL CAPS since it is considered rude and is a major faux pasin email etiquette.

Need more help with email? Check out my program Writing and Managing Email for more information.


Coaching for Results

Coaching for performance improvement works. You can see it on the playing field, in the dojo, and in the classroom, so why not use a coaching model in the workplace? Rather than focusing on what the employee is doing incorrectly, coaching focuses on behaviors that the employee can take to improve. Here are some tips to make coaching work for your team.

  • Make it a mutual process. Encourage the employee to share ideas about how they can improve, letting them choose the method that works for their learning style. For example, some employees like to watch someone else do the task and then do it themselves while they are being observed. Others prefer to read materials about the task.
  • Include opportunities for growth. Identify areas where the employee is doing okay, but they could achieve more. Tie improvement to career growth and advancement and build in rewards for achievement above and beyond the job requirements.
  • Allow for creativity and innovation. Let employees come up with new solutions to problems and challenges. Younger employees are eager to find ways of using technology on the job to make processes faster and easier. Be open to their suggestions and show a willingness to act on them where feasible.

Coaching employees for performance improvement empowers your team and gives them a say in how work is done. It shows that you trust them, value what they have to offer, and are willing to develop their skills for career growth. For more information, see my blog post Coaching Employees to Performance Excellence.


Stress Management Tips for an Easy Holiday Season

The holiday season starts this week and added stress on and off the job comes with it. The need to juggle additional work and family demands and responsibilities can lead to a wild mix of emotions, such as loneliness, frustration, depression, sadness, and anger. This, in turn, can lead to higher-than-usual levels of stress, which make the entire season something to dread rather than enjoy. Here are three steps to take now to prepare for the holidays.

  1. Know your limits. Not everything has to be done or done by you. Be honest about how much you can do yourself and just say no to activities you either don’t want to do or don’t have the bandwidth to do. Focus on what you can reasonably accomplish without beating yourself up and delegate or delete anything you don’t have to do.
  2. Plan. Evaluate your work and personal priorities for the holiday season and focus on what’s most important, especially critical tasks and deadlines that must be met. Prepare for employee time-off and consider cross-training now to ensure adequate coverage. Make sure your own job has coverage, so identify what can be delegated in your absence.
  3. Do everything in moderation. Limit the parties and your intake of rich food and drink, especially at business-related functions. Just as you do with time, decide where you want to spend your calories and energy. Stick to your exercise routine and remember to meditate to relieve any stress you feel.

The holiday season is the time to deepen your personal and professional relationships, so don’t invite stress to the party.


Avoid These Customer Service Pitfalls

According to the American Management Association, 68% of clients stop doing business with a company because of poor service. Losing a customer is costly. Not only do you lose that customer’s business, you also lose all the business they might have referred to you, plus it costs you more time, effort, and money to attract and land new customers.

Delivering excellent customer service is challenging and relies on continuous training for everyone who serves customers. Training also is needed for backroom employees who may not directly serve customers, but who facilitate those employees who do. Here are some customer service pitfalls all employees should be aware of and know how to handle if they arise.

  • Slow response time. When a customer contacts you with a problem or issue, they expect fast, efficient, accurate solutions. Require employees to respond to a customer’s inquiry within 24 hours even if they don’t have a resolution. The key is to let the customer know you are working on the issue and to keep the customer involved in the process.
  • Discourteous or dismissive behavior.We all hope no employee is ever guilty of this, but it can happen. Employees may be stressed for legitimate reasons, such as failure of another department to follow-through, lack of inventory or resources, or too much bureaucracy for decision making. Despite the reason, every customer should be handled with care and consideration. Give employees training in dealing with difficult customers and situations, holding their tempers, and using emotional intelligence.
  • Lack of follow-up.It’s never safe to assume a customer is satisfied after a problem is solved. Often, customers just give up and don’t return to a business if additional problems arise. Make sure employees schedule return calls or emails to ensure that the customer is still satisfied and has no additional issues. This will reinforce your commitment to customer service excellence and provide the opportunity to deepen the relationship.

Customer service employees have a difficult job. You can make it easier by giving them the skills they need to handle any situation with care. See my program Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.


What Do Millennials and Gen Z Want in an Employer?

Millennials (b. 1980-1995) and Generation Z (b. 1995-2010) often get a bad rap in the workplace. Older employees, including managers, find them impatient, unfocused, and difficult to motivate. While some of this is true, it also is true that younger employees want different things from the workplace than their older counterparts, and they find much of today’s workplace frustrating and greatly out-of-date.

Frustration and impatience may be coming from having to use outdated equipment and processes. Keep in mind, younger employees, especially those just out of school, are familiar with and expect state-of-the-art resources. They live and breathe with electronic devices and are wired 24/7. If they are expected to deliver rapid results from 20thcentury technology, they are likely to just check out. While you may not be able to upgrade the infrastructure, you can challenge them to make the existing equipment, software, and procedures more efficient by coming up with workarounds that make sense. They enjoy challenges like these that rely on their technology skills and require creativity and innovation to solve.

Another obstacle for younger employees is the actual workplace—how work gets done, how to navigate workplace etiquette and politics, and how their role and job contributes to something important. Part of new employee orientation needs to address these issues. Younger Millennials were coddled by helicopter parents and have little exposure to criticism or rules. Generation Z, on the other hand, is scrappier and more career oriented. Both need to be indoctrinated into the world of work with guidance, coaching, and mentoring.

You can discover more about managing younger generations in my Leading Multi-generation Teamsprogram and my newest program, Developing 21stCentury Leaders.


Are You Too Busy to Get Things Done?

Busyness and productivity are not the same thing. Often when we are “busy,” we’re running around, multi-tasking, juggling a dozen things, and accomplishing very little. We’re exhausted from the effort and have little to show for it. That’s busyness. Productivity means we are focusing on results and using our time prudently to achieve them.

The Pareto Principle tells us that 80% of the results you need to achieve will come from just 20% of your effort. (See my blog post The Pareto Principle Makes You More Positively Productive for more information.) When you are busy and spinning your wheels, you are working on the 80% that produces the least important results.

  • You need to stop and identify the 20% of tasks that delivers the biggest punch for your time. (See my blog post Priorities Matter for more information on how to do this.)
  • Plan your time to focus on this 20% by asking and answering one question: What action right now will contribute most to the 20%?
  • Then, take that action or schedule time on your calendar to do it.

Your career can’t be successful if you are always in a state of busyness. You need to cultivate focus and take small, consistent steps to achieve the results you need. See my GO System program for more information.


Create An Environment Where Your Best Employees Thrive

Most managers would agree that it’s easier to retain good employees than to hire new ones. Employee retention is one of the most important factors in your ability to develop a positively productive team. According to Willis Towers Watson, more than 25% of employees, including key employees and top performers, are open to leaving their jobs. The cost to replace one of these employees can exceed 200 times their salary! While money is a key factor that contributes to employee retention, other factors also play a role.

  • Training and development. Departing employees often cite a lack of training and development opportunities as major factors in their decision to leave a company. As a manager, developing your employees, especially your star performers, helps you motivate and inspire them to continued excellence. It’s visible proof that you care about their careers and are willing to invest in them.
  • Flexibility. Just because a process or policy has been in place for a while doesn’t mean that it still makes sense. Consider being more flexible when it comes to work hours, how work is performed, and how team members collaborate. Are there jobs that don’t require full-time attendance to perform? Treat staff like the adults they are and let people decide to work how and where they are most productive, based on the results they need to deliver.
  • Customized recognition and rewards. While it’s important to recognize and reward the entire team when a milestone is reached, remember to honor individual employees for their accomplishments. Consider each employee’s preferences for rewards and personalize them. Make recognition immediate; don’t wait for the quarterly, all-staff meeting. See my blog post How to Thank Your Employees for more information.

Good employees can be hard to find and harder to retain. Create an environment where they flourish and want to build a career, trust them to deliver excellent results, give them opportunities to grow and develop, and recognize a job well done.


Obstacles to Effective Customer Communications

How well we communicate with customers contributes a great deal to the customer experience. According to Accenture, 89% of customers get frustrated when they must repeat their issues to several representatives before getting it resolved. Here are some obstacles to effective customer communication and tools for overcoming them.

  • Poor listening skills. The key is to stop talking and just listen. It takes self-control to keep quiet and focus on what the other person is saying as they say it. Focus on the other person, stay in the present moment, and take notes, if necessary. Responding with a recap of the person’s main points is one way to ensure understanding.
  • Poor questioning skills.Open-ended questions generate discussion and add information; closed-ended questions stop conversation. For example, “Does this take care of your issue?” is a closed-ended question with only a yes-or-no answer. On the other hand, “What else do we need to consider or review?” is an open-ended question that keeps the conversation going.
  • Lack of empathy.Empathy is the ability to step into the customer’s experience and accept what they are feeling without judgement. This helps you understand the customer’s point of view, so you can better help them. It also reduces any anger or frustration the customer feels.
  • Poor non-verbal skills.Make good eye contact with the speaker and face them. Watch their gestures and facial expressions to determine if they are consistent with what they are saying. When the customer speaks, they also are watching your body language to assess your credibility, so make good eye contact, lean slightly toward the customer, avoid interrupting them, and nod to show interest and engagement.

See my blog post Your Company Needs a Customer-First Mindset for more information and check out my workshop Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.


Managing Resistance to Change

Today, change is the only constant. While change is necessary for growth and profitability, it can be hard to accept, and you may feel fear, anger, or frustration. We like staying in the comfort zone because it’s safe. However, resisting change is counterproductive and a futile exercise since change is inevitable. Here are some tools to help you.

Mindset is a key factor in managing resistance. There are two types of mindset—fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that the ability to succeed is based on skills, and skills cannot be improved. When they are faced with change, they resist more than others since they believe they cannot change.

The other mindset is the growth mindset. Those with this mindset believe that improvement is always possible, and when change occurs, they look for opportunities to stretch and grow. Cultivating a growth mindset when faced with change can keep you positively productive, allow you to realize the benefits of the change, and communicate a professional image to management.

Another approach to resisting change has to do with uncertainty. Resistance often comes from fear—you don’t know exactly how the change will affect you or your job. You don’t have enough information to decide whether it will be bad or good. Instead of jumping to a negative conclusion—that the changes will be bad for you—move to a neutral position of wait-and-see. Be open and receptive to information, ask questions, listen carefully to answers, and withhold judgement until you know enough to react logically.

Remember the words of Shakespeare, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” If you don’t know the affects and are unable to view the change with a growth mindset, move into curiosity, which is neither good, nor bad.


Use Job Shadowing to Develop Key Employees

Job shadowing is a popular workforce development tool that can prepare employees for advancement. It allows someone to observe another employee on the job and experience first-hand what the job requires.

  1. Identify which of your employees would benefit from job shadowing. Generally, these employees are on a management or leadership development track.
  2. Identify a role within the organization that would expose the employee to a skill they need and would find valuable.
  3. Contact the person to be shadowed to find out if they agree and to set up guidelines.
  4. Meet with your employee to discuss this opportunity, gain their ownership of the process, and clarify expectations for the assignment.
  5. Release the employee to the job shadowing assignment.
  6. After the assignment, debrief with the employee to review expectations and personally thank the person who agreed to be shadowed.

Job shadowing facilitates true hands-on learning and gives your employees the opportunity to “test drive” a job they may be interested in. Contact me for information about my newest program Developing 21stCentury Leaders to see how you can cultivate the youngest members of your team for advancement.