Category Archives for "Blog"

A Few Tools to Ease the Way

I love simple tools and techniques. That’s why I like great questions so much. The right question, asked in a neutral tone, can transform a situation. Here are a few examples:

  1. Someone is upset. The best definition I’ve heard of the word upset is “an unfulfilled expectation.” You expected X to happen, Y happened instead and now you’re upset. Therefore, a simple and quick way to get to the bottom of things when someone is upset is to ask, “What were you expecting to happen that did not?”
  1. A mistake is made. How you respond (versus react) to another person’s mistake says a lot about you. When you react to a situation, the adult has vacated your body and a small, tantrum-driven child is in charge. On the other hand, when you respond, your adult is in charge. Keeping that in mind, here’s a great question for your adult to ask when a mistake is made: “What happened?”

“What happened? Is a great question because we often make this type of situation even worse by, as they say in courtroom dramas, “introduce facts not in evidence.” Reacting to a mistake sometimes involves making assumptions that may or may not be true. “You were careless.” “You’re irresponsible.” “You clearly didn’t think this through.” When the question, “What happened?” is answered, you will know the facts instead of things you made up because you’re upset (refer to #1 above). Then you can respond effectively.

3.  You’re giving instructions. Too often, in this scenario, we do all the talking and simply assume (there’s that word again!) that the other person absorbed all the words we uttered as well as what we meant when we said them. BIG MISTAKE. An approach that increases the odds of you getting what you want is to clearly outline the end result you seek and then ask, “How are you planning to get this done?” If their answer tells you they’re heading down the wrong path, you have an opportunity to course-correct before any time or effort has been wasted. That way, you won’t be upset (see #1) and mistakes are avoided (see #2).

Those are a few tips that have helped me greatly. I hope they’re equally useful for you.

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Can You Feel the Energy?

People often ask me, “How do I know if my employees are engaged?” The easiest way to assess engagement is to pay attention to what it feels like when you walk into your work location.

  • Does it feel like something good is about to happen or does it feel like you’re waiting for an axe to fall?
  • Is there a pleasant buzz when co-workers are gathered or does it sound like angry bees?
  • How are people moving about? If they are hurrying, do they look panicked or do they simply look like the meeting to which they are is important?

What all of the above share in common is that they are reflective of ENERGY! There is light energy and dark energy (okay, maybe I’m watching too many Star Wars movies). Light energy doesn’t necessarily mean fun and games. It means people are deeply engaged in what they are doing. Dark energy, on the other hand is a sign of disengagement.

The stronger the energy, the more intense is the engagement or disengagement.

To be candid, it all starts with you. How is your energy? The world is a mirror; your team is a reflection of you, both dark and light.

Are you dragging yourself into work each day? Are you always waiting for the next shoe to drop, or the next catastrophe? The irony about employee engagement (or lack thereof) is that leaders expect (sometimes demand) that employees be happy at work or excited about a project, despite the fact that they themselves are not!

The Law of Attraction says, “You get more of what you focus on.” Another way to say it is, “You get what you measure.” Are you measuring for light energy or dark energy? Are you noticing when things are going well, or are you perennially focused on what’s wrong?

Unless and until leaders bring the best of themselves to work each day, employee engagement numbers will remain, as they have been for nearly a decade—stagnant.

This isn’t something you work on for the benefit of your team. It isn’t something you work on because it benefits your organization. Figuring out how to get engaged at work fully benefits YOU! Anything beyond that is a bonus.

If you want to know the WHY of employee engagement, it is this: the more engaged you and the members of your team are, the lighter the energy and the better your lives – both at work and at home.

May the Light be with you.

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When Team Members Seem “Disobedient”

Why can’t my team members see that my way is the best way to do things?

How do I get my team to do what I ask without question?

Why do I feel like I’m constantly beating my head against the wall?

When working with organizations on tools and techniques to get their team more engaged, I am often asked these questions (above).

The biggest frustration of many team leaders is that command-and-control is simply not working anymore (darn it)!

They might not say it that way because no one likes to think their leadership style is controlling. Nevertheless, if you’re in a leadership position you most likely earned it through being an exceptional “doer” and it’s difficult to be patient with those who do not have your work ethic or approach.

So what’s a leader to do?

You’re not going to like my answer:

Let go of your ego!

Open your mind up to solutions you don’t come up with. Give your team members leeway to solve problems and encourage them to do so. How do you encourage? If a team member comes up with an approach and you know a better way to do it – DON’T OFFER IT. Unless you can prove that their way won’t work, let them run with it. Yes, your way may be faster or more efficient but, if you think about it, that’s probably only true if you’re the one doing the work. If the methodology is not their idea, it might actually take them longer due to their lack of enthusiasm for it

Most “disobedient” team members are merely asserting their own ideas. Imagine how boring your job would be if, instead of using your creativity to produce results, you had to follow your team leader’s precise directions without question. Is that what it’s like for your team? If the answer is yes, even some of the time, there is work to be done.

When you start letting team members come up with how to do their work, productivity will increase and quality will improve.

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Questions to Improve Productivity

We are addicted to knowledge—to having the “right” answers. Things would improve quickly if we became addicted to discovery.

When is the last time you took a look at how things are done in your work environment with an eye toward improvement?

How often do you ask one or more of these questions about the processes in your line of work?

  • How could we improve this process?
  • Is there affordable technology that could improve the end result?
  • How could we make it faster?
  • Are there people involved in this process who don’t need to be?
  • Where are the bottlenecks and how can we eliminate them?
  • What takes the most time when completing this process?
  • Does the customer (internal or external) even want this anymore? Is this the format s/he wants?
  • What’s the lowest pay grade it makes sense to assign this to? (This could free up your senior talent to do other things and give your less experienced team members an opportunity to grow).

After facilitating hundreds of these types of discussions for both private and public organizations, I can say unequivocally that the quickest way to identify areas for improvement is to ask your team. Give them an opportunity to identify and submit those processes they believe could be improved, their ideas for improvement. Turn their complaints into solutions. Challenge them to say how they would do it if they were put in charge. They’re discussing this when you’re not around; it’s time you heard their ideas.

If ideas are submitted that cannot be implemented, let them know why. They may not agree but they’ll be glad you let them in on the decision making process. It could also prompt them to come up with an even better solution.

This discovery process also has the advantage of teaching them how to apply the same questions to their individual work, which in turn, leads to personal improvement and greater productivity.

A “one man band” is, by definition, not a leader, so stop thinking you’re the one who needs to have all the answers. You have players in your particular band who want to help make it the best band ever (U2? Heart? The Boston Pops?). Work with them to adopt an attitude of discovery and watch employee engagement increase.

Change your focus; engage your team!

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Appreciation = “I notice”

I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating.

We seem to make a very big deal about employee engagement. We conduct surveys, put in systems and programs to address the issues and yet nothing seems to improve.

Perhaps we are overcomplicating things.

Our employees and co-workers (our families!) all want to feel appreciated. We want to fulfill those desires.

Here is a simple way to show appreciation in any situation: simply notice what others are doing and tell them you noticed.

To the receptionist: “I’ve noticed that, when things are slow for you, you ask your co-workers if there’s anything you can do for them. Thank you for that.”

To the maintenance person, “I see that not only are the floors clean but the baseboards are, as well. Not everyone takes that extra step. Thank you.”

To your boss, “Whenever you want to speak to me you always ask if it’s a good time. I really appreciate that consideration.”

Take a moment to think about those around you. What do they do, without being asked, that is noteworthy? When I say “noteworthy” I don’t mean that it has to be a big deal. It’s just something they do that makes work more pleasant.

Another way to think about it is, what do you complain about others doing? Are there people around you who DON’T do that? Have you told them how much you appreciate it? Here’s an example: when I am in a restaurant and telling a story, I really don’t like it if the server interrupts. First of all, have you noticed it’s usually when you’re in the middle of the punch line? Therefore, whenever a server waits for me or anyone else at the table to stop talking before interrupting, I always let them know how much I appreciate it.

You might say, “Well, Silver. That’s how they are SUPPOSED to behave,” and you would be correct. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be thanked for it. Keep your focus on what people do that pleases you, thank them for it and engagement will naturally increase.

Change your focus; engage your team!

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