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

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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

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 7.07.39 PM

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

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy mentoring 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.

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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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Energize Your Team by Igniting Your Corporate Values

Do your employees know how to use your corporate values to make every day yes/no decisions? What about using your corporate values to make critical planning decisions, write copy, guide behaviour, support diversity and even hire the right people? Values are remarkably powerful performance management – performance enhancement tools.

A Real Example Of ‘Trust’ As A Corporate Value

Imagine a company shows their sales team ‘Trust’ by giving them the ability to discount customer pricing on the spot. I experienced this early in my career when I was in corporate sales. Having the trust and the autonomy to discount pricing empowered me; I felt in control. The company’s trust made me feel proud I could use my expertise and judgement in real-time. This was true for the whole corporate sales team.

Values guide how your company fulfills its purpose and
infuses your corporate personality.

Controls and measurements were of course in place. Every month the sales team and management received sales results and percent discount by sales person. Sure, this helped keep us in check; it also created a fun competition to see who could have the highest sales and the lowest discount ratio. We were not rewarded by this ratio, it was a number that helped us sell based on the long-term benefit of the client relationship – not ‘sales by discount’. The main point is, simply knowing the company ‘Trusted‘ us also empowered us – and I believe made us more successful.

When To Define Your Company Values

If you haven’t looked at your values recently, consider this an opportunity to build something special with your employees. This is as an enormous professional development, team building and performance management opportunity. Not only can defining your company values streamline decisions and behaviour… the process can be invigorating.

How To Define Your Company Values: A Sample Process

I don’t believe any two processes will ever be exactly the same. And, this is an important step for your future and the future of your company. It’s often best to have an experienced and impartial facilitator from outside your company helping you stay on track and ensure all voices are heard.

Here are some other things to know and/or do.

  1. Know your desired outcome / your purpose. How will you use your values moving forward?
  2. Introduce the project to all your employees. It’s important everyone understands why you are doing this. This supports the process and buy-in when you roll out your core values.
  3. Have the right people available:
    • If you are a large organization, I recommend all employees should be surveyed for input. Then, perhaps assemble a large strategic group to fine-tune the suggestions. Then, have only a senior team or a special advisory team evaluate and select the final ‘serious’ Values Definition Session(s).
    • If you are a small organization, try to include everyone in most of the process… leaving only the final edits – the last 20% of fine tuning should be done by your senior team or a special advisory team made up of people from all levels and all areas of the organization.
  4. What are your ground rules? Employees must feel safe and feel everyone will be listened to.
  5. Know when you want to have it done by.
  6. Have time to interview external people / customers.
  7. Have time set aside for the Values Definition Session. You will possibly need:
    • Time for a big session, likely a half-day is a good start. This would take place after you did an internal survey and spoke with external people / customers. Look for common themes – group your findings.
    • Time to fine-tune… but don’t let this drag out too long. Keep the process moving forward.
  8. Plan to have a launch day. Announce them to your team, customers, website / social media.

Sample Questions For Your High-Level Values Definition Session: Level I

This is not meant to find FINAL results… just get you 80% of the way. Let’s assume you have a gathering of your 75 employees. Bring everyone together in a large room. Set aside at least half-day for this process. In many cases, an outside facilitator will work best. Ask your employees:

  • What’s important to us?
  • What are we most proud of about:
    • Our company?
    • Our culture?
    • Our employees?
    • Our customers?
    • Our suppliers?
    • Our product / service?
    • Other?
  • What do we want to be known for?
    • What are our Core Competencies?
  • What do our customer need / want / value?
    • What are their fears?
    • What might be important to a customer relationship?
  • What do these proposed values mean?
    • How will they guide behavior?
    • How will they be used to make decisions, develop your corporate culture?

Sample Questions For Your High-Level Values Definition Session: Level II: The Last 20%: Refining Findings From Level I

  • Are these values we are willing to hire on?
  • Are these values we are willing to fire on?
  • Are these values we can apply to:
    • Customer relations?
    • Internal development?
    • Product / service development?
    • Other?
  • What do these final values mean?
    • How will they guide behavior?
    • Why are they important?
    • Can we measure them?
    • What will they cost us? For Example: Customer Service costs an organization – but it also drives Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty and Employee Loyalty (all four can be measured).
    • How will values be used develop your corporate culture?

Conclusion

Corporate values require thoughtful identification of the what the organization is and what it wants to be.

Organizational culture is as powerful and as fragile as a living personality – made up of the energy, actions, decisions and behaviours of all employees – and often customers and suppliers.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Should We Call Millennials… ‘Millennials’?

I was recently asked about an article published in the Ottawa Citizen titled ‘Liberal government advised not to call young people ‘Millennials’ lest they be insulted’ which writes, “Don’t call young people ‘Millennials’ because they find the term offensive.” The article references focus groups conducted for Employment and Social Development Canada.Fragile Millennial

Here is my view. We are not finding a solution if we drop the word ‘Millennial’. The word ‘Millennial’ isn’t the challenge, the challenge is our intention… it’s that so many people use it to refer to this generation being ‘lazy, entitled, distracted, self-absorbed, impatient’… I can go on. What many people don’t talk about is how this generation is ‘smart, creative, want meaningful work, are socially responsible and motivated (when motivated in the right way)’… I can go on here as well.

Millennials (and Gen Z), are not as fragile as many people think!!!

Let’s realize we could call any generation ‘Gold Dust’ but if we only speak poorly about them we will all learn to find the term offensive. Even the words ‘Gold Dust’ would become a derogatory and insulting label that would elicit strong negative connotations. When we make decisions about someone’s character and abilities (especially negative decisions), based on age, culture, gender or any other characteristic, we are identifying ourselves as the challenge.

It’s not about the labels we call each other, it’s about
learning as much as we can about each other.

It’s good for our relationships, our workspaces and good for society when we cultivate positive intention and positive emotions. We will build compassion. This isn’t about tolerating a different person, a different point of view or a different generation… it’s about making positive choices to learn as much as we can about each other and to reward collaboration over competition.

For example, when I facilitate Generational Differences training I often begin by saying that if I were faced with a problem to solve, I would rather a room filled with Millennials than a room without. I want Millennials because of the freshness, creativity, comfort using technology they bring. I want them because most enjoy collaboration and they work hard when given challenging and important work… and not immediately restricted / controlled as to how they SHOULD solve it. I don’t describe their faults, I introduce their positive nature. Maybe it’s coincidence, but I don’t think so… but I have not been asked to stop referring to them as Millennials. Quite the opposite – they sit up and often become very engaged in the conversation / training. In short, they do what they love doing… they contribute… they share their voice… they collaborate.

Most Millennials work hard when given challenging, important work.
Most Boomers and Gen X work hard also.

If you are holding onto a negative impression of a person, a generation or a culture, I encourage you to do a bit of self-reflection to explore how your negative impression is benefiting you… emotionally or otherwise. You may discover you have some intrinsic motivation (personal or professional benefit), that makes you want to hold onto your belief. Step outside of your comfort zone. When you feel awkwardness, this may be a good signal that you have an opportunity to change some misconceptions that may be holding you… and holding others back.

How can you change your perspective about Millennials… or any other person, generation or culture? Using Millennials as an example… talk with some about their interests, their hopes, dreams, fears. Get to know them… be curious. What has it been like growing up? Share what it was like for you to grow up…and your interests, hopes, dreams and fears. It’s amazing what happens when we have a conversation and learn about each other. This may not be easy at first — your first few conversations might be a bit awkward, but you will get the hang of it. Approach the conversations with positive thoughts and kindness… with the objective to understand – not judge.

In the end, you may agree with me that there is nothing wrong with identifying someone from one generation or another. There are many generational characteristics of Millennials we should all embrace. Same with Boomers and Gen X.  Same with Gen Z. But, let’s look at the opportunities the individual brings to our relationships and our organization based on their life experiences and how these experiences have helped them evolve… as well as their values and what excites them. Oh, and then… let’s not forget their experiences and education. Let’s explore what the ‘People’ we hire can do vs. what they cannot do.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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How To Manage Difficult Conversations At Work

In many cases difficult conversations rarely get a chance to happen. Instead, we spend days, weeks, even years telling ourselves (and perhaps our unfortunate partners at home), stories about how rude, inappropriate, unhelpful and/or arrogant some people are. We rarely have the conversation with the person or people we are having difficulty with. We bring our own preconceptions to the events and don’t even get close to finding a viable solution. So… does the challenge get resolved? No… like a coffee maker, our stories keep perking – getting stronger and more bitter as time goes by.

Difficult Conversations Perk

Presto© Coffee Perk

Note for clarification: Firing someone isn’t a difficult conversation. Having a difficult conversation often starts uncomfortable but usually leads to quickly working with someone to help you and them understand a disruptive situation and correct it.

Lets face it – in a heated moment we all tell ourselves stories. What matters is how long we allow ourselves to be ‘stuck’ telling our stories. Your stories likely sound something like:

¤  She did ABC because she just knew I wanted XYZ.
¤  It’s like he thinks none of us know what we are doing.
¤  He always interrupts us because he doesn’t value our ideas.

If we do nothing we don’t find solutions. Instead we tell stories that build walls and increase stress while also degrading the quality creativity and productivity of our work environments. And if we keep it up, we may even put our employment status at risk.

Of course, while these negative stories go on and on, the person who is challenging us often knows nothing of our internal struggle. Until we talk to the person who is challenging us, we stay frustrated but we do not know their true motivation and beliefs – we only know our (biased), guess of Why the problem happened.

How To Quit Telling Yourself Difficult Stories And Start Having Difficult Conversations

  1. Most importantly, reclaim space and authority to build community. Take back your power to do something good… even though it may be difficult. I bet, 9 times out of 10 it will get better… and it is certainly better than you telling yourself difficult stories for months or years on end.
  2. Realize when you are telling difficult stories.
  3. Know that our subconscious often adds fuel to the fire; what we feel we make real. We may even subconsciously do or say things that promote a behavour. If you think your challenger will be:

¤  Creative – he will be creative “Wow Bruce, that is a great fresh approach.”
¤  Arrogant – she will be arrogant. “Yvette is such a know-it-all.”
¤  Rude – you will see examples of rudeness.
¤  Dismissive – you will feel you are being disrespected and dismissed.

  1. Show emotion but don’t be emotional. Tap into your empathy and that of the other person / people, “I’m feeling uncomfortable about something that happened yesterday but I feel it’s important we discuss it so I understand it better. Do you have some time now?”
  2. Explore WHAT someone did – not WHY. Stories that focus on Why is a path that often leads to blame (and the Dark Side for Star Wars fans). And if we haven’t spoken with anyone, our stories about WHY are also speculation which is dangerous and not helpful. Consider, they may not have even noticed they did XYZ.
  3. Let’s consider a situation at work when someone did something inappropriate / against policy. If someone does something outside of work boundaries then it needs to be addressed – not because someone is rude, disrespectful or mean… but because WHAT they did is inappropriate. Inappropriate behaviour must change in order to support a trusting, creative, collaborative environment. And while the conversation may be uncomfortable… even difficult conversation… in the majority of time it doesn’t need to get heated… in my experience.
  4. On rare occasions – do nothing. If it happens once, then sure – you may choose to let it slide… but if it is behavior that repeats, it should be discussed ASAP for the harmony of the team.

If you don’t manage difficult conversations, what are your options?

¤  Do nothing and keep being stressed
¤  Wait until you have had enough, lose your temper and yell at them.
¤  Continue to complain to all your coworkers and your partner

They don’t sound like great options. I recommend having a calm conversation where you share your observations and how those actions make you feel. I’d say something like, “When we are in meetings I feel you often interrupt me when I’m speaking. It makes me feel like you don’t value what I have to say. I wanted check in with you and see if you noticed and what might be happening.” This should start a helpful, respectful, calm conversation.

In conflict situations, you decide how you are going to respond when something doesn’t go your way. Be conscious to Feed Positive Energy – not the negative energy. Elevate the conversation. As we see Michelle Obama saying in this Youtube video, “When they go low, we go high.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu_hCThhzWU

Before difficult situations even happen, choose how you want to act. Who do you want to be in a difficult relationship? Do you want to be the person who shuts down, the person who screams or the person who moves on? OR, do you want to be the manager that deals with the situation?

Instead of generating a negative conversation, elevate the conversation – add positive energy to the conversation and your feedback. Take control of how you act – how you feel – what you own. Ask yourself:

¤  When I think someone is Rude, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Selfish, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Unsupportive, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Aggressive, How do I act?
¤  When I think someone is Taking More Than Their Share, How do I act?

Conclusion

More hate doesn’t beat someone else’s hate; more rudeness doesn’t beat someone else’s rudeness – they just breed more hate, rudeness and frustration.  The only thing that can beat negativity is respect and talking about it.  It doesn’t always fix the problem, but if you start showing respect and listening to the person who shows you hate, rudeness or frustration,  eventually everyone will see them as being the A$$#!*& – not you. Your reputation will improve. Theirs… not so much.

It is amazing what happens when you build trust / build respect between parties. With a base of trust two people could discuss and try a proposed solution quickly vs. discuss and debate it for hours or days. The beauty is that if you try you would both be able to quickly evaluate what worked / didn’t work and perhaps how to improve.  

If we keep telling ourselves difficult stories we will never find a mutually beneficial / satisfactory solution and office productivity and morale will go down as our stress levels go up. Having difficult conversations is far better better.

Happy communicating… mentoring… and training.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting

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Why I Believe Millennials Are Marginally Motivated

In the last 3 months my ‘Hiring, Motivating and Retaining Millennials’ workshop has been my most popular program. I’ve trained at a few companies and spoken at a golf conference, a long-term care conference and even a heavy machinery conference. No matter who my audience is, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “How do I get the best out of Millennials and keep them more than 18 months“. It’s a great question. There are many concerned leaders who believe Millennials are only ‘marginally motivated’ when it comes to their work.

That’s what I would like to address over the next few minutes. My goal is to share three key reasons why I believe Millennials are marginally motivated at work.

Reason 1: We Don’t Hire The Right People

Some Millennials take jobs that are not in their chosen profession. You may wonder, ‘Why would someone take work they don’t really want?’ The simple truth is many Millennials may need the money, or they may be tired of looking for work, or perhaps they want to make sure there isn’t a gap in their resume. There are many reasons why a Millennial might compromise, and whatever the reason, it is not good for you or for them.

If your new Millennial employee feels they are compromising (and my Millennial At Work Survey research says that many Millennials feel they have to compromise), it’s not surprising that during that time with you they will be ‘Marginally Motivated’ and you’ll only get 50%, 60% or perhaps 70% of their effort. In addition, it should not surprising that they keep looking for work they really do want.

This is why it is critical to hire the right people. When you hire people whose career goals and personal values reflect the work and your corporate values, you will have engaged employees. When you use a hiring process that is measurable, accountable and reliable, you will have lower-than-average turnover and lower-than-average training expenses. In addition, all of your other success indicators will move in the right direction. If you are not using a formal hiring process it’s like gambling in Las Vegas… it’s risky, based on chance and will likely be expensive when you lose.

Reason 2: We All Excel When Respected

Millennials want to be respected and valued. They also want to feel they are making a contribution and want professional development opportunities. Lets face it, we all excel when we are respected, valued and feel we are making a contribution. You know that when you love something you spend lots of time doing it… you many even volunteer to do more of it.

The difference between Millennials and everyone else is that if a Millennial doesn’t feel they are growing / acquiring new skills or making a difference, they quickly feel frustrated and lose interest… which is why people think they are ‘Marginally Motivated’. And, because many parents of Millennials have not done a great job of teaching their kids patience, even if Millennials are working in their chosen profession, when they feel frustrated you will begin to have a retention problem.

NOTE: Millennials are life-long learners – these are values their Boomer and Gen X parents instilled in them.

Reason 3: Millennials Want Meaningful Work

Millennials see work as part of their whole life, something they want to enjoy and is / will be something that fulfills them. Millennials want their work to be meaningful and even (for many), a place where they make friends with their co-workers / leaders. Millennials also perform better when they are given frequent, positive reinforcement / encouragement.

Giving frequent reward and motivation to each employee isn’t ‘natural’ for Boomers. For 30 plus years Baby Boomers were the primary employment market. In addition (and this is critically important), for the most part each of them shared very similar goals. Generally speaking, Boomers never thought of work as a place to fulfill their passions. Boomers wanted stability; they didn’t want to take risks (and since change equals risk… it was bad). What Boomers wanted was mutual loyalty, to pay their mortgage and to collect wealth (which would give them even more stability). Very few Millennials share these values – for now at least.

Conclusion

Does this sound like too much effort? I hope not. Employers can only insulate themselves from Millennials (and the upcoming Gen Z), for so long. Soon, most of the Boomers will have retired and the largest workforce will be Millennials.

In case you don’t sense it, I do believe Millennials are hard-working, creative and loyal as long as we hire the right Millennial and support them / motivate them in the way that meets their individual, personal and professional goals. And, while they do want to be loyal, they do not expect to work for one company their whole career.

The benefits of hiring Millennials and motivating them as unique individuals is tremendously profitable. And this holds true for people of all generations. When a company is able to keep highly motivated employees (not marginally motivated employees), for five or more years instead of the two years so many employers are experiencing… and even expecting… it translates into a great pay-off (and saving), for the company AND a great learning experience for each employee.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating, coaching… and training.

Click here to learn more about Bruce Mayhew Consulting. We facilitate training courses and speak on a number of topics including email etiquette, time management, leadership, generational differences and more.

Embrace Your Night Owl Employees

I can’t even imagine working at night. Anything I do after 8PM had better not need strategic thought.  But at 6AM (or earlier), I can plow through creative, thoughtful, strategic work like an Olympic runner at a marathon.

Yup – I’m a morning person. Even on weekends ‘sleeping in’ past 8AM rarely happens.

And then there’s my friend Catherine. Catherine is a Night Owl. For Catherine, she’s not at her ‘best’ in the morning; her energy patterns – her Circadian Rhythms – are ‘different’ than 80%-90% of the population.Circadian Rhythm

No matter what time you sleep, each of us does our best, most strategic, most creative work when we are rested.

As a chronic morning person I used to believe Night Owls routinely went to bed too late and that if they changed some of their habits they could also enjoy getting to the office early. Now, as a Time Management Trainer I’ve see over and over evidence that tells me Night Owls are only embracing their natural way. When I’m training there’s usually at least one person in the team that says they do their best work at night.

Thankfully for Catherine and other Night Owls like her, work spaces are changing so Night Owls can better embrace their late-night energy spikes.

As work environments change businesses are becoming more accepting that people work on different schedules – whether employees want to because of family commitments – or have to because they are Night Owls. Virtual ‘work wherever & whenever’ companies that have employees throughout the country or the world are becoming more and more common.

Benefits Of Embracing Night Owl Employees

  • If you are an “in-the-office” company, see if you can give employees more flexibility. It’s not a perfect solution for a Night Owl, but if someone can travel during off-peak hours it means they will be working when THEY are more productive. It likely also means your employees are less stressed and will be happier because they spend less time sitting in traffic and more time doing the work they enjoy or being with their family/friends. And, happy employees are more creative, more productive and will be more loyal to your organization and your values – meaning better customer service and less time having to rehire, retrain, re….
  • If you are a “virtual” company, it’s likely you’ve already embraced the idea of hiring the best people vs. the best people living within 100kms of… wherever; your employees are likely in a different time zone. It’s also likely you and your employees are happily experiencing a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), who cares when they do their work as long as they meet their timelines, budgets and work quality. Your virtual employees can work when THEY are most productive… it also makes them happier. So – what you have is a happy, productive employee who again, will be more creative, more productive and will be more loyal to your organization and your values – meaning better customer service and less time having to rehire, retrain, re….

No matter what your company structure is like, leaders need to explore what is right for each member of their team… and to focus more on keeping their team collaborating and focused on the vision and goals vs. when or where they are doing their work.

When Should Night Owls Send Email?

I get asked this more and more often when I deliver Email Etiquette Training. Proper workplace etiquette has put more pressure on employers to leave employees alone during their time off. For most, this roughly means no contact from 6PM to 8AM.

If you are a Night Owl like Catherine I recommend you use a delay-send feature for email so the email you write gets sent closer to 8AM vs. 11PM, 2AM or 4AM. Other than not disturbing your fellow co-workers, I believe this is especially important if you are emailing clients. Consider that a 1:30AM email might give your client a negative feeling that you are out of control.

Conclusion

What is your Circadian Rhythm and work-life pattern? What are your most productive hours? More importantly, as a leader when are your employees most productive? As work-spaces change it’s important we enable our employees to be productive when people are productive. If you are a leader – help your team find joy… you will be rewarded with loyal, hard-working, creative team members.

Our work and our work schedule should give us joy. Hopefully you can find a schedule to help you be the best person you can be and do your best work.

Happy communicating… interviewing… mentoring… and training.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

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

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

View Bruce Mayhew's profile on LinkedIn

Bruce Mayhew Consulting

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Return On Investment From Investing In Email Etiquette Training

I was recently asked what Return On Investment (ROI), a client might receive from investing in my Email Etiquette Training.

The quick answer is that I’m confident that my Email Etiquette Training conservatively gives the average professional more than 6 extra days of productivity per year. If participants see me speaking at a conference it may be a bit less – or if they experience me in a customized corporate training environment it may be a bit more.

Depending on the employees’ responsibilities, this result can have a tremendous impact on training ROI; not to mention how it improves their professional relationship, brand reputation and efficiency.

Let me show you how I come to my 6 productive days conclusion.

My Hypothesis: Saving 6 Days, 15 minutes at a time

Studies demonstrate the average business professional spends approximately 90% of their time writing and reading business email. I’ve seen first-hand that learning to write better email well helps participants get more done in less time, and it helps organizations and individuals improve their reputation by:

  • Writing / formatting messages in a professional manner
  • Getting to the point – quickly / learning how to bottom-line messages
  • Getting and giving all the information that is required – when it is needed
  • Not having to send multiple email asking for information that hasn’t been received
  • Not being misunderstood as bossy, rude or hostile
  • No longer clogging up their managers inbox by overusing To… Cc… and Reply All…
  • And more…

I’ve studied how participates in Email Etiquette Training can save between 15 and 30 minutes per day. But, let me be conservative here and say they only save 15 minutes a day (or 1 hour and 15 minutes per week), of extra productivity.

The average American works approximately 1,700 hours per year. Based on an 8-hour workday, that equals 42.5 weeks per year, (when considering vacation, statutory holidays, sick days etc.). Saving 1 hour and 15 minutes per week for 42.5 weeks gives us 53.13 recovered / saved hours per year (3,187.56 minutes). That equals more than 6 additional – more productive days per year… per employee.roi-from-professional-development-training

What If Email Training Saves 20 Minutes Per Day?

If email etiquette training saves 20 minutes per day (an extra 5 minutes), employers will enjoy nearly 9 days of additional productivity per year… per employee… almost 2 free weeks of productive work.

Conclusion: Email Etiquette Training Return On Investment

Email Etiquette Training is a Win for the employee, a Win for the department and a BIG WIN for the organization overall. The additional 1, 2 (or more), weeks of productivity per year has no cost – other than the training. Chances are, any training costs will be recovered within the first week simply in additional productivity and added brand value / reputation.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and training.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Time Management, Leadership, Generational Differences and More…

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

Implementing A Performance Management System (PMS)

A Performance Management System is about building trust, capacity and a respectful partnership between a manager and each of their employees. Some people see performance management as trendy words for the annual performance review. It’s Not… it’s much more! This is especially true if the organization is transforming and leading change.

In a time when employees don’t feel their employers are loyal, a Performance Management System is a commitment by employers to partner with their employees and help them reach their work goals, career goals and personal goals by investing in opportunities, mentoring, encouragement and training.

In a time when employers don’t feel employee loyalty, a Performance Management System is a commitment by employees to understand and respect the organizational values and to do their best to support the organizations strategic plan and improve team / organizational effectiveness.performance-management-plan-for-success

Note: One-Year plans are common for full-time employees. Part-time or seasonal employees still participate in Performance Management, but goals may be measured by project or a shorter time-period.

Step 1: Co-Developing A One-Year Performance Management Plan

Performance Management Systems define how an organization will support its employees as they pursue a set of goals. It also defines how each employee will support a department and/or organization strategic plan.

To set a One-Year Plan, each employee and manager should:

  1. Review the employee’s job description to ensure it is up-to-date and reflects the work the employee is doing and appropriate measurement criteria. This is especially important if the organization is leading change and transformation.
  2. Review how the employee’s work supports the teams and the organization’s goals, objectives and strategic plan.
  3. Identify three to five employee performance objectives for the year. These should be specific and measurable and dependent on:
    • The organization’s strategic plan
    • Key deliverables that are associated with the employee’s responsibilities
    • Employee goals
  4. Recognize that at some point, unexpected opportunities and crisis will happen and will have unexpected (positive and or negative), impact.
  5. Develop a more detailed work plan (tasks / tactics), based on the three to five employee performance objectives.
  6. Specify the consequences for the employee and the organization if they are responsible for the performance objective not being met.

Note: Experienced managers and employees will leave time for unexpected opportunities/crisis (practicing good Time Management).

Step 2. Monitor A Performance Management System / Year Plan

To be effective, performance must be continuously monitored. Therefore, when implementing a performance management system be sure to include an agreed upon way to monitor progress. In today’s work environment where autonomy, relevance and progress are important, monitoring refers to measuring results for both the employees and the organization.

One approach to monitoring I particularly like was introduced to me by one of my previous bosses; it’s what I call ’10-minute laser meetings’. In this case, my boss met with each of his employees once a week for 10-minutes to discuss critical issues on major projects. For each of these meetings, it was each employees responsibility to chair these meetings and be prepared to:

  • Introduce the project and what success looks like (the performance objectives).
  • Share what progress has been made towards meeting the performance objectives.
  • Identify any barriers that may prevent the employee from accomplishing the previously agreed upon performance objectives. (Get management input and support here)
  • Suggest what needs to be done to overcome any barriers. (Get management input and support here)
  • Identify if there has been a shift in organization priorities or if the employee has assumed new / unexpected responsibilities. (Get management input and support here)

Defining the appropriate measurement criteria is one of the most difficult parts of developing the strategic year plan. Remember people often respond better to positive reinforcement vs. punishment. I strongly recommend considering the value of intrinsic motivation to help managers encourage employees.

Step 3. Managing Shortfalls

Sometimes there will be shortfalls. Sometimes those shortfalls are outside of an employees control… and sometimes they are within the employee’s control. In the cases where performance fell short of objectives…

  • Stay positive and cordial – good rarely comes from hostile behavior.
  • Document the challenges/shortfalls encountered:
    • Answer the What, Where, Why questions.
    • Did the challenge fall within or outside of the employee’s control?
  • Are the change management and transformation plans impacting the project?
  • Identify opportunities for coaching… by the manager or professional executive coach.
  • Give constructive feedback in a non-threatening way.
  • Identify areas for training and development.

Throughout the year (perhaps quarterly), managers should formally assess each employee’s performance. The beauty of the laser meetings mentioned above (for example), is that both the manager and employee have up-to date examples of how goals are… or are not being met; there should be no surprises.

Step 4: Continuous Coaching / Having Difficult Conversations

Coaching / mentoring and managing shortfalls can be done by the manager or by bringing in a professional executive coach.

Implementing a performance management also means making sure everyone feel comfortable having difficult conversations. Learning how to give constructive feedback in a non-threatening way helps everyone address performance issues in a productive, supportive way and ensure that even challenging moments lead to a positive contribution.

The role of the coach is to demonstrate good listening skills and to deliver honest feedback. In a coaching role, the manager is not expected to have all the answers… but they do ask questions that help the employee and themselves analyze the situation. Coaching means working with employees to identify opportunities and methods to maximize strengths and improve weak areas.

Mentoring can include providing constructive feedback to address a particular performance issue if an employee is not meeting the agreed upon performance expectations. The beauty (and my belief), importance of weekly 10-minute laser meetings is that challenges or shortfalls are identified early and don’t have time to become critical issues… they are taken care of early when they first arise.

Step 5: Employee Training and Development Plan

A critical part of a Performance Management System is for the manager and each employee to identify areas for further training and development opportunities. These should support the workplace activities that the employee should undertake as well as their career goals and personal goals.

This step should not be taken lightly.  Training and development opportunities must be supported and pursued by the employee, their manager and the HR department. All parties involved must take a leadership role – no matter how high or low on the seniority scale they are.

The main goal here is to find, mentor, train and motivate… and therefore retain top talent all while also leading strategic corporate change. Hiring and training new people is a great expense compared to a modest training and development investment. This is a critical component to the long-term success of a Performance Management System… I cannot emphasis this benefit enough.

Conclusion

A Performance Management System is a much more than recapping performance once-per-year with an annual performance review. As I said above, this is especially true if the organization is transforming and leading change.

Performance management includes activities such as joint goal setting, continuous progress review and frequent communication. The idea is to ensure resources like talent are valued and maximized (monitored and respected), as much as resources like technology, equipment and finances are monitored and respected.

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating… and leading change.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

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

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

View Bruce Mayhew's profile on LinkedIn

Bruce Mayhew Consulting

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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