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Recent Articles

6
Jul

Giving Instructions for Results

Have you ever given an employee clear instructions only to have them deliver something other than what you wanted? Sometimes the problem lies with the employee’s listening skills; other times, it lies with your communication skills. Here are some tips to make sure instructions deliver results.

  • Be direct.Clearly state what you want the employee to do and any rules, regulations, or processes that they must follow.
  • Describe your expectations.Make sure the employee understands the level of quality you want in deliverables and how much authority they have for decision making.
  • Be precise.“Quickly” and “soon” are relative, ambiguous terms that are open to interpretation. Use specifics with respect to dates and times. Avoid, “I need it tomorrow morning,” and instead instruct, “I need it by noon tomorrow.”
  • Ask for questions. Ask the employee if they need more information, using an open question, such as, “What questions do you have?” You will more likely get a response than if you ask a closed question like “Do you have any questions?” See my blog post Ask the Right Questions for more information.
  • Don’t assume anything.When giving instructions, don’t assume the employee has understood. Ask them to recap what they heard to ensure understanding.

When giving instructions, remember that visual people like to read things, so provide guidelines in writing. Auditory people like to listen and repeat what they have heard, so allow time for dialogue. Some people are kinesthetic—they need the actual, tactile experience of doing something to learn it, so make sure they know that they can come to you at any time to review what they have done.

1
Jul

Three Keys to Employee Retention

No manager wants to see a good employee walking out the door for a different job—even if it’s in the same company. Good employees contribute a lot to your department and team. They are positively productive, show initiative, are effective team players, and often demonstrate the leadership skills you need for future growth. Losing them can be a blow. Here are three keys for keeping your good employees happy and onboard.

  1. Show interest in them. Employees often leave a job they like because they don’t have a good relationship with their manager. You don’t have to become friends with everyone who works for you, but it’s good business to take time to get to know your team members and show a real interest in them as individuals apart from the work they do.
  2. Keep them engaged. Make sure they understand how their efforts contribute to the larger success of the organization. Routine tasks can bore even the best employee, so find ways to make work enjoyable. Use delegation to provide opportunities for developing new skills, meet new challenges, and show that you trust them to deliver results. See my blog post Delegation Works for more information.
  3. Provide career development. Good employees often have career aspirations that you can use to keep them satisfied on the job. When doing performance planning, discuss their career goals, research and offer company-sponsored training that supports their goals, and consider coaching or mentoring to show commitment to their success. See my blog post Coach for Results.

As a manager, you can do a lot to create an environment where good employees are motivated to stay and continue to be a positively productive member of your team. See my blog post Being a Nice Manager Makes Sense for more information.

21
Jun

You’ve Got Too Much Email!

Most of us get too many emails, and many of us have overflowing in-boxes. While you can’t stop email from coming in, you can manage them to be more positively productive. Here are five tips to make email management easier.

  1. Get responses faster by using a keyword in the subject line. A keyword is the first one or two words of the subject line, and it tells the recipient what is expected of them or communicates the content of the email. Good keywords are Review by [date], Approve by [date], Decision needed, Update, Action needed, and so on.
  2. Set rules to capture emails with certain words and direct them to special file folders in your in-box. You set a rule by:
    1. Identifying a word or name, such as a keyword, your manager’s name, a project name, etc.
    2. Define where in the email this word or name should appear, such as the sender, recipient, subject line, body, and so on.
    3. Set up a file folder with that word or name.
    4. Direct the email server to directly deliver all emails that meet these criteria to that folder.
  3. When you finish an email, never leave it in your in-box. Immediately file it or trash it.
  4. Create a “To Read” folder for emails and attachments that just need to be read, but don’t require a response. When you have some free time, for instance if you are waiting for a meeting to start, read items in the folder and then either file or trash the item.
  5. Implement a follow-up system that makes sense for your work. A good follow-up system lets you remove incomplete emails from your in-box and still be able to find them when you need them. I have an easy-to-use system in my Writing and Managing Email

Need more help with email? See my blog posts Email Matters and Organize Emails for Quick Response.

 

15
Jun

Five Tips for Building an Inclusive Team

Having team members who work well together and who support each other makes your entire organization positively productive. However, there may be times when team members don’t get along. While you can’t make people like each other, you can create a work environment where differences are accepted, and people are always treated with respect.

  1. Help employees understand that people have different work styles and preferences and that being different isn’t wrong. Departmental goals and work can be achieved in more than one way.
  2. Make it clear that everyone has the right to complete their work as they see fit without judgement or criticism if they deliver results.
  3. Use meetings as opportunities to help your team members better understand each other and work more effectively together.
  4. Immediately address any episodes of bullying, backbiting, gossiping, or any other form of disrespect.
  5. Publish a code of conduct that outlines what behavior is appropriate and expected in the workplace and create it with input from your entire team to ensure buy-in.

If you need help creating a more cohesive team, look at my program Bridging the Generation Gap at Work.

10
Jun

Build Rapport with Customers

Building rapport with customers is a good way to establish trust and loyalty. Rapport means that you cultivate a close, harmonious relationship with every customer, so they feel welcome and cared for when they interact with your business. Here are some steps to help your employees build and maintain rapport.

Teach your employees to:

  • Show empathy for the customer by having them imagine themselves in the customer’s position. How would they want to be treated? What would they want to hear? Have employees treat each customer as they would a close friend.
  • Stay completely focused on the customer, use listening skills, and ask questions that get at the heart of the customer’s needs. See my blog post Ask the Right Question for more information.
  • Give the customer time and let them talk without interruption, especially if they are upset or angry. Keep in mind that an upset customer is frustrated because they cannot see a solution to their situation, and it is up to the employee to provide the solution!

Some people establish rapport easily and naturally; others must learn how to do this. See my program Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience to improve the skills of your employees.

3
Jun

Delegation Works!

As you may know from my monthly newsletter and blog posts, I’m a strong advocate of using delegation to make you more positively productive and to develop your employees. Despite the proven benefits of delegation, some managers are afraid of it, either because they haven’t tried it, or they have been unsuccessful. Here are five tips to make delegation easier and ensure success.

  1. Match each task to the person’s skill set while giving them an opportunity to stretch and grow. Review career goals and performance plans to tie delegation to their career path.
  2. Clearly describe your expectations about deliverables and explain any metrics you will use to evaluate results.
  3. Give the person the authority they need to succeed and make sure that others understand.
  4. Allow them to handle the task in their own way and avoid micromanaging.
  5. Be available to answer questions, provide guidance, and coach the person, as needed.

Delegation gives you time to focus on the tasks that only you can do. An effective delegation takes preparation and planning. For more information, see my blog posts Why Delegation Doesn’t Work and Delegate to Be More Positively Productive.

28
May

Yes? No? Maybe?

Decision-making is a key skill that most employers and managers value in their staff. Some people, however, have a hard time deciding—they’re afraid to make a mistake or don’t feel confident enough to commit. If an employee has a hard time with decision-making, here are some tips to help them take the leap.

  • Fear of making decisions can be a sign of a closed or fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset feels limited and often believes that no matter what they do, things will not change. Decisions are futile since they don’t affect the outcome. Work on helping the employee move toward a more open mindset by providing time for them to explore alternatives and options and perform some research. This begins to open them up to more flexible thinking.
  • Show the employee how to weigh the alternatives objectively and evaluate the risks associated with each. Often people imagine that the worst possible outcome is the only outcome when the odds of a worst-case happening are usually low. Instead of focusing solely on the negative, have the employee compile a list of positives about each option to weigh against the negatives.
  • Have the employee narrow the options to just one by evaluating objectively the information from the previous steps. It can help to have them also choose a second option as a Plan B.

Leadership requires you to develop your employees and cultivate their professional skills, so create an environment where employees feel safe taking risks and view mistakes as learning opportunities. Check out my Lead4Results program for more information.

20
May

Showcase Your Skills

If you want to advance in your career, people need to know what you can do and how well you can do it. If you are a good writer, you must be able to demonstrate this skill so that others know you have it. When a job opportunity arises that requires strong writing skills, you want people to think of you.

How can you showcase your skills without bragging and putting people off? Here are some tips.

  • Start by choosing a skill you want to demonstrate, such as written or oral communication, time management, organization, conflict resolution, negotiation, project management, creativity, leadership, problem solving, and so on. You want others to know you have leadership skills.
  • Look for opportunities to showcase this skill. For example, you can offer to lead a team that is researching a way to streamline procedures. If that’s not possible, show initiative, which is part of leadership. Suggest improvements or ask insightful questions at meetings, offer to coach or mentor a new employee, and take on additional assignments eagerly and with enthusiasm.
  • Discuss your skills with your manager during your performance review. Since we often forget what we achieved, I suggest you start keeping an accomplishment journal. This can be a paper document, a Word document, or a note on Outlook or your phone. Every Friday, take a few minutes to jot down what you accomplished the past week and how you did it, so you have a resource of successful achievements you can refer to.

Being able to demonstrate your skills without bragging requires you to take actions that highlight your expertise. You don’t have to tell people how good you are; you can show them!

12
May

Handle a Rude Customer with CARE

Having a customer service job requires patience and empathy, which can be challenging when you are faced with a rude customer. In this situation, it is doubly important for you to remain calm and professional, so you can resolve the customer’s problem without getting caught up in their drama. Here are some tips to make that task easier.

  • Just breathe. When you are confronted by an angry or rude person, the natural tendency is to tense up. This tightens your breathing and can elevate your blood pressure. The key is to take a long breath—not a huge sigh! You don’t want the customer to know you are doing it, so just take a long, slow, soft breath and smile genuinely while you do it. You may also take one small step back, putting a bit of distance between you and the customer.
  • Let the customer be angry.They need an opportunity to get out their frustration. They may make hurtful comments and while it’s almost impossible to not take what they say personally, you need to look past the outbursts and acknowledge that they just want to be heard. Approach them with an open willingness to let them vent.
  • Stay calm and respectful. Eventually your calm demeanor will calm down the customer! At this point, rude, angry customers can be reasoned with. Reassure them that you want to help resolve the issue and begin asking questions to find out the facts.

What about a customer who uses abusive language or expletives? Stay professional and politely tell them that you will not tolerate that kind of language. Reinforce that you want to help them, but you can’t do so if their language is offensive. If necessary, you may have to involve your manager or even security if you feel threatened.

Check out my workshop, Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience for strategies and techniques to improve customer service.

10
May

Get Out of Your Own Way!

Do you complain that other people get in your way and prevent you from doing your job? Do they interrupt you, distract you, and derail your efforts to be positively productive? Do you sometimes feel like a helpless victim? If so, stop! You’re not a victim. In many cases, you are getting in your own way.

Let’s look at three areas where you might be sabotaging yourself.

Interruptions.It can take up to 20 minutes to regain your focus when you are interrupted, so you must take control of them. This requires you to be selfish about your time and how you are using it. When someone tries to interrupt you, explain that you’re on a deadline and will call them back later; make sure you do! Set your out-of-office message to tell people when you are available to answer questions and be firm about it. Close your door if you can. Remove your visitor’s chair or pile papers and books on it. Unless it’s your job to answer questions, start referring people to either online or print resources.

Perfectionism.Your work needs to be accurate and precise, not perfect. I’m not saying it’s okay to make mistakes, but spending an inordinate amount of time tinkering and tinkering with something to make it perfect is counter-productive. Accept the fact that sometimes you will make mistakes despite your best efforts. Acknowledge that you can improve, will learn from any mistakes, and make it okay to be wrong!

Procrastination.Often this is the heart of not getting things done. For some reason, you just don’t want to do it. Maybe you don’t know where to start. If this is stopping you, start anywhere. There’s no requirement that you start at the beginning. Maybe you don’t know what to do because you have a lack of training or experience. If so, find out who can teach you, check out training offered by your company, and use online resources to find what you need. Sometimes, you just don’t like the task. In this case, limit how much time you will commit to it and give yourself a reward when you finish.

Remember, people may not be what’s keeping you from being positively productive. You might be the reason. See my blog post, Where Are You Wasting Time?