Improving Communication Strategies for Leaders in COVID and Beyond

Susan O’Connor joins Kristen Walker of Clearview Consulting to discuss common communication issues that have made it more difficult for companies to connect with their employees during the social isolation and what leaders can do to help their employees get the information they need.  Click on the link below.

Improving Communication Strategies For Leaders in COVID and Beyond



What Motivates You To Go The Extra Mile?

Motivation can be energizing.  Do you remember a time when you were inspired or you motivated someone?  Do you remember what it felt like?  The thrill of the spark igniting within you, or helping a child, friend or employee help themselves and seeing the ember catch fire.  The energy is contagious.

That same energy is in your organization, namely your people.  You know you’re likely to put in more effort and care when you are motivated and feeling good about what you’re doing.  Your employees are the same.  They will put in extra effort if they are engaged and feel appreciated.

Increase engagement, increase profitability

In a recent global Gallup poll on employee engagement with 82,000 teams, the results showed 21% higher profitability for those organizations in the top quarter compared with those at the bottom.  Shockingly, 85% of employees are disengaged or actively disengaged.1 That’s a lot of people who need motivation and a good deal of profit that never makes it to the table.  Obviously, there’s a great deal of work to be done globally.  Yet, it’s your business we’re focusing on now.

You probably think about motivating your employees with salary, benefits and a nice work environment.  Those incentives are a given in the current labor market.  You need to do more.  The good news is that you can and it doesn’t have to cost you much.

Start motivating your employees today

  • Be authentic when you praise a job well done. Acknowledge good work but don’t dilute your compliments by praising all the time.
  • Find out what motivates your employees individually. People are inspired by many different factors.  Observe and ask what motivates each person.  Then, acknowledge them in the way they prefer.
  • Work with employees who are causing problems or not meeting expectations. Your employees are watching how you handle someone who is not performing.  Don’t ignore or downplay the problem.  Your employees are impacted and want you to step in to handle the situation. Be honest and helpful to the person who is struggling.  Find out what he/she needs to be successful.  If you don’t see improvement after making a good effort to support them, you will likely have to let them go.  Sometimes, an employee doesn’t fit with a company’s culture or have the skills to do the job.  Be supportive and fair so your employees know that you treat everyone fairly.
  • Talk to your employees about their development. What work fuels their passion?  Is there an area they want to explore?  Providing a safe environment for employees to discover new talents can keep them inspired and engaged.  Share in their discovery.  Acknowledge their abilities and support them in strengthening their weaknesses.
  • Hear what your employees are saying. Listening to your employees is the most cost-effective way of acknowledging and engaging them.  And you could learn something you didn’t realize about your business and the people who keep your business running.

Uncover what motivates your employees

Here’s a simple way to get specifics about what motivates your employees.  Ask them! Let them compile a list of options for recognition for a job well done.  Some examples of both monetary and non-monetary items could be

  • Time off work to participate in a community or non-profit event; like Habitat for Humanity
  • Opportunity to take on additional responsibility
  • Breakfast or lunch with a more senior employee or company executive
  • Development class, seminar or conference that is of interest to the employee and the company
  • Time off; an extra vacation day or a few hours on a Friday afternoon
  • Gift card or small cash award
  • Public recognition among peers; like at a department meeting
  • Trophy or award certificate
  • Tickets to a sporting or cultural event of the employee’s choice
  • A small token of appreciation, like a food gift basket, sent to the employee’s home so that his/her loved ones can see the company’s appreciation.

Talking with employees about how they like to be recognized and motivated is an opportunity to communicate about performance, expectations and the value of your employees.  Always connect any recognition with performance and the value an employee brings to the business.  Reinforce the behaviors and skills needed to make your business successful.

Below, share some ways a company has actively engaged you?

1 Building a High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy, Gallup, Inc. Washington, DC, 2019.

Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners to improve productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.

Grow Your Talent, Create Value For Your Company

Your employees are your number one investment. Their actions, skills and knowledge are going to help your grow your business or sink the ship. Assuming you would choose the former, now is a good time to take a look at how your people match up with the future growth of your company.

Most likely, your employees’ performance can be bucketed into three categories. Some are still not up to speed in their current role, others are comfortably meeting your expectations and some may be outperforming. It’s important to know where your employees are in their development because you and they need to come up with a plan for their growth to keep them energized and engaged in supporting your business.

Various stages of performance
The new or struggling employee
Obviously, employees not performing up to standards in their current work need to focus on the skills to do their job, enhance their knowledge or change behaviors. It’s their manager’s responsibility to identify those undeveloped skills and get them the training they need. They will need a development plan to get them on track. Make sure your expectations fit the development need. Sending someone to outside training that has a skills deficiency is like trying to row a battleship with an oar; it’s not going to happen. The real development of the skill or ability comes with combining the outside training with perfecting the skill on-the-job. Repetition, coaching and feedback are the real ways that employees enhance skills.

Your consistent, dependable employee
Employees who are meeting your expectations are golden because they are helping to sustain your business. This is a good time to find out their development goals. Do they want to stay in their current role or do they want to learn a different part of the business? Take the time to point out other positions or work they can do to contribute to growing your business. Match them up where you expect to need strong consistent team members in the near future. This group of employees can be your strong core. They can move through various positions to get a solid understanding of your business and customers. They need a plan that encourages them to grow through being successful and satisfied with their work.

The overachiever, high performer
The outperformers have likely already told you their development goals and are actively pursuing them. High performers need to be challenged to keep them engaged. Look at these employees to see if they have the skills for higher level roles in the organization either now or in the future. If you believe an employee can meet the requirements with some additional training, come up with a development plan that aligns with your business plan. High performers’ plans may include going elsewhere to achieve goals or gain experience but at least you’re aware of the person’s desires and can plan for it so your business is not disrupted.

It’s most important to have development plans for everyone, including yourself, so you know that your employees are working toward goals that will improve and increase your business growth.

People development plans
No matter which level of development is needed, a plan contains relatively the same components below.

• Identified skills, knowledge or behavior that will be the focus
• Actions the employee will take to learn
• Opportunities to apply the learning (practical application with repetition, coaching and feedback)
• Success measures

Each area for improvement should have a SMART Goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Many organizations make SMART goals mandatory because they clarify the goals and get everyone on the same page. Peter Drucker is known for coming up with the criteria for SMART goals and George T. Doran for formalizing it back in the early 80s and still universally used today. You can find an abundance of information by looking up “SMART goals” on the web.

Hold your employees accountable
One of the most important points of a development plan is that the employee owns the plan and their development. You can help identify areas for improvement, fund training programs and provide opportunities for development but ultimately, the employee is responsible for their growth. As the business owner, you are responsible for opening pathways for them to meet their growth goals and provide feedback along the way.

Developing your people is just one aspect of a people strategy that aligns with your business plan and goals. A people strategy will benefit your business because your people are going to propel you to meeting your business goals.

Next up: People strategy

Are You Overplaying?

How talented business owners may be stagnating their company’s growth

As a small or mid-size business owner, when was the last time you gave attention to your personal development? You probably have been growing your business and developing managers but putting yourself aside because you have other priorities. You’re too busy running your business, right?

You may be thinking that you’ve grown a great deal by leading and fostering your business, and you have. But could you be even more of an asset by looking at how you could improve? We all have strengths and shortcomings that we recognize in ourselves. Self-awareness is good. Have you ever considered that one of your strengths may actually have jumped the shark (remember that Happy Days episode?) and is getting in the way of you achieving more of your business goals?

How does a strength flip on you and why?

It’s called overplaying a strength. Overusing a strength is an easy trap to fall into. You’ve received rewards throughout your career for your strengths. You’ve received approval from someone who was important to you, won a new customer account because you persevered or a completed project because of your problem-solving skills. You may even have been positively influenced by people suggesting you’re skilled enough to start your own business. This all feels good and we innately want to continue to get positive recognition.

Now, compare the accolades you’ve gotten with the number of discussions you’ve had about one of your shortcomings. Typically, discussions on a person’s flaws occur infrequently, maybe once or twice a year if you had development discussions. No wonder you play to your strengths. Most leaders have been recognized and rewarded to continue the behavior as they make their way to the top position or establish their own businesses. And they do the same with their managers. Positive reinforcement is beneficial in many ways and isn’t bad especially when it’s balanced with talk of areas for growth.

What does overplaying a strength look like?

Some commonly overplayed strengths include taking action, perseverance, fairness, listening, and negotiating. On the surface, all good strengths to have. But when you’re running your own business, overusing these skills can confuse or annoy your employees, interfere with work getting done and hamper getting the best out of your employees.

I’ll give you an example involving perseverance. Do you know a person whose name immediately comes to mind when you think of the word determination? Do you have positive or negative feelings about that person? What do you and their co-workers think about working with them? If you have a positive reaction, the person probably is using their skill of determination appropriately. Overusing the skill may be in play if you have a negative reaction. You may feel the person is like a dog with a bone or won’t let up until they get what they want. This behavior may cause others to give in or shut down. In any situation, but especially in your business, the reaction of giving in or shutting down because of someone else’s behavior doesn’t end up serving the business well. Would you want your people to be prevented from providing their best information and advice because another co-worker was dominating the project? What if that person is YOU? Overplaying a skill can be harmful if not checked.

How do you know if you’re overplaying a skill?

It can be relatively easy if you look at the challenges you have in your business and have had in previous roles. If there are issues that keep coming up over and over again, then that’s where you need to look. In your current business are you unintentionally interfering with those issues getting resolved? You can ask your employees what needs to change to grow the business or the most challenging issue they have in getting what they need from you. You can do a leadership assessment. Or, one of the most helpful books I’ve used for my own and other employees’ development is FYI For Your Improvement. I’ve relied on this book and recommended it for years. If you’re a reader, this book will help you determine if you need to develop a skill, are at the right skill level or overplaying it.

What’s important is that you take the time to look at the skills you need to improve and then invest the time to develop or rein in those skills. It’s good for you and it’s good for your business.

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