How to motivate and inspire employees in difficult times and through change.

Today’s business world moves quickly and new technology is being launched at an amazing pace. And which change is inevitable and sometimes exhausting, our basic human needs are still the same. You and I want to be valued and respected and, we respond well when we are.

As leaders in this fast paced world we sometimes forget to pay attention to ourselves… and the people we depend on (and who depend on us). We forget to be kind, honest, respectful and to honour the uniqueness of our team members.

So, here is a friendly reminder about how to motivate and inspire employees in difficult times and through change.

  1. Be honest. Share everything including exactly what you need and how long it’s expected to take.
  2. Tap into their values and their goals. Also remind them of the values and goals of the company.
  3. Tell your employees why change is important. Note: this is very different to ‘what you need’ in point #1. Be sure you share why it’s important to you / the company AND why it is important to them… how will it impact and / or improve them?
  4. Help them feel proud. If they have a special skill or talent let them know you appreciate it. People lean in when they feel respected and when their uniqueness is celebrated.
  5. If the work will be difficult say it will be difficult. Also, share how proud you are about what you can accomplish together. Show emotions but do not be emotional.
  6. Be a visible part of the team. Let them see you doing your part. Let them see you using your special skill or talent. Let them see you working hard / sacrificing / learning just like them.
  7. If you can, give them a challenge. Most people love to be challenged. Especially in their growth years Millennials and Gen Z love to know they are learning something and gaining new experiences. People are not very motivated to do the same thing over and over… especially if anyone could do it.

Conclusion

As their leader, always encourage your team members to continue building their experience as well as their personal and professional brands. Provide employees with the individual opportunities, recognition and visibility to gain or fine-tune new experiences.

When we help people grow and be proud they will be inspired – in good times and in difficult times. And, they will be more loyal to you and to the company.

In good times and in difficult times always be sure you create and sustain strong lines of communication with the people who you count on most… every one of your employees. Keep reminding them they are an essential part of the success of the company, and ultimately… their own futures.

Happy communicating.

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Should We Embrace A Remote or Flexible Workplace Culture?

The answer to, “Should we embrace a remote or flexible workplace culture?” is YES!

Actually, I believe two BIG questions all businesses should be asking is:

“How can we be a company that equally supports remote employees and on-site employees?” And, “What do we have to do to learn, change and grow so that we are a leader in our market?”

These are two important questions that examine the future of workplace flexibility as a serious, strategic cultural decision.remote or flexible workplace culture

That said, I find the more common question is:

“How can we help employees who want to work remotely or on a flexible schedule?”

This question is lovely but lets face it, it’s one step away from doing nothing. It’s a reactionary position not a proactive position. The company is making change because it has to, not because leaders see it as an opportunity to be market leaders. They are making a change because existing employees are asking and they want to slow down attrition and, they are making change because most of the people they are interviewing for new positions are asking. When company leaders are asking this question (and only this question), they may not realize they are not embracing all of the advantages of flexible and remote options. It’s like going to a restaurant and only allowing yourself to order off the first page of the menu. After making all the effort to get to the restaurant, not only do you miss all of the entrees, you also miss the desserts – by choice.

Now, my personal preference is to try to look at the advantages of doing something, (you know… glass half full), but in this case I’d like to explore some of the disadvantages a company will be missing if its leaders choose to not fully embrace a remote and/or flexible workplace culture.

Disadvantage 1. The company will not be as attractive to most workers… of all ages. Boomers and Gen Xers want more flexibility and choice to enjoy life and/or deal with parents and children that need support. Millennials and Gen Z want more flexibility and choice because flexibility and choice are second nature to them.

This is both an attraction challenge and a retention challenge for companies (or an opportunity… your choice).

Disadvantage 2. The company will only be able to hire people who are geographically close to the office. The alternative is that a remote or flexible workplace culture empowers leaders to hire the best people no matter where those people are.

Again, this is both an attraction challenge and a retention challenge (or an opportunity… your choice).

Disadvantage 3. The company culture will be fragmented and employees may be confused on what they should do. People will wonder things like, “Do we work this way or that way? What should I do? Is there a political gain to work one way versus the other?”

In reality I hope every company and every leader wants to create a workplace culture where everyone feels valued and part of the team no matter where or when they work.

Again, I see this as both an attraction challenge and a retention challenge (or an opportunity… your choice).

Disadvantage 4. If leaders don’t fully embrace remote, flexible and on-site employees equally it is most common that there will only be a partial investment in the IT (technology) solutions needed for all of their employees to communicate and collaborate effectively. And, for the IT solutions that are installed, it is common that many employees, especially employees who choose to keep working within the traditional work structure will not fully embrace the new technology which only makes the communication and collaboration challenge worse. In short, all employees are disadvantaged.

So one last time we see how company leaders respond turns into an attraction challenge and a retention challenge (or opportunity).

How is IT an attraction challenge and a retention challenge? Because staying current and marketable is important, especially for Millennials and Gen Zers. Most quality potential employees will check your technology out before accepting a job proposal, and if they see your IT as insufficient or non-existent they will think twice before joining your team. And, existing employees that get frustrated trying to do their work with insufficient technology will be some of the first to start looking for other places to share their experience and talents.

Conclusion
Creating a culture that fully embraces a remote / flexible culture takes work and takes commitment but it is worth it. When leaders embrace a remote or flexible workplace culture it quickly begins to pay off by driving significant improvements in employee attraction, employee retention, productivity and profitability. And, in many cases, when done well a remote / flexible culture reduces costs, from recruiting to compensation to the hard costs of real estate.

Happy communicating, hiring and mentoring as you create a remote / flexible workplace culture .

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Measure Your Attitude Toward Your Career… And Your Future.

When investing in your career or your business, what traits do you have lots of… or few of? Where might you need to get some help by either hiring talent… or hiring a coach?

Being successful isn’t easy. You can’t do it on your own or by always being in your comfort zone.

To be successful you have to use all your strengths. To be successful you also have to keep developing those strengths… working outside your comfort zone and being OK with that. Your attitude toward your career has to help you overcome what is difficult… because difficulty helps you grow, difficulty helps you do what needs to get done.

So, which of the following 4 traits do you have lots of… or little of? Knowing yourself is important! Rate your comfort between 1 and 6 for each.

Diligence… #1

Steadily applying yourself, not letting yourself off the hook… no excuses for not doing what you said you would… your plan, your priorities. You are usually best off when you are diligent about talents of yours in which you can say, “These are my core competencies. I am either using them or improving upon them.” The good thing is this can take you off the hook from doing laundry, book keeping or mowing the lawn.

Diligence Measurement

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Conviction… #2

Another word for conviction is confidence. Do you believe in yourself and what you are offering? Do you know your unique value proposition? Do you trust your suppliers (if you have them) to deliver at or above your quality standards?

Conviction Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PMCourage… #3

You may be an introvert… but to succeed you sometimes have to show you are courageous. It means doing what needs to get done… not what feels comfortable in the next 5 minutes (or 5 days). It means knowing what procrastination looks like… for you, and when you recognize you are procrastinating you stop and you do what needs to get done. It means being bold, be brave (even when you are not brave), and most especially, it means being proud of what you are doing… especially when doing something that means pushing your boundaries.

Courage Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PMKnowledge… #4

Knowledge is power. It just means something different today than it did 20 or more years ago. Today, the ‘boss’ needs to know about vision, quality, motivating a team who are networking, managing contract talent. Today, knowledge is about knowing enough to spot challenges but not needing to be a specialist. Today, great leaders are self-aware and realize leadership is also a specialty and are confident in their abilities to be supported by specialist… by people who may know more than they do in a certain topic.

Knowledge Measurement

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PM

Where are your strengths? What comes easy to you… and where do you need to pay attention to ensure you don’t step back from the success you know you are capable of?

Do what it takes to make your dreams come true.
Choose actions that are in your own best interest.
The solution is already within you.
Don’t stop yourself from getting what you dream.

Go…. enjoy. Knowledge is power. Experience is the best teacher.

Bruce

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How to lose someone’s trust.

Before we get into how to lose trust, please note, trust is also regained by addressing these same points, although getting it back is much more difficult. 

Trust is lost by one or more of the following four triggers:

  • Somebody’s behavior… which may either explicitly or overtly demonstrate values / beliefs / needs. For example:
    • I did not hold up my end of our deal.
    • I do not appear to have the skill / competence needed to do what we agreed to.
    • My intentions appear to be different… or worse… opposite to your intentions.
    • Something I did hurt you morally or physically (was against your values / beliefs / needs).
  • I may lose your trust if the company I work for or the board I sit on behaves in a one or more of the ways mentioned above.
  • You may lose trust in me if I appear to trigger your insecurities / past experience:
    • I did something or represent something that negatively triggers you.
  • I may lose your trust if I appear to be in opposition to your values / beliefs / needs:
    • I did something or represent something that negatively impacts you.
  • You may lose trust in me if I use my power to make my point or force a decision… especially if it is contrary to our values, goals, beliefs or the common good.

Trust is one of the strongest bonds between people and/or between people and formal organizations / companies.Losing Trust

Loss of trust is why many political parties get voted out… even if their opponent may be morally bankrupt. An opponent may win not because they are popular… but because they are a different choice other than the political party that lost voters trust.

With trust comes support, allowances, compromise… and even forgiveness for mistakes. When we trust each other’s competence and intentions it generally increases creativity and speeds up the decision-making process. Doors open, opportunities happen, recommendations are made. When we trust each other stress also often goes down loyalty goes up.

When we’ve been hurt… when we have lost trust, it is a natural reaction to put up barriers… to walk away… to protect ourself and perhaps our company. Putting up barriers is a fair reaction. Unfortunately it isn’t a very productive one because nothing gets resolved. But what we should not do is walk away without confronting the challenge… to have those difficult conversations.

If we don’t confront the challenge we may be throwing out an important relationship (personal or professional), based on behaviour that was unintentional… or based on our expectation that may not have been clearly shared. I believe having difficult conversations is an investment into myself and the relationship.  Also, if we don’t confront the challenge we won’t learn anything – like did we play a part in the experience and how we can avoid this from happening again.

Conclusion

There are many ways we can lose trust… and many ways we can rebuild trust. And rebuilding trust is both difficult and a slow process.

If we don’t confront the challenge we may create a defensive wall so high that it permanently hurts our ability to trust others in the future. This is not good. But, if we do confront the challenge we will definitely learn somethings. Perhaps, we will still agree to part ways… but at least this will be an informed decision. Hopefully, it will often allow you to begin a repair – rebuilding trust.

In my experience, when trust is rebuilt it has resulted in an even better – even stronger relationship where we both understand each other better AND trust each other more. And know… part of that new trust is to be able to call each other out in a professional manner knowing it is not going to become personal or feel like we are being attacked.

Bruce

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How To Find A Mentor

No matter where you are in your career you want a role that’s fulfilling and hopefully you also want to be inspired and challenged (most of us do). You also want to work for a company that eagerly supports your professional development.

How do you fulfill your dreams and aspirations – especially in this big world? How do you learn about the things you don’t even know exist? How do you keep yourself motivated in the work you are doing now when all you feel like you do is push push push?

A mentor is a powerful way for you to invest in your professional growth and personal fulfillment.

Perhaps the company you work for has a formal mentoring program – that is great; if you can get into them formal mentoring programs help match you with a company mentor. If your company doesn’t have a formal program you will have to find a mentor outside of your company (I suggest you find one outside your company even if you do have a formal company program).

Choose A Mentor

How do you choose a mentor? Here are 4 quick explanations on how to find a mentor (or two), to help you answer questions and navigate your career.

Step 1. What Do You Want To Learn?

What are your goals? What do you want to learn? Where do you need to be more motivated? The more you know about your objectives the more you will get out of your time with your mentor. A good place to start is to ask yourself what you want. Do you want:

  • To get better at what you do now? If so, think about people who do similar work as you.
  • To learn about other opportunities? If so, think about people who do work you think you might like.

A good mentor can be a great sounding board… or devil’s advocate.

Step 2. Explore / Do Research

Look around for a mentor prospect and explore mentor qualities. Is there someone you know who you admire (either in the company or not)? Is there someone you have heard of that you would like to learn from?

Perhaps you are looking for someone who will share your passion for social justice. Does your mentor prospect have a similar personality as you do? I recommend exploring their values and make sure they are similar to your own. What motivates them? The quality of your mentors is really important because you have to trust what they say… and likely… their discretion.

Before you both commit, get to know each other. Being well matched is important because you have to trust them and believe their advice is sound. Your mentor will have some influence on your future viewpoints, beliefs and behaviours. That said, I recommend you don’t choose someone who has the same background, history and lifestyle as you. I believe a great mentor is someone who has different life experiences and/or a different personality than you; perhaps they come from a different cultural background, perhaps a different industry, perhaps they are more creative. For example, if you are naturally cautious and reserved, a mentor who is a bit more aggressive may be helpful for you… that you can rely on. Equally, if you jump first ask questions later, a mentor who is more thoughtful and reflective may be a nice fit.

Not all mentors will be the same. So, if you are feeling really adventurous and may want more than one mentor. For example:

  • You may want to meet regularly with a successful person outside of your industry because their ‘fresh eyes’ into your world may provide amazing insight.
  • You may want a mentor you can use for 911 emergency calls; someone who you can ask a specific question, get their honest opinion and then hang up. This is a bit unusual, but still highly valuable.

Step 3. Make The Ask

Being a mentor or having a mentor doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or formal. It can be as simple as agreeing to go for coffee once or twice a month and perhaps also being on-call if you suddenly have an emergency or a major question.

Ask your prospect mentor for a casual coffee or lunch. This is the time for each of you to evaluate the other. Let them know you admire them and are looking for a mentor and would like them to consider being that person. Share you expectations and abilities. If they seem interested but don’t really have the time you were hoping for (so put them on call for emergency situations).

If you both agree to move forward, my recommendation is to keep your meetings somewhat informal… but have at least one preferred outcome per meeting. It’s likely you are both going to be busy, so allow some flexibility. I find phone meetings surprisingly helpful and efficient… I didn’t expect that at the start. I thought they would feel cold and impersonal. That said – I also recommend getting together fact-to-face from time to time.

Step 4. Know When To Move On

As the song goes, “You got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em” (my dad would be so proud). At some point your mentor and you may decide to part… or you both may become best friends. Either way – be fully present. Don’t hold on longer than you should… it may be that you’ve done as much as you can together and now it’s time for them to help someone else.

If you part ways don’t think that should be the end. Be on the lookout for your next mentor, you are never too experienced – you can always benefit from good advice. 

It also may be time for you to mentor someone and give back. Being a mentor can be as helpful as having a mentor. One of the great motivators for Millennials at work is when they can help / coach / mentor one of their associates. This helps build their leadership skills and will also likely increase their loyalty to your company (for a year or two longer).

One Final Thing

People love to help other people. It helps them feel fulfilled. It’s how you ask and what you expect from them that will impact your success. Still, you have to mind your manners. After each meeting send a thank you note.

Mentors have wisdom and share experiences. To me, that’s what mentorship is: drawing from that wisdom and potentially learning from their successes.

Go…. enjoy.

Bruce

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy mentoring and climbing the corporate ladder everyone.

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How Gen X can prepare to be tomorrow’s leaders

I was recently delivering an interactive keynote presentation on Generational Differences. As I introduced the unique characteristics of the 4 different generations in our workforce one of the attendees asked, “What is the future for Gen X [born 1965 – 1979] since in the next 5-10 years, the last of the Baby Boomers should be retiring, making Gen X the most senior and the smallest population in the workforce?” What a great question. She asked this because she wondered if Gen X will be swept aside by the tsunami of Gen Z’s and Millennials (Gen Y’s) that have been – and will be entering the workforce.

To be clear, by 2025 we can expect workspaces will be dominated (in population) by Gen Z’s and Millennials as the last of the large Gen Z’s (born 1996 – 2010), will join the labour market. If we look at this from a talent perspective, in 2025:

  • Gen X will be mostly University / College graduates with the vast amount of experience and wisdom.
  • Millennials will be mostly University / College graduates with education-based knowledge and roughly 10-20 years of practical experience.
  • Gen Z’s will be also mostly University / College graduates (often with multiple degrees), with great education-based knowledge with either no – or little practical experience.

In addition, both Millennials and Gen Z’s will be technologically proficient and entrepreneurial in style… not to say that the Gen Xers are not… just not as much.

To answer the question, it’s also important to consider some of the characteristics of Gen X not identified above:

  • They have been working with Boomers their whole career so are familiar with a Boomers approach (this can be a positive and a negative).
  • They have had a difficult time showing their true value since Boomers have stayed in their careers longer than anticipated.
  • They can more easily relate to Millennials and Gen Z’s approach.
  • They typically strive for work/life balance.

What does all this mean for Gen X future?

I see Gen X perfectly positioned to be the inspirational and trusting leader our future requires. I believe Gen X will leave their mark in history by moving leadership away from the 1950s-1980s ‘hierarchy’ model which is still holding on now in many organizations… especially in very large and very old organizationsGeneration X

I see Gen X greatest opportunity is to become the leader that Millennials and Gen Z’s will want to follow. They will be leaders that invest in each team member as an individual and their commitment will drive the greatest creativity, the greatest employee and customer loyalty and in turn the greatest profits by taking advantage of the strengths of their multigenerational and multicultural workforce. I believe successful Gen X will become leaders who clearly communicate organizational goals and vision and then inspire their team to exceed personal and professional goals. I also see Gen Xs’ strength is to be able to share with their younger co-workers the wisdom they have acquired – to help the organization, the team and team member achieve their greatest potential.

That is a great place for Gen X because they have the history, the knowledge and experience that can support the Millennial and Gen Z population and, in many cases, (depending on Gen X personality), act as the mentor for the team. And, because there’s going to be a lot of current leaders leaving the market when Boomers retire, this future provides a fantastic opportunity for Gen X… and also older Millennials.

I believe this will be an exciting future where the workforce dominated by Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z’s will begin an unprecedented period of ‘Strategic Agility’ where they will be using their combined creativity and ability to embrace change… to collaborate and to design new products that haven’t even be dreamt of yet. This, versus ‘Operational Agility’ where companies focus on improving existing product or manufacturing them faster and/or cheaper.

What can Gen X do now to prepare for tomorrow?

The advice I’d give a Gen X would be to start now and take every opportunity to learn and practice Effective Leadership techniques including:

  • Hiring Skills & Talent Management (focused on remote workers)
  • Different Types of Motivation
  • Communicating Clearly and with Confidence
  • Emotional Intelligence / Mindfulness

It may seem like a big list but think these topics are important in our fast-changing world. I would also encourage Gen X to uncover their passion so they can focus their leadership strengths in the field they love and are good at. With this ability they can lead their future teams by inspiring them… not bossing them… and they will find work/life balance and professional satisfaction by doing what they love.

Conclusion:

If GenXers stay with a ‘control’ and ‘hierarchy’ version of leadership, they will be at a disadvantage.

The reality is even today leaders can no longer be the authority in knowledge; they need to rely on the expertise and specialization of others to fulfill the corporate strategy. What the leader needs to be is the collaborator, the inspiration for their team to always be increasing their learning. Leaders must do their best to make sure they hire the best talent and that their team members understand the values of the organization and the project goals. In addition, effective leaders today make sure their team have the resources they need… and then get out of the way.

O. Wilson says, “We are drowning in information but starving for wisdom.” Millennials and especially Gen Z’s will have the most education… and it will be the Gen X’s who will have the bulk of the experience… the wisdom. If the greatest resource is information, the greatest skill will be the ability to focus that information… to think critically and make important decisions wisely and quickly. The successful teams and leaders today and tomorrow will be those that share each other’s strengths… who rely on each other to make fast-paced, informed, creative decisions.

I hope you enjoyed this post… and if you are a Gen X, have an extra special day.

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How To Work With A Negative Person

This article is for anyone who works with a negative team member. You know, the cynic who has an uncanny ability to point out every disadvantage and the smallest risk. This article is not about managing toxic or chronically angry employees; those are bigger challenges and may need assistance from human resources and external coaching / mentoring.

If you do work with a negative person I invite you to step back and consider these four things.

  • People who point out disadvantages and potential risks are valuable. Sure, it gets annoying if cynicism is their natural state. But, when their negativity is balanced and relevant, (if you are reading this they may need your help to learn how to do this), their observations can provide opportunity for the team to take something that is good and make it great.
  • Your cynic may not realize they come across as negative. The reality is that even most uplifting people are not aware of the impact their moment-by-moment actions have on others. We are all working hard and putting out fires as we run from meeting to meeting on auto-pilot saying and doing things without considering how others may react.
  • Most negative people want to be part of a productive team and do feel they are helping. In fact, they often get surprised (and hurt), when people respond impatiently.
  • Ask yourself, “Is your cynic really negative, or are they not as enthusiastic as you or the rest of the team?” Take it from this guy whose natural state is quiet and reflective that my silence has often been interpreted as me being uninterested… and therefore negative, opposition or disagreement. I’ve been called arrogant by some people who just meet me – and once they get to know me they call me helpful and thoughtful.

So, if we consider most cynics may not notice their impact and only want to be part of a productive team, what matters is how we – as their leader (or perhaps parents or partners), help maximize their contribution. It’s also important we help them minimize any damage to their negative reputation has on their co-workers morale and the company performance. Let’s look at how.

Where Did Their Behaviour Come From?

I don’t believe most of us are naturally cynics. I think our natural state is one of openness, curiosity, empathy and compassion. To prove my theory all we have to do is look at young children; they are completely inspired and in wonder and thirsty to learn about the world around them. I also believe many of us learn to shut down our curiosity and begin to see the world as glass half empty. I believe you and I learn our communication style over many years from our family, teachers and other social influencers. And, it is also likely your cynic has been influenced by their first boss or two. So, now is your chance to be a boss who has a positive influence on them.

How To Help Your Cynic

I often say in my Difficult Conversation training that we go through our days reacting… not responding… and we have to learn to respond versus react. Reacting is good when there is an out-of-control bus heading for us because our reaction will be to jump out of the way. Responding means we are being thoughtful… attentive to our needs and feelings and the needs / feelings of the people around us. So, responding is good when we are in meetings or when we are discussing important things with people who matter to us.

Take it from me – as a recovering cynic – I used to spend a lot of time reacting to the world around me. Thankfully, early in my career I had someone point out my negative communication style to me and was able to change.

To help your negative person, here are six steps I’ve learned that can help:

Step 1. I invite you to see your cynic as more than negative… try to see them as they may see themselves… as helpful, valuable members of your team. If you or your team has been working with them for a while, your naysayer has probably worn down your patience. It’s natural you may have learned to ignore them or consider what they say as ‘chronic noise’. Try to override that instinct. Look on their participation with fresh eyes.

Interpret your cynics emotions and input as valuable and help them adjust their communication style so that they can make the world – or the project as good as they want it to be. Unfortunately, dealing with tough situations from time-to-time is part of what it’s like to be a leader.

Step 2. Take a deep breath and prepare to have a one-on-one discussions with your naysayer. Do this sooner rather than later. It’s easy to convince ourselves, “it’s not that bad” or “my cynic will come around eventually.” Well… it probably is that bad.
It may be a difficult conversation but negative people often take down the energy of the team or stop creative conversation because nobody wants to ‘deal with them‘. This is bad for the team, the customers and the company. This can also lead to higher turnover as other valuable team members quit because they want to work in a more positive space. This conversation may be uncomfortable… but having it is important.

Step 3. Share what you see – strive to build (or keep), a trusting, respectful relationship with your cynic. Talk with them about the impact their approach has on others. Don’t call them moody or tell them they have a bad attitude… this may shut them down or will very likely make them defensive… wouldn’t it make you defensive? This is a time you need to demonstrate some emotional intelligence. Don’t be too ‘robotic’ or unemotional.

Your first sentence is really important. It will set the tone for the conversation. Start with something supportive like, “Greg, professional development is something I try to support each member of my team. Can I give you some feedback that may be difficult for you to hear but I think can be an important growth opportunity for you?” What comes next from you should be nonaggressive stories, some specific examples of the behaviour you’ve witnessed (it cannot be hear-say), where you think they were trying to be helpful but it was interpreted as negative.

Step 4. This step is less about you and more about them. Your employee has to recognize their behaviour as a challenge. As suggested above, this may be a surprise to them – they may not have recognized they have been negative. So, your cynical team member may need some time to process this before they can move forward. They may feel embarrassed, or angry. Help them through this. Hopefully they begin to see what you see and choose to work with you on it. This will be your time to give them some coaching / mentoring.

If they don’t see their approach as a challenge, you will have a bigger problem than you would like… but you have to stay on this. Keep having conversations with them. Keep documenting your conversations. Keep offering assistance. If you haven’t, now is a good time to begin talking with your HR department.

Step 5. When they accept their responsibility, use your professional experience to help your employee come up with their own ways to resolve the situation. This will help them both understand the challenge and its complexities… as well as help them be more committed to the solution. Help them evaluate their communication style and how they can improve in certain situations. For example:

  • To change, they have to learn to also being to see and express the positive. They may have to learn to begin to respond – not react.
  • Ripping apart an idea in front of someone’s bosses boss may make their co-worker feel vulnerable… and rightfully upset.
  • Help your cynic be aware of their negative tone and the impact it has on others. Help them discover ways to express themselves, to support teamwork and respect other opinions. Most of the time tone is an involuntary reaction – not a voluntary response. Help your negative person be aware of the tone they use.
  • Instead of blurting out a challenge they notice, start a sentence with something positive… something like, “I like where this is going – can I share a challenge I see and would like your help to work out.”
  • There may be times when saying nothing would be better. For example, if what they are going to point out will have little or no difference. Help them protect their reputation and see when they should save their ‘constructive feedback’ for big challenges.
  • Help them evaluate their body language. Do they sit through meetings with their arms crossed, scrolling through their smartphone and or looking on with a frown.

Step 6. Help your team… help them respond not react as well. Everyone can benefit from learning how to pause, be a better listener and learn to say to themselves, I am feeling XYZ now – and now I have a choice to respond with X or respond with Y. When we are in this state we have switched off our reaction button – for the greater good.

Help your team see that healthy opposition and debate are important parts of a decision-making process. Some of the most effective and successful teams not only have disagreement, they actually try to inspire respectful disagreement (in a controlled meeting), as part of a brainstorming exercise. Being aggressive, angry or hijacking conversations is not healthy or accepted. Encourage your team to embrace everyone’s differences.

Negative intention lead to negative actions and mostly… negative outcomes. Compassionate intentions lead to compassionate outcomes.

Conclusion:

Every organization has one or two cynics. Ignoring them is not healthy. If you have a trusting relationship with one of them, you may be able to successfully point out their impact to them… and help them adjust. Never undervalue the benefit of connecting with other people.

If your cynic is a new employee – set them straight early. If you have just taken over a department – do it early in your new role.

If your cynic ever wants a leadership position, you need to help them realize they are going to have to listen more than they may be used to – even if they think they know the answer long before their team member is finished speaking.

When you are speaking with someone, stay present to what you are needing, feeling and believing… and what you think they are needing, feeling and believing; this goes for your naysayer and everyone else, in every conversation you have.

BONUS: What is a Toxic employee? Some people exude negativity. They don’t like their jobs or they don’t like their company. No matter who their boss is, they are always jerks and they are always treated unfairly. The company is always going down the tube and customers are worthless.

So, there you have it. We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy communicating, listening and working from home.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Work From Home: Tips to be a better communicator and a better listener

One of the biggest challenges for work from home professionals is connecting with other people.

We are constantly bombarded with texts and emails, but what we miss is the opportunity to join in meaningful conversation with someone outside of our personal support circle. We miss the casual unexpected and undocumented updates many at-office workers share as they walk to meetings together.  We miss connecting at the water cooler, Starbucks or having a quick lunch with someone in another department… which all seem harmless and often insignificant, but do have a way of disseminating information, building trusting coworker relationships.

So, as a work from home guy, having face-to-face conversations is something I actively try to have. Sometimes it is with clients or prospects, sometimes it is with thought-leaders who challenge me. Sometimes it is just with friends – where we find time when we are not at a movie or a loud bar… but someplace where we can chat and reconnect.

Most of the time I find the conversations I have invigorating. Why? Because being a work from home guy means I am in control of much of my own thought processes – patterns. Having an intentional conversation with someone stretches… and sometimes reaffirms my beliefs / opinions. Almost always they challenge me.

If I was to give someone advice about working from home and work-life balance, it would be to make sure you have face-to-face conversations with someone outside of your traditional circle at least once a week. And, I recommend you adopt a rescue dog who will force you to get up and go for a walk … they make great companions.

Conversation & Listening Best Practices

When I’m having a conversation I do my best to choose to “Be in conversation” which often means I am conscious that I want to do more listening than speaking. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Here are 5 steps I use to remind me how to be a better listener:

  1. Decide you will be a listener. Pay attention. If you are easily distracted (like I am), put your back to TV’s or crowds or windows. Don’t talk over or them. Ever. Listen with your undivided attention.
  2. Agree with yourself that you will not be the expert. And you will not drive the conversation to a topic where you are the expert.
  3. Let the other person have a story – and the spotlight. If they are telling a story about a guy who cut them off in traffic, listen to what is important for them. Don’t start thinking about or telling your story of when some guy cut you off in traffic. 9 times out of 10, your story doesn’t matter at this moment!!!
  4. Watch their body language. Are they excited about what they are talking about? Proud? Worried? Surprised? Their body language can often tell you a lot about what they are saying… and how important it is to them.
  5. Treat them with respect. Ask great questions. By being a good listener and by watching them, you will be able to ask insightful, relevant, meaningful questions that show you are curious and perhaps challenge each of your thinking.

So there you have it. My take on work from home and the importance of being a better listener.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy communicating, listening and working from home.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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3 Important Types Of Valued Team Members

Skills are important when looking for the right person to join your team, and I believe equally important is a person’s personality and work style. There are many personality types and work style to consider along with a candidates skills when looking to hire a healthy balance of people.Personality Types At Work

For the purpose of this post, I thought I’d focus on three important types of people who become valued team members:

  1. The creative, ambitious people who starts early and stays late because they want to learn, gain experience, explore new projects and new customers… and be proud of the work they do. They are often a bit aggressive – and that is good because they don’t give up easily… they accomplish things that many don’t see as possible. Often, they change the world… and most often it is for the better.
  2. The steady people who has been with the company for years and who loves their job, the company and the clients. They enjoy the safety and security of a steady job, keep regular hours and will start early and stay late… in emergencies… and are proud of the work they do. In my view, these valued team members are often under-appreciated… and sometimes blamed for not being more aggressive. Please – don’t do that. These people provide essential stability, knowledge and experience to make sure the core clients and services are taken care of and producing a steady income. These are the people who provide the foundation so the creative, ambitions people can dream big and explore new opportunities for future growth.
  3. Your 200% dedicated to their job, the company and the clients people. They stress about saying no to any project presented to them and have no idea what regular hours are – or weekends. They cancel weekends at the cottage, dinners with friends, professional development training opportunities and IF they have taken a vacation in the last 3 years they spent some time every day online checking and answering email. They sound like a dream come true – but as a leader you have to force this group to take care of themselves because these dedicated high-octane people are also likely to burn themselves out and /or quit unexpectedly. No leader wants to lose this type of person. When you force them to take a weekend off – or a week off… they might stress for a little while… but will be even more loyal because they see you care… and they will be in a better physical and emotional place.

Now, I’m not saying these are the only types of people… and some of us share a combination of these and many other fine qualities. What I did want to point out is how different people can be and how each of them are still important and valuable in their own way.

As leaders we must pay attention to the benefit of different types of people when hiring. There is an allure to hiring only creative ambitious people. One might think, “Imagine how successful we could be if we were all out-of-the-box thinkers and go-getters?” And, companies that only hire this type of person might be able to experience the results they want in the short-term… but all too often they experience high turn-over and poor long-term results.

There are many challenges that lead to failure if everyone is the same. Internal conflict is one important challenge. Another important challenges is there isn’t anyone dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s (as my dad would say). Nobody is taking care of the day-to-day needs of those new projects and relationships (that are hopefully high-value and fit with the company direction and values). If you will indulge a metaphor… it’s like being an elite long-distance cyclist. You would never think of competing in a long-distance race without a dedicated team supporting you and making sure:

  • You know the route
  • Your bike gets fixed – and upgraded
  • You get fixed when you need healthcare
  • You eat high-quality food
  • You have a place to sleep at night

Conclusion

Successful leaders are on the leading edge when it comes to hiring, training, motivating and compensating their employees. They are not only hiring people who have the drive or skill they want – successful leaders hire people who demonstrate the personality and work style they need to live the company values. In fact, hiring people who can demonstrate the needed behaviours is often more important because experience and skill can often be acquired. This means leaders have to recognize there are different types of employees required for a productive and successful team… and company.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to hire all types of people to be part of our team. It’s also our responsibility to help each recognize the benefits they bring to the team and the importance of having the other types of team members as well… especially the ones who think and act differently than they do.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy communicating and climbing the corporate ladder everyone.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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2 Things To Do When Forwarding Email

 

What is the etiquette around forwarding email messages?

Put In An Action Item. Don’t Only Say, “Please See Attached.”

You know why you are forwarding the email but I bet the person you are sending it to likely doesn’t. And they have 100 other email to read and 25 projects to complete. Yup, they are busy… just like you.

If you only write, “Please see attached.” what you are really saying to them is, “Here – read this. Maybe it’s a priority – and maybe it isn’t… but my time and effort is more important than yours, so I hope you figure out exactly why I sent this to you and what needs to get done… and by when.How To Forward Email

Argh!!!

This is so inefficient… and think about what you are doing to your own professional reputation. Are you demonstrating you are a team player; are you demonstrating you are polite and self-aware??? Or are you demonstrating you are an _ _ _.  What is the reputation you want… because you have a choice?

2 Things To Do When Forwarding An Email

#1. Tell the recipient why you are forwarding the email to them. Give them an action item. If there are three questions in the original email that need answers then copy and paste those three questions into your action item.

When you take 1 minute to type out an action item you will save your reader lots of time. And, you will probably get exactly what you want from them… quickly… on time.

#2. Be careful. Are there email addresses in the original message you should remove?

Privacy is critical. It is something I stress in my email etiquette training workshops If you are forwarding an email IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to keep email addresses private. If someone showed poor etiquette and exposed you to email addresses you should not have – that is bad on them. If you keep forwarding those addresses it’s now bad on you.

This is especially important if you are sharing that email with an external support or service provider. If you don’t have direct consent – you are putting yourself and your company at risk.

Other important email etiquette about forwarding email messages:

  • Mention in your introduction you are forwarding an email. I know – it may seem obvious to you, but if the person is on a smartphone at an airport, or their child is sick – they may have other things on their mind.
  • You should never – ever forward a message if the original sender doesn’t know you are forwarding their message. Once you have permission, I still like to include them in the forward as a Cc: and explain why I am forwarding the message. For example, Bill, I am forwarding this email to you because my client Susan is having a billing challenge and I think you can help her. I have Cc: Susan in this message to keep her in the loop.
  • If you are forwarding to more than one person, address the forwarded email to YOU and put everyone else in the Bcc: field. Again, this is especially important if you are forwarding to people outside of your company. You have to protect privacy and email addresses.
  • Try to clean up (delete), some of the large spaces between email. Make it easy for the person you are forwarding the email to.

Your brand and your time are valuable, so protect both while also helping out your readers. Always follow these simple tips when forwarding email… and share these email etiquette training tips with your peers.

Thank you for your time everyone. I hope this has been helpful. Have questions? Email us at bruce@brucemayhewconsulting.com

Happy communicating and forwarding email.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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