Posted by & filed under Leadership.

leading with credibility for employee engagementAs a manager, employee engagement should be one of your top priorities. Engaged and passionate employees are more likely to be satisfied with their work and more inclined to stay and grow with the organization. They also help build morale among their co-workers and exemplify the values of your company culture.

Of course you want your employees to be invested in and excited about their work. The question is: do you feel this way about your own work?

Employee engagement does not exist in a vacuum, and how you think, act and communicate has an enormous effect on the people you manage. When you think about how to improve engagement in your organization, leading with credibility is an essential first step. Take a close look at your own habits, ask yourself some tough questions and identify ways you can lead by example.

An Employee Engagement Interview for Yourself

1. Why am I here?

Imagine that you have to explain to someone who has no idea what you do for a living what is unique and exceptional about your organization. What drew you to the job in the first place? What is the company culture like? What are the organization’s values? Do you believe in its mission? How have your attitudes changed and taken shape over time?

2. Why do I like my job?

Think about your job description and your day-to-day activities at work. What are the parts you enjoy the most? What do you excel at? What responsibilities do you want to grow into or take on more often? Getting in touch with what sparks your own passion at work makes leading with credibility much easier.

3. Do I know where we’re headed?

If you are going to engage and lead your employees, you need to know the goals of the organization and be able to communicate them well. What are the short-term and long-term goals? Do you agree with the direction you’re going? What are your questions or concerns? Stay involved in conversations about goals with other leaders and work out possible pitfalls or conflicts before you begin implementing plans. Your personal goal is to whole-heartedly support the road map your organization is following.

4. What do I want to improve?

Think about what processes or policies help your workplace run smoothly. Now think about those that do the opposite. How do these aspects hinder progress or negatively affect employee engagement? How could you make improvements? Leading with credibility sometimes means speaking up with new solutions when you identify a problem.

Be honest with yourself and check in regularly about your own engagement. Your genuine investment in your work and your organization will not go unnoticed by your employees.

Learn more about EDSI’s Leading With Credibility course.

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Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers.

We live in an increasingly casual world, where our personal lives often overlap with our professional lives. The way we speak, act, dress and use technology has a powerful influence on how we are perceived as professionals and as leaders.

Download “Professional Presence in a Casual World: An Interview With Suzanne Updegraff” for free and gain insight into how to create a more professional identity for yourself. Suzanne answers thought-provoking questions, including:

  • How has our casual society influenced professional behavior?
  • Do generational differences influence professional behavior and what is the effect on professional etiquette?
  • What are the obstacles to practicing and utilizing professional etiquette day-to-day in business?

Download now and leave your feedback in the comments.

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers, Employee Development.

Finding the right candidate for the job is never an easy task. Every organization has a different process, but it often involves reading stacks of applications and resumes, conducting phone interviews and in-person interviews, evaluating real-world skills assessments and, increasingly, reviewing personality tests of candidates.

A personality test (such as the Discself assessment) is able to identify key traits and behavior characteristics in prospective candidates that might not be apparent in interview situations. It communicates to hiring managers what each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are, as well as how well he or she would fit into the team and the company culture.

Personality tests are becoming more popular among companies who are trying to find the best leaders as hiring begins to pick up after the recession.

A recent Wall Street Journal article gives an example of one firm using such assessments:

David Elkins jumped through a lot of hoops before Becton, Dickinson & Co. hired him as its chief financial officer in December 2008. After eight interviews with company officials, he underwent an executive “assessment.”

The day-long process included a business-simulation exercise involving role playing, a two-hour session with an educational psychologist and online personality tests that gauged key traits such as strategic thinking. Becton says it assessed 95 internal and external prospects for executive posts last year, up from six in 2008.

Managers promoting from within the organization also turn to personality tests to help them select the best person for the job. According to research by the Aberdeen Group, a market-research firm, about 72 percent of 516 employers now use assessments to make executive promotion decisions, almost twice the percentage doing so in 2010. Employers surveyed said they used evaluations based on different cognitive, behavioral, simulation and motivational tests.

Using a personality test to screen candidates does require an investment in time and money, but the benefits are well worth it. Hiring the right way the first time lets companies find the perfect person for the job.

Does your organization use personality tests as part of the hiring process? Share why or why not in the comments.

Learn more about the benefits of the Discself assessment.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

For most busy professionals, every day seems like a race against the clock. You may start off the morning energetic and optimistic, with a strong cup of coffee and a long list of goals to accomplish, but by the afternoon, you are tired and overwhelmed without completing nearly as many items as you had hoped.

Some tasks took longer than expected or you had a last-minute emergency to manage or you simply got distracted; there are a thousand ways your personal effectiveness can get derailed throughout the day.

Time management may feel like a constant juggling act, but you can take control of your schedule if you approach it strategically. Create a plan, stay focused and learn to recognize your time-wasters and you will reduce stress and boost productivity.

5 Easy Steps for Better Time Management

1. Be realistic about your time.

There are only 24 hours in a day (as much as we would love to change that fact) and only about one-third of that time is spent at work. If your to-do list for one work day is crammed with a week’s worth of tasks, you are setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. Strive to set a few realistic goals for each day and start with the most important. If you have a hard time cutting back your list, impose outside limits by writing it on a Post-It or index card each morning.

2. Record how you’re spending your time.

Do you often reach the end of a work day wondering where all of those hours went? It might be time to do a self-evaluation of your time management style. Follow this tip from the latest EDSI monthly newsletter:

Break your day down into at least half hour slots and write down exactly what you do in each 30 minutes. Imagine that you are on a diet and your doctor has asked you to keep an honest food journal, to reveal your major calorie intake times of the day. This is what you want for your time journal.

3. Be honest about where you’re wasting time.

After keeping a time journal for a few days, read it carefully to identify which time-wasters are damaging your personal effectiveness. Are you spending too long responding to emails or catching up on blogs and social media? Are you reorganizing your file cabinets because you are procrastinating on completing an important project? Everyone has a few of these weaknesses; write yours down so you can be aware of them and do them less frequently.

4. Set limits for yourself.

Self-imposed deadlines can help keep you on track with time management. Estimate how long each item on your to-do list will take to complete, then set a timeframe for yourself. Put a reminder in your computer’s calendar or set an actual timer to enforce the limits you set.

5. Say “no” when you need to.

Before you agree to any new work, take a moment to consider your schedule and existing assignments. Learn to say “no” or delegate when you know you have reached your capacity for new projects.

What are your tips for time management at work? Share them in the comments.

Learn how to get the most out of your time with EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

How directly people express themselves is an important indication of what personality type they are. Think about the people you manage at work: who is very assertive and outspoken and who is very reserved and subtle? Who is somewhere in the middle? Directness is a wide spectrum, and both direct and indirect behaviors are appropriate in different situations.

What communication style do you use? How does your personality type help you manage both direct and indirect communicators at work? How does it challenge you?

Personality tests are a useful management tool for identifying personality types and illuminating ways you can better utilize the skills of your employees. They will inform you about your own style, as well as the varying styles of your employees, so you can take advantage of their natural aptitudes while minimizing their shortcomings.

What Personality Tests Reveal

1. Who you are.

Good leaders aren’t afraid to take the first step and lead by example. Show your employees that you are willing to learn more about yourself by taking a personality test and sharing your results with the team. You will discover new facets of your behavior and personality that will make you a better manager, plus you will make it easier for your employees to follow your lead.

2. Who your employees are.

You may already have a good idea of who is a direct communicator and who opts for more indirect interactions, but personality tests go beneath the surface to help you and your employees understand exactly what people need to be most successful.

3. How you can all work together more seamlessly.

An accurate personality test identifies the strengths and weaknesses in every member of the team, revealing how you can adapt your management style for the best results.

Direct people are extroverts who are assertive, competitive and fast-paced. They like to take action rather than overthink situations, so they tend to be risk-takers, which can sometimes lead to great gains or great losses. At best, direct people are efficient “doers” who make the most of every opportunity. At worst, they are impatient and combative, taking too many chances and creating conflict.

Indirect people, on the other hand, are more cautious, accommodating and thoughtful than their direct counterparts. They often ask questions and listen to the answers more than they speak, and they want to gather all the information they can before making a decision. At best, they are stable, levelheaded and well-liked, making sensible decisions and maintaining positive relationships with others. At worst, they are indecisive, unassertive and too reserved, afraid to make changes, take risks or “rock the boat” with others.

Personality tests will show you how you can bring the best out in your direct and indirect employees and is an integral part to communications skills training.

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

Stressful situations have a way of bringing out the best or the worst in people. A crisis at work – whether it’s a small problem or a massive emergency – tests your leadership abilities.

If you are calm, confident and decisive, demonstrating coolheaded action and effective communication skills, you will minimize the damage and gain the trust of your team. On the other hand, if you are frantic, nervous and unsure of yourself, making rash decisions and not disseminating information well, you can make a bad situation worse and lose the confidence of your employees. How you manage a crisis is an important aspect of your leadership style.

Effective Communication Skills for Problem-Solving

1. Evaluate the situation.

Before you can communicate how to handle a crisis to your employees, you need to assess the problem. Find out as much information as you can, as quickly and efficiently as possible. What happened? Who was involved? What are the short-term and long-term repercussions? What are the most immediate needs?

2. Tackle the top priorities first.

Once you have determined what the most pressing priorities are, develop a plan to address those first. Gather key members of your team who have the skills you need and analyze the information you have gathered to address the problems at hand. Ask questions and try to anticipate glitches before they occur. What are your goals? What results need to happen? Who should be involved? What could go wrong? What is Plan B (as well as Plan C, Plan D…)?

3. Communicate and delegate.

Inform the rest of your team about the crisis and outline the steps you are taking to resolve it. Effective communications skills here are essential to create organizational transparency and ensure that all employees are on the same page. Delegate tasks, and tell each person what he or she is responsible for and why it is important. Try to predict questions employees may have and offer as much information as you can. Let them voice their concerns or suggestions as well and give them the support they need to complete their tasks.

4. Take action.

It’s time to execute your plan! Since you have organized meticulously and arranged contingency plans in case anything goes wrong, all you need to do now is put your ideas into action. Stay calm and be available to your team for troubleshooting along the way.

How have you successfully managed a crisis at work?

Hone your effective communication skills in the EDSI course, Assertive Communications.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Is your motto, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” or are you a firm believer in burning the midnight oil?

Morning people and evening people may prefer different schedules, but that may not be the only difference between them. According to Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany, morning people tend to have an edge when it comes to personal effectiveness and professional success.

In a 2009 study, Randler surveyed 367 college students, asking them what time of day they were most energetic and willing and able to act to change a situation. Out of those surveyed, the morning people were more willing to agree with statements that demonstrate proactivity and personal effectiveness, such as, “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself” and “I feel in charge of making things happen.”

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Randler said:

Though evening people do have some advantages—other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humor, and are more outgoing—they’re out of sync with the typical corporate schedule. When it comes to business success, morning people hold the important cards. My earlier research showed that they tend to get better grades in school, which get them into better colleges, which then lead to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, my survey showed. They’re proactive. A number of studies have linked this trait, proactivity, with better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages.

Randler said that your type depends partially on your genetics, but types also shift as people age, with more people becoming morning people as they get older.

Even if the thought of getting up at 5 a.m. to tackle the day makes you shudder, you can still make small changes in your lifestyle to become more productive in your work mornings.

Rise & Shine: Morning Personal Effectiveness Tips

1. Get enough sleep. 

This one is pretty basic, but many people fall short of their optimum sleep requirements. Aim for 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night, and set your alarm clock for the time you need to get up (rather than hitting the snooze button several times). If you have a hard time getting up in the morning, try hitting the hay an hour earlier.

2. Soak in some sun.

Go outside during the early daylight hours to wake up and train your body to respond better to an early start to the day. “The daylight resets your circadian clock and helps shift you toward morningness,” said Randler.

3. Get moving.

Start your day with a brisk walk, run, swim or other form of exercise. You’ll get your blood pumping, work up an appetite for breakfast and kick your morning off in a healthy way. If you are feeling energetic when you begin working, you are ready to adopt good personal effectiveness habits.

4. Start work on the right foot.

When you get to work, resist the temptation to spend an hour or two reading emails, making phone calls and other tasks that aren’t at the top of your priority list. Instead, make a list of your top to-do list items for the day and tackle those first, before doing anything else.

Are you a morning person or an evening person? What are your top a.m. personal effectiveness tips?


Learn more about EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.

Posted by & filed under Work Life Balance.

Many professionals consider developing a culture of flexibility in the workplace a necessity, not a perk or a wish-list item. Growing numbers of leaders in different fields are becoming more vocal in their support of workplace flexibility to accommodate employees’ need to balance work and personal or family responsibilities.

At a February 2011 event sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Families and Work Institute (FWI), Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called adapting to these changes  “a strategic imperative for our country,” sentiments also echoed by representatives from companies including Deloitte LLP, the largest professional services firm in the U.S., and Ryan LLC., a mid-sized Dallas-based tax service firm.

From SHRM:

“People are our best resource, and we have moved to a much broader and deeper understanding of what that means,” said Mullen. “Military families have been through an extraordinarily difficult time,” he noted, with one parent often away for extended periods while their spouse holds a full-time job. Even with both parents stateside, military careers have involved strenuous (and often inflexible) hours. “The strains this imposes on families has led many star performers to abandon their military careers at a time when the nation simply can’t afford to lose their talent and experience,” Mullen observed. To confront this loss of talent, Mullen has championed workplace flexibility in the armed forces.

Recent research supports the argument that employees value having more control over their schedules, time off or work location. In the Families and Work Institute’s 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce, 87 percent of all employees reported that having the flexibility to manage their work and personal obligations would be “extremely” or “very” important if they were looking for a new job. One in 5 employees disagree “somewhat” or “strongly” that they have the workplace flexibility that they desire in their current jobs.

The study also gathered the following data:

  • 75 percent of employed parents feel they don’t have enough time with their children, up from 66 percent in 1992.
  • 63 percent of employees in relationships feel they don’t have enough time with their spouses or partners, compared with 50 percent in 1992.
  • 60 percent of employees feel they don’t have enough time for themselves, up from 55 percent in 2002.
  • 79 percent of employers offer traditional flex time to some employees and 37 percent offer it to all or most employees.
  • 32 percent of employers allow some employees to change their starting and quitting
  • times on short notice (daily flex time), and 10% permit all or most of these employees to do so.
  • 50 percent of employers offer occasional flex place to some employees, and 3 percent offer this option to all or most employees.
  • The percentage of employees who are allowed to take time off during the workday to take care
  • of personal or family matters has increased, along with employees who have access to paid holidays and the opportunity to perform volunteer work during work time.

In many ways, employees in 2011 have more flexible work options than ever before– from being able to make last-minute scheduling changes because of a sick child to having the opportunity to work from home occasionally. However, advocates for workplace flexibility argue that more can be done to meet the needs of employees.

What do you think? Do you have flexible work options within your organization? What are the benefits and challenges of creating a culture of flexibility?  Employee development courses should weave in content on workplace flexibility.


Learn about EDSI’s Working Successfully in a Changing Environment course.

Posted by & filed under Communication.

Lately, the news has been full of stories of professionals who have gotten into trouble or lost their jobs over their conduct on social media websites or blogs. The importance of professionalism in relation to social media has never been more apparent.

In February, Pennsylvania high school English teacher Natalie Munroe was suspended for posting vitriolic comments about her students on her personal blog (one example: “My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”).

In April, Rhode Island emergency room physician Dr. Alexandra Thran was fired after she posted information about a patient on Facebook. She didn’t include the patient’s name, but she wrote enough that others were able to identify the patient from her post.

Just last week, Major League Baseball suspended and fined Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen after he commented on Twitter after being ejected from a game against the Yankees. Social media usage during games is forbidden, and Guillen is the first non-player to be held accountable for breaking that rule.

If unprofessional or inappropriate conduct is becoming increasingly common on social networks, what should organizations do to prevent it? Some believe that it is sufficient to rely on the common sense of their employees while maintaining an ongoing conversation about the importance of professionalism online. Others feel that these recent incidents prove that organizations can’t rely on common sense and must outline a clear, written policy for social media practices for employees.

Maria Ogneva, the Head of Community at Yammer, where she manages social media, community programs, internal education and engagement, advocates adopting a policy that educates, rather than threatens. The importance of professionalism in social media is paramount, but she believes that if you empower employees with the knowledge and resources they need, they will do the right thing without you having to take disciplinary action.

Ogneva writes in a Mashable article:

Educate. Most people fall down due to lack of education. One training session does not qualify as “education.” Commit to ongoing workshops and extend the conversation.

Extend the conversation. Make sure to create a space where people can find you and ask questions. It can be an internal blog, wiki, or an internal discussion group.

She also emphasizes that a policy should clearly state what the consequences are for not following the company rules and that major and minor infractions should have appropriate punishments.

Address problems proactively and gently. There will be things that go awry. It’s always better to politely point out the problematic tweet or blog comment in private. Most people want to do the right thing even if they make mistakes. Identify problem areas for your organization and create additional guidance around them.

Do you believe in developing a written social media policy for employees, or do you advocate a looser set of verbal guidelines? Share your point of view in the comments.

Check out our best practices for personal social media privacy.

Posted by & filed under Communication.

Conveying ideas and explaining information to others is an essential part of a manager’s job, from daily feedback and instructions to in-depth employee development and training. Many managers have never received formal training on how to relay information in a concise, clear and effective way, yet those who invest time in strengthening their written and verbal communications have a clear advantage in work relationships.

A “communication breakdown” can result in serious problems within an organization, so it is more important than ever for leaders to work on improving communication skills training.

1. Get your purpose straight.

Before you begin speaking, go over your objectives and talking points in your mind. What are you trying to accomplish? Can you sum up your message in a sentence or two? Start with a concise overall statement of purpose and go from there, supporting your message with brief clarifying points.

2. Remember that others have objectives, too.

When you are communicating with other people, don’t be so focused on your own goals that you forget to listen. A conversation involves give and take, so be flexible in your interaction and give others a chance to talk. Listen to what they have to say, and try to find ways to achieve everyone’s objectives as much as possible. You know your efforts toward improving communication skills have been successful when all parties feel that they have been heard.

3. Consider how your words will be interpreted.

Choose your words carefully and pay special attention to how you insert bias or personal opinion into your message. Are you speaking out of negative emotions, such as anger, frustration or resentment? Will your words have a hurtful effect on the people you are communicating with? Are you using bias to influence others into giving you the answer they think you want to hear, instead of the truth?

4. Create a comfortable environment for discussion.  

What kind of atmosphere do you create when communicating with others? Do your employees feel at ease discussing problems and questions with you? Do they know they can expect honesty, respect and support when they speak to you? Improving communication skills requires you to be frank about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Challenge yourself to work on a few different ways you can encourage a climate of open dialogue with your employees.

What steps do you take at work to avoid a communication breakdown?

Learn more about improving communication skills with the Communicating to Manage Performance course.