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Carry Ideas Through to Completion

We’ve all had employees with high levels of creativity who are great at coming up with ideas, but who are not as good with implementation! To succeed as a manager and leader, you need to be able to bring great ideas to successful implementation.


Try partnering a creative employee with someone who is good with planning and implementation. This partnership lets you leverage the strengths of each employee and mitigate the weaknesses. Make both accountable for creativity and implementation and then give them the training and resources they need to become good at both skills. Set specific deadlines for delivery and coach them, as needed.

Another approach is to give creative employees free reign and let the planners take over for implementation. Unlike the first approach, this option focuses solely on responsibilities that fit each person’s strengths. However, you lose some ability to develop more well-rounded employees with this option.

No matter which approach you choose, remember the words of the American inventor Thomas Edison, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”



How to Avoid the Micro-management Trap!

It’s easy to fall into the micro-management trap, especially if you have new employees who need time to learn processes and procedures. That “I-can-do-it-faster” urge can be hard to resist when deadlines loom and tasks require pinpoint accuracy. When a manager gives in to the urge and imposes his or her work style and methods on an employee, the micro-management trap closes. This can leave employees feeling inadequate, unmotivated, and unproductive.

Here are some tools to help you avoid micro-managing:

  • Give new employees time to learn before demanding high productivity or performance. Partner them with a senior employee as a mentor, if possible, or plan your time to be available to answer questions and give feedback.
  • Honor different learning styles. Some people prefer to learn a task by reading a manual or looking at pictures and diagrams, others learn by listening and repeating what they have heard, and still others need to actually do it a few times to gain the tactile experience. Make sure you deliver training in the right way to get the best results.
  • Identify which tasks and procedures must be performed exactly as specified, such as activities involving safety and security. There may not be any leeway or ability to adapt them. On the other hand, many tasks can be performed in a variety of ways. With these, be open to variations and give employees the latitude to do it their own way.

Micro-management is a habit and like all habits, it can be changed. If you tend to micro-manage, use these tools to break the habit. You will discover how much more positively productive your employees can be when left alone to do their jobs in their own way.


Where Does Conflict Come From?

Conflict on teams can come from many areas. Here are the three most common sources of conflict and some solutions to try if a conflict arises.

  • Environmental Conflicts

These conflicts arise from the physical workspace. Closely configured cubicles are fertile grounds for conflicts related to noise. Different preferences for music, too loud phone conversations, and annoying habits—popping gum, tapping feet on the floor, talking aloud to oneself—can turn team members into snarling combatants!

Odors are another area where conflicts arise. Strong perfumes and colognes, heavily scented flowers and air fresheners, and poor hygiene are all amplified in air-conditioned offices. Keep in mind that some people are highly allergic to certain odors, which can trigger adverse reactions.

If your team works in this kind of environment, clear guidelines for noise and scents are necessary to mitigate the potential for conflict.

  • Capabilities

Conflicts can arise over skillsets when it seems that some team members are not carrying their weight on the team. Often, additional training and coaching are necessary to resolve this type of conflict.

On the other hand, conflict also can arise if training opportunities are provided to certain people and not others. Be inclusive in offering a variety of training to your staff. See my blog post What Training Does Your Team Need?

  • Behaviors

This is the most common source of team conflict. Someone doesn’t like what someone else is doing—or not doing! The solution is to meet with each person in the conflict, ascertain the observable facts, communicate what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and establish clear expectations for going forward.

When a conflict arises, identify the source, take necessary action to remedy it before it escalates, and keep your team positively productive!


Watch Out for Snipers!

Complaints, blaming, finger pointing, sarcasm, and snide comments are all fuel for the sniper—the person who lives to make others look bad so that they look good. Unfortunately, it’s hard to ferret out the snipers since they often hide behind a façade of congeniality when in your presence. They only show their true natures behind your back!

Despite their ability to hide in plain sight, when you have a sniper on your team, it becomes obvious sooner rather than later. When discord among team members arises, it usually originates from a single source—the sniper. If left unattended, the situation can quickly dissolve team effort, damage morale, and undermine productivity.

While reports from others and anecdotal “evidence” may point to the identity of the sniper, they are not objective and may be colored by the person’s feelings toward the sniper. Require any reports from others to be factual and detailed, refuse to consider accusations that aren’t backed up with facts, and avoid taking action until you verify the accuracy and validity of the reports with your own observations.

When you can substantiate the sniper’s unwanted behavior, meet with him or her, review the team mission, and reinforce the need for everyone to be cooperative with each other. Explain that the sniping behaviors you have observed are undermining the team’s efforts and productivity. Describe the unacceptable behavior and be clear that continued sniping will not be tolerated.



How to Manage Lone Wolves

Teamwork is crucial to being positively productive. Despite your best efforts to build a solid team, you may have a lone wolf or two that never quite fits in—or wants to! There are two types of lone wolves. The first is uncomfortable working with others; the second has under-developed team capabilities.

One way to start bringing the lone wolves into the team is to study their overall achievements and performance. Assess individual approaches to duties and responsibilities and make assignments that play into the lone wolves’ strengths.

The lone wolf who is uncomfortable working with others often shines when given tasks and assignments that can be accomplished independently. Highlight their specific skills and experience as it relates to their work and make sure they understand how they contribute to the team and its goals.

The lone wolf who is doesn’t understand team dynamics and has undeveloped capabilities can be partnered with and mentored by a more senior team member. Once this lone wolf gains the necessary social and teamwork skills, they can become a solid team player

Lone wolves need to understand that the success of the business rests upon having a strong, reliable, dependable team that maintains high standards of productivity and effectiveness. Also see my blog post Tips for Better Collaboration among Team Members.


Finding Time for Yourself

We all live pretty hectic lives. Our cell phones, text messages, and emails follow us home and demand attention when we are supposed to be relaxing and focusing on family and friends. However, always being available creates stress, and we all need time to unwind and relax.

One of the main reasons we don’t spend time alone is not for a lack of time, but because we don’t make our needs a priority.  Waking up early in the morning before anyone else arises is a good way to find alone time. During these early hours, no one will call, and no one in the house will ask for anything. Take this time to have a leisurely breakfast, do yoga, exercise, meditate, or read the newspaper. When we ease into the day, we are better able to move through the day with happiness and relaxation.

Don’t feel guilty about needing alone time. It’s necessary. Always being on the go and thinking of others first is not healthy and will add more stress to already stressful lives. By spending alone time, we can maintain our health, stay on top of the game, and be more positively productive.

Get more ideas in my blog post Speed Up by Slowing Down.



What Is Your Body Saying?

Most of us are taught to use our verbal language skills to the fullest extent; however, your non-verbal language cues speak louder than your words. Here are a few body language tools that will assist you in projecting your best image to others and in learning how to read your co-workers like a book.

  • Crossing the Legs

The direction of a crossed leg can be a silent clue to a person’s attitude. When a person crosses his or her leg away from the speaker, this shows that the person is creating distance. When you cross your leg toward the speaker, you show acceptance and likability.

  • Crossing the Arms

Similar to a leg cross, folding the arms in front of the chest indicates a desire to retreat from the speaker or disagreement with the conversation. In some cases, this can show hostility, dislike, and stubbornness. To use this non-verbal cue to show agreement or at least interest, keep your arms loosely draped on the armrests of a chair or put your palms down on the desk if you are talking across the furniture in your office.

  • Invasion of Personal Space

The amount of personal space that each individual requires varies by country, culture, and familiarity between two people. You will know when you are violating someone’s personal space if they back away from you. Always be mindful of another person’s space and quickly step away if you stray into their private zone.

Learning the art of body language gives you a competitive edge. Be vigilant as you learn to read and use body language.

See my blog post Body Language that Says No when You Mean Yes for more information.


Avoid These Business Etiquette Faux Pas

Forming and maintaining good workplace relationships requires courtesy and business etiquette. An unintended slight can damage interactions and lead to conflict and lost business. Here are three business etiquette faux pas to avoid.

  • Faux Pas 1: Insulting someone in an e-mail        

While e-mail makes communication faster and easier, it opens the door to miscommunication and misinterpretation. Start off right with a salutation—a greeting
—even for e-mails going to colleagues. A simple “Hi, Susan,” or “What’s up, David?” sets the right tone. If an e-mail is going outside the company, it’s considered a business letter and must follow the rules of business letter etiquette. A salutation for a business letter using e-mail is, “Dear [person’s title and last name:]”. Example: “Dear Dr. and Mrs. Sloane:”. Note that there is a colon, not a comma, at the end of a formal business salutation.

  • Faux Pas 2: Grammar and punctuation mistakes

A single punctuation error can cost your company money by changing the meaning of a sentence. Every communication must be correct to avoid misinterpretation. Proofread it yourself, and if it is an important document, ask someone else to proofread it, too. “I didn’t mean to write that” is not an excuse you can use in court.

  • Faux Pas 3: Multi-tasking when talking to customers or colleagues

Unless you are in the middle of an emergency and must monitor your phone for messages, turn it off when in conversation with someone. Checking and responding to e-mail or text messages when you are with others is rude and insulting, especially if you are with customers.

Not only can these three actions cost you customers, they can damage your reputation as a professional. Make courtesy and business etiquette a habit!



Training Makes Employees Positively Productive

Employee training programs can make your department more positively productive in many ways. Are you losing time:

  • Redoing documents because of mistakes?
  • Looking for papers and electronic documents?
  • Clarifying misunderstandings and confusion?
  • Calming upset customers?

When you promote the development of your employees’ skills, you give them the tools they need to work more productively, effectively, and efficiently. Training gives them the skills to achieve the results you need!

Here are some steps to help you deliver the right training in the right way.

  • Align skills development with the deliverables your department is responsible for achieving.
  • Review performance plans, if applicable, and determine what training each employee needs to succeed.
  • Identify skills that would improve productivity and effectiveness for the majority of your employees.
  • Consider future needs as the business grows, new markets open up, and opportunities present themselves.
  • Choose the right type of training, such as onsite training programs, self-paced e-learning programs, offsite multi-day programs and so on.

Providing professional development programs gives your staff the opportunity to stretch and grow and gives you well-rounded, skilled employees who can get the job done! See my blog post What Training Does Your Team Need for more information.





The Value of Cross-Training

Cross-training employees to fill in for absent staff is an important investment of time that can keep you positively productive when you most need it! Here are some tips for successful cross-training.

  • Review job descriptions and ask employees to add any additional responsibilities they routinely perform that are not part of the formal job description.
  • Determine where employees could cross-train with a minimum of effort and time.
  • Meet with each employee and explain the need for cross-training and get his or her buy-in.
  • Give employees time to learn from each other and gain confidence.
  • Provide appropriate recognition when the cross-training is completed.

Cross-training not only improves productivity and efficiency, it gives your employees the opportunity to enhance their job and career skills, provides a deeper understanding of the big picture of your department, and allows employees to make a greater contribution to the department’s success.

See my blog post Boost Employee Morale–Again and Again!