Posted by & filed under Leadership.

Trust is an essential ingredient in any relationship, and the workplace is no exception. If your colleagues and employees don’t trust you to be honest, respectful and reliable, they won’t be eager to work with you, and your personal relationships at work will suffer.

You can’t build trust overnight, but leading with credibility in all of your actions will help the way others see you. If they see you as an authentic, communicative and responsible problem-solver, they will put more faith in your leadership.

Leading With Credibility in Action

Follow through with your commitments.

Abiding by this simple rule will build you a reputation as a trustworthy and dependable person on the job. If you say you are going to finish a project by Friday, have it completed on time. If you schedule an appointment, be there prepared and on time, and don’t reschedule or cancel unless absolutely necessary. Demonstrate that you respect other people’s time and work, and your personal relationships will thrive.

Be organized and punctual.

You expect your employees to be on time and ready to work, so you should hold yourself to the same standards. If you arrive at work 10 minutes late every day and your desk is a chaotic jumble of papers and coffee mugs, you are not leading with credibility and will not inspire confidence in the people you manage. Put your best foot forward and show that you are professional, capable and organized.

Think before you speak.
Making off-the-cuff statements and thinking out loud can earn you a reputation as someone who is scatterbrained and unreliable. Take the time to consider an idea and its consequences before you bring it up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and explore possibilities before committing to a project– it is much better to identify problems early on.

Keep others informed.

Personal relationships at work are often important to the success of your projects. If you need cooperation from colleagues, define what each person’s responsibilities are and set concrete deadlines for each item. Don’t assume that people have all the information if you haven’t given it to them; communicate clearly and make sure there are no surprises.

Take responsibility.

Sometimes leading with credibility means admitting you made a mistake. If you make a poor decision or miss a deadline or forget an important meeting, apologize and look for a solution. Everyone is human, but you will only make the situation worse if you try to deny accountability or place the blame on someone else.

How do you build trust with the people you work with?

Learn more about EDSI’s Leading With Credibility course.  

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Professional presence is a broad term that describes how you conduct yourself and present yourself to the world through your work. This definition can include how you dress, how you communicate, how you treat others and how you do your job.

All of the small decisions you make throughout the day affect your professionalism in the workplace and the example you set for your employees. When you act professionally and respectfully, you set the standards high for everyone in your organization. Use these simple tips every day to stay on track with your professional demeanor.

Daily Checklist for Professionalism in the Workplace

1. Take pride in your work.

No matter what your field or what your position, you owe it to yourself and your colleagues to do the best job possible. If you are unengaged in your work, you will not bring the energy and focus you need to put your best foot forward. Try to keep yourself on task by asking, “Would I be proud to show this work to my boss/ my friend/ my mentor? Do I need anything else to do my best work?” If you need support or more resources, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

2. Be a team player.

Professionalism in the workplace is not just about how well you work on your own but also how well you work with others. Invest time and energy into building strong working relationships with your co-workers and employees, and you will see the benefits in your professional presence. Put extra effort in and be a resource for others on the job and offer mentoring and coaching help whenever possible. Be respectful in your interactions, avoid office gossip and work on your conflict management strategies.

3. Stick to business.

Try to avoid conducting personal business on company time. Many workplaces understand if you have to send a quick email to a friend about dinner plans or take an occasional cell phone call from your child’s school, but keep it short and don’t let it distract you from your job. What doesn’t help your professional presence, however, is spending hours on personal phone calls or other activities you should save for the privacy of your own home. Before you handle any personal business at the office, ask yourself, “Is it time-sensitive that I do this right now? Is it an emergency? Can it wait?”

4. Keep the mission in mind.

It is important to remember what you are working toward as an organization. Remind yourself by rereading the company mission statement, values, goals and objectives. Ask, “How is my job supporting these principles? What am I doing well, and what can I work on?”

How do you stay focused on professionalism in the workplace on a day-to-day basis?

Learn more about EDSI’s Professional Presence in a Casual World course.

Posted by & filed under Employee Development, Leadership.

performance management questionsWhen the employees you manage encounter challenges or outright crises in their jobs, they turn to you as a manager for help. Your automatic reaction may be to jump in with a list of next steps and solutions, but take a moment to think before you do this.

If you take over the situation and manage the problem-solving process, what will your employees learn? Will they develop the skills they need to be effective leaders? Is this the best method of performance management? It may be faster in the short-term to handle a problem yourself, but taking the time for coaching and mentoring is a better long-term investment.

Instead of acting immediately to fix a problem, learn how to ask the right questions to empower your employees to develop their own leadership and problem-solving skills.

Tips for Asking Performance Management Questions

Make them open-ended.

The best questions can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Ask your employees questions that make them think analytically and see the problem from different angles. For example, “Why do you think Y resulted from X?” or “What are some possible solutions that would address challenge Z?”

Try to remove your own bias.

One of the most difficult parts of coaching is removing yourself from the equation. Remember that you’re not trying to get your employees to act the way you would act; you are trying to encourage them to think for themselves and find their own solutions. Don’t ask questions that have one right answer. For example, “What are some of the pros and cons to this idea?” is more effective than, “Don’t you think it would be better if you handled it this way…?”

Show respect.

An important part of performance management is demonstrating that you genuinely value your employees’ perspective on how to solve challenges. Ask questions and respectfully listen to and consider their responses. Follow up with more questions that show you were paying attention and are interested in what they have to say. For example, “Can you explain that idea to me a little more? What does it mean when you say…?”

Draw outside the lines.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions that challenge conventional wisdom or inspire people to come up with unorthodox ideas. Sometimes the best solutions come from looking at a problem from a completely different angle. For example, “If you had no time or budget restrictions, how would you solve this problem? How could you adapt that concept to stay within our current limits?”

What coaching questions do you ask to improve performance management in your employees?

 

Learn more about EDSI’s performance management resources.

Posted by & filed under Corporate Culture, Employee Development.

One of the most difficult tasks as a manager is finding the right people for the jobs within your organization. Filling even one or two open spots can take weeks or months of your time, and the hiring process can be tedious and frustrating.

When you are faced with a pile of resumes and the prospect of time-consuming phone interviews, in-person interviews and reference checks, it is tempting to speed up your hiring practices by skipping steps and just going with your “gut instinct.” However, making a hasty hiring decision can result in serious and costly consequences for your business in the long run.

In a recent New York Times piece, Jay Goltz discusses the hidden costs of bad hiring. It’s a familiar scenario: a busy manager needs to hire four new people on the staff. He reviews resumes when he can and interviews promising candidates but doesn’t find the time to check their references before hiring. He wants to get the new people started as soon as possible so he can get back to the real work at hand. However, six months down the line, his careless hiring practices come back to haunt him and he has to let two of the four new people go and start the hiring process all over again.

Here’s the question: What did this setback really cost you?

There is the cost of hiring and training and the hit to your unemployment tax rate (the rules vary by state, but business owners should know that when the state pays out claims to a company’s former employees, that company’s unemployment tax rate goes up)…

It could easily be $40,000. The extra unemployment insurance by itself could be that much. It could easily be $200,000 if the person costs you a customer or two. Think about it: one call to a reference might have saved you $100,000.

Goltz’s example brings home an important point: the time you spend carefully conducting the hiring process is a worthwhile long-term investment for your organization. If you cut corners when hiring, you are only hurting yourself.

Hiring Practices That Are Worth Your Time

1. Hire for job skills and company culture.

Pay attention to the candidate as a whole person, not just his skills and expertise but also his personality and values. Communicate the company culture and mission and values clearly during the hiring process, and look for someone who will be a good fit.

2. Check references.

To get an accurate picture of who each candidate is and what her strengths and weaknesses are, you need to speak to someone who has worked with her in the past. Talk to several former managers or colleagues, particularly people who worked as her direct supervisors. Ask questions that give you a clear idea of what her capabilities are and how her work style would complement the company culture.

3. Listen more than you talk.

During the hiring process, make sure that the candidate is taking center stage in the conversation. Yes, you want to communicate the details of the job and the vision of the company, but most importantly, you should be listening to what the candidate is saying. Ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to the responses.

What lessons have you learned about hiring practices through your experience?

 

Learn how the DISCself online personality test can help in the hiring process.

Posted by & filed under Assessment.

Think about the many colleagues or employees you have worked with over the years. Now make a mental list of the ones you had consistent difficulty working with. In what ways do your personality styles differ? In particular, pay attention to what your pace and priorities are, compared with those of a certain colleague.

When you have different behavior styles in these areas,  tension can often occur and result in a challenging work environment. You can prevent these difficulties by using a personality profile, such as the Disc Test, to evaluate your own style and that of your co-workers. When you encounter dissimilar personalities in the workplace, you will have a set of tools and resources that will help you make adjustments to how you communicate, reducing tension and building stronger relationships.

For example, think of a colleague who has would fall into the Disc Test’s compliant personality profile category: someone who is task-oriented, disciplined, detailed, systematic and logical. He likes to take the time to analyze all the information available before making a decision, and he is organized, independent and hardworking in his job. He can be serious and thoughtful, and it is important to him to be appreciated and acknowledged for his intelligence and problem solving skills.

How is this colleague’s personality style different from your own? For a glimpse into how the Disc test works, answer the following questions:

  • What is my pace, compared to this co-worker? Am I slow, careful and methodical, or do I prefer to move quickly and decisively?
  • If we have different paces, in what ways could I adjust my speed to accommodate his needs?
  • What are my colleague’s top priorities at work? What are mine?
  • In what ways can I support his priorities while not losing sight of my own?

 

A small amount of effort and a willingness to give and take can make a big difference with a co-worker. To support a compliant personality type at work, keep these tips in mind:

 

  • Give him time to think before making a decision; he doesn’t like to be rushed, so try to avoid last-minute, hasty deadlines
  • Be well-prepared and organized and ready to ask thoughtful questions about his process and logic
  • Give clear directions, outline priorities and follow through with what you say you will do
  • If you disagree about something, explain why logically and completely, avoiding personal comments

 

Interested in learning more? Get helpful information about reducing tension with co-workers by taking the Disc test!

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

As a manager, you are probably accustomed to making a long list of decisions, both big and small, every day at work. Because you are experienced in this area, you know how to research your options, weigh the pros and cons and commit to a course of action.

You may have confidence in your personal decision-making skills, but what about the skills of the employees you manage? Do they have the knowledge and experience they need to plan and execute important choices? An important aspect of employee development is learning how to make autonomous decisions, particularly when they are difficult. Your role as a manager is to prepare your employees to be independent decision-makers, supporting them but resisting the urge to micromanage or do the task yourself.

Teaching Decision-Making Skills Without Overmanaging

Educating and empowering your employees to think and act on their own is a highly rewarding, if sometimes challenging, process. It is important to stay engaged and help out when necessary but leave the real action to your employees.

Start small.

Give an inexperienced employee a small, manageable project where she can hone her decision-making skills without much risk to the organization. Allow her to take ownership of the assignment and create a detailed plan for how she would address the issue. Think of the task as an employee development and training exercise; be patient and don’t jump in with your own solutions.

Be involved in the planning stages.

Make yourself available to an employee as he develops his approach to the project. Ask questions as he progresses, both so you understand his decisions and so you can help identify potential problems along the way. Employ the Socratic method for teaching, using guided questioning to encourage critical thinking and problem solving. For example: What do you plan to do here? Why? Who else do you need to help you? How will you execute the plan? What if Plan A doesn’t work… what is Plan B?

Step back and be an observer.

Unless you see glaring errors or problems in your employee’s choices, let her follow through with her plan. She will put her decision-making skills to the test and be challenged to think on her feet if any changes need to be made.

Focus on lessons learned.

Once the project is complete, sit down with your employee for a review and analysis of what happened and what useful lessons you can use in the future. Again, ask questions and let him lead the evaluation. What was successful? What would you change next time? What did you learn?

How do you support your employees through the decision-making process?

Learn more about EDSI’s employee development course, Increasing Personal Effectiveness.

Posted by & filed under Communication.

How to Build Mentoring Relationships in the WorkplaceThroughout the course of your life, you have probably had many mentors, from an older brother who helped you with long division in elementary school to a supervisor at your first job who took you under her wing and showed you the ropes. A good mentor is invaluable to your personal and professional growth, and as a leader in your organization, you have the opportunity to “pay it forward” with others.

By mentoring younger employees and taking an interest in their professional development, you will not only increase their abilities at work, you will also make an investment in employee engagement and retention.

Tips for Successful Mentoring

Know what you have to offer.

Many people haven’t pictured themselves in a mentorship role because they are overly humble about what they have to teach others. If you find yourself in this position, spend time thinking about all the skills and knowledge you have acquired over the years in your career and write out a list. Some you may even take for granted because they have become second nature to you, but they would be extremely helpful to a younger employee. For example:

  • Public speaking and business writing
  • Project management
  • Budget analysis
  • Client relations
  • IT troubleshooting

Make time for mentoring.

Time is the most valuable resource you have as a mentor. It’s easy to get caught up in your own schedule and put off mentorship for another day, but remember that what you put into the relationship is what you will get out of it. If you want to be an effective teacher and mentor, you need to make it a priority. Schedule short blocks of time with your mentee throughout the week, and get to know him on a personal level.

Focus on the bigger picture.

Take a genuine interest in the employee you are mentoring. What does she already know and what does she want to learn more about? What are her interests and passions? What are her career goals? What can she bring to the team in the future and what skills and resources does she need to succeed? Ask questions, listen and give honest responses. Look for ways you can support her goals, while aligning them with the organization’s goals.

Take advantage of teachable moments.

When your employee encounters challenges, resist the temptation to jump in immediately with instructions or solutions. Make it a teaching opportunity and allow him to explore problem solving techniques of his own. Mentorship often means standing back and empowering someone to use his leadership skills.

Have you ever been a mentor at work? What advice do you have for other mentors?

Learn more about EDSI’s leadership courses and resources

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers, Leadership.

In many ways, the business world has become more casual over the years. Professional behavior and practices, from business attire and language to interpersonal interactions and methods of communication, have evolved with each generation. Though many positive results have come from a constantly changing business climate, sometimes professionalism in the workplace can get lost in the shuffle.

Every company culture is a little bit different: at a start-up tech company, you may be able to wear jeans to work and bring your dog on occasion, but at an investment banking firm, you wouldn’t dream of not showing up in a business suit. No matter where you work, however, it is important to maintain your own professional presence and set the standards for your employees.

Fostering Professionalism in the Workplace

Style and Appearance

Different views on what is appropriate in terms of dress, hygiene and appearance can often cause strife in the workplace. To avoid any confusion or awkward conversations with your employees, be sure that the standards for your organization are clearly stated in the employee handbook.

What level of professional presence do you expect employees to uphold? Give examples and define any terms that might be too vague. For instance, if the dress code is “business casual,” give an example of what would be appropriate (nice slacks and a collared shirt for men, slacks or a skirt and a blouse for women). What is your policy on tattoos, body piercings and other personal style choices, such as hair color? If you are concerned about a potential problem in the future, put the guidelines in writing so there is no confusion.

Relationships and Social Media

It is easier than ever to access information about colleagues and clients — through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other forms of social media. All these forms of communication can help build relationships and strengthen your organization’s online presence, but they can also be harmful or embarrassing when misused. If you do not already have a social media policy, it might be time to consider putting together basic guidelines and rules of conduct for your employees. You should emphasize the importance of professionalism when it comes to online postings and interactions, even on personal or “private” pages.

Business Etiquette and Communication

Good listening and communication skills are essential in every field. Pay attention to your own language, habits and behaviors when you interact with colleagues, employees and clients, and set the right example for how you should represent your organization. Avoid using slang or overly casual language. Be polite, respectful and attentive when communicating with others, and make it clear that you expect the same conduct from your employees. Don’t tolerate rudeness, hostility or other communication roadblocks. Mentor and coach employees on improving their professional presence in different business situations, such as meetings or client calls.

What are some obstacles you have encountered with professionalism in the work place?

Learn more about EDSI’s Professional Presence in a Casual World course. 

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers, Corporate Culture.

employee wellness programsStrategic, well-designed employee wellness programs can result in significant financial benefits for organizations– such as lower health care costs, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and even higher employee retention. Effective programs can also improve factors that are more difficult to measure, including employee morale, pride and commitment to the organization.

If you are thinking of starting a health initiative at your workplace or struggling to revitalize an existing one, you may ask: what makes one wellness plan succeed and another fall flat?

Harvard Business Review conducted a study that answers this question by boiling success down to six key components. Researchers examined previous studies, then did field studies with 10 organizations of varying sizes in different industries: Bitmore, Chevron, Comporium, Healthwise, H-E-B, Johnson & Johnson, Lowe’s, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Nelnet and SAS Institute.

The Six Pillars of Effective Employee Wellness Programs

1. Multilevel Leadership

A wellness plan is only as successful as its leadership; for it to get traction and make a lasting impression, it must have the support of everyone from middle management to the CEO. For example, when MD Anderson Cancer Center initiated its program, president John Mendelsohn took walks through the building with a wellness coach, interacting with employees along the way.

The study found that effective programs also include wellness program managers, experts who design, implement and measure comprehensive initiatives, and wellness ambassadors, volunteers who are available for mentoring, education and encouragement.

2. Alignment

Health and wellness initiatives should reflect an organization’s mission, values and goals and be incorporated as part of its day-to-day operation. They should support and complement business priorities. For example, 60 to 70 percent of jobs at Chevron are safety-sensitive, meaning that physical fitness is a top priority. Chevron created a strong wellness plan that included a cardiovascular health component, fitness centers, a 10K-a-day walking activity and injury prevention resources.

3. Scope, Relevance and Quality

It is not enough just to emphasize exercise in workplace wellness initiatives. It is important to care for the mental health of employees as well, since depression and stress and other issues can lead to lower productivity and absenteeism. Bitmore addresses mental health concerns by offering free, confidential nondenominational chaplain services 24 hours a day to help employees and their immediate families with problems including illness, divorce, death and grief and child rearing.

Successful employee wellness programs should also have high-quality standards and be able to be tailored to fit individual needs. Well-respected, well-designed plans can inspire employee pride and involvement, and programs that are fun encourage people to participate.

4. Accessibility

The bottom line is: a wellness plan must be affordable and convenient for employees to use it. Low- or no-cost services are very important, and on-site resources, such as fitness centers, health fairs and healthy food choices, make it easier for employees to participate.

5. Partnerships

Internal and external partnerships strengthen programs and make them more sustainable. For example, Comporium, a smaller organization, worked with the YMCA and a local medical practice to create a low-investment “metabolic makeover” for at-risk employees who were willing to participate.

6. Communications

Getting employees to take the initiative to change their lives and improve their health can be an uphill battle. It is essential to communicate the message in a positive, creative, sensitive and diverse way to get employee buy-in.

Employee wellness programs take time and money to establish and may not show results overnight, but the long-term results of a successful program are impressive.

The Harvard Business Review study found that since 1995, the percentage of Johnson & Johnson employees who are smokers has dropped by more than two-thirds. The percentage of those who have high blood pressure or who are physically inactive has decreased by more than 50 percent. Over the past decade, the company has saved $250 million in health care costs, and the return on investment was $2.71 for every dollar spent from 2002 to 2008.

Do you agree or disagree with HBR’s six pillars of an effective wellness plan? What do you think makes a successful program?

Learn more about EDSI’s Leading With Credibility course. 

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Each morning when the work day begins, you probably have the best intentions of what you are going to accomplish by 5 p.m. Yet even if you have a detailed to-do list, it can easily get lost in the shuffle when you are bombarded with emails, meetings and emergencies throughout the day.

One of the most important management skills is learning how to use your time most efficiently. To maximize your personal effectiveness, prioritize your tasks and determine which are most important and which can wait until a later date.

Prioritizing for Personal Effectiveness

1. Look at the big picture.

Small, immediate tasks can often take up valuable time that you should be spending working on long-term projects. Maintain a calendar that holds all of your upcoming deadlines and important events, and use it to determine how much time you should be spending on each project over time. Keep the calendar on your computer or in an accessible place near your desk, and review it at least once a day to stay updated.

2. Rank your to-do list.

If you are having a difficult time utilizing your time for maximum personal effectiveness, look at every item on your task list for the day and give it a number from 1 to 5 (1 being a low priority and 5 being a top priority). Tackle the #5 items first, and proceed in descending order. This exercise forces you to organize your work in order of importance, and with time, prioritization will become one of your inherent management skills.

3. Fight the distractions.

If you find yourself spending too much time working on non-immediate projects or getting sidetracked by emails, you may be unconsciously procrastinating on the real work you need to get done. Know when you need to give yourself space for quiet, independent work and when you need time for collaboration with colleagues. Learn how to delegate and how to say “no” to others when you are focusing on your top priorities.

4. Allow time for emergencies.

Even the best-laid plans must change at the last minute sometimes, so always allow yourself more time than you think you need. Pad meetings by 10 minutes in case they run late, give yourself an extra day for the printer to finish presentation materials and have a temp agency on speed dial in case your top employee calls in sick on an important day. Have a Plan B ready to address unforeseen circumstances, and you will be able to switch gears easily without derailing your productivity and personal effectiveness.

What tips do you use for prioritizing your schedule?

 

Learn more about the EDSI Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.