What You Don’t Know About Your Employees is Impacting Your Team’s Performance

The outside world generally knows more about your employees than you do. And realistically, there’s little surprise here. There often isn’t time to just sit and talk with employees during the day about anything other than work-related items, and there seems to be a manager-employee divide where many won’t cross that line and friend/follow each other on social channels. Yet these social channels are where so much of this expanded employee information is so readily available, like individual skills, abilities, interests and work experience.

This is a big obstacle in inspiring and engaging employees to perform at their best. Think about it: as the world moves faster and faster and requires greater performance from your employees in ever-changing roles and environments, how do you know what skills training to provide and who would be a better fit in a different role?

Our answer: an inventory of abilities.

Generally, we develop a clear understanding of what success attributes new employees bring to their workplace on their first day as it relates to performing the role they are hired for. But this is only a snapshot of what they can bring to the table. Each employee is equipped with a more robust set of skills, experiences, interests and core abilities. When you add these to the robust abilities of your existing teams, you gain the information you need to more wisely align, develop and promote employees as your world and workplace continue to evolve.

To most effectively tap into these previously unknown strengths and skills, help each employee create an inventory of abilities. This is best done through activities and assessment tools to help employees articulate their strengths and liabilities, interests, values, communication styles, favorite and least favorite aspects of their role, behavioral triggers and blind spots. When employees have a more complete understanding of their potential and their personal drivers, it helps managers see all they are capable of. Having an expanded awareness of who employees are also helps to see who they can become and how they may fit into a workplace that always needs new and different skills and abilities.

The inventory of abilities can help your organization inspire greater employee performance by greater understanding of each employee in three critical areas.

1. Alignment. Having a clear understanding of who an employee is, what they are capable of and what they are interested in doing helps improve role alignment. Employees who are well aligned to their roles feel more capable and competent which activates engagement; engagement is the driver of productivity, performance and retention. It is difficult to get A-level performance from someone who doesn’t have the ability or interest to do what the job requires.

2. Development. Upskilling or reskilling are new terms that are making their way around the workplace and refer to adding new skills or improving the skills employees have to accommodate the changes in both work and workplace. As required workplace skills and abilities change, do you know who on your team has the abilities to respond to the changes? Without this insight, you will only look to the outside talent pool to address performance needs instead of considering your existing and already familiar inside talent. This also adds time and additional resources to effectively onboard new talent, resources most organizations are already short on.

3. Advancement. Few organizations treat a promotion or advancement the way they do an initial job hire; it’s often not even considered to clearly define the expectations of the role and then assess a candidate’s behaviors, skills, education and experience as right for the role. Think about how many colleagues or employees you’ve known to be promoted even though they weren’t interested in or capable to perform what the next level required. By expanding what you know about each employee, you start to see the opportunities in employees that may not be on a linear trajectory but instead one that uses their abilities in a new and different way. For instance, an installer of a product may make a great customer service or project manager because they are intimate with the product, its applications and success attributes. Or a frontline employee may make a great company educator because of what they know and have experienced firsthand.

Each employee only brings a small portion of who they are to their current role. Help them expand what they know of themselves and learn alongside them so you can also better see who they can become as your work and workplaces changes.

Take Action
Information is power. Make a point of gathering more information about your employees from your employees; they come with greater abilities and skills that you currently know or use. Without this information, you will not be prepared to properly upskill and respond quickly and effectively as work and the workplace change.

And, contact us to learn about our Inventory of Abilities tool and approach that we use in all of our leadership, management and employee education.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get The People Thing Right for Your Business

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How to Poach-proof Your Organization’s Talent

We are, once again, faced with a war for talent. But this talent war looks a little different now.

Before COVID-19, organizations struggled to get employees to perform at their potential, in an environment that was predictable. In fact, for most of the past 20 years, the Gallup Organization reported in its The State of the American Workplace report that the percentage of engaged employees hovered around only 30% of the workforce.

Here’s what that means: only 30% of employees were engaged in their work. They brought their A-game and were connected to making a difference.

That also means that approximately 70% of the workforce was in some form of disengagement; they did just enough to not get fired, or they did even less.

Now, in a COVID-19 workplace, disengagement is amplified by epic worry and anxiety. Employees now worry about foreclosures or evictions, access to food, having the proper cleaning supplies, having and using the right safety equipment, feeling safe in and out of the workplace, feeling disconnected from their teams and friends, struggling to feel successful working from home and feeling uncertain that their job will still exist. Without some assistance from their managers – to feel heard, supported and helped through these tough times – employees’ disengagement rises. Couple this disengagement with employees working from home (not under the scrutiny of management) and the fact that many organizations are actively looking to expand their talent base, and you may discover that your best employees are considering other opportunities with organizations that do a better job engaging their teams.

Consider what your organization does to encourage your employees to stay, regardless of any enticing offer that may come their way. Is there a protective forcefield around your talent to ensure your great employees say no when they’re approached by others?

Here are 3 commitments organizations must make to keep employees engaged and happily saying ‘no’ to job offers that come their way:

  1. A commitment to job alignment. Employees need to feel capable and competent in their roles to build their energy to deal with some of the other pandemic-inspired challenges. Feeling like you make a difference (because you are effective at your job) is an important element in helping you feel grounded and engaged. No one would feel engaged, passionate or committed to their job if they don’t have the talents, skills or interest needed to do the job well. To ensure job alignment, take the time to clearly define the tasks of each job and the attributes needed to do these tasks well in your workplace (i.e. the talents, skills, education and experience). Once that’s clear, ensure your hiring, development and promotion processes accurately assess candidates’ and existing employees’ required abilities. Consider including prove-it-to-me activities and behavioral-based questions to ensure you are getting the full picture of their abilities before you bring them on board.
  2. A commitment to providing an employee-focused workplace. Getting employees to want to stay is directly related to the quality of the work environment the organization provides. Employees today routinely insist on working for a company that values them as people, encourages their performance and continually develops them. It seems obvious, but employees who have the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs well will be more engaged in their workplace. Note, however, that this doesn’t mean just the physical tools or supplies to get the job done. It could include things like doing purposeful work, having clear performance expectations, participating in skills and career development, receiving regular supportive and corrective feedback and seeing that the organization shares and lives its beliefs and values. Providing these tools and support activates employee performance, ownership and loyalty, making them more poach-proof. An added bonus: it holds even greater weight when employees are working remotely or in some hybrid remote approach.
  3. A commitment to building successful manager / employee relationships. Relationships are the drivers of performance and loyalty. Consider this: workplaces that manage in the outdated method of command-and-control actually push their talent into the arms of poachers. The Gallup Organization stated that the shift from managing to coaching is the single most important talent retention initiative every organization should be focused on. By helping managers learn how to think and act as workplace coaches, managers shift from directing, controlling and telling to guiding, supporting and asking. The result is a more personal and accountability-based relationship where managers make time for employees to help them in their growth, performance and self-belief. This also encourages employees to open up about their worries, anxieties and needs in this pandemic moment. It’s only with this additional communication that managers can wisely decide who and how to be with their employees, and, more specifically, how to help them manage the challenging moments and get back on stable ground. This intentional awareness from managers helps employees show up more focused. Though shifting from managing to coaching is critical, the Gallup Organization shares that only approximately 20% of managers instinctively know how to coach. That means a core engagement strategy will require you to train your managers to think and act as workplace coaches.

By creating dream jobs for your employees (even during COVID-19), you’re creating an environment where they get to be their best, and are honestly and openly cared for, valued, respected, all while having the opportunity to learn and grow from their managers. With an environment like that, they won’t have the need to look elsewhere. After all, great employees want to work in great organizations.

And when your organization hires wisely, builds an employee-focused workplace and helps managers think and act as coaches, you create an exceptional employee experience. This results in your best employees not only refusing the advances of aggressive poachers, but they will become talent magnets, attracting other great talent to your organization, even if they’re working from home.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused

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How Managers and Leaders Can Create [Workplace] Calm After the Storm

There is no doubt that this past election created a storm. Raging tempers, severed relationships and extreme emotions have marked this period both in and out of the workplace. Add to it the tensions around protests for racial equality, a raging coronavirus and the destructive impact of nature’s storms and wildfires and it’s easy to see that anyone – regardless of their level at your organization – is at their breaking point.

What we all desperately need is calm after all this turbulence. Our best thinking leads to our best solutions, but we can only get there when we are calm. Being calm unclouds the mind, which lets us be present enough to wisely understand our situations and identify meaningful responses. Most often, this is done by engaging productively with others. After all, raised tempers encourage reacting not responding.

Creating organizational calm may seem foreign or even out of reach at the moment. But we can’t just wish for calm or less turbulence; we need to create an intentional plan to get ourselves free of the heaviness of this past year, and it starts from the top down. Today’s leaders can be ready to help their organizations successfully learn to access a place of calm once they figure out how to do it for themselves, first. Here are some ideas how:

  1. Be a role model. Your teams watch you and how you respond. As you go, so do they. Use this moment to develop your mindfulness practice, a way to stay calm on the inside regardless of the noise and distractions on the outside. Developing a mindfulness practice includes making time each day to calm your body, quiet your mind and open your heart. This can include taking time to meditate, reflect, journal or just sit quietly. When this becomes part of your day, it inspires a greater sense of inner calm. Without making the intentional effort to develop the internal stamina to show up wisely, compassionately and intentionally, it’s easy to get caught in the emotional reactions of today’s challenging situations. When you do this, you miss the opportunity to engage and inspire others to work toward successful outcomes.
  2. Understand your employees’ stress level. As with any change or period of stress, it is important to be more tuned in to what is going on with your employees. Consider increasing the frequency and type of contact you have with each employee to better understand what is going on with each of them. During these touch points, ask more direct questions about their stress and anxiety levels, and watch and listen for challenging, distracted or destructive behaviors. This type of connection plays a critical role in giving you accurate insight into where your employees are and it will therefore guide you in knowing how to help (or if you need to get them help). This might seem like something else added to your plate, but when you make this an intentional practice, it becomes second nature and helps you become a better manager, too.
  3. Help or get them help. Offer some of your own experiences in your efforts to stay calm to help guide them in a direction that works best for them. It could be taking a greater number of short breaks, writing lines in a gratitude journal, increasing exercise or staying in touch with people they care about. Sharing your approach can give your team ideas to consider and try. After all, the ability to be responsive instead of reactive is their responsibility. Separately, be aware of what mental health support options are available if any of your team needs professional help to handle today’s storms. Ensure that you support their self-care and respect that this moment in history is exceptionally demanding.

Though storms will always be part of our days, this seems to be a particularly complicated moment. For many, this may be what tips them over the edge, amplifying their feelings of anxiety, fear, concern and distress.

Take Action
So ask yourself: what can you do as a leader at your organization to ensure the wellbeing of each of your employees is met? Consider how you can help them help themselves to stay calm in any storm, whether it’s personal or professional.

A little calm goes a long way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 4 Things Managers Can Do to Help their WFH Employees Celebrate the Holidays

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3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused

A new year is associated with so many good things. It’s a chance to start fresh. It’s a chance to try something new. It’s a chance to identify what could be better and create a plan to make it happen. And that’s what so many of us will be doing as we approach the countdown on December 31, ready to ring in 2021 with welcome arms.

After all, 2020 was certainly filled with some unique challenges. A variety of natural disasters, weather, a hostile election year and, to top it all off, COVID-19, which was not only a challenge in itself, but the ramifications it created sent many companies reeling.

So how can you inspire the fresh start feeling of a new year with your employees when 2021 will still reek of the challenges from 2020?

It’s actually pretty easy: relationships.

Relationships are the driver of employee engagement as employees want and need connection, support and guidance from their managers and their peers. If you could only focus on one thing in 2021, make it relationships.

So, as a new year welcomes you and your team to the workplace – in whatever way work is done – here are three relationship-focused things you can do to help your employees (and you) start your year off strong, focused and engaged.

1. Reconnect personally with your team. Make it a point to really get to know your employees. To effectively manage and coach your employees, it is important to know their strengths, interests and values. It is important to know what engages and disengages them about their jobs and the organization. It is critical to know how they best communicate and learn, and what are their most and least favorite aspects of their jobs.

Another element is to get to know them outside of work – what are their hobbies? How is their family? Is there anything they’re worried about? Are they struggling with anything? Is there anything you can do to help? Though some employees may prefer not to share too much personal information, the fact that you asked goes a long way, especially now when so many people may be grappling with challenges of COVID-19, like foreclosures, concern for high-risk family members or access to enough food, to name a few. Gather important information about each of your employees to understand them better and to know how to best connect with them and coach them. Employees want time with their managers – use this increased time to get to know them and to develop a plan to connect with them more effectively going forward.

Remember: people quit people before they quite companies.

2. Include your team in creating shared goals. Goals are important. They provide direction, clarity and focus. And by including employees in the creation of goals, or more specifically team goals, they feel more included, valued and part of the organization. They know you are interested in what they think. A workplace culture that asks employees for input not only benefits from greater employee loyalty, but also from expanded ideas that come from empowering and expecting employees to actively think throughout their days. An added bonus: those employees share their working experience with others, attracting other top talent and top performers to join your team (a huge benefit since networking will look drastically different as we all navigate the continued effects of COVID-19 on how we do business).

3. Commit to sharing more performance information. You want your employees to be more focused and engaged, but few feel that way when they work in the dark. They can’t connect their work to its impact or value with information about why they’re doing what they’re doing isn’t made clear. By improving your relationship with your employees, you create the space to have more candid and honest conversations about performance. Now, feedback is welcomed as it is delivered from a place of care, support and guidance, instead of reprimand. Invoive employees in creating their own performance expectations that help them amplify their strengths and connect with areas that interest and excite them. Again, these are things you don’t know if you have not first taken the time or made the effort to better understand each employee. An added bonus: employees take ownership of things that benefit them and the organization. They learn and grow and the organization improves.

A recap:

  1. Reconnect personally with your team: What is one thing you can do to connect more personally with each member of your team?
  2. Include your team in creating shared goals for 2021: How will you involve your team in the creation of shared goals?
  3. Commit to sharing more performance information: What information will you share in 2021 and how will you share it?

Take Action
As the New Year approaches, commit to enhancing the relationships with your employees. It really all comes down to communication – both listening and talking. Ask questions, be supportive, engage them in organizational goals and share performance feedback more regularly. Observe, ask, listen and guide. That is what employees want from you. And, in return, they work hard, bring their best performance and stay loyal to the organization.

Start the new year off strong. Make relationships your priority.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

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4 Things Managers Can Do to Help their WFH Employees Celebrate the Holidays

There was a time when work would slow down so the holiday season could gear up. The regular workday gave way to office parties, vacation time and a more relaxed and congenial pace, with more impromptu employee gatherings. Spending more personal and relaxed time in the workplace around the holidays does wonders for employees’ sense of team and organization inclusion.

For many organizations, that is now a thing of the past. But the benefits of shifting from work to celebration are significant and are part of how an organization unites itself to stay energized and get ready for the start of a new year.

Since celebrating is important and its approach will be different this year, many employees will need help recreating the office celebration feelings in their WFH situations. This will require managers to help create the shift to holiday thinking, especially because employees are remote.

Here are 4 ideas to consider and try.

  1. Help employees create a gradual work slowdown as the holidays approach. Encourage employees to sign off earlier each day as the holiday approaches. Some organizations gave their employees a free vacation day to take care of the holiday preparation or to just step into the holidays in a less rushed and stressed way. Help them decide how to use that time to celebrate with other company employees or with their families. Many employees have actually worked more and longer in the pandemic. Getting them to shift out of work mode in favor or holiday and celebration mode may take some consistent guidance.  
  2. Create activities to replace the impromptu interactions that used to take place in the workplace around the holidays. Plan team activities, such as holiday Zoom background competitions, creating holiday team videos, sharing holiday tradition stories and other things that employees would do had they been still on-site. Give them a list of options to help them use their earlier shutdown time to shift to holiday preparation and celebrations.
  3. Have a recurring discussion about how the employee and his/her family are preparing for the holidays. Be interested in the details of their holiday prep and encourage them to sign off early and use the time to do things to build their holiday energy and spirit. By your interest and support, you encourage them develop a new sense of work and holiday balance.
  4. Share how you are creating time and space for celebration and holidays in your WFH approach. Seeing you doing and living the things you are guiding others to do, helps employees see that you are serious, and it gives them ideas in how to make this happen. Remember, this is new for most everyone. New things take time to try, adopt and embrace. Be a role model and employees will migrate faster to new behaviors.

Take Action
Your employees will likely need a little direction in how to shift from WFH to CFH (celebrate from home). So many of the WFH employees have gotten into a productive routine and shifting it once again, even for something like the holidays, can be a challenge. Be there to guide, support and encourage your teams to get into the holiday mood, even if they don’t have the normal workplace holiday events. (See our other ideas in how to celebrate the holidays when you employees are remote.) Not only will your employees have a better holiday, but they will come back to work recharged, energized and ready to respond to the next round of changes that now define how our workplace and world seem to move.  

By Jay Forte

This article appeared on Vistage in the Entrepreneurs and Small Business Network on November 11, 2020.

Consider reading Tips to Celebrate the Holidays When Your Staff is Remote

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Tips to Celebrate the Holidays When Your Staff is Remote

Remember setting up the office holiday decorations? Remember the potluck or catered holiday lunches and the gift exchanges? That was so 2019.

Celebrating the holidays when your staff is remote will require a new mindset this year.

Try not to get stressed or upset about something else that has to change (and might feel like more of a task than something that brings joy). All that has happened is that you need to rethink how to deliver the same feelings that last year’s traditions and events delivered. For that, you need to think clearly and creatively. You don’t have creative and celebratory energy available if you use your energy to be stressed, irritated, disappointed or anxious.

So, take a breath. You get to start a new tradition! Consider these ideas:

  • Redefine what celebration means. Reflect on the feelings and the emotions the holiday and its traditions create. They could be joy, togetherness, peace, generosity, gratitude, awe or even respect. Define what this is for you and your organization. That becomes your goal. As Stephen Covey shared in Habit #2 of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, get clear about what you are trying to create with the holiday celebration. The parties, gifts and lunches have been the means to get to a particular set of emotions and memories. Start there. Visualize what you want to achieve.
  • Deliver the old traditions in a new way. Now clear of what you want to achieve, and aware of the limitations in today’s COVID world, start to consider what you could do to achieve the emotions and feelings that are so important. Assemble a team from your organization to brainstorm new ways to celebrate. To get you started, here are some ideas I have shared with my clients.
    • Rethink Secret Santa to include gifts that can be sent electronically (gift cards, cards, videos, etc.).
    • Have a holiday home office decoration competition.
    • Have a Zoom holiday background competition to use for all company meetings throughout the holiday season.
    • Create a Holiday Activity calendar that includes a couple of events each week during the holidays to be done virtually, whether it’s via Zoom or some other option. These activities are meant to be diverse to include everyone in at least a couple of things. These could include baking and decorating cookies, singing carols, reading or sharing holiday stories, sharing holiday recipes/working on recipes together, having teams decorate their houses together, or recording a video of a neighborhood walk to capture and share the lights of the neighborhood. Add more of your own.
  • Invent new traditions that are based on what is available in this exact moment. Traditions constantly change. Instead of regretting that some of the previous ways to celebrate are no longer available, invent something new. Technology is our friend. It has the ability to help us share our experiences in the moment. Consider how you may be able to use technology in new and dynamic ways. Here are some ideas to share with your ideas committee to get them started:
    • Have team members share their pictures to create a holiday office story, a holiday group shot or even as decorations on the company tree.
    • Work together (remotely) to create a holiday video that expresses what the holiday means to your team. Share the videos with everyone at a company “opening night” where all employees join.
    • Do the 12 days of Christmas with teams doing something (skit, song, story, gift, etc.) each day. If gifts are given, get clear about what gifts would be meaningful at this exact moment. Have employees choose a gift that matters from the company’s Giving Tree. Or you can give employees the option to donate their gift (or dollar equivalent) to someone in or out of the organization who may need it.
    • Add your ideas.

Take Action
Yes, this season will be different. Not better, not worse – just different. Focus on the message of the season, then, using what is available, create ways to help this message come through loud and clear. Involve everyone in the ideas. Not only will you find more great ideas, but you will help amplify the feeling of inclusion and appreciation that is at the core of holiday celebrations.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Remote or Not Remote? That is the Question

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The New Look of Holiday Networking

Holiday parties. They seem to help fill up any block of free time during the already busy holiday season. Whether you’re attending for fun, for networking purposes or a combination of both, you looked forward to meeting new people. But COVID-19 changed that. Just like everything else about the holidays this year, the traditional holiday gatherings will likely be a thing of the past.

However, it doesn’t mean you can’t still expand your networks over the holidays. You just need to be flexible, adaptable and a little more creative.

Before you cringe at the word “creative,” think of it like this: WHAT do you want to share in your networking, and HOW will you do it in today’s world?

Let’s break it down, first focusing on WHAT you want to share. What are your greatest strengths and passions? How would you describe yourself to someone in a way that they will remember you?

The truth is there are few people who are self-aware enough about their strengths, passions and interests that they can share them succinctly enough to engage with others. So, we’re helping you out. We’re giving you the Personal Branding Statement Template. (Take our online personal branding statement course.)

The Personal Branding Statement is a two-sentence statement you create that introduces you to someone in a very quick and powerful way. Here’s the template:

I am a (talent), (talent) and (talent) person who loves (passion), (passion) and (passion). As a (identity) and (identity), I (verb), (verb) and (verb) to/for (what matters to you).

Here’s how it could look in the real-world:

I am a creative, dynamic and result-oriented person who loves to inspire people to discover, develop and live what is great in them. As a process-minded educator, I build easy to use tools to help people succeed in work and life.

I am a detail-oriented, logical and curious person who loves to solve problems and challenges to improve results. As an avid team player and athlete, I work as I train – to win, to succeed and be the best.

I am an analytical, logical and clever person who loves to make the complicated simple. As an action-oriented science nerd, I translate big science into practical and usable information for all.

Congratulations. You’ve just discovered an effective way to share critical information about yourself in a succinct and unforgettable way. And a bonus: you increased your self-awareness to uncover that information.

Now that you have clarity about your greatest passions and strengths – and HOW they can be used in today’s world – it’s time to explore HOW to share that information when traditional networking events aren’t an option. Here are 3 ideas you can try:

  1. Host recurring [holiday] Zoom chats. Schedule weekly Zoom calls with 3 of your friends and have each of them bring one friend to each Zoom call. Base it on shared interests, hobbies, similar work roles, people looking for work, etc. Or, consider bringing someone from a different cohort (Boomer, GenX, Millennial, Gen Z). Introduce each other and why you had them come to the Zoom call. Share your branding statements to get conversations started. Share contact information and encourage more conversations outside of the initial call.
    For an organization, organize holiday Zoom chats with 3 to 6 employees who don’t work together. Whether they’re at different levels, in different departments or different countries doing the same work on different teams, use this as an opportunity to network within the company. If appropriate, add the “bring a friend” component as a means to attract other talent to the company.
  2. Host a weekly holiday background Zoom call. Use the opportunity to invite different friends each week where you catch up, talk about the holiday and have a holiday background competition on each call (could this become the new ugly sweater contest?). Share your branding statements to get conversations started and talk about how their background aligns to who they are.
  3. Holiday masks. Host an event that is set up to encourage social distancing with 6 feet between chairs and in a room large enough for everyone to keep their space. Make a requirement that attendees wear a mask that is indicative of their work or a hobby. Spend time guessing information about each person based on their mask. An alternate version of the mask networking idea: host a holiday mask event where the mask represents what they feel or celebrate about the holiday. Whatever the angle, the mask serves as a discussion point to get conversations started about individual passions and areas of greatest interests.

Take Action
Think of holiday networking as the WHAT and the HOW. Get better acquainted with yourself to be able to complete and deliver a couple versions of your branding statement. It gives others a brief introduction to you and encourages conversation.

Then rethink HOW to connect with people over this holiday. Be creative. Be adaptable. But continue to be safe. In these moments, you will meet some cool people who can help you both personally and professionally as we all learn how to be successful and happy in our changing world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Great Job Candidates Won’t Wait

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The Coaching Manager is the Key to a Successful Workplace Recovery

Some of your employees may still be working from home. Some may be back on-site, full or part-time. This unusual workforce mix creates a challenge for most workplaces and managers: how do you manage a hybrid team that still provides a dynamic employee experience and activates employee engagement?

At the center of this unusual moment is the Coaching Manager. Managers and coaching managers both focus on getting things done, but how they get it done makes all the difference.

Conventional managers focus on results and tasks instead of on the person completing them. This disengages your people and misses out on their expanded ideas, contribution and loyalty.

Coaching Managers (also known as Workplace Coaches) focus on relationships as the means to amplify self-belief, abilities and confidence as the means to performance. This builds a sustainable rapport and connection with their people to be able to gather information about what they may be dealing with as it relates to COVID-19. This information is critical to improve the quality of management’s response.

Relationships done well inspire your people to respond, perform and stay. Relationships done poorly encourage your people to use their time to search out new employment opportunities with organizations that celebrate, care about and support their people.

Here are three things coaching managers do well that activate performance and retention:

1. They build trust. As a certified coach, I know I can’t make any progress with a client if I have not first created an environment of trust. I do this by taking the time to get to know the other person, listen generously, support caringly and keep information confidential. Coaches understand people as people – what matters to them, what they struggle with, what success is for them. They listen to what is meant, not just what is said. They remember important details. They ask powerful questions. They care openly. This level of understanding and interest encourages a trusting relationship. Trust facilitates communication.

2. They personalize the contact. Coaches use a variety of skills and tools to understand each person as a thinking, caring and feeling person, who, when helped to feel valuable and important for who they are, respond by bringing their best to what they do. Expressing interest in the lives of your people is critical, particularly at this moment when so much of their days may be spent in anxiety or worry. Knowing what each person is dealing with creates the ability to better decide how to help them deal with it. They want you to know their name, their current situation, their worries and challenges, their strengths and abilities. They want to know you care and are available. Seeing your people as the means to results instead of people dealing with a pandemic will alienate them and send them looking for an organization with managers who think and act like coaches.

3. They guide and support instead of direct and control. One of the ways to encourage self-esteem, confidence and a greater sense of contribution is to help employees own their solutions and performance. Guiding and supporting encourages employees to tap into and use their abilities which activates their self-belief. Directing and controlling limits the employee’s thinking as they only see their ability to perform a task, not to own it or improve it. At this moment, we all need help feeling important, having purpose and making a difference. These feelings counterbalance the challenging negative feelings brought on by the pandemic.

Coach your people to encourage their connection to value, purpose and contribution. Coach them to help them feel heard and respected. Address these and you help employees feel safe and important in their workplace.

Your best talent wants to feel heard, valued, important, supported and cared for. Who wouldn’t when so much of the world seems out of balance? By doing this in the workplace, you not only help your employees stay connected, but you help them see that they are resilient and strong enough to be successful at home and at work – even during a pandemic. Coach them to keep them.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right For Your Business

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Review, Rethink, Respond: How to Reinvent Your Post-COVID-19 Business and Workplace

So many people have been saying they just want things to return to where they were pre-COVID-19.

Here’s a reality check for you: it’s not going to happen. So many things have changed in the last few months that the ability to return to “normal” has expired.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to settle for how things are right now. Instead, senior leaders and employees can use this global reset as an opportunity to develop a stronger, wiser and better organization. The approach can best be delivered through the three words I learned from my family each New Year’s Day: Review, Rethink, Respond.

In my big Italian family, New Year’s Day was a day of celebration. After an always remarkable dinner, my dad (an engineer) would have us take out pads of paper, pens and start the process of getting our New Year’s resolutions ready so we would make the most of our new year. We would first be instructed to Review – to look at the year that just ended. What did it tell you? What did you learn from it? What worked and what didn’t work about it? With greater clarity about where we were at that moment, we were instructed to look to the future – to Rethink. We were reminded that a new year is a blank canvas, an opportunity to invent or Rethink what we want to have happen. It could be to do more of what worked over the past year, or to address and improve the things that didn’t work. When we were clear of where we were and what we wanted, Respond was the last step – to build a plan to close the gap between where we were and what we wanted so we could have a clear direction to work on achieving our goals.

This was our habit, so I guess it is no surprise that as a certified coach, I use this approach with all of my clients. This 3-word approach can also help any organization wisely and successfully land on its feet, post-COVID-19. Here is what I have been sharing in my Vistage program, Engaging and Retaining Talent in Crises and Beyond.

Review. At the start of the year, everyone was actively advancing progress on the 2020 strategy, marching up what I call “Hill A.” We kept our nose down and worked diligently to get to the top of the hill. Then COVID-19 struck and tumbled most of us off our hill. Now at the bottom of the hill, we have the urge to start racing back to where we were.

But this is truly an interruption. And with interruptions, they force us to stop. Consider using this unsolicited stop to Review where you were and where you were headed. Stop and notice what worked and didn’t work with Hill A. Some things were going well, but there were many things that were not. This moment to stop actually gives you the opportunity to develop an inventory of what belongs and doesn’t belong in the future version of your business and workforce. What was working and not working in your leadership, workforce, employee engagement, customers, suppliers, results? Take a moment to take inventory and know what is true for you.

Rethink. The COVID-19 interruption to work and life has given us the opportunity to realize that though we were racing up Hill A, Hills B, C, D and E are all other options, other opportunities, that we may have otherwise missed. So, even though Hill A is an option, don’t run back to where you were until you Rethink what else is possible that may not have been a few short months ago.

Consider these questions:

  • Based on how COVID-19 has affected you and your business, what new directions, opportunities and options are now available – whether by choice or by mandate?
  • What do you now know and consider about how and where work in your organization could be done?
  • What do you now know and consider to keep your employee and stakeholders engaged, safe, performing and loyal?

Create scenarios of what your business could look like, calling them Hills B, C, D and E. What if you started offering a service or product that was never part of your sales mix before – this is Hill B. For each Hill or business scenario you create, ask, how should work be done that will provide the service response you commit to that also accommodates the safety and needs of your employees? In each Hill or business scenario, you may need your workforce to deliver work in a different way – remote, not remote, remote but not at home. Whatever you consider, you will need to assess how you will be effective at managing and coaching them, what new software may be needed, how to deal with the office space (changes or elimination).

Use what worked and didn’t work about Hill A (because you took the time to Review) to determine what belongs and doesn’t belong in any of your future scenarios. After all, the reason for building scenarios instead of defining one path forward is that we don’t know where things are headed. Having a variety of options – of things that you have been Rethinking – can help you move faster once the post-COVID-19 world becomes clearer.

Respond. Up until a few months ago, I think most people would see the Respond portion of the 3-word approach as creating an action plan to achieve the specific goals for the new year. But as COVID-19 has shown, our world is always changing and life is, as a result, always uncertain. So, instead, Respond means gathering information and details in each of the future scenarios (Hills B, C, D and E) to start to understand each – the cost, the benefit, the changes, the impact – so each scenario can be wisely assessed at some point in the future against the other scenarios.

Put it into Practice
Review the business. Rethink the future business scenarios. Respond by building out the business scenarios, and for each scenario, Rethink what your workforce will need to look like to make that scenario successful (how the work will be done). Then Rethink how you will engage and retain that workforce since talent is still the driver of all performance. Once these details are defined, Respond by gathering information about cost, benefit and impact to be able to have a logical, mindful and process-driven approach to landing on your feet, post COVID. Be aware of your – and your team’s – urge to race back up Hill A. Don’t miss the opportunity the interruption of COVID-19 gave you to Review where you were, Rethink where you could be, and Respond with intention to become a better organization, employer, supplier, industry leader than you were before. Tough times make many of us want to retreat to the normal and the comfortable. But if you can fight that feeling, tough times also give us an opportunity to ask the question, what could make us better?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Your Workforce Approach Should be Based on What You Deliver to Customers, Not Just What Employees Want

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This article originally appeared on Vistage‘s Entrepreneurs and Small Business Network. Membership is required to see the post on the Vistage site.

Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

The grumpy customer made you grumpy. The impatient driver activated your short fuse. The enthusiastic employee made you smile. The supportive manager inspired greater team camaraderie.

How others act affects how you act. It is called emotional contagion. Emotion contagion can be positive and inspiring, or it can be negative and demotivating. It all depends on how you show up to a situation and how you decide to respond instead of react. This has particular importance for leaders and managers within an organization.

Leaders set not only the strategic direction of the organization, but how they show up to their interactions, challenges, successes and opportunities influences how they engage or disengage an entire organization.

Think about a time when you encountered a disappointment, frustration or aggravation. How did you handle it? Did you ensure everyone around you knew you were frustrated or aggravated? Or, did you take a breath, manage your emotions and stay clear, focused and intentional about your direction? What was the impact on others of your choice?

Now think about a time when your boss encountered a disappointment, frustration or aggravation. How did they handle it? Did they make a point of sharing how frustrated and aggravated they were? Or did they handle it calmly, wisely and intentionally? Again, what was the impact on others because of their choice?

When we let the challenges and aggravations of work and life get under our skin, we absorb the negative energy and share it without thinking. If we are upset, others know it. And the more leaders share it, the more they can take an upbeat and productive organization, disengage the employees and quickly send them running to other organizations where leaders have learned to manage their emotions.

Here is some good news: the same happens with positive emotions. Approach your day with gratitude, patience, resilience and optimism and you will spread it. The more you feel these positive emotions, the better your days are and the more you can counteract the negative emotions from others. Think of it as a forcefield that encourages confidence, enthusiasm and positivity.

Being able to call on these positive emotions when things (and people) around you are challenging requires you to have a daily practice of building positive energy. Reading, listening to or playing music, taking a walk, enjoying nature, spending time with those you love and care about are all ways for you to develop a successful distraction from the negative energy and people, and to remind you that there is always more good around you than bad; you may just have to work harder to see it. It is up to you to build your toolbox – the things that help you stay upbeat, calm and optimistic, regardless of the challenges, noise and nasty people around. These situations and others’ behaviors are about them, not you.

Make it your choice who and how you want to be. Building a practice of self-management and resilience through gratitude, optimism and care builds a positive forcefield that negativity cannot pierce.

Take Action
At the beginning of each day, identify 3 things that will make your day great. Do the same thing at the end of the day; identify 3 things that made your day great. Focus on being positive, optimistic and engaged. Identify when you brought negative energy to your workplace or life – and why. Be on the lookout for other times that will take you down and build your positive focus to meet them head on.

When you have a successful optimism and gratitude practice, it is easier and more successful to handle whatever life sends. From this place, you send off a greater, happier energy that can then ripple through your workplace or home. You encourage more positive emotions and actions in others, instead of allowing their negativity and pessimism to influence you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right for Your Business

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