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When a Key Employee Leaves

As you know, an important part of leadership is developing employees, so they can advance in their careers. The downside, they are promoted into a new position, and you lose them.

When an employee begins to grow and take on more responsibility, start planning for a time when they will be promoted into a new job or even leave the company. If you want to keep the employee on your team, look at your own department and decide if the existing structure provides opportunities for this employee to advance. If not, can you make changes that will allow for promotion or higher compensation? If this isn’t possible, the day may come when the employee will leave.

Succession planning is a key responsibility for all managers. You don’t want a key employee walking out the door without having a replacement in the wings. To be effective, you must constantly develop employees, so they can fill different roles in your department. This means implementing a robust cross-training initiative. Don’t limit yourself to your department. Network with other managers to see where you can cross-train across units to develop more well-rounded employees and give them opportunities to grow their skills and learn new ones. See my blog post The Value of Cross-Trainingfor more information


Stop Procrastinating and Be More Positively Productive

You know what you must do, deadlines are looming, but you can’t get started. Instead, you work on less important tasks. We all suffer from procrastination sometimes, but if you are a chronic procrastinator, you’re ruining your productivity, and your professionalism will suffer. Here are five quick tips to get going when you just want to sit back and do nothing!

  1. Start anywhere. No rule says that you must start at the beginning, and unless it’s a matter of safety, you don’t have to do the task in any special order! The key is to just start.
  2. Take one small step.Identify the smallest step you are willing to take and take it. Then do it again and again, focusing just on the next smallest step. Large tasks are easier to get into when you break them down to just one step.
  3. Make an appointment with yourself. Go to your calendar and set a specific time to work on the task. Put it down just as if it was an appointment or important meeting. Set an alarm for fifteen minutes before the appointed time to gather any materials you need, and when the time arrives, get to work.
  4. Play to your peak hours.If you are a morning person, schedule critical tasks in the morning; if you are a night person, schedule then for the afternoon. These times are your most productive.
  5. Don’t stop.Just starting can produce momentum, so keep going. Even if the time you have allotted to the task arrives, keep going and take just one more step, and then one more until you reach the end.

Don’t let procrastination drain your productivity! When you find yourself dragging your heels, take one small step and see where it takes you. For more information see my blog post Get Into the Now Habit.


Flexibility at Work

Most people associate flexibility at work with work hours; however, flexibility also applies to your attitude about what happens and the choices you have about responding.

The opposite of flexibility is rigidity. Rigid people are said to have a fixed mindset. They see few options, are reluctant to make changes, and find most effort futile. As you can imagine, this rigid mindset closes them off to many opportunities. On the other hand, when you are flexible, you have a growth mindset, which helps you adapt to change and more easily meet challenges. This is the path to success at work and in life.

In today’s workplace, change is the norm. Everyone is working faster, and most people have more responsibility now than ever before. Your ability to adapt is one of the most important managerial and leadership skills you can develop in both yourself and your employees. Here are some tips:

  • When faced with a challenge, find a way to turn it into an opportunity to gain experience. Instead of groaning and fretting about whether you can meet it or not, set an intention to find a way! Ask an expert for advice, do online research, reach out to your network, find a mentor.
  • Take more calculated risks to help you stretch and grow. Consider the downside of not acting versus what you gain by acting. Trust your expertise and instincts and reach for greater achievements.
  • Form win-win relationships with others for mutual help and support. Accept that everyone has a unique style for working, learning, and communicating. Become comfortable with a variety of personalities and learn how to listen and communicate with attention and respect.

Notice areas where you are rigid and discover what is holding you back. Cultivate a habit of flexibility to enhance your professionalism and demonstrate your leadership skills. See my blog post Build Your Mental Musclefor more information.


Three Work Habits to Avoid

Habits can serve our productivity or harm it. For example, the habit of spending the last 15 minutes of the day planning for the next day improves productivity. Another good habit is taking regular breaks throughout the day to re-charge. Even if many of our habits support us, we sometimes fall prey to bad habits that negatively affect our productivity. Here are three work habits to avoid.

Habit 1: Checking email throughout the day. As I teach in my Writing and Managing Email workshop, checking email throughout the day is OK if you do something with the email when you check it – just don’t leave it in your in-box.

Habit 2: Letting yourself be interrupted. You may not believe this, but you allow yourself to be interrupted. Whenever someone comes into your office or cubicle, you have a choice to stop what you are doing and take care of their needs or ask them to wait until later when it’s a better time for you. Be more assertive about your time and how you let others use it.

Habit 3; Multitasking. Many people think they are being more efficient when they do several things simultaneously. This is a myth. What you think is multitasking is serial tasking. Your focus is moving from one activity to another so fast, it seems as if you are multitasking, but you’re not. You are turning your attention on and off, which means you will spend more time than if you completed the tasks sequentially.

Take some time each day to notice your habits and work to change those that are draining your productivity. See my blog post Your Habits Can Make or Break Productivity for more information.


Get Moving to Be More Positively Productive

If you exercise regularly, you know that the energy boost you get from exertion can carry over for hours after your workout. Exercise doesn’t just give you physical energy; it also helps build mental muscle and reduce stress. The chemical mix from exercise increases learning, memory, decision-making, and problem-solving ability, all of which improves productivity.

  • Take short movement breaks. Every 60 or 90 minutes, get up and move. Jog in place, walk to the breakroom, take a quick walk around the block. Do something that gets your blood flowing and increases your breathing. When you return to your desk, you will be refreshed and able to be more positively productive.
  • Take the stairs. When you choose the stairs over the elevator or escalator, you give your leg muscles a workout and burn plenty of calories. You achieve the energetic benefits of a longer, more moderate workout in a shorter amount of time. Stair climbing needs no special equipment and can be performed by most people.
  • Walk more. Park farther from the entrance, get off the bus or train one stop before or after your regular one. You might have to add extra time to your schedule, but the benefits of walking will more than make up for it since you will arrive at work energized and ready to jump in.

Don’t dive in with a whole routine of daily movement. Start slowly. Take one flight of stairs during the day. Add a minute or two to your short movement breaks. Your goal is to add more movement to your day, so pay attention to your body and note how much more positively productive you will become.


Tardiness and Professionalism

Have you ever had an appointment with a client or colleague and ended up cooling your heels because you were on time, but they were running late? How often have you sat at a restaurant table, waiting for a guest who was tied up in traffic?

Everyone has had to wait for someone at one time or another, but if you’re the person who frequently keeps others waiting, you are damaging your professionalism and relationships and losing productivity. If you find yourself always running late, here are a few things you can do to stay on time.

  • Before leaving the office the night before an appointment or meeting, prepare everything you will need to take with you and place it where you can grab it and go the next day.
  • Set an alarm or notification on your calendar or phone so that you leave with enough time to arrive promptly. Allow for possible delays, such as slow elevators, no taxis, public transportation breakdowns, and so on.
  • Use an agenda to facilitate your meetings and start and end them on time.
  • Be assertive about your time when attending other people’s meetings. Inform the meeting leader that you must leave at a certain time to get to another appointment, gather your belongings about five minutes before you must leave, and then depart on time. See my blog post Keep Meetings on Track.
  • Bring something to work on or read if you arrive early, so you can stay positively productive while you wait for latecomers to arrive.

Even with the best planning, you will sometimes be late. As soon as you know you won’t arrive on time, notify those you are meeting via text, email, or phone call. Make sure you apologize for your tardiness when you arrive.


The Value of Rapport at Work

Rapport is the ability to get along with others in a way that makes them want to work with you. It is built upon mutual trust, empathy, and respect and contributes to a positive, productive workplace. When you have rapport with others, you gain a wealth of resources for career advancement, mentoring, and problem solving, among many other benefits. Here are five tips to help you build rapport.

  1. Be consistent. This means that you walk your talk—your words and actions are in sync. People can rely on you to be responsible and accountable.
  2. Show genuine interest in and respect for others. Treat everyone as an individual with unique interests, preferences, concerns, and expectations. Avoid stereotyping and judgements. Accept people for who they are and where they are in life. (Check out my program Bridging the Generation Gap for help understanding generational differences.)
  3. Share your story. Rapport is built on mutual interactions. It is important for you to share information about yourself and your life so that others see you as an individual and can relate to you on a personal level.
  4. Honor boundaries and business etiquette. Be considerate of others and show courtesy even when your patience is strained. It doesn’t take effort to ask with a “please” and accept with a “thank you.”
  5. Actively listen and be present. Active listening means paying attention to the other person and not being distracted. Practice being mindful by focusing on the words you hear, by observing body language, and using your own body language to show attentiveness.

Rapport is a skill that can be developed. For more information see my blog posts Why Empathy at Work Works, Shhh! Listen, and Building Effective Relationships at Work.


Customer Loyalty Matters

Creating long-term business success and growth is a challenge for all managers and is especially important for those in sales or customer service functions. The key to success lies with retaining existing customers and cultivating those relationships to get referrals for new business. Here are some tips to help your team keep existing customers happy, so they willingly recommend your products and services to others.

  • Ensure consistent, quality service. All customers must receive the same level of care and consideration to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Establish quality standards, create customer care codes of conduct, and make customer service delivery a key component of performance plans.
  • Give your team members authority to handle customer concerns. Wherever possible, let customer-facing employees make decisions about how to handle complaints and concerns. Give them the authority to grant exceptions, give compensation, or offer alternatives to unhappy customers. Your service is only as good as the most recent customer interaction.
  • Provide continuous training. Customer service standards are evolving, especially with social media. Now, a single bad customer experience can be shared instantly to tens of thousands. Keep your team sharp with ongoing training that enhances their skills and ability to handle difficult situations.

Encourage your staff to look for ways to make every customer interaction an opportunity to reinforce and deepen the relationship and show respect for your customers. Need more customer service tools? Check out my workshop Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.


Working with Toxic People

Toxic people at work can turn the best office into a war zone since they are adept at fostering conflict, stirring things up, and causing dissension. Just as environmental toxins are poisonous, so too are toxic people! Here are some tips to protect yourself.

  • Stay away from gossips. Gossipers love to put people down and share everything negative about others. Not only does this hurt the targets of their comments, it hurts those who listen to them. If you associate with gossips, you will be lumped into the same category as they are—someone who is untrustworthy and must be avoided. Don’t fall into this trap. When someone starts gossiping, leave the area or be assertive and state that you don’t want to hear what they are going to say. See my blog post Dangers of Office Gossip.
  • Point out snipers. Snipers usually don’t make direct comments or state criticism because they don’t have the courage to say outright what they think. Instead, they rely on a sarcastic tone or state their hurtful comments as if they were teasing. This is a form of bullying. When confronted with a sniper, ask them to repeat what they said and explain what they meant. They dislike being called out, and this usually shuts them down. They will think twice before doing it again with you.
  • Avoid judgmental people. These people often have a fixed mindset. They are closed to new ideas and refuse to acknowledge that they have the power to change. They believe things will never get better, there’s no recourse, so why bother? Judgmental people criticize everyone and everything they disagree with and characterize them as wrong. Ask them for objective proof of what they are saying and be prepared to refute them.

Don’t let toxic people invade your life and space. If you can’t avoid them in the office, take steps to mitigate their influence over you. Establish boundaries and be assertive when communicating with them. Stay positive even if you feel overwhelmed since positivity will win out in the long run. See my blog post Does Positivity at Work Really Make a Difference? for more information.

Negative people need drama like oxygen. Stay positive, it will take their breath away. Unknown


Your Team Needs a Customer-First Mindset

You know that customer loyalty is a major factor in realizing long-term business profitability and growth. It’s less expensive to sell to an existing customer than to land a new one. Plus, loyal customers refer your business to others who can become more loyal customers.

Building and cultivating customer loyalty can be challenging, but it is made easier when your team has a customer-first mindset. Here are some tools to help you and your team.

  • Focus on the customer. This seems straight-forward, but it can be difficult in execution. When you focus on the customer—either on the phone, in person, or via e-mail—you must step into that customer’s space and leave your biases, opinions, and judgments behind. For the time you are interacting with the customer, you are totally with them and are giving them your full attention. Nothing else matters except for delivering excellent customer care and cementing a positive relationship with them.
  • View customer interactions as opportunities. Customer loyalty is built up over time and comes from consistent, excellent service. Every time a customer contacts an employee, that employee has a chance to build a new, positive relationship or foster an existing one. Give your employees the authority to offer solutions without having to get approval, teach them to communicate in a friendly, conversational, professional manner, and avoid canned responses.
  • Cultivate a win-win mindset. When a customer contacts you with a problem, immediately focus on possible win-win resolutions. This doesn’t mean that you always give the customer what they want; sometimes you can’t. Show empathy and use good questioning techniques to reveal alternatives that might satisfy the customer. Reach for a positive outcome!

Help your team develop a customer-first mindset with my program Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience.