Archive for the ‘ Engagement ’ Category

Where do good ideas come from? How to get strategic ideas from line workers.

Ideas are everywhere, but many companies, and leaders struggle to get their teams to speak up and share ideas.  Why?  Some employees may feel it isn’t worth it, that their ideas are not good enough or valuable.  Or that surely, someone “smarter” than them would have already done it or suggested it. Perhaps, they don’t feel comfortable making suggestions or challenging the process.

As a leader there are several things you can do to solicit ideas.  Here are a few:

  1. Ask.  Sound simple?  It is.  Try it.  But when you get a good idea, find a way to celebrate it – publicly.  When you get a bad idea, or one that could never be implemented, don’t shut it down.  Ask more questions.  Understand the idea or spirit behind it.  Let the presenter be heard.  And Celebrate it – publicly!
  2. Suggestion Box (really just another from of asking) – I have seen companies set up digital and analog versions of this. Some work, others don’t.  Just setting up the box isn’t good enough, and the downfall of the process when it doesn’t work.  You need to design a vetting process – maybe as simple as a select group of people to filter each idea, ask the presenter more questions and formalize the process of getting a sponsor somewhere in the organization.  Creating a vetting process helps everyone involved feel engaged and a part of the future.
  3. Focus group meetings – Schedule a meeting with a handful of staff to meet with at least one member of management. Encourage feedback on processes and procedures. Maybe something isn’t working quite as well as you hoped, this might be a good time to figure out why. We met with the owner of one of the top ski resorts here it Utah. Once a month, he schedules a group of his line staff to come in and meet with management. At least one member of management is required to be there. If he is traveling, he makes sure to send someone else, etc. He told us that some of the best ideas have come from those meetings

When an employee is hired, they bring their whole body and mind with them.  It is up to us as leaders to get that out of them, and to have them use all the tools they bring with them.  If ideas aren’t floating around and being harnessed, encouraged, vetted and implemented it is time to look at culture.  What is missing?

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Advertisements

What is Culture, and how do I get one?

Culture can be defined as the shared attitudes, values, beliefs, goals and practices of an organization.  Simply, it is the sum of how we think, behave and operate as a group.  Every organization has a culture; some are just better than others.

Some corporate cultures are a sum of the manner that participants have thought, behaved and operated for years, and can be really toxic.  Unwritten rules of engagement that inhibit innovation, free flow of information and ultimately create an environment where people are constantly defending their actions, and spend more time playing political games than working in the best interest of the customer, team or organization.

Other corporate cultures are defined intentionally, and create environments where learning, growing and achieving are common.   Where the value of each player contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Most organizations are likely somewhere in the middle, which likely yields some departments, or teams, which are highly functioning, and others who are not.  In these types of organizations, upper-middle management is likely stuck, and any thought of “Culture Change” is scary.  What’s wrong with the culture we have?!

Creating an intentional culture begins with defining the purpose and values of the organization.  Why does the organization exist?  What do we want to stand for?  How can we get the best of our people to achieve that purpose?

Leadership and corporate culture in the 21st century will look much different than it’s hierarchical 20th century parent.  Motivating employees to unite behind the organization’s purpose will be key.  Aligning reward systems, and measurement around allowing each person to contribute her best, which just happens to also be the best for the customer, environment, stakeholder and shareholder will be key to sustainability, viability and corporate success in the 21st Century. This type of culture will require managers and leaders to engage, connect with and share information.  Micromanaging will not work.  Top-down goal setting will not achieve buy-in required to create long-term results.

All organizations have a culture; some are just better than others.  When you think about your organization, do you have the culture you want, or the culture that is just the sum of the behaviors, thinking and operating rules built by years of practice?

What companies are you aware of that have a clearly defined and visible culture? Google and Apple are a couple that I always think of. Perhaps, you have an experience with a company that doesn’t have an apparent culture. This might be apparent due to having completely different customer service experiences with different employees. One person gives a promise while the other person says, “Oh, I am sorry, they shouldn’t have told you that.” Let us hear your thoughts!

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Ownership: The highest level of employee engagement

Ownership. I call this the highest level of employee engagement.  When an employee acts like an owner. They own the customer experience, the outcome, the brand, quality control, the vision for the future and will fight with everything they have to help the organization succeed.

As a person who loves food, wine, small restaurants and local business, I was proud to find this new little restaurant about a mile from my house, Cucina Vanina.  An unassuming Italian Restaurant in a suburban strip mall.  On each visit, Don has been my server.  He greets us like we are best friends, is proud to tell the history of the restaurant, talks about the owner as if she walks on water, and is committed to ensure each table has the best possible dining experience.  Donovan has a recommendation and advice on every food category, is quick to learn the names of his clients and just makes you feel welcome.  You might think it is HIS restaurant!

As a leader, how can you have employees as committed to your success as Don seems to be?

Connection:   People have a deep need to be connected – to each other, to a larger group.  Help them connect.  Treat your team as people, engage them first, see if they engage you back.

Purpose:  Similar to connection, your team wants to feel like they play a role in something bigger – there is relevance between their role and the purpose of the organization.  Donovan knows his job is to make the customer’s day, which makes them happy and ensures they come back – and tell friends.  At some level he knows that the busier they are, the more tables that are full of happy people the more successful the restaurant is and the more money he makes.

The B-School driving purpose behind any company is to drive shareholder value.  And sure, if you do business well that is the result –  Shareholder value increases as you do business well.  That means growing the number of customers, selling them more ‘stuff’ while controlling the costs to deliver that ‘stuff’.  The driving purpose of the company cannot be to drive value, but to do business well – whatever that is to the company.  As a service firm, if you deliver great service, while controlling your expenses, shareholder value will increase. That great service becomes your marketing tool.  It keeps you employed with existing engagements and drives future business.  Current business (Selling more stuff to the customers you have) and future business (getting more customers) drives shareholder value.  It is no different in a product-based business.  There is a distinct difference in defining the purpose of the organization as doing business well, and in driving shareholder value.  On Don’s first day at the restaurant, if he were told his only job is to make money for the owner he likely would not approach their menu with such passion.

A simple model:

Create a cadre of happy, engaged employees who are proud of their work, who act like “Owners”.  They will create Happy Customers, a quality product or deliver exceptional service.  Customers will buy and take care of your top line.  They will tell their friends, who will tell their friends.  Revenue will grow.  Take care of your operating costs and shareholder value will grow.

 

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

The Art of Using Engaging Questions

2 keys to engaging questions that can build a team, increase profits or make you a great host.

Have you ever observed a talented leader able to get a group talking and energized around a discussion topic? Or watched an interviewer who really gets her guests to open up?

What both accomplishments have in common is the art of using engaging questions. A well worded, well timed and genuinely asked question can spark a dinner discussion that lasts long into the evening. It can also uncover a deep seated and unspoken problem that has been festering on a work team.

Effective leaders learn how to ask the great questions. There are two keys to using engaging questions. First, you must ask the question with the intention of curiosity and the desire to listen. Asking a question for the purpose of making a point or trying to convince others of the “rightness” of your opinion is at best dis-engaging and at worst destructive. Save that tactic for debating, when your goal is to win people over, or to provoke someone.

When you are seeking information or clarification, ask the question and then shut up and listen. Take notes, nod your head, summarize what you heard or anything else that indicates you are listening. Do not refute or disagree with what is being said. If your intention is to be curious, your job is to catch the answer, and that’s it!

The second key is wording the question so it is engaging. The best questions are open ended and are typically “how” or “what” questions. “Why” questions can trigger defensiveness, which can narrow the information available, rather than expand it.

Here is a list of some of my favorite engaging questions. What questions have you found helpful in generating lively and fruitful discussions?

  1. How can we get better at . . .?
  2. What are we doing really well?
  3. What part of this project is working?
  4. What part of this project is not working?
  5. At what places in our workflow do our customers get most frustrated?
  6. What topics commonly cause tension or friction in our department?
  7. What is getting in the way of implementing this new model?
  8. Can you describe the workflow/situation/problem?
  9. What do you believe will make the situation better?
  10. Catch me up on what’s been happening.
  11. How will this solution improve the process?
  12. What are we missing?
  13. How can we improve on this design?
  14. What do you think our next steps should be?
  15. What is most important to you right now?
  16. What have other people done in this situation?

Written by Clare Coonan, LCSW

Clare is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with her on TwitterLinkedIn, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Boring Meetings: Stop the Madness!

Are your meetings a drag? A friend of mine recently described his weekly staff meeting like this:

“I dread it. It’s the worst hour of my week. It’s my personal slow death.”

Over the years, I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed across the working planet. How is it that something so routine as a weekly meeting be so painful?

When I probe for more understanding, a few common themes pop up:

·      The meeting appears to have no purpose other than the fact that it was scheduled.

·      The agenda has too many items and no decisions are made.

·      One or several people dominate the discussions.

·      People are unprepared for their part of the agenda.

·      The facilitator doesn’t keep the meeting on track.

·      The meeting started late or went over the designated time.

·      Communication is one-way; discussion is neither encouraged or the group dynamics don’t allow it.

·      All business or no business: There is either no time for interpersonal connection between meeting participants, or there’s too much “chit chat” and not enough focus on the agenda items.

The most common complaint: “It was a waste of my time.”

Meetings don’t have to be boring or waste time. The purpose of a meeting, actually, is to save time by collaborating and sharing information while the key players are all in the same place. But it does require preparation and planning.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan meetings. You might remember them with “SIT”– Structure, Involvement & Time:

Structure:

Meetings should be well planned and the focus and outcomes articulated prior to the gathering. An agenda can be circulated for input if it’s appropriate. Agenda items might be best framed as questions to prompt decisions at the meeting. Instead of agenda item “Kitchen”, say, “What rules or agreements do we need to keep the kitchen clean?”

The facilitator needs to take charge of the agenda, the meeting flow, the group dynamics and the action steps for follow up. Wimpy facilitators allow the group to run amok and don’t accomplish the meeting’s objectives.

Involvement:

The purpose of a meeting is most often to have all the involved parties in one place to discuss ideas and make decisions. If the communication is one-way, it could just as easily be accomplished through email or memo. Allowing time for group members to weigh in on topics is important, not only for their experience in the meeting, but also for their follow-up commitments to the decisions made.

It’s important for the meeting facilitator to manage the dominant speakers as well. Setting groundrules up front often helps; inviting team members who are less vocal to share their ideas and opinions provides space for them to speak up…and may help to quiet down the big mouths. But don’t force anyone to talk or put them on the spot. You’ll get less of what you want from them after that. For some people, speaking up in a meeting is more intimidating than making a presentation to a group. In front of a group, they have time to prepare and think through their message. In a meeting, they may have to think on their feet, and not everyone is good at it.

Time:

Start on time and end on time. For late arrivals, don’t start the meeting over to catch them up—it’s their job to get whatever they missed. If agenda items appear to be taking longer than planned, schedule a follow-up discussion for a later time, or invite the group to weigh in on what agenda items are priority for the meeting and move the remaining topics to a future meeting or other communication format.

Flexibility is important to meeting management, but too much flexibility on the part of the facilitator makes it feel like there is no direction or purpose for the meeting, and thus, “a waste of my time”. Use phrases such as, “I’m aware of the time,” or “We’ll need to continue this next week”, or “While all these are important ideas, we need to move to a decision now.”

Meetings should be carefully planned and managed in the same way you might prepare for an important message. Think about this question:

“What do I want my team member to walk away knowing, feeling, and doing after this meeting?

Try it—“S.I.T.” for your next meeting.

Oh, I almost forgot–Humor. Remember, people will not long remember the details of what you said, but they will always remember how they felt, which comes from their perceived meeting takeaways. Sprinkle in a little humor whenever you can. When people laugh together, they often feel more connected and open, two of the most important factors in engaging and involving them. But don’t use humor at someone’s expense, or tell inappropriate jokes for effect. You’ll lose more than you gain.

SIT while you plan your next meeting. You can add the “H” for humor in wherever you like.

Written by Merrilee Buchanan, LCSW

Merrilee is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. You can connect with Merrillee on Twitter and LinkedIn, or leave a comment below.
This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

The Difference Between Your Work and Your Job

This conversation seems to pop up a lot lately, especially when people start talking about “the current economy”. “How can I leave my job to follow my passion?” “I feel lucky just to have a job!” Or, “It’s just a job.”

Yes. And.

It’s important to understand both the difference and the relationship between your work and your job. It’s fairly simple, really: Your “work” is what you do. It’s what you were designed to do. It’s what you are excited about, and what you have talent for. It’s connected to your very reason for being; it’s the contribution you are making to the world and to humanity. It doesn’t have to be just one thing, but whatever the one thing—or many things—that you are doing does have to be deeply part of you. It’s your purpose and passion.

Your job, on the other hand, is simply the place where you have the opportunity to do your work. If you are doing your work for a company that pays you to do it, then you have a pretty good gig going on. Maybe you work for someone else, or maybe you work for yourself, but it’s important to have a job in which you have the chance, every day, to do your work.

Get it?

You may have a job that is “just a job”; you need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, right? True, those things need to be done. But can you find some part of your work in your job, even if it’s not your dream job?

Consider this: My son, Ryan, is a writer. And as a budding young author, he still needed to pay the rent and make his car payment. So he got a job delivering mail for the US Postal Service. And as he walked along his delivery route every day, he looked for ideas and stories to write about. In the mornings before work, he got up early and wrote his stories, then went out looking for more every day while he did his “job”.

Some people actually discover their “work” while they are doing a job. Zack, our partner at Five Degrees Consulting, was launching a marketing business when we recruited him to do some consulting work for us. We discovered he had a diverse set of talents and experience in retail management, and we asked him to start helping us out with leadership development and executive coaching. Zack discovered his passion for working with leaders and organizations with his very first foray into the consulting world, and now he’s hooked! (And we’re very happy.)

The saying, “Do what you love, and love what you do” is most true when you find the right fit between your work and your job.

Authored by Merrilee Buchanan

Merrilee is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. You can follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.
This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Getting your employees engaged when you’re not

What happens when it’s your job to keep your employees motivated, engaged, productive and happy, but you’re not exactly feeling the love for your own job anymore? It’s certainly a tough spot for a leader, but it happens. And if your disengagement shows, you may have a lot more to worry about than your own job satisfaction.

Leaders set the tone, the pace, and the energy levels for their employees. Like it or not, energy is infectious, whether it’s positive or negative, so a leader needs to be very self-aware of how his/her energy is affecting the team. If your enthusiasm is off, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Act “as if”–meaning as if you are engaged and happy in your job, at least for awhile. Sometimes you just have to reach down into the bottom of your boots to drum up some energy to pass along to others. Get busy and move yourself into action. Say positive things to others, and be generous with recognition for your employees who deserve it. By creating some momentum, you might actually reconnect to your own purpose and be in a better position to evaluate your position.
  2. Work on yourself. If you are truly owning your career, realizing that you might need a change does not mean you need to disengage from your current job to justify a move. The best leaders are always looking forward, whether it is for their current company or in their own career path. Leaving a job while you’re still on top of your game is always your best bet for future success…and for good relationships with your colleagues left behind.
  3. Look for inspiration from others. Talk with your peers and your employees about what motivates them, keeps them engaged, and sparks their creativity. Look for opportunities to “get fresh” in your role: Do you need some new challenges? Some more education or training? A new opportunity to drive strategy and innovation? Stagnation is often about sameness; look for ways to approach your job and your responsibilities differently, and challenge your team to do the same. Shake things up, challenge “the way we do things”, and find some creative ways to pump fresh energy into your team…and into yourself.

Choose your own adventure. The bottom line is this: Every day, you get to choose how you approach your job, and your life. When you find yourself disengaged and stagnating, it’s up to you to do something about it. Find a mentor who can help you sort through your options. Figure it out, and fix it or change it. Because being miserable in your job is not just bad for you, it’s bad for your team, too. Good leadership starts with leading your own life effectively.

 

Authored by: Merrilee Buchanan, LCSW

Merrilee is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting.  This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentionalcorporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

%d bloggers like this: