Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to Rapidly Resolve Crises in Your Business

Guest post from Nat Greene:

You can probably remember a dozen times just like this: you’re at the head of a conference table with a haggard, tired team sitting about you. They’re anxious, but eager to take action. You’ve assembled them because a new crisis has arisen in the business: it might be a risk to your best customer, a production shutdown, or a new product release gone terribly awry.

All eyes are locked on you to lead them. What’s your first step?

In my experience, most leaders in this situation begin soliciting ideas from their team on how to resolve the crisis. This is certainly a better step than many take, which is to try to play the hero and dictate what ideas will be implemented. And it’s a very natural reaction: in the middle of a crisis, most people want action, and they want it now. Every minute spent sitting around talking is another minute that the crisis continues and the fortunes of the business decline. And nobody wants a long, drawn-out meeting where no action comes forth.

But this approach of soliciting ideas has a fatal flaw: all of these “ideas” are in fact guesses. You’ve assembled smart, experienced people in the room, and their experience can fool us into believing that one or more of their guesses is likely to be an effective solution to the crisis. And guessing can resolve some easy problems. However, truly difficult crises are caused by hard problems. Guesses, even by experienced people in the business, are unlikely to come up with the winning solution.

To solve the hard problem at the root of your crisis, you need to take a different approach. It involves a strategic sort of patience. You need to do the work to understand the root cause behind your crisis in order to solve it effectively. To find the root cause, you need to stop guessing and use a different set of behaviors.

Know what problem you’re solving. Most crisis response efforts attempt to solve the problem without having defined it well in the first place. Often, problem definitions contain assumptions about the cause of the problem, causing your team to work on the wrong problem altogether. “Our supplier is sending us low quality materials,” or “our core assets are too old” are both problem definitions that assume you already know what’s wrong. Take a step back and define the problem based on what you can observe directly.

Smell the problem. Your first step during the crisis shouldn’t be to try implementing a guessed solution; it should be quickly getting out of the conference room and getting close to the problem to understand it. Pull up data that describes the pattern of the problem, or go to the site of the problem and get familiar with it. If you have unhappy customers, listen in depth to what they’re saying. If you have a supply chain problem, go to the site and record in detail what’s going on.

Stay on target. As you explore the problem, seek to quickly eliminate possible culprits. Investigate it like Sherlock Holmes: instead of trying to confirm a hunch about a suspect, look for evidence that eliminates the possibility that a suspect is the criminal. When you have eliminated all suspects but one, you’ve found your culprit. This relentlessness to eliminate possible root causes will quickly move you towards the true root cause.

When you’ve found the root cause to your crisis, the most effective and efficient solution will become readily apparent. You’ll be able to implement it with greater speed, confidence, and consensus than if you were trying out the best idea that bubbled up in your conference room. To rapidly resolve the crisis in your business, focus your resources on understanding the problem, rather than wasting them trying out guesses that may or may not work.

Learn what skills your team brings to the table in crisis resolution with our free online quiz.

Nathaniel Greene is the co-founder and current CEO of Stroud International, and author of Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem-Solvers. Nat has a Masters of Engineering from Oxford University and studied design, manufacturing and management at Cambridge University, in addition to executive education coursework in Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management program.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How to Create a Rising Tide of Talent Within Your Organization

Guest post from Scott Wintrip:

Great leaders lift up the people around them. They help employees harness their natural abilities, guide the development of their skills, and support them along an internal career path. Nurturing your organization’s team members has many payoffs. Staff member stay dedicated to the company and its mission; employee retention remains high; and in time, the organization gains its next generation of leaders.

Unfortunately, the persistent talent shortage across the globe is undermining these efforts. There continue to be more jobs than qualified people to fill them. Further, this talent shortage is delaying promotions, which keeps people stuck in their current jobs because they’re the only ones who can do that job. Even when there’s a career path for them, talented employees can’t advance in their own company; they can’t step up because there’s simply no one available to take their place.

You can solve this problem by creating a rising tide of talent available to your organization. Instead of focusing on succession plans that fail for lack of qualified successors, developing a continuous influx of top talent expedites advancement and elevates careers at all levels in your organization.

How can you create a rising tide of talent? By ensuring your organization maintains a wealth of quality people.
Determining Your Current Talent Wealth

Talented employees who do outstanding work are the secret ingredients that make a company great. Sustaining a full complement of good employees fuels succession plans and helps you maintain a competitive advantage.

Just as there are levels of personal wealth, so too are there levels of talent wealth within all companies. The departments in your organization are either talent rich, talent poor, or hover somewhere in between. Understanding your current level of talent wealth is important. Read the following descriptions and share them with your organization’s department heads and HR. Work together to determine which description best describes the current ranking of each department.

1. Talent Rich Departments
Talent rich departments employ mostly above average people, many of who are top talent in their fields of expertise. These people consistently do high quality work, often exceeding expectations and beating deadlines. Numerous advancement opportunities are almost always filled from within, creating new job opportunities. These jobs are filled quickly from a pipeline filled with high quality job candidates.

2. Talent Strong Departments
Talent strong departments employ people who are at least average at what they do. Some of these employees are top talent in their fields of expertise. They do quality work that meets expectations and deadlines. Advancement opportunities are frequently filled from within, creating new job opportunities. Some open jobs are filled quickly from a pipeline of talent. Other jobs take longer to fill, delaying promotions until new employees are found.

3. Talent Stable Departments
Talent stable departments have a mixture of average and below average performers. Just a few, if any, employees would be designated as top talent. The performance of these employees is typically adequate, although they can struggle to meet expectations and deadlines. Advancement opportunities, when they occur, are sometimes filled from within. When jobs become open, it usually takes days to fill some of them, weeks or months to fill the rest. Promotions are often delayed or even cancelled when backfilling a role takes too long.

4. Talent Poor Departments
Talent poor departments employ a significant number of below average performers, along with a handful of people who could be considered average in their roles. Rarely is there anyone on the team who could be considered top talent. Job performance is usually mediocre at best. Deadlines are often missed and expectations are rarely exceeded. Advancement opportunities are rare, prompting people to leave for other positions. When jobs open, it takes weeks or months to fill them.

Shaping the Future of Your Organization’s Talent

Talent rich businesses thrive while others struggle. Make maintaining high talent wealth throughout your company a top priority to ensure its success. Require that each department improve their ranking (or maintain their talent rich level if that’s already been achieved). Support department heads in filling open jobs and replacing subpar performers with quality hires. Work together with each department to set a goal and a deadline for this improvement, such as raising their current ranking one level or more by the end of the next business quarter. If you need help drawing in quality job candidates and conducting an efficient hiring process, my new book will show you how.

The flow of talent in your organization will determine its future, lifting careers or sinking them, including your own. Hire exceptional people. Help them to be the best versions of themselves. Offer them a path that elevates their careers and yours. Build and maintain a wealth of talent that makes your organization an unstoppable force in the marketplace.

Scott Wintrip has changed how thousands of companies across the globe find and select employees, helping design and implement a process to hire top talent in less than an hour. He is the author of the bestselling new book High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant (McGraw-Hill, April 2017). Over the past 18 years, he built the Wintrip Consulting Group, a thriving global consultancy. For five consecutive years, Staffing Industry Analysts, a Crain Communications company, awarded Scott a place on the “Staffing 100,” a list of the world’s 100 most influential leaders. He’s also a member of the Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame and was recently inducted into the Staffing 100 Hall of Fame.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Playing by the Brain’s Rules to Make Communications Stick

Guest post from Tim Pollard:

Despite the fact that the stakes of business communications are often high, it’s sad reality that most are really not very good.  Survey after survey reveals that only about one quarter of internal business presentations are rated as good or better by their audiences, while 75 percent languish as mediocre, poor, or terrible.

And for those critical sales presentations that companies make to customers, the score is no better. Data we’ve gathered shows that while companies self-assess the quality of their solutions on average at 8.1 out of 10 (where 10 is excellent), those same companies self-assess the quality of their solutions messaging at only 3.9/10. It’s little short of tragic to battle to finally get that elusive customer meeting, only to deliver a 3.9/10 presentation.

Which raises a fascinating question. Given that communication is such a high-stakes affair, why are we so poor?

We have all been subjected to some mind-numbing PowerPoint deck where the speaker toiled through an endless series of slides, and in our gut we know that this can’t be the right way to do it. But while it’s tempting to simply blame PowerPoint, that is missing the point completely. The real problem is far more interesting than the poor use of a software tool. It’s all about the poor use of an audience’s brain.

Here’s the real problem: the human brain is wired in very particular ways in how it wants and needs to take in information. When communication aligns with how the brain wants to consume information, incredible, breakthrough effectiveness is possible. But when you misalign with the brain, you are guaranteed to fail. It is certainly true that dense, excessive, poorly sequenced PowerPoint slides are doomed to fail, but the reason is how badly that approach misaligns with the way the brain works. The key isn’t prettier slides. The key is understanding what the brain really wants.

For example, at a cocktail party you are introduced to a random stranger. Three minutes later you’ve completely forgotten his name.  The reason this happens tells us something critical about how the brain stores information.

The brain stores information contextually. When presented with new information the brain looks for context – for something to attach that information to. If it can find it, the information can be stored. But if no context is found, it can’t be stored. We call information like this an “intellectual orphan.”

Why does this matter to communicators? When you create any argument that simply moves from point to point – “That was point 3, let’s look at point 4” – but where there’s no logical flow BETWEEN those points, you are presenting intellectual orphans and your argument is destined to be forgotten within minutes.  And it’s what most presenters do most of the time.

So what’s the solution to this particular problem? You need to take the substance of the argument and create a logical sequential narrative, because sequence creates the context that the brain needs.  When you read a book, chapter 6 makes perfect sense because of chapter 5. But if you read the chapters out of sequence it won’t make any sense at all, even though it’s exactly the same content. It’s the context that creates comprehension.

This is just one example of the relationship between brain wiring and communication, and it’s the reason why most people communicate badly - because they have no idea what the brain’s rules are.

Based on 15 years work and research, I’ve identified six critical brain violations that show up in almost all communication, and a six-step process for message design that solves for these. And when communication is built using this model, whether it’s a sales pitch, a TED talk or a CEO message to the troops, impact and effectiveness skyrocket. (One client saw a sales conversion rate for one solution jump from 15% to about 90%, simply because they finally learned how to tell this complex story in a much simpler way.)

So, in the spirit of giving you a really valuable and practical takeaway, let me share the biggest lesson, and the most valuable thing you will ever learn about the way your audience’s brain works.

Your brain and mine operate at the level of ideas. If you were to sit through a long presentation, even a great one, and afterwards, I asked you “what was that all about?”… automatically, without even knowing you were doing it, you would reduce that hour to one or two big ideas. It’s how our brains work. They are reductionist. They traffic in ideas. They do NOT traffic at the level of facts and data (especially lots of fact and data).

Do you immediately see the problem? The overwhelming majority of communicators take an approach that is thoroughly at odds with this reality. We bombard our audiences with as much fact and data as we can, usually thinking that we are making the best case we can, when in fact we are likely making the worst.

In the famous OJ Simpson trial of 1993, the prosecution presented a mind-numbing seven months’ worth of fact and data. And yet, history clearly suggests that this was all undone by ONE simple idea of eight words…. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”… and the fact that most of you reading immediately recognized the phrase (even after a quarter of a century) is huge testimony to the incredible brain-stickiness of an idea.

In almost any presentation I see, the big ideas are murky at best, or completely hidden at worst. Indeed, in most “decks” you can’t find the ideas at all. Next time you are building any communication, go and apply this principle by asking this question: “What are my 2-3 big ideas?” Then build around them. Make them clear, prove them with your best data, not the most data you can, and strip away everything else that’s secondary.

And watch what happens.

Tim Pollard, author of The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design (Conder House Press, 2016), is the founder and CEO of Oratium, a communications firm helping organizations from Fortune 500 companies to law offices hone their presentation and messaging skills.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Three Negotiation Keys to Leadership Success

Guest post from Corey Kupfer:

There are three keys to true negotiating success.  If you master these three keys, not only will you have much more success in negotiating but you will be able to apply them to be a more effective leader.  The three keys are Clarity, Detachment and Equilibrium (CDE) and they are the fundamental framework of Authentic Negotiating.
Clarity: Authentic negotiators know what will and won’t work for them on every significant term and what their true bottom line is – from a place of clarity, not ego.  In addition to doing the external preparation, there is a body of internal work that great negotiators do to get aligned and clear on their true objectives.

Detachment: Authentic negotiators can walk away from a negotiation with no hesitation – not from a place of anger or upset, but from a place of detachment with no judgment or hard feelings.  They have a preference that the deal gets done or they wouldn’t be taking the time to negotiate but they understand that the only thing worse than not getting a deal done is doing a bad deal and they trust that – whatever the outcomes – it’s for the best.

Equilibrium: Authentic negotiators don’t let emotions dictate their actions, instead they maintain equilibrium during the heat of tough negotiation to stay present and preserve their clarity and detachment.  They develop the tools and practices that support them in not getting triggered or thrown off even during heated negotiations or in the face of manipulative tactics.
As you can see, authentic negotiating is a very different approach to negotiating.  Unlike a lot of negotiating training which focuses on tactics and countertactics (which are often manipulative and ineffective and, even when good, do not get to the core of true negotiating success), authentic negotiating focuses on the deep inner work that you need to do to become a great negotiator.  It is only after doing that deep inner work that you then design an effective negotiating strategy which comes from the place of CDE.

So how does becoming an authentic negotiator relate to your leadership success?  As illustrated above, great negotiating – like great leadership – is a “state of being,” not a skill, and it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.  It’s like the difference between having a position of leadership and being a true leader. You may have authority, but you’re not a true leader because of any position or authority.  A true leader has people who are willing and excited to follow him or her; if you’re just giving people orders, you are not actually leading them. So, if position or authority don’t equal leadership, what does? What makes leadership is the person: who he or she is and what I call his or her state of being.  Attaining that state of being requires internal work like self-awareness, being aligned, listening, connecting to internal truth and communicating effectively.
It’s the same thing in negotiating. What we’re talking about here is who you are when you come into that negotiating room—who you are being? If you are being a person who is clear, calm, collected, who doesn’t let your emotions adversely impact you, and if you’re detached from the outcome, then you will be successful. If you have all kinds of techniques, tactics and counter-tactics ready to go, but your state of being is in fear, scarcity, upset, anger, rigidity—whatever it is—then you are not going to be successful, no matter how many techniques you learn.  The same is true in leadership.  You can learn various leadership techniques and tactics but the people you are attempting to lead know whether you are authentic.  They know whether you have clarity on your vision, objectives and strategy.  They know if you can be detached so that you are flexible enough to be willing to change course if something is not working.  They know if you stay calm and centered in challenging times or if you lose your equilibrium.

So, learn to attain and maintain CDE and become a great negotiator and a much better leader!
About the Author:
Corey Kupfer has negotiated successful deals for over 30 years as an entrepreneur and lawyer, and is committed to inspiring authenticity in business. Kupfer runs his own firm, Kupfer & Associates, PLLC, and founded a speaking, training and consulting company called Authentic Enterprises, LLC. He’s the author of the best-selling book, Authentic Negotiating:  Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium The Three Keys to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them .

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Leadership Tips from Mankind’s Best Friend, the Dog

Guest post from Dr. Garry McDaniel:

For over three decades, the Gallup organization has been conducting surveys to illuminate the role leader’s play in creating a workforce of engaged employees to organizational leadership. While this is admirable, it is even more impressive to note that for over fifteen thousand years, dogs have been humankind’s constant companion and an observer of our progress from the epochs of hunter-gatherer, agriculturalist, industrialism, to the current knowledge era.  Since dogs have been our close companions for so many millennia, let’s consider what advice they might give us to serve as more effective leaders.
1.    Demonstrate loyalty.  When we ask dog owners what they like about dogs, one of the first qualities they identify is that dogs are unfailingly loyal. Dogs bond with their families and stick with them through thick and thin. Loyalty is also of key importance to leaders and organizational success. In fact, the mark of an effective leader is the ability to influence others to accomplish worthy goals; this requires loyalty to the desired outcome.  Tip from Fido: Don’t gossip about others who are not present and treat all employees fairly and with respect.  

2.    Maintain a positive attitude. Dogs are just about the most positive creature on Earth. My dog Panda views every outing as an opportunity to explore the world. An effective leader is definitely more of the ‘glass half full’ instead of the ‘glass half empty’ kind of person who projects a sincere positive attitude that others find contagious and inspiring. Tip from Fido: Starting tomorrow, begin each day or meeting not by bemoaning what went wrong, but by recognizing what is working well and for what you are grateful. 

3.    Communicate clearly.  A friend observed that dogs have ‘crystal hearts.’ By this, he meant that dogs communicate clearly and without guile; what you see is what you get. Humans, on the other hand, often intentionally say one thing and mean something else. Effective leaders communicate clearly and ensure that the message is offered in the right tone, through the most effective medium, and is received accurately. Tip from Fido: Don’t wag your tail as you growl, and don’t whimper when you need to bark. Say what you mean; don’t obfuscate your message intentionally deceive and mislead. Ensure there are clear channels for accurate communication up and down the chain of command.  

4.    Be playful. One of the qualities we admire most in our dogs is their unconcealed joy in engaging with us in play. Whether it is going for a walk, throwing a ball, playing tug-of-war, swimming, or jogging, our dogs love playing with us. Research is clear that happy, playful work environments are more productive than those that are drab and dreary. Employees respond far better to the carrot than the stick. Tip from Fido: Encourage creative, playful problem-solving and brainstorming.  Actively support employee play in the form of bowling, softball, fun runs, ping pong, dress-up days, and other fun events that foster connection and engagement. 

5.    Be forgiving. Step on your dog’s tail and they will yelp, but forgive you immediately. Is that true in your workplace? When someone feels slighted (whether real or imagined) does the resulting animosity fester and destroy productivity, communication, and efficiency? Good leaders ‘get over it’ and recognize that people- themselves included- make mistakes. Tip from Fido: Recognize that no one is perfect; learn from and forgive mistakes. Be humble and apologize when you are wrong and accept apologies from others.

6.    Love what you do. Unconditional love; it is the hallmark of what makes a dog humankind’s best friend. Race, creed, color, sexual preference, religion, body type, and age don’t matter to your dog; they still love being with you. Effective leaders demonstrate clear passion for what they do and appreciate the passion and success of others. Tips from Fido: Pay attention, reward and recognize the achievements of others. Let them know both publically and privately what they did and how much you value their contribution. Demonstrate an honest appreciation for diversity in everything you do. 

7.    Live a balanced life. Dogs seem particularly adept at living a balanced life. Panda appears to have a wonderful sense for knowing when to transition between sleeping, playing, eating, or just engaging with other dogs and people.  Our culture tends to demand that we focus on ‘getting results’ at the expense of all other aspects of our lives. Great leaders recognize that ‘results’ are important, but how one attains those results is vital to long term creativity, productivity, and effectiveness. Tip from Fido: Reflect on how you are spending your time; set aside adequate time for family, friends, your own personal health, professional and spiritual growth?  Intervene when you notice a well intentioned employee is burning themselves out trying to contribute to the organization. 

You may have seen the magic trick called the Chinese Locking Rings in which a magician holds up several separate rings and then ‘magically’ appears to link them all together. Our dogs would remind us that truly effective leaders recognize that the seven qualities discussed above may appear separate, but in reality, they are all highly interconnected. Separately, each has value; together they define the difference between mediocre and outstanding leadership. Perhaps dogs know us better than Gallup! 
Garry McDaniel and Sharon Massen are professors at Franklin University and speak nationally on what individuals and organizations can learn from dogs about leadership, team building, and customer service. Their latest book is, The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness: Seven Secrets for a Better Life from Man’s Best Friend. Garry and Sharon invite you to contribute stories about what you have learned from your dog that has positively enhanced your view on personal, family or professional relationships. Please send your stories or insights to Garry and Sharon at or by calling 614-657-8524.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Leader’s First Step to Effective Influence

Guest post from Dan Mann

Leadership is about one thing: influencing adult behavior. Ironically, that’s one of the most difficult human actions to accomplish.

In our positions as leaders—whether that’s as a manager, owner, coach or something less traditional—our daily task is to influence the decisions of those under our charge. We’re tasked with the job of bending their wills and actions to the benefit of the greater good of our business or cause. But adults are free-thinking, strong-willed beings. Unlike children, their minds aren’t malleable sponges, and these old dogs are often reluctant to learn new tricks.

That’s not to say that it can’t be done. I’ve spent the past 30 years in leadership roles and, over the past [decade?], in leadership development through the Mann Group. Through my courses like Mann U, I’ve helped some of the country’s largest specialty retailers and manufacturers run well and, most importantly, lead well.

These “students” I get to mentor are the best of the best when it comes to leadership, and yet, they’re not perfect. They all site troublesome employees who just don’t listen and share stories of how changing their actions was often seemingly impossible. Over the years, their notes prompted me to look more closely into how exactly adult behavior change works.

As it turns out, the steps to influence are not some complex algorithm, but just straightforward, intentional movements.

The first step in influence, for example, is simple: establish context.

What does that mean? It means that in order to influence others, you need to start with yourself. Ask yourself this elementary questions: what’s your cause?

Before you begin to train anyone else, you need to be very clear on what it is you’re trying to establish in them and why. This doesn’t have to be some grand vision or life plan (although it certainly can be); it just needs to make sense to you, so it can make sense to the people you’re influencing. Once you have a clear vision of your intention, it’s possible to share it with others and to translate into a language they can understand. It’s impractical and actually impossible to influence the behavior of others if you’re not direct in your intention; you get distracted and a clear message is hidden behind other ideas. But when you approach influence with a clear and concise objective, you can package it into digestible bites for your employees or “students.”

So once you’ve established your own cause, you can build context for your trainee. And this is where those stubborn wills come into play.

When you’re trying to influence someone, their initial reaction will differ inherently from that of a child because they won’t just take what you say at face value. In fact, they may not want to listen at all; they could be distracted or purely argumentative.

As adults, their gut reaction will be to question the influence you’re trying to sway over them. Understand that questions like “ What are we working on?” “Why are we working on it?” “How long will this take?” and “What’s in it for me?” will inevitably be circulating through their minds. Whether they speak them out loud or not, your students are asking them, and failing to address them is fatal to effectively changing their behavior long term. 

That’s why being so clear in your cause is integral to effective influence. Because you’ve already established your objective internally, you can effectively address each of these questions. When you’re clear in your own objectives, it’s easy to persuade your students of the validity of your cause.

Answering these questions—like what they’re doing and why—doesn’t just convince your student that it’s worthwhile, which immediately changes their perspective and gains their attention. It also establishes trust, which is the trademark of long-term influence. You’re no longer a monarch demanding attention from your subjects; you’ve set yourself on equal footing, and your student is more likely to respect and incorporate your ideas into his own objectives.

At the outset of your training, establish what you’re doing, why you’re there, how long it will take and what your student will gain. Be clear in your cause so they can be too. Once you’ve prepped them for the benefits of the training about to take place, actual influence can occur.

About the author:
Influencing adult behavior is perfectly possible, you just have to understand how. Dan Mann is a 30 year veteran of leadership and leadership training. His new book, ORBiT: The Art & Science of Influence, offers a six-step system for influencing adult behavior. To learn the five steps that follow “Establish Context,” visit to pick up your copy of Dan’s new book.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Managing Distraction in the Digital Era

Guest post from Amy Blankson:
In 2013, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that the average attention span of a human has dropped to a mere eight seconds, one second behind that of a goldfish. Why does this matter? Distraction in the digital era has become an epidemic, robbing us of our focus, decreasing our productivity and hindering our overall life satisfaction. Our jobs today are “interrupt-driven,” with distractions not just a plague on our work—sometimes they can mean the difference between success and failure.

According to Cyrus Foroughi, a doctoral student at George Mason University one minute of distraction is more than enough to wipe your short-term memory. An interruption as short as 2.8 seconds (the length of time it takes to read a short text message) can double error rates on simple sequencing tasks and a 4.4 second interruption can triple error rates.  Linda Stone, a software executive who has worked for both Apple and Microsoft, explains that we are so busy keeping tabs on everything that we never focus on anything, a phenomenon she calls “continuous partial attention.”
Instead, messages undiscerningly bombard us, with the senders rationalizing that we can choose when and where to open a message. A recent survey of smartphone users found that:

As New York Times Magazine’s Clive Thompson writes, “Information is no longer a scarce resource—attention is.” In this Digital Era where work/home/play are blended together, we may not always have a choice about our work schedules or our work priorities; however, there are powerful things that we can do to regain a sense of control about our happiness at work.

5 Happy Hacks to Get You Started:
1.    Unplug strategically. In the Digital Era, most employers expect employees to be plugged in via email, phone, text, instant message, or all the above. This constant barrage of communication can be incredibly frustrating, if not counterproductive. While completely unplugging from email or phone may not be realistic in today’s working world, stepping away from technology, even briefly, can increase your focus, which leads to a 57 percent increase in more effective collaboration, an 88 percent increase in learning effectiveness, and a 42 percent increase in socializing effectiveness. If you can’t step away from technology completely during work, consider limiting how often you check email.  A recent study found that individuals who limited their frequency of checking email to three times a day experienced significantly lower daily stress, which in turn predicted higher well-being on a diverse range of well-being outcomes.

2.    Know your stats. The average person checks his phone 150 times every day. If every distraction took only one minute (a seriously optimistic estimate), that would account for 2.5 hours of distraction every day. That’s 912.5 hours a year, or roughly thirty-eight days each year. Knowing your stats increases your awareness so that you can make proactive choices about how you spend your time and energy. Download the Unplugged app to see how many times you turn on your phone each day and how you are using your time.

3.    Tell others what you are really doing.  When you need to step away from technology to focus, set a short-term auto-responder explaining what you are really doing and when you will be back (i.e., I’m stepping away from my email to finish this project. I’ll be back in one hour). This small gesture communicates to others that you value them, but you also value your work (of course this only works if you are actually using your time productively). If you worry about how such a message will be perceived, fear not. Many employers are actually thrilled that you want to focus more (and even inspired by your initiative to communicate this because they secretly want to do the same thing).

4.    Hide your phone. We have become joined at the hip with our phones—afraid to step back from this electronic umbilical cord for fear that someone might need us for something.  However, recent research shows that the mere presence of a cellphone can decrease your productivity and attention on cognitively demanding tasks.  Chances are that seeing every text message, email, or social media alert as it comes in won’t make you more productive, and it certainly won’t make you happier. To focus on your work, move your cellphone out of your line of sight (put it in your bag, behind your computer screen, or in a drawer); if that’s not possible, at the very least, turn off nonessential notifications. You also can get noise-canceling headphones to help you focus.

5.    Use the “Really?!” Rule.  When you find yourself tempted to use technology to zone out at work for a bit, stop and ask yourself: Does this tech truly make me happier and/or more productive? For instance, does taking my phone to the break room really rejuvenate your mind or does it prevent you from connecting with your colleagues? A recent study of 450 workers in Korea found that individuals who took a short work break without their cellphones felt more vigor and less emotional exhaustion than individuals who toted their cellphones along with them on their breaks, regardless of whether they actually used the phone! If you find yourself using tech to zone out rather than to tune in, try to shift your behavior to use your time in a way that will genuinely fuel your long-term happiness and productivity.

By practicing these happy hacks in your life, you can learn to manage distraction in the digital era and set yourself up for a future of greater happiness and well-being in the long run.  

Amy Blankson has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two U.S. presidents for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era. Amy received her BA from Harvard and MBA from Yale School of Management. Most recently, she was a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course. Amy is the author of two books: The Future of Happiness and an award-winning children’s book called Ripple’s Effect.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stop Measuring Employee Loyalty By Tenure: 5 Steps to Creating a Boomerang Culture

Guest post from Lee Caraher:

The great lament of so many leaders and managers today is that “no one is loyal anymore.” With millions of millennials pegged as “job hoppers” who “leave before they even get productive,” older managers are increasingly unwilling to put in the effort to help develop and train their younger colleagues. The logic goes – “why should I put my effort into helping these people when they’re just going to leave me and I’ll have to start all over again.”

Oh, the good old days, when people stayed where you wanted them for as long as you wanted them to and retired with a golden watch and some balloons.

Yeah. Those good old days are long gone, if they ever existed at all. And not because people changed, but because companies stopped honoring the implicit contract that permeated American business: you work hard and the company will take care of you. Employees today know that they can’t count on a company to take care of them, and that they need to craft their own career with building blocks of job experiences that keep them relevant, and increasingly valuable. Add to that their desire to be both interested in and satisfied with the impact of their work.

The old loyalty paradigm is dead, and it’s time for us to switch from measuring employee loyalty by length of employment, to an entire career lifetime regardless of whether a paycheck is involved or not. This is the Boomerang Principle: the belief that organizations that allow and encourage former employees to return have a strategic advantage over those that don’t.

Consider these points to help prepare you for this new mindset:
   When you hire someone, you know they are going to leave you. Instead of worrying about when they’re going to leave, focus on helping your employees be as valuable as possible while they’re with you;
     It’s unlikely that one organization could offer the range of opportunities – skills, positions, locations, terms, or dynamics – that every employee will want over the course of their careers. Instead of treating former employees as “dead to you,” consider the skills that they will gain away from your company and figure out how you can get them to return when they are more valuable to you in the future;
     With every former employee, you have the opportunity to INCREASE your footprint in the business world. Creating an environment and relationship that keeps former employees informed and attached to your company can pay off in exponential ways after they leave you in terms of potential clients, partners and advocates in the industry and community. Better to have people proud of their association with you, than actively preferring not to recommend your company as an employer or a provider.
      When you create a “culture of return” you create a “culture to remain.” Environments that are worthy to return to – where people are welcomed to return – are generally more positive, more high-performing, more productive and more profitable than those that aren’t. These types of positive organizations are hard to leave just to leave, and have much lower employee turnover rates than those organizations that treat their former employees as pariahs.
And now, how can you create a culture of return? Here are 5 steps to creating a Boomerang culture.
1.    Kill the counter offer: Stop countering people with higher salaries when they tell you they are leaving. Don’t do it. Instead treat people who are moving on to different opportunities well and welcome them to return in the future if the time is right. Fellow employees know when a business counters exiting employees, and it creates an incredibly negative dynamic and resentment among teams. Stop feeding any negativity you can.
2.    Stay connected in real, meaningful ways: Stay in touch with your former employees. If you haven’t done this in a while, make a list of the people who left your company in the last 24 months. Over the next six to twelve months, reconnect with all of them in some way – from meeting for dinner to connecting on LinkedIn. Show interest in where they are and what they’re doing.
3.    Insist on and train great managers: Make sure your managers are actively involved in their team members’ development plans. Reward managers for helping their colleagues to succeed and reach their own goals. When organizations are demonstrably invested in their employees, people feel more loyalty towards them and are more willing to make good things happen in the workplace.
4.    Start a company-sponsored alumni program: If you can’t create your own online platform, start with a private Facebook group with your former employees and current team leaders in it. Share company updates, learning opportunities and discounts or other opportunities with your alumni. Ask your alumni for their recommendations for people to fill open positions; reward every referral with a token of appreciation. When you keep a relationship going with your former employees, they are more apt to recommend your company as a vendor, partner or employer – this shortens recruiting, biz dev and sales cycles by many cycles.
5.    Tout the quality of the staff you’ve had: You’ve created a great thing here, be proud of that. Showcase your company alumni in the alumni network. Post interviews with former employees that detail their current positions and lives; ask them to comment on how their time with your company prepared them for their current jobs. The more you demonstrate that you’re proud that they are proud of their time with you, the more valuable you become to your former, current and future, employees.
Thinking about and then putting in place mechanisms that help you inspire employees to be loyal to your organization for their entire careers – not just their tenure – is a paradigm shifting exercise. By applying the Boomerang Principle – the belief that organizations that allow and encourage their former employees to return have a strategic advantage over those that don’t – your company will increase happiness in the workplace – happiness that translates right down to the bottom line.

Lee Caraher is the founder and CEO of Double Forte a national PR and social media agency working with beloved brands in the consumer, technology and wine categories. Her second book, The Boomerang Principle: Inspiring Lifetime Loyalty From Your Employees, (Bibliomotion/Taylor & Francis) available now for pre-order, launches April 11, 2017.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don’t Tolerate Dysfunctional Teams

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

Two key indicators of a healthy team are that they are productive (getting tasks done to standards, on budget and on time) and effective (working together with a minimum of drama.)

A 2013 University of Phoenix survey revealed that nearly 7 in 10 American workers have served on dysfunctional teams. Though 95% reported that teams serve an important function in organizations, less than 24% of respondents prefer to work on teams.

Further details reveal common issues in teams:

·         40% have witnessed a verbal confrontation

·         15% have seen confrontations turn physical

·         40% reported a team member blaming another member for problems

·         32% observed a team member start a rumor about another member

Sadly, left to ourselves, we humans don't always behave well with others. We often give into the temptation to leverage information and power to benefit ourselves, which creates an “I win, you lose” culture.

Self-Serving Team Members
Where do we learn to be selfish? Although it can be innate “wired” behavior, it is often likely that it is “acquired” behavior, learned through watching the dynamics in the family, school, sports, or the community.  We observe and practice behaviors that are modeled or tolerated by leaders and peers.

I believe many of us have been blessed to have served on a productive and effective team at least once in our lives. However, the research suggests that too often, teams are not productive AND effective.  This is not only frustrating for team members but can cost real money.  A 2009 study of New Zealand businesses found that one unproductive team can cost a company $140,000 a year.

Most of the senior leadership teams I work with are teams in name only. They do not have a common purpose or shared values and goals. They’re not partnered with a requirement that they work together. Instead, they are simply a group of people who meet regularly to fight each other for resources (funds, people, etc.) every day.

I engage to help these “groups” create a shared servant purpose and identify their values, strategies, and goals. We create agreements to help each member align their behaviors with those stated values. We develop clear expectations. Without these in place, team members can quickly resort to actions that serve their own interests, which severely affects the team’s overall productivity and effectiveness.

It doesn’t take much to identify a dysfunctional team. Don’t tolerate it. Step in and intentionally guide the team to clarify why they exist, and what they can expect from one another as they work together to fulfill their purpose.  You are likely to start seeing your teams thrive.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here