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Leading Remote Employees

If you’re like many managers, some of your staff are virtual, working from remote locations that may not be easily accessible for in-person communication or hands-on management. Data from Global Workplace Analytics show that the number of employees working from home has grown by 140% since 2005. A 2017 Gallup study reported that 43% of Americans spend at least some time working remotely—either at home or at distant locations. Even if you don’t currently have remote employees, it’s probable that you will in the not-too-distant future. As Boomers leave, their ranks will be filled with Generations X, Y, and Z—employees who value work-life balance. This means that flexibility will become the new norm. Here are some guidelines for managing remote employees.

  • Set performance expectations. Both you and the employee must clearly understand what needs to be delivered, how results will be measured, and how much authority they have to make decisions.
  • Empower employees.Show that you trust them to produce results by letting them act independently and providing resources and support, as needed.
  • Establish lines of communication.Based on your company’s policies regarding virtual communication, privacy, and confidentiality, consider texting for quick communication and questions. Outlook rules and Gmail filters let you set up inboxes for remote staff that bypass the regular email inbox.
  • Brush up your virtual meeting management skills. Set up regular check-in meetings with remote staff and send an agenda before the meeting that includes topics, speakers, and allotted time. Make sure the technology you are using works on remote desktops. Ask participants to mute their speakers to eliminate random background noise and have everyone identify themselves before they speak.
  • Recognize and reward. Since remote employees often feel disenfranchised from their peers in the office, it’s important to make them feel valued and important. Make sure you recognize accomplishments and freely pass out rewards to remote staff. When promotional opportunities arise, look beyond the staff in front of you to those working at a distance.

Don’t let remote staff stay gone too long. Regularly bring them in to meet in person and to strengthen team bonds. This helps you deepen your relationship with them, lets you see how they are developing, and shows you what they need to continue to excel.



What You Don’t Say Is Important

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.”  When it comes to effective communication, your body language and voice carry more weight and have more meaning than the words you use. They can make or break your communication.

As soon as you start to speak, your listener is sizing you up. Your facial expression, your gestures, and your tone of voice create an impression that communicates many things—your trustworthiness, your expertise, your confidence, and so on. All of this is measured in just a few seconds, so you must use non-verbal communication to capture their attention. Here are some tips to improve what your body is saying.

  • Communicate involvement by leaning forward and slightly tilting your head to one side.
  • Relax your facial muscles and smile genuinely. Just separating your lips a bit softens your expression and makes you look friendly and approachable.
  • Match your pace of speaking to the listener. If they speak very quickly, and you don’t, you must speed up and vice versa. The more closely you match their pace, the more comfortable they will be with you.
  • Avoid walking around aimlessly when speaking since it makes you seem nervous or uncertain; just stand in one place.

Your body speaks louder than your words, so use your body language to communicate credibility and congruence. See my program, “Getting Results through Influence and Persuasion” for tools to be a more effective communicator.


Persistence Pays in Positive Productivity

“Persistence: a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”   Oxford Dictionaries

If you have ever tried to break a habit, you know it takes work. Success depends on persistence—your commitment to making the new habit stick. Being positively productive requires you to focus on your highest priority tasks. It can be tempting to tackle other work first since the most important activities often are demanding and challenging. It’s easier to do the other stuff first. However, that’s the path to frustration and stress. You must accomplish your performance goals to be successful, and the more you focus on less important tasks, the less successful you will be.

This is where persistence comes in. It’s the ability to focus and stay focused on a task until completion, or you take it as far as you possibly can at that time. So, how do you cultivate persistence?

  • Be realistic about how much time your important tasks will take. Generally, a task will take 25% longer than you think it will.
  • Schedule time on your calendar to focus solely on the important work.
  • Keep your goals in mind and tie tasks to their successful completion.
  • Minimize distractions and interruptions. Be firm about how you use your time. See my blog post Take Charge of Interruptions.
  • Reward yourself when you complete a major task.

Persistence can help you be more positively productive, achieve your performance goals, and accelerate your career. See my blog post Your Habits Can Make or Break Your Productivity.

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”  Napoleon Hill


Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post to tell you how much I appreciate your business and loyal blog following. May you, your family, and your employees have a safe, wonderful holiday. Thank you!


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.