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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Leadership: A Leaders Responsibilities Have Changed: Part 2

Just as all great athletes have a natural athletic ability, they still must study, practice and make a few mistakes; the same goes if you want to be a great leader. Investing in leadership development always pays off because while there may only be one big winner at the Olympics, companies are able to have many great leaders.

There are 20+ Leadership attributes to be a great leader that I explore, however, to keep this blog simple, here are 2 critical leadership styles. A great leader:

  • Has and shares a vision
  • Keeps project teams moving forward

The responsibility of a great leader is as a visionary, a communicator and a mentor, not a taskmaster.

Employees want to be proud, contribute and get better/learn. So, how do companies not only support/retain/mentor promising employees, but prepare employees to be their leaders in 1,2, 5 years? The simple answer is to invest in leadership training and leadership development.

A Leader Has And Shares A Vision

Leaders define goals, teams create project solutions.

An important trend we see in leadership style is to break larger projects into smaller projects (discussed in Part 1). Smaller projects can be managed more easily and they provide employees with an sense of achievement, creativity and collaboration.

Smaller projects also work well for people from different generations. For example, Millennial and Generation Z generations typically enjoy a faster pace and more frequent wins/accomplishments.

1 large project broken into 5 smaller projects.

1 large project broken into 5 smaller projects.

As tasks are broken down into smaller components, the overall vision of the project and the company must be clear to the leader and shared with the team members. Each team is set with a project – and yes, some team members may overlap and be on multiple project teams. Nevertheless, effective time management focuses each persons efforts.

The vision of the leader allows for each individual contribution to fit into the bigger corporate plan, even though the pieces are designed independently. Similar to how guitar strings are designed and manufactured in different places and perhaps different companies, they still sound as expected because standards are set and followed – they are part of a greater global vision.

A Leader Keeps Project Teams Moving Forward

The objective of the small, collaborative team is to make decisions quickly. Only if the team is stalled does the leader get involved or to remind the team of the goals and help them move on.

Define work goals before work begins.

  • The leader defines the goal.
  • The team decides what to do to achieve the goal.
  • The team estimates how much time the work will take.
  • The team decides how to do the work to achieve the goal.
  • The leader gets involved if the teams work will risk success but does not get involved if the team follows a path that’s different from how they would accomplish it.

What we find with a collaborative team is that the ideas are what become important – decisions are made based on merit of the idea vs. who had it. This often results in the smaller project exceeding expectations.

Leaders Lead – They Don’t Do

A common challenge we see is when leaders get busy doing the work their staff should be doing. As soon as that happens a leaders focus is taken away from their important work; project vision and supporting/retaining/mentoring employees. Also, the project solutions often become less creative, take more time and cost… why? Because instead of the best solution being adopted, the team feels pressure to adopt their leaders solution. Employee engagement also drops and employees have less pride in the solution (and this is a precursor to turnover of valuable talent).

Conclusion

Understanding generational differences at work is only one of the challenges leaders have, but it is important when a leader is working out how to keep valuable talent engaged. No matter what generation your employees belong to, having a clear vision and instilling a sense of pride and accomplishment is one of the best ways leaders can create value for customers and shareholders.

Happy leadership and communication.

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Leadership: A Leaders Responsibilities Have Changed: Part 1

Being a leader isn’t glamorous or easy. Changing your leadership style is even more difficult… but the rewards of both are immense.

If you are an individual or a company, your leadership qualities and leadership style are essential if you are going to survive and thrive. Stats show that half the companies in the S&P500 are different from 1999 (Source Sam Ro). Said another way, the world is changing around us and longevity demands our leaders promote responsible change and keep their teams adapting.

Leader TrainingLets think back a few years when Blackberry (Research In Motion), was leading the smartphone market. Many Leadership Coaches agree that Blackberry’s leaders had become comfortable that their main core competency (their security protocols), would continue to lead market demand. Then Apple innovated the market and gave mobile users new features like cameras, an ipod, touch screen, useful apps and high-definition for movie watchers and gamers. Almost overnight Blackberry became one of the smallest players in the mobile market.

Apple, a company known for a non-traditional approach to almost everything focused on customer delight, not how to keep doing the same thing and maximize existing revenue. Apple won because their leaders and by extension their employees looked at tomorrow and built a solution for tomorrows customer. Apple leaders gave their employees the freedom to look at what individuals were doing within their lives and explore solutions. By doing this Apple leaders and employees did far more than maximize existing revenue – they created a whole new revenue stream. HOOYAH!

This is a good segue into one of the key things leaders need to do.

Put Your Customer And Employee Needs First

Before you think about maximize existing revenue or cost cutting to increase ROI, are you preparing for what customers will want tomorrow? How can you make life better for them? When you make life better people see value, and when they see value they will buy your stuff.

The world is going to be different tomorrow!

Not only are customer needs changing, employees’ wants and needs are changing… really quickly. So, your leadership qualities and leadership style also has to change if you want to survive.

Great companies run on great employees. Products don’t think or make themselves – and they don’t innovate themselves.

Innovation happens in months not years, and to keep up leaders need their employees to grow, contribute, innovate and collaborate. Todays leaders need to create a vision and instead of telling their team what to do and how to get it done, todays leaders / mangers are successful when they empower their team and remove roadblocks.

Great leaders have learned how to hire and motivate great employees… and stay out of their way.

Conclusion

Customers want great products. Employees want to be proud, contribute and get better/learn.

Doing the same thing and/or just putting in more hours isn’t going to… work; it’s not 1958. So, how do companies attract, motivate and retain promising employees who build great customer solutions? How do companies prepare employees to be tomorrows leaders? The simple answer is to invest in leadership training and leadership development for todays leaders – and tomorrows leaders.

Happy leadership and communication.

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

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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How To Deal With Passive Aggressive People

I often get asked during my ‘Managing Difficult Conversations’ training workshops “How to deal with passive aggressive people.” So, of course I decided to write a blog about how to manage people who try to manage us.

Sure, some people are naturally manipulative or angry… but I believe the majority of people aren’t aware they are being passive aggressive; instead they are unconsciously using a learned behaviour (from dramatic parents, daytime soap operas and 100 other examples in society), to avoid difficult uncomfortable conversations. Also, we need to accept that all of us are passive aggressive sometimes… it just slips out.Passive Aggressive People

So, instead of facing difficult conversations, passive aggressive behaviour is an effectively covert albeit manipulative way to:

  • Express anger
  • Show disagreement/disapproval
  • Manage someone or a situation
  • Get our way

Examples Of Passive Aggressive Comments:

It’s difficult to deal with passive aggressive people because their behaviour can be so subtle it’s not immediately recognizable. Lets look at examples so we can learn to recognize it quickly.

  • The Hapless Victim / Teflon Man: Often play the “You never think I do it correctly” card so might ask “How would you like me to do it”
  • The Sarcasm Master: They say things like, “Sure, I’d love to stay late. What else would I be doing?”
  • The Silent Treatment Snubber: Nuff said
  • The Withholder of Information: They say things like, “I thought you knew.”
  • The Controller: Say things like, “No one else would help you like I do.”
  • Back-stabber / showing artificial concern: “I don’t want to hurt you; I’m saying this because I care.”
  • Deliberately Poor Performer: So they won’t be asked again rather than having to say ‘No’
  • The Late Runner: Someone saying, “I’m coming,” and then shows up even later.
  • The Procrastinator: Not doing something that’s asked of him/her… or “I Didn’t Know You Meant Now.”

Still not sure you can recognize passive aggressive behaviour quickly? One of the best indicators that you are running into passive aggressive people is when you notice you feel uncomfortable about how someone is behaving or if you’re getting angry, upset or disappointed by someone’s behaviour.

How Leaders Deal With Passive Aggressive People

When you notice somebody being passive aggressive it’s the time to begin preparing to find out what’s bothering them or what they are avoiding.

Like I mentioned above, everyone exhibits passive aggressive behaviour from time to time. But, when it’s happening often there’s a great opportunity as a leader for you to offer to help them correct their behaviour and support your whole team.

The biggest mistakes leaders make is letting the behaviour slide. When we let it slide it will almost always get worse and eventually can destroy relationships. Instead, see it as an opportunity to making a situation better – even if you have to have a difficult conversation or two to get there.  Here are three things to keep in mind:

  • Passive aggressive behaviour happens at home and at work. Give your employees and your family members safe space to have conversations when they are feeling frustrated.
  • Be clear about your purpose. Global phrases like “You’re always this way!” will put someone on the defensive. Don’t be aggressive; be respectful with timing and language. Use phrases like, “I’ve noticed that I feel XYZ when you enter the room… vs., Every time you enter the room…”
  • Be patient to what is happening. Don’t react to them, take a moment to respond with controlled intention. This likely isn’t about you at all – it’s about them. Be mindful of your goals and values and if responding to their passive aggressive behaviour will jeopardize your integrity.

Passive aggressive behaviour will escalate conflict if left unchecked. Don’t let your or your team be manipulated. Approach the situation the same way you would approach a difficult conversation. One of the most important steps is to show how this is impacting you – like Point 3 in my most recent Difficult Conversation blog post, show emotion but don’t be emotional. Use ‘I’ language not ‘You’ language.

Conclusion

People who don’t feel they have permission or who are worried about how the other person will react will often use passive aggressive behaviour as a ‘safe’ attempt to express their needs, anger and/or frustration. Sometimes the person is aware that they are doing it and sometimes they are not.

Avoiding a passive aggressive situation is almost never the best solution. If this is happening at work or with your family / friends, if the problem isn’t dealt with honestly and respectfully it ends up either creating more problems or escalating current problems until they get too big to handle.

Happy communicating and dealing with passive aggressive people.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Mindfulness and more. Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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

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Your Emotions And Actions Affect Employee Engagement

How do you feel? Do you believe your emotions and actions affect employee engagement?

Traditionally, showing your emotions at work was considered unprofessional. Thankfully things are changing and because of this so is the potential for increased employee engagement and productivity. Everyday more research comes out that demonstrates emotions like emotional empathy and compassion are powerful assets… not liabilities.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 5.59.57 PM

Organizations Benefit From Employee Engagement

Emotions drive greater employee engagement and a long list of benefits. For example, Gallup research recently published finding that highly engaged employees far outperform employees with low engagement by:

  • 10% on customer ratings
  • 22% in profitability
  • 21% in productivity

Gallup researchers also saw:

  • Significantly lower employee turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations)
  • 28% less shrinkage
  • 37% less absenteeism
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality defects

Gallup Study Reference: http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx

What Is Employee Engagement?

I believe “Employee engagement is the emotional and professional commitment an employee has to add value to his or her organization, team members, clients/customers, environment and self. Engaged employees intentionally ‘lean into’ this symbiotic relationship.” Bruce Mayhew

How Does Employee Engagement Happen?

Employees may start off as keen or driven… but they remain engaged because the organization and their leaders/mentors create a safe, encouraging space that helps them use and develop their core competencies. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader/mentor is to manage the emotional well-being, energy and motivation of their employees.

Leaders/mentors also remind employees of the company mission, vision and values which helps them stay focused and make productive, smart decisions (which is especially important for Gen Z and Millennials).

Clearly, emotional intelligence (EI), plays a huge part creating the leadership and infrastructure that will support employee engagement. This also means that all levels of an organization are required to teach, support and reward employee engagement (Top down & Bottom up).

Conclusion

Leaders are valuable when they increased productivity, revenue and brand while decreasing or maintaining costs. The best way to do this is to hire and keep the best employees and help them deliver their best work.

Demonstrating emotional intelligence (EI) means recognizing, understanding and managing your emotions, and therefore [positively] impacting, encouraging and empowering the people around you.

How much would you spend on a marketing campaign that would increase your customer ratings by 10%, increase profitability by 22% and lower turnover by 25%-65%? Or, perhaps the question is, “Is this a good time to invest in your leaders/mentors?” 

Happy communicating and employee engagement.

Empathy Reference: Three Kinds of Empathy: Cognitive, Emotional, Compassionate by Daniel Goleman

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Habit 6: Synergize

The first time I read Habit 6: Synergize from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I remember feeling a sense of a crescendo… that Habit 6 was unifying the previous Habits… both Personal Habits (Habits 1 – Habits 3), and the Interdependent Habits (Habits 4 – Habits 5… and 6). And then I came across a quote from Stephen R. Covey in the Habit 6 chapter that confirmed my feeling, it reads, “the true test and manifestation of all of the other habits put together.”Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 4.31.35 PM

What Is Synergize?

Synergy is what happens when two or more forces choose to work together with open, trusting intention to embrace each others differences and to overcome the challenges that will inevitably arise.  The benefit of Synergy is that the end result will be something that is far superior to anything that could exist without the cooperation and sharing of the forces.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey writes about how:

  • Synergy has the ability to unify forces (people, departments, companies, countries)
  • Synergy is important to being an important leader and a successful, sustainable organization

In the context of two or more people – it is the minds, experiences, and openness and mutual respect of each person coming together that creates a new alternative.

Synergy & Steve Jobs

I believe synergy was a key approach Steve Jobs used to create the Apple empire (as I learned from the Steve Jobs biography written by Walter Isaacson). From this biography I don’t think I’d call Steve a great leader, but it does seem Steve Jobs was exceptionally good at identifying greatness in others, connecting people and inspiring them to find unique – new solutions to challenges (often that he imposed). Under his watch there was rapid product-line evolution and innovation.

Embrace Differences

It is important to note that it is our differences that make synergize possible.

Bruce Speaking On Global TV

Bruce Speaking On Global TV

The truth of Habit 6 is that differences are what make synergize so powerful.  For example: When two people have different experience / education and when they learn to embrace / respect each others differences and work together, what they create will be greater than what each individual could create on their own. If they are very similar, their accomplishment would not be synergy. Why? Because when everyone has similar values / needs etc… nobody is motivated to look for new opportunities – to stretch; compromise is Lose / Win.

Differences Example:  If you represent a lady’s shoe company with 100 customers and you buy another ladies shoe company with 100 customers, chances are the manufacturing, delivery, marketing will be similar and the merger will be relatively easy… but you are still representing a lady’s shoe company and in the end will likely have less than 200 customers – because of pre-existing customer overlap.

But, if you are representing a lady’s shoe company with 100 customers and you buy a mans shoe company with 100 customers, chances are the manufacturing, delivery, marketing will be different and there will be many challenges to work through (opportunity for synergy), as you merge… but because of synergy you are now representing a whole new shoe company and perhaps have up to 400 customers (cross selling to exiting customers husbands/wives/partners).

When there is a clearly defined common purpose, differences lead to better outcomes.

Embracing differences does not mean you have to become each others best friend. For example, when you have two or more leaders with strong Type A personalities working together… cooperation will be difficult sometimes. But, embracing differences does mean we have to remain open to the different ideas, values, needs and feelings of others.  When we do this we gain new insights and it is a learning opportunity (personal growth).

What’s Required For Synergize?

When people / companies work under these guidelines, synergy and new ideas begin to emerge.  Participants / companies have to:

  • Have one common vision – one common goal
  • Be different
  • Have a sense of self
  • Stay open to differences and new ideas – stay authentic
  • Embrace trust
  • Accept the better way will likely not be their way…100%
  • Offer respect to everyone – everything
  • Be able to apologize and forgive
  • Practice mindful listening (listen with empathy)
  • Maintain an open desire to understand
  • Control negative judgment
  • Stay with Win / Win (not Negative synergy Win/Lose or Lose)

Conclusion: Building Partnerships

When you synergize you have to spend less time fixing problems because your employees are working with each other and creating systems and learning expertise and efficiency as they drop their guards and increase synergy – between team members and across teams.

It is a struggle for people and companies to synergize because the ‘old’ way of doing business is more of a push system – not a collaborative, synergistic solution. But you can succeed by creating alignment / vision at the top and by training and supporting your staff to ensure synergy is taking place.

The highest level of communication is positive synergy (Win / Win) communication. The truly effective person remains positive by being is mindful of their own abilities and limitations, and respectful of the abilities… and limitations of the people around them.

Happy communicating.

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

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

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Reference Material:

  • Stephen R. Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ©
  • Michael Bungay Stanier: Do More Great Work ©
  • Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs
  • My experience
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