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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!




Tips for Better Negotiations

Some people approach the idea of negotiating with dread; however, the ability to negotiate confidently and convincingly is a key leadership skill. If you want to get what you want and need for business success, you have to become good at negotiating.

  1. Be clear about what you want—your bottom-line. Evaluate all you might gain if the negotiation succeeds, and what you could lose if it doesn’t.
  2. Be prepared with more than one acceptable outcome that will meet your goals. The more alternatives you have, the more flexibility you have, and the greater likelihood you will succeed.
  3. Perform a risk assessment. Don’t assume possible losses; do some objective research and be as realistic as possible.
  4. Set an intention for a win-win outcome. When you go into a negotiation intending to find an outcome that is acceptable to all parties, you are more likely to find one.
  5. Stay focused on the goal you want to achieve and know what you are willing to give up to get it. Refuse to go below your bottom-line.
  6. Identify where you have common ground. Gaining agreement early in the negotiation creates a feeling of good will and camaraderie that can make the process go smoother.
  7. Clearly state the outcome, preferably in writing, and get all parties to sign off.

A successful negotiation leaves everyone feeling satisfied that they got what they wanted. The more you prepare, the more successful you will be.



How to Encourage Creativity in Employees

Cultivating the creativity of your team means encouraging them to do something differently to produce more positive, and desirable, results. You can use the following tips to encourage creativity among employees:

Encourage Creativity with Off-site Sessions

Team building provides a chance for employees to come together and share their experiences and expertise. This works best when done at a location away from the workplace. A new environment will encourage new ideas for improving performance and productivity back at the workplace.

Brainstorming Sessions

Encourage all employees to participate in brainstorming sessions irrespective of their jobs because creativity is not based on jobs but rather a person’s own creative thinking. Listen to the views of all participants and appreciate their contribution. This makes employees feel recognized and motivated to come with up with new ideas to solve problems.

Offer Rewards

The spirit of creativity can be sustained by rewarding creative ideas. Rewards don’t have to be money. Words of encouragement and certificates of recognition can do wonders.

Offer Training Opportunities

There are situations where employees may not be able to understand how to make use of their creative minds due to limited skills. Providing training can help employees understand themselves better and know how to generate creative ideas that could be critical toward improving productivity.

Give your employees the opportunity and ability to be creative, and act on their suggestions when appropriate. This can motivate your team and make them positively productive.




Tips for Building Customer Loyalty

The best way to see your business grow and become successful is by building customer loyalty. Often, managers and business owners focus on gaining new customers when they should be more concerned with ensuring the satisfaction of existing customers. Here are some tips on how you can build and sustain customer loyalty.

Be Consistent

Many managers and business owners forget that customers don’t just like great customer service, they like companies that deliver consistently great customer service! This means that if customers do business with your company once, they will expect the same level of customer satisfaction when they return six months later. The fastest way to lose customers is to be inconsistent. Frequently reinforce customer service quality standards with your employees.

Really Communicate

Anyone can chat with customers at their business or on social media. However, it takes a special type of businessperson to really communicate with his or her customers. When you allow employees to take time to get to know your customers individually, your customers will feel appreciated and their loyalty will deepen.

Every Conversation Matters

Most of us strive to be our best when we are actively selling or closing a deal. Sometimes, that level of enthusiasm and professionalism lessens when responding to a question or simply making small talk with an established customer. Remember, every conversation that you have with a customer counts. Always strive to be your most knowledgeable and affable even if you’re not in the process of actively “selling.”

Building customer loyalty is a continuous process. Engage your customers consistently and listen and respond to any questions, inquiries, or concerns. If you can maintain these lines of communication, you will find that your customers stay loyal to your company.






Tips for Working for a Younger Manager

As more and more of the working population delays retirement, the odds increase that employees in their fifties and sixties may find themselves being managed by a younger person and feel trapped in an uncomfortable or unworkable situation. There are several important tips to keep in mind for successfully working for a younger manager.

Let Go of Stereotypes

When younger managers and older workers are initially paired in a work environment, it’s easy for stereotypes to surface. Younger managers may assume that older workers have less energy and enthusiasm and will refuse to change, while older workers may think young management is too inexperienced. To create a productive work environment, no one should rush into judgment just because of someone’s age. Older workers should refrain from constantly referring to the ways things used to be or how it was back in the old days or making jokes about age differences.

Be Open to Learning

Older workers should let younger managers know that they are still eager to learn better, newer, and more efficient techniques for getting the job done. When older workers take the attitude that what’s most important is accomplishing team objectives and doing a good job, they can enter into a partnership with younger managers where everyone benefits.

Respect All Around

Older workers shouldn’t automatically assume that because of their years in the workforce, they always know best. Focus on showing younger managers that their talents and techniques have proven valuable over time. When older workers show respect for their younger manager’s input and suggestions, a positive team attitude develops that makes it easier to bridge the generation gap.

The bottom-line is getting the job done and being positively productive.

Need more information on multi-generations in the workplace? Check out our professional development training course, Bridging the Generation Gap .


How to Use the Pareto Principle for Productivity at Work

Back in 1906, Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, was completing a study on wealth. From his study, he was able to determine that 80% of land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. At a later point in time, business management consultant, Joseph M. Juran, began noticing a similar phenomenon relating to different parts of the traditional business cycle. He named the phenomenon the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle is a widely accepted rule of thumb used by managers when viewing business metrics and assessing productivity. In a manufacturing environment, the rule as stated would be, “80% of the items are produced by 20% of the workers.” This means that it only takes 20% of the workers to achieve maximum efficiency and boost production totals. If managers could determine which workers make up the 20%, they could make decisions designed to increase productivity, such as better training for hiring employees and improving capacity. The goal would be to get other workers to the 20% level.

A non-manufacturing business could look at the principle this way—80% of the sales are made by 20% of the salespeople. Since each salesperson has the same products and tools to sell, the salesperson’s ability to sell is the critical element. Using the principle, you might want to go out on sales calls with members from the 20% group to identify the unique sales methods they use to create sales. You can teach these methods to the 80% group and create a stronger sales force.

The Pareto Principle can be applied to every area where a cause and effect relationship exists. At work, the idea is to always look for better ways to do things. The answers usually lie with the workers who are already doing it right—the 20% that is producing the 80% of the results you need.




What Training Does Your Team Need?

“What’s worse than training your workers and losing them? Not training them and keeping them!”Zig Ziglar

Providing training opportunities for your staff is a key tool for doing more than keeping your team positively productive. According to human resource experts, training improves retention because it increases employee satisfaction and motivation.  Your top performers value the opportunity to develop their skills and view training as a valued part of career development.

Despite the value of training, many managers are reluctant to send employees off to training programs because they have experienced mixed results. Here are some tips to ensure the training you offer gives you the results you need and is valued by your employees.

  • Make sure employees have the training they need to do their jobs. Review the job requirements for each position and put together a training plan that enhances the ability of the incumbent to do the job. In addition to technical training, include skills development in leadership, communication, time and task management, and other so-called “soft skills.”
  • Survey staff about what kind of training they want. It might surprise you to discover what they are interested in learning.
  • Offer a variety of delivery options, including traditional classroom training with a live facilitator, webinars, e-learning programs, on-the-job training, lunch-and-learns, and so on.
  • Measure training effectiveness by asking participants to complete an anonymous evaluation and re-evaluate later to assess how the training has or hasn’t delivered skills improvement on the job.

Make training an integral part of your management plan to make sure your staff stays motivated and positively productive.

Not sure what training you need? I offer in-person, classroom training.Contact me for information on how we can work together:





Focus to be More Positively Productive

Have you ever been so focused that time disappears? Before you know it, an hour or two or three have passed, but you didn’t notice because you were so involved in what you were doing. When you are this focused, your brain stops noticing things that are irrelevant to the task you are working on. Your ability to ignore distractions—and not even notice them—is enhanced. This is called being in the “zone” or “flow.”

Anything that breaks you out of the zone or flow is a distraction. Once distracted, it can take up to 20 minutes to return your focus to where it was before the distraction. One of the most common distractions in the office is sound. To improve your ability to focus:

  • Turn off alerts announcing that you have new email, a Facebook update, or text message.
  • Turn off the alerts and ringers on your landline and mobile phone.
  • Wear earplugs or ear buds to block out ambient noise in the work environment.

Welcome quiet and the focus that comes with it.

For more information, see my blog post How to Eliminate Distractions.