Are you Ready to Act Like a Manager?

Being human means that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. Consider whether you would react or respond to the following situations.

  • Your best employee just gave her notice.
  • An employee has been late to work twice this week.
  • Your department is over budget in its spending for the month.
  • An important email was sent to a customer with typos and inaccurate information.
  • Two employees argue in front of the customer.
  • The office gossips about an employee who is having a personal problem.

You can vent. You can rant. You can react. But if you do, what is likely to happen is that you may not solve the situation but rather aggravate your team or customers in the process.

Instead, you could respond with intention. When responding, you allow yourself to see the situation from external and internal perspectives.

External. Stop and notice what is creating the situation. What information do you need to fully understand the situation to be able to handle it effectively? What are the circumstances, personalities and details affecting the situation? What is working and not working in this moment that is creating this?

Internal. Stop and notice you. What is your emotional state? What of your strengths will help you here? What triggers have been activated that you will need to manage? What situations or events of the past are you bringing forward?

The guidance I share with the executives I coach – and that has direct application for all managers – is to pause for a moment in any of these situations to get informed about the internal and the external. Once you fully understand the situation, the reason for it and what is going on with you, ask yourself this question: “Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want?”

It is in this moment that you can see your habit to vent, rant and overreact, or to wisely and calmly review and manage yourself, will affect the outcome and results you want. To be an effective manager requires that you act with intention, to respond instead of react.

Effective managers and leaders are present to both their situations and themselves. By stopping and noticing both the external and internal, they can more wisely and more intentionally respond instead of react. Relationships improve. Productivity and performance improve. Results improve.

Take Action
Stop and notice a challenging situation happening in your workplace. Take the time to gather the information you need – the external and the internal –  to be ready and able to solve it. With the information about the situation and your own review of yourself, ask yourself Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want? With the information you have, choose with intention what you do next.

This doesn’t mean you won’t raise your voice or get angry in a challenging situation. It just means that you choose that response after consideration of the situation, rather than default to an old habit. And when you take the time to consider what to do, you will likely find that the raised voice or anger, though a possible solution, may likely be an infrequent option in favor of a calm, sane and methodical response.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading A Tantrum is a Tantrum

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Managers: How to Identify and Correct your Blind Spots

You are a great manager, at least most of the time. But like every other human, some of your behaviors are actually unproductive. This holds significant unintended consequences for a manager. For example, being unaware of an unproductive behavior can lead to disengaged employees, lost opportunities or missed results.

These unproductive behaviors are your blind spots.

So, how do you see what gets in your way (your blind spots) and, more importantly, how do you correct them?

We are creatures of habit, and we are all pretty mindless. This is not a criticism or judgment; it is an observation. We do so much in our day out of habit that we are not mindful and intentional in some of our choices and actions. And the more mindless we are, the more our unproductive behaviors (blind spots) show up in our days, negatively affecting our results.

A blind spot for a manager could be any of the following:

  • Always telling employees what to do instead of asking, guiding and supporting.
  • Watching for what’s not working with employees instead of what is working.
  • Being cheap with praise for work well done.
  • Being overly compassionate where others don’t see you as a leader, or overly dogmatic where others don’t want to work with you.
  • Holding others to behaviors that you don’t maintain for yourself.
  • Communicating in one method with everyone, regardless of its ineffectiveness.
  • Fear of confrontation or conflict.
  • Arrogance and disconnection from others.

Since blind spots are unproductive behaviors that you cannot see, the first step to improving your performance is to identify your blind spots so you can work on them. To do this requires intentional and focused work on yourself to increase your self-awareness.

Here are two things you can do now to identify your blind spots.

  • Self-evaluation. Make time without any interruptions. Focus on how you manage others and your work. To summarize what you notice, draw a line down the middle of a page. The left column is for you to summarize what works in the way you manage. The right column is for you to summarize what doesn’t work in the way you manage. The list of what’s not working will help you see your blind spots.
  • Ask others. Using the same what works and what doesn’t work format, ask several of your peers, direct reports or others to honestly share their perspectives. With their results, simply ask what the results share about your habits. Highlight any needing attention.

Being aware of your blind spots is good. It provides you with the information you need to improve on what’s not working in your management style. To make those improvements, consider how you can mindfully address and correct a blind spot. Consider these two ways to act on your intention to make improvements.

  • Rank your unproductive behaviors as most urgent / important to correct to the least urgent / important. With this awareness, consider ways to improve it. Work with a peer, your manager or with a coach to brainstorm ways to make improvements. From the list of ideas, select the best idea(s) and build and implement a plan to improve. Ensure your plan includes improvement metrics. You must be able to see and measure progress to eliminate the blind spot.
  • Engage an accountability partner. We all know we have things to work on to improve our performance, but we don’t do them. This is why some people go to a gym instead of working out at home, or walk with a friend instead of walking alone. We frequently need to be accountable to another to keep us on track. Identify a peer, colleague or coach who can help you stay on track by regular check-ins as well as monitoring progress.

We are all human. We each have habits that get in the way of what we want to achieve. This is particularly obvious when we manage others. Tune in to identify your blind spots. Build and implement a plan, and work with a partner to make improvements. For every blind spot you eliminate, you improve your impact and performance.

Take Action
Take 10 minutes today to ask yourself – honestly – what’s working and not working in the way you manage others. What do you need to see in your approach that you are not currently seeing? Then ask a colleague to give you honest and productive feedback. Uncover your blind spots so you can shine light on them to correct them.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave You in 2019 (and What to Do About it)

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“Not Bad” Doesn’t Mean Good

Is your personal performance standard to consistently do good or great work, or is it to do just enough not to get fired?

So many of us have dropped our personal performance standard. As a coach, I routinely work with people who are okay with doing average. When asked how their weekend was, the answer is “not bad.” When asked how they are doing on their goals and objectives in the workplace, the answer is “not bad.”

“Not bad” doesn’t mean good.

So, what causes us to settle?

I see it this way. We are each born with amazing potential that remains hidden in us until we do two things:

  1. Identify it.
  2. Choose to use it.

To discuss potential, we talk about strengths, interests and values. Knowing and using these is how to bring your A-game – not your C-game.

When you know and use your strengths, you lead with your greatest abilities. You tap into what is strongest and best in you. Imagine your impact and potential when you know and choose to use your strengths.

Consider this:

  • Interests: When you know and include your interests in your day, you feel energized. You respond differently to things you like than the things you don’t like. You give it more effort, greater thought and therefore greater results. Imagine your impact when you know and choose to incorporate your interests in your day.
  • Values: When you know and include your values in your day, you have greater clarity in how to move through your day. I like to consider values as our guardrails; they define our edges so we feel balanced and confident, letting us focus on our strengths and interests throughout our days. Check in on your values to determine if excellence is one of your values. What would it take to develop this value and what would be the impact if it guided your approach to everything you do?

Now, with this perspective, think about your workplace relationships. Which ones are “not bad” and which ones are good or great? What do you do differently in those that are better than average and what is the impact on you, your performance and your degree of impact and happiness in the workplace? Who do you have to be to bring your A-game to your workplace relationships?

Now, think about your workplace culture. Where is it “not bad” and where is it actually good or great? What could you do to share your thoughts with management to improve the employee experience? If you are a manager, how can you engage your employees to share their perspectives and opinions and raise the quality of the workplace culture, thereby increasing engagement to drive productivity, performance and retention?

Finally, think about your work. Where is it “not bad” and where is it actually good or great? Are you in a role that needs what you do and like best? Does your work inspire you to play full out or do you do just enough not to get fired? What can you do to better align yourself to a role that amplifies your focus on excellence, or how can you change your internal talk to do and be your best, regardless of what is going on around you?

Take Action
You choose how to show up to work and life. Sometimes the workplace can make this easier for you. However, it is always your choice to accept “not bad” or good / great as an outcome. Stop and Notice where you play small and where you bring your best. Make one change in something you deliver as “not bad” and raise it to good or great. Notice how work and life improve when you raise your standard.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Be on the Disengagement Hunt

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Your Employees: Help Them Grow or They Will Grow with Someone Else

Now is not the moment to be cavalier about making the time to help your employees develop greater skills. In a workplace that changes at breakneck speed, employees are looking to their workplaces to help them stay current, learn new things and get better.

The LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report shared that 94% of employees say that if their company invested more in career development, they would stay longer. It is all about the skills.

What time and resources do you make available for your employees to develop, grow, learn and expand what they know?

Before you answer, consider that development can take several forms in the workplace. Two of those include:

1. Formal education. Whether created by an organization’s learning and development department or through purchased programs, make new skill development available to all employees. Consider a required and elective skills approach. Define the required skills by job. Make electives available to any employee, regardless of position. Encourage those employees who want to constantly learn to select additional topics or skills to continue their development. Remember, not everyone learns the same way. Consider offering all formal education in a variety of learning methods, whether that’s via classroom, webinar, gaming, self-directed or narrated, among others. Take the time to learn what method works best for your team and look to provide your skill training in at least two different methods to encourage greater participation and learning.

2. On the job feedback development. Some of the best skill development happens in the moment. Providing mindful feedback, a process to tune in to both what works and doesn’t work with employee performance, is key to helping employees learn the most in any workplace moment. Though most managers provide “constructive criticism” when they see challenging performance, feedback is the reminder that on-the-job training is about both successful and unsuccessful performance. Don’t miss an opportunity to use a success as a teachable moment, focusing on how to do more of what works, and why it worked. Including this encourages a more responsive employee when there comes a time to share something that didn’t work and why. The lessons learned in these moments are timely, personal and encourage accountability. These lessons stick.

Employees say they want more development. And you want them to have it, as well, because it makes them more valuable as employees. This is a true win-win solution. Don’t be concerned that your employees will learn from you and leave. Instead, focus on developing them and building an employee-focused workplace culture. This encourages their performance and their retention.

Take Action
Identify the skills needed. Create materials to provide the skills in a variety of learning methods to encourage participation and learning. Then, train managers to think and act more as coaches to review employee performance, focusing on both what works and doesn’t work, with the intention of making each a teachable, on-the-job learning environment.

Commit to creating a clear and easy path to helping your employees develop, grow and get better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Do Your Jobs have a Value Statement?

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3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

There is a direct correlation between the level of employee engagement and the level of productivity, performance and retention. That means that understanding and affecting employee engagement is the responsibility of every manager.

First, I will share that engagement, defined for the purpose of this post as the discretionary effort an employee puts into their job, is not the sole responsibility of the manager or the organization. Employees have a role in expanding their self-awareness to help align themselves to roles that need what they do and like best, and to have a voice in participating in their work in a way that matters. But that is the subject of another blog.

For now, let’s focus in on three things that every manager can do to increase employee engagement.

  1. Know your employees. It seems odd to say this, but the truth is that most managers don’t know their employees’ strengths, liabilities, interests, values and what activates and diminishes their performance. Without this information, you frequently and accidentally respond in unsuccessful or unproductive ways or misalign employees to roles that need more of what they are not good at than what they are good at. Spend time with employees to help develop their inventory of abilities. Use an assessment tool to help create the practical language of their strengths and their liabilities (the behaviors that are the opposite of their strengths that need management). Get guidance from a coach for tools to help all employees learn to look inside themselves to discover their unique abilities and preferences, then to share them with you so you can better guide them to the areas that need what they do and like best. This encourages competence which activates engagement. You don’t feel engaged if you are in a role that doesn’t fit you.
  2. Make time for each employee each week. Relationships are key to trust, and trust drives engagement. Employees want to work for managers who make time for them and treat them as valuable and important in the workplace. Knowing employees’ inventory of abilities and making time for them, will help you connect more authentically and interact more successfully.
  3. Focus on employee development. Today’s employees know they need to be constantly learning and growing. Managers, when they make the time to connect with employees and use that time to help employees assess what works and what doesn’t work in their performance, make learning and growing important in the workplace. This is key in the shift from managing to workplace coaching – to guide employees to better see and assess their performance and to own any required improvements. This encourages greater performance ownership and engagement.

There is no shortage of information and statistics supporting the premise that engaged employees consistently outperform disengaged employees. It is therefore the responsibility of every manager to intentionally choose how to be and what to do to encourage their employees’ engagement.

Take Action
Three simple things can help employees show up more engaged: know them, make time for them and develop them. What are you doing today to improve your employees’ engagement?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Drag Your Feet When Hiring New Talent

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3 Ways to Successfully Onboard Your New Great Talent

You defined what abilities, skills, education and experience are required for your role. You used an intentional sourcing strategy to find candidates who fit your role. You interviewed wisely, using activities and behavioral-based questions to really assess your candidate’s role and cultural fit. You hired the best candidate. They start in a week.

Now, what is your plan to bring them quickly, effectively and personally into the valued talent of the organization?

Onboarding is the critical fourth step in an effective and efficient hiring process (following defining, sourcing and interviewing). Many organizations discount this important step, which leads to disappointing performance and retention results. According to the Gallup Organization, only about 12% of employees agree their organizations do an effective job with onboarding. And, since onboarding is one more place to create an important first impression, poorly delivered onboarding can discourage employee engagement and loyalty.

Here are three things to consider as you assess and build your onboarding approach.

  1. Personalize and customize. Use the period from the date of job acceptance to job start date as your pre-boarding – to intentionally connect with the new employee to get to know them and to start to share information about the company to encourage their enthusiasm for the job and to feel comfortable in their new work environment. Ask about their talents, interests and passions in and out of the workplace, values in and out of the workplace, favorite foods/music/activities/sports teams/coffee. Share information about the culture, energy, values and humanity of the workplace.  Don’t wait for a new employee to arrive to start the onboarding process. Use the information gathered during pre-boarding to develop a first day, first week onboarding plan. It could be lunch out at a favorite restaurant, favorite coffee purchased on the first day or week, a banner of a favorite sports team waiting for them at their desk, or the alignment to a buddy or mentor who shares similar interests. Think about the onboarding “experience.” Personalize it.
  2. Become family. Onboarding is really about taking your unique new hire and helping them find their place right away in your organization. What are your organization’s values, beliefs and mission, and how do you help employees know them and live them? How does the organization value, support and care for its talent? And, how does this new employee’s job add value and make a difference on a daily basis? Onboarding is not about having new employees read company manuals, review documents and fill out forms. It is an intentional effort to help them understand the organization and the value of being part of it.
  3. Focus on first impressions. New employees have heightened awareness. They are watching each of their new experiences. Be intentional in the plan for the new employee’s first day, first lunch, and first meeting with a manager, leader or CEO. Be intentional in who the employee is introduced to, assigned to and supervised by. Think about the employee’s first assignment, first meeting and other firsts. Remember the power of a first impression: is your pre-boarding and onboarding experience creating the impression you want your new employee to have?

Take Action
Getting your hiring right is critical to bringing in the right employees. Keeping your great employees starts with pre-boarding and onboarding that is personal, integrating and intentional. Help your great talent know they chose wisely when they chose you. Accelerate their ability to feel connected, valued and productive. Engagement, performance and loyalty will follow.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Win in the War for Talent

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3 Ways to Prepare to Ace Your Job Interview

So, you are thinking of leaving your current job to see if there is something that fits you better. Maybe you want to leave because you have a manager that makes too little time for you, doesn’t encourage your learning and development, or doesn’t provide meaningful feedback, particularly applause when you do great things. Maybe you have grown as far as you can grow in the organization because the path for advancement will move you from your high-performance abilities to those out of your high-performance areas. Or, maybe you’re just ready for a change.

Woman interviewing potential candidate for a job

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to prep for your future interview. The interview process is changing, becoming more action-oriented, which means your prep also needs to change. Consider these three tips to fully prepare yourself so you can ace the interview.

  1. Invest in greater self-awareness to know your strengths, interests and values. The interview is your opportunity to share who you are. This requires great self-knowledge. Reflect on what you do well, your interests and what activates your best performance. You can’t wisely assess whether you have what it takes to succeed in the role if you are unaware of your abilities. Consider taking an assessment, doing self-discovery work or working with a coach to get clear about who you are.
  2. Create a list of what you want the organization to know about you. Though all organizations interview, few are effective or good at it. That means that unless you are prepared, you may leave the interview without having shared the critical and important information they need to know about you to wisely consider you for the role. Your greater self-awareness (step 1 above) has provided you with your success attributes that you must share in the interview. Don’t leave the interview until you share these attributes. You may even have to say something like, “I wanted to share the three things about me (my three greatest abilities) that will show how I can add value and make a difference in this role. Would now be a good time to share these with you?”
  3. Create a list of what you want to know about the organization, role or manager. Understand the organization and its focus, vision and mission. Understand the role, what it does and its importance to the organization, and get an understanding of the management style and culture of the organization. Create a list of anything you need to know to be able to say yes or no to this opportunity.

Take Action
Remember, an interview is an information-gathering-and-sharing event. Have the information you want to share and know the information you need to gather. Know yourself, then be clear about what information you want them to know about you, even if they forget to ask. Know what information you need to discover or confirm about them. The goal is to have enough of the right information to assess whether you fit them and they fit you. Do your homework. Preparation is key.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading What Do You Want in 2019?

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Go beyond what is expected; don't be average.

Don’t Do Average. Make It an Experience.

You have to eat dinner. You could eat something pre-made; just heat it in the microwave and eat it in front of the television. But by adding a table cloth, candles, your favorite food and a little music, what was once a requirement for survival becomes an experience. Experiences remain. Consider the quote, “People may not always remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Don't do what is expected or average. Take it to the next level. Stand out from the crowd.

Our lives are marked by experiences – both favorable and unfavorable. That tells us two important things:

  1. Make experiences a priority.
  2. Make good experiences.

In a program I teach on customer service, I introduce something I call Impressure Points. Impressure Points is a term that brings together the concept of a Pressure Point (a place where the customer and the business intersect) and Impression (the impression made on the customer). So, business Impressure Points are the places where a business connects with a customer and has the ability to make an impression. Basically, it is an opportunity for a business to create an experience.

There are three types of Impressure points, all of which create a specific experience:

  • Breaking points – the customer did not get or experience what was expected. This could be product that is not delivered on time or is damaged, a call that is not returned, a cranky or unprofessional employee or a bad link on your website. There are so many places you interact with a customer; notice any potential breaking point areas.
  • Success points – the customer got exactly what they wanted, nothing more. Think of the restaurant that gets your order exactly right, but doesn’t make any additional effort in your dining experience. So even though a success point is not a breaking point, it is still not enough of an experience to earn customer loyalty. More is needed. It is a great experience that keeps a customer.
  • Extra Points – the customer got what they wanted AND something more was done. Author and leadership expert Ken Blanchard calls it the +1 in his book Raving Fans. Customers who have an exceptional experience will remember it. Consider the meal that was prepared exactly right and was delivered by a personable, friendly, upbeat and good-with-details waitstaff. This creates the response that gets shared and referred. Customers come back and bring their friends.

Though I shared Impressure Points and the power of experience from a customer’s perspective, realize these can be used anywhere in life, as well. Where are your breaking, success and extra points with your employees? Where are your breaking, success and extra points in your relationship with your spouse or partner, kids, family or friends? Know them to sustain or improve them.

Take Action
Life is about experiences. Notice what experiences you are creating at home and at work. Where are the areas that need more intention to amplify the experience and the outcome from it? What is one thing you can do today to raise a breaking point to a success point, and raise a success point to an extra point? Think of the type of experience you must create to activate engagement, drive results and inspire loyalty. 

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave You in 2019 (and what to do about it)

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Pay or Purpose – What Really Activates Employee Performance?

A limiting belief in the workplace is that employees simply work for their paycheck. Though some do, this is an outdated way of thinking left behind from the industrial age when compensation was tied to tangible production. Do more, get more. This, of course, drew more attention to pay.

But as the nature of work changed, and we shifted from a “make things” economy to today’s “provide service” economy, our feelings about work have changed. Now, most jobs have employees face-to-face with people – whether customers, vendors or colleagues. This personal connection has encouraged employees to be more focused on the value they provide to others. Work is more personal. We want jobs that make a difference. We want to be part of something important. We want to influence positive change. We have a need to do work that is purposeful.

How do you help create work that matters for each of your employees – to help deliver purpose instead of just pay? Here are some ideas:

  1. Share how the employee’s role supports and advances the mission of the organization. Make it personal.
  2. Invite employees to share their thoughts and opinions about selected areas of the organization. Their input raises their self-esteem and confidence, provides you with greater information from those who are on the front line, and helps them feel part of the organization.
  3. Share stories of what the organization does for its customers and how all employees create the customer experience.
  4. Host a stay interview (as compared with exit interview) with each of your employees regularly. Make time to help them feel heard, encourage their contribution and to improve your relationships.
  5. Make development a key focus of your organization. Helping employees work on skills and performance improvement areas helps expand what they are capable of.

Take Action
Pay is important. Be competitive. Be fair. Have achievable compensation plans that include stretch goals, improvement goals that are funded by the additional performance.

And along with these, be sure your organization helps its employees understand why they do what they do and the difference they make. Remember this quote by Dr. Mehmet Oz, “If your heart doesn’t have a reason to beat, it generally won’t.”

We all need purpose.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Do You Know Your Employee’s Engagement Language?

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Do Your Jobs Have a Value Statement?

Consider the value jobs have in the workplace. This is larger than just getting the tasks of the job done. Do your job(s) share with your employees why they are important and what difference they make to your company, customers, community and world?

Work occupies nearly 25% of our time each week – and for some, even a greater percentage. With such a large amount of time committed to it, we want it to do more than just deliver a paycheck. We want it to help us grow, learn and become better. We want to feel valuable. We want to know that we matter. We want to know how what we do makes a difference. We want to do something important.

To meet these requirements from employees and truly create work that matters, it requires some time and attention spent on each job within your organization to clearly define the role and the impact the work has others. The most efficient way to do this is to create a Job Value Statement.

Start by picking any job in your organization. Define what the job entails (tasks, responsibilities) and the attributes an employee must have to do the job successfully. Then, create a statement that highlights the benefit or value of the job. A clear description on what the value is to the employee, the company or even the world helps create a differentiation advantage for your organization. It not only shows that you understand your employees, but it also serves as a means to attract top level talent looking for an employer that understands how to create jobs that matter.

Here are some examples of job value statements:

  • This role requires daily communication customers, supporting them to live confidently and independently.
  • This role keeps the executive team organized, supported and able to make a profound difference in the direction of the company.
  • This role creates products that keep our air and water clean for generations to come.
  • This role creates new applications to bring complex technology to everyday life.
  • This role ensures the organization’s financials are accurate so the organization can continue its growth and impact with customers.
  • This role creates a workplace culture that engages employees and cultivates their potential.

A simple, well-crafted value statement can help attract new employees and re-engage existing employees.

We all want to make a difference. Help each of your employees see their value so they are more empowered and engaged to deliver it.

Take Action
Look at each of the jobs your organization offers and define the value statement for each. Check in with those who do the job(s) to see the value they see in the role. If they have this clear, you have something to share with others. If they don’t, then you have the opportunity to change this to help them connect more personally to their role and its impact. Be sure to include your jobs’ value statements on the career center on your website and in all job postings or ads.

Sign up for more tips to engage and inspire your employees.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

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