Posts

Showing posts from 2009

Have A Great New Year

Image
Your leadership skills were likely put to the test in 2009 like never before.  Kudos to you for making it through the year.  And for your thirst for information on how to become a more effective leader.

Thank you for allowing me to share my ideas and suggestions with you in this Blog.  Thanks to everyone who became a Blog subscriber. And, to the increasing number of followers who have shared postings from the Blog via Twitter.  Much appreciated!

As you plan your New Year's resolutions for the workplace, which of the following have you selected to add to your list?
Be decisive.Show and demonstrate trust.Listen carefully.Take a personal interest in your employees.Give credit where credit is due.Respond to questions quickly and fully.Allow prudent autonomy.Follow through when you say you will.Teach something new.Communicate clearly.Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.Praise when compliments are earned.Show respect for everyone on your team.Allow learning to happen when mi…

Block The Exit Door

Image
According to the 2009 Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations Report, 55% of employees plan to change jobs, careers or industries "when the economy recovers."

That's an alarming statistic and one that all workplace leaders should take to heart.

Leigh Branham, founder and CEO of the Overland Park, KS company Keeping The People, says employees leave for seven main reasons, and money isn't among the seven.

Instead, workers leave because:
The job or workplace was not as expectedMismatch between job and personToo little coaching and feedbackToo few growth and advancement opportunitiesFeeling devalued and unrecognizedStress from overwork and work-life balanceLoss of trust and confidence in senior leadersFortunately, even now when budgets are tight, workloads are hefty, and companies have depressed top and bottom lines, you, as a leader, can at a minimum address reasons #3, #5 and #7 without spending money.

If you tackle those you can likely reduce the number of employe…

Address Your Nonperformers

Resolve to be proactive about talking with nonperformers in 2010.

So, if you have an employee who needs to improve his/her performance, don't delay that tough conversation with him.

By addressing the issue with him early in 2010, you give him the opportunity to improve -- because most employees want to do a good job.  But, sometimes, they just don't know they aren't performing up to your required standards.

Don't wait to address the topic at the employee's next annual performance review.  Instead, sit down with your employee in a private setting.  Look him in the eye.  Then, tell him what he does well.  Thank him for that good work.  Then, tell him where he needs to improve.  Be clear.  Be specific.  Ask him if he understands, and ask him if he needs additional guidance from you about how he can do a better job.

Remind him that your taking the time to have this tough conversation with him means you care about him and want him to succeed.

Don't let a poor perfor…

Pass "The Leadership Test"

Image
There's a new book that asks its readers five powerful questions, putting aspiring leaders to the ultimate test of what it takes to be a true leader.  The best thing about this book is that if you pass the test you can skip reading many of the mountains of other leadership books on the market today.
Timothy R. Clark's new book, called "The Leadership Test" forces you to do some valuable soul searching. And don't be fooled by the book's conversational writing style and story-telling approach, or by its compact 100-page size that you'll read through in less than an hour. Because, the message is powerful and the test is revealing. 
That test, which comes at the end of the book, consists of five questions, each important -- and successfully passing each becomes a collective must to ensure leadership success.  Once taken, the test is your personalized assessment that you can use to chart your course for becoming a better leader.  In an interview, Clark told me …

Learn From The Best Sports Coaches

Former University of Kansas head basketball coach Roy Williams recently told U.S. News & World Report magazine that there are three things that coaches as leaders must do to drive success:
"Have everyone on the team focus on the same goal."  And, the leader must effectively communicate that goal to the team."Emphasize those goals every day.""Understand that although everyone has a common goal, individuals also have goals, needs and dreams that must be cared for." According to Williams, in a commentary he wrote for the magazine, the third point is the most challenging to address and where leadership may be the most critical.  And, I totally agree.

Therefore, if you lead a team at work or within an organization, one of the best ways to work with each of your team players is to tailor your motivation techniques for each individual, and then be prepared to tweak those techniques if necessary as each person grows.

Williams was the head coach at the Universi…

Set A Good Example

Image
Another month has gone by so it's time to remind ourselves to be good leaders by setting a good example.

So, let's take a few minutes today to be sure we are doing all of the following:

1. Praise when compliments are earned.
2. Be decisive.
3. Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.
4. Show and demonstrate trust.
5. Communicate clearly.
6. Listen carefully.
7. Teach something new.
8. Work hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.
9. Show respect for everyone on your team.
10. Follow through when you say you will.
11. Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.
12. Allow prudent autonomy.
13. Respond to questions quickly and fully.
14. Take an interest in your employees.
15. Give credit where credit is due.
16. Be humble.

Read The Best Leadership Books

Last month, members of three discussion groups on the business professionals social media web site LinkedIn submitted their recommendations for the best books about leadership.

The LinkedIn members came from these discussion groups:
• ExecuNet Executive Suite
• The Talent Buzz
• Keller Graduate School Of Management

In all, 64 books were recommended and the variety is impressive. Some of the most often recommended books were:
• “Good To Great” — By: Jim Collins
• “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” — By: Marshall Goldsmith
• “The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership” — By: John Maxwell
• “Principle Centered Leadership” — By: Stephen Covey

In addition, the authors mentioned most frequently were Peter F. Drucker, Jack Welch and John Maxwell.

The complete list of books is found on the right-hand side of the page toward the bottom on this web page:

Top 64 Leadership Books

The books are listed in alphabetical order on that web page, and provided for each book is its link to its feature page…

Understand The Power Of Social Media

Everyone is still figuring it all out. And, there's much to learn about Return On Investment (ROI). But, if you lead a nonprofit, small business or large business, or if you're a budding entrepreneur, you need to understand just how important the social media landscape is going to be to your business -- particularly to your marketing.

Social media is changing how businesses need to interact with their customers. Two-way communication and transparency are the future.

Equally important, your brand is now being influenced and shaped by your customers (those who like you and those who don't) via social media.

If you're not yet convinced of the power of social media, check out this video:

Social Media Revolution

Then, take a look at this video, which humorously depicts how social media has changed advertising forever:

Advertising-Customer Break Up

You can find many resources online to help you better understand social media. A good book to read is "Social Media Marketing…

Be More Like Southwest Airlines

Image
If you've flown Southwest Airlines you know they're tops in airline customer service, driven by a leadership style that creates a company-wide culture where all employees own that culture.

According to SWA Chairman, President and CEO Gary Kelly, as reported in the company's in-flight magazine, "every company has a culture, whether that culture is supportive or stifling, active or passive, fun or discouraging."

"One way we do culture differently is by making Southwest's culture everyone's responsibility. In fact, we ask everyone to 'own it,'" says Kelly.

Here are some of the ways that SWA keeps its winning culture in the forefront that you can also do to keep employees motivated and to drive great customer service:

1. Form a corporate culture committee and a local culture committee that organizes low-cost employee events throughout the year.

2. Include a section related to culture on each employee's annual performance appraisal. T…

Become More Of An Optimist

Every leader experiences periods of ups and downs. Hopefully, more up periods.

If you struggle with too many down periods, it might be because you have perfectionist tendencies.

Transform yourself into an optimist by:
Viewing failure as an opportunity to learn and understand that failure is part of a fulfilling life.Making room for pain. Don't deny yourself permission to feel painful emotions.Setting standards that are attainable because they are grounded in reality. Don't set goals and standards that are essentially impossible to meet. You can learn more about being an optimist by reading the book, "The Pursuit Of The Perfect: How To Stop Chasing Perfection And Start Living A Richer, Happier Life" by Tal Ben-Shahar.

Abolish "No Problem"

Walk into any Chick-fil-A chicken fast food restaurant around the U.S. and when you say "thank you" the person working there will say "my pleasure" instead of "no problem."

You'll likely hear the same "my pleasure" from the waiter at California Pizza Kitchen after he/she delivers your meal and you say "thank you."

At first, the "my pleasure" sounds strange, because we are so used to being told it's "no problem."

But, you'll get used to "my pleasure" quickly, especially because it's the much better response to your buying a product or placing your order, and when you thank a business for their service.

As a leader, abolish "no problem" from your employees' vocabulary. Remind them that serving a customer isn't a problem at all. It's your business' pleasure to provide the service!

Teach your team what Chick-fil-A has been doing for years and what you're beginning to he…

Promote Healthy Behaviors

Image
Hopefully, you're setting a good example for your team by eating well, exercising and leading them to practice a healthful lifestyle.

Fit, well-nourished, healthy employees perform better.

According to the American Heart Association, research shows that employers that spend on health promotion and chronic disease prevention programs achieve a rate of return on investment ranging from $3 to $15 for each dollar invested with savings realized within 12 to 18 months.

To ensure optimum performance among your team, consider adopting one or more of these suggestions (some of which you can do with little to no investment):

Serve healthy snacks (breakfast bars, fruit and nuts) instead of donuts and candy at meetings.
Negotiate gym membership discounts with fitness clubs near your office for your employees.
Subsidize smoking cessation classes.
Offer stress-reducing neck massages by local therapists for low prices to your employees during lunch periods.
Organize teams of employees to participate in …

Thank You

Thank you for following my Blog on management and leadership, and allowing me to share more than 70 posts with you on how to be a more effective leader.

Thanks, too, to everyone who has posted comments, made topic suggestions, and forwarded various postings from the Blog to friends, co-workers and supervisors.

I look forward to sharing more with you the rest of this year and during all of 2010.

And, if you need to give some gift suggestions for yourself to friends and family, perhaps you select one of the Top 64 Leadership Books to add to your wish list.

Eric Jacobson
Overland Park, KS

Be Verbal About Being Thankful

You and your team may not hit your revenue or profit goals this year. Or, perhaps your organization won't accomplish all its goals during this tough economic year. But, as a leader, you likely still have plenty to be thankful for in 2009.

So, be thankful. And, most important, verbalize your thanks!

Take time this holiday week and then the rest of the year to smile and say "Thank You" to:


Your employees who took pay reductionsYour customers who still did business with you, even though they had tight budgetsYour vendors that worked with you on pricing and termsYour partner businesses that banded together with you like never beforeYour team that helped you think of ways to reduce expenses and repackage your services to drive salesYour co-workers and peers who encouraged you to hang in there Your team that put in more hours and tackled additional duties beyond their job descriptionsYour former employees for all they did for you before you had to exit them from your company du…

Get Things Done

If you want to be a leader who can get things done, be sure you:

Engender trust.Instill confidence.Earn respect.

Run Better Meetings

Image
Here are some handy tips for how to run a better meeting:


Limit attendance. Include only decision makers and key implementers.
Use an agenda. Give each topic a time limit. Ask your staff to help set the agenda so they'll know the meeting will be relevant.
Make sure attendees know at the meeting's beginning the benefit of why they are in the meeting.
Create a not-on-the agenda list of topics that will be tabled for after the meeting or for another meeting.
Set immediate deadlines for carrying out all decisions that are made during the meeting.
If you follow these simple five tips you can prove to your team that meetings can be used to get things done!You can learn more about how to host an effective meeting by reading the booklet, "Best Life: Tips for 2009."

Don't Micromanage

You've surely heard it before, but whatever you do in your manager and leader role, don't micromanage.

You are likely micromanaging if you answer "Yes" to the following four questions:
Do you fear having your employee's mistakes attributed to you?Do you require subordinates to report on everything?Do you think I could do it better?Do you believe you are indispensable but find yourself stuck in a rut?And remember,Don't be a bottleneckFocus on outcomes, not minutiaeYou can learn more about how not to micromanage in the booklet Best Life: Tips for 2009.

Learn Lessons From This Recession

As a dim light begins to shine at the end of the tunnel in this recession, savvy business leaders are making their lists of lessons learned so their companies will be better prepared for future downturns.

Business Week magazine's June 29, 2009 issue featured an article called "Managing Through The Economic Storm" where various experts weighed in on how leaders should react to challenging economic times.

Their advice, and good lessons learned, include:


You have to build trust with your colleagues before a crisis comes or no one will follow you when it does.
There is no substitute for preparation. Access your company's strengths and weaknesses at all times.
Conduct an annual risk review that encompasses both financial and non-financial risks.
When removing employees from your business, be courageous, quick and fair.
Pay attention to those who leave and those who stay. And, for those who stay, remove work so the employees left behind don't feel punished for staying.
Talk mo…

Lead Like Marriott

The next time you stay at a Marriott hotel look in the nightstand drawer for Marriott's booklet that highlights its milestones and tells the Marriott story.

In the booklet, you'll find the following 12 ways that Marriott practices good leadership:
Continually challenge your team to do better.
Take good care of your employees, and they'll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back.
Celebrate your people's success, not your own.
Know what you're good at and mine those competencies for all you're worth.
Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.
Communicate. Listen to your customers, associates and competitors.
See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk around, make yourself visible and accessible.
Success is in the details.
It's more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.
Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.
Eliminate the cause of a mistake. Don't just clean i…

Meet Face-To-Face

The power of meeting with your team members face-to-face cannot be overstated.

Unfortunately, in today's world of email and electronic communications, meeting with someone face-to-face, or for that matter even speaking with him/her over the phone, has become something that doesn't happen nearly enough.

Resist the temptation to email or phone an employee or team member when you can meet in-person with him/her.

The best way to build rapport, respect, an open line of communication and a team, can-do spirit, is to have face-to-face interaction as often as possible.

Lead Your Meetings

Research shows that unfortunately, many workplace meetings are not nearly as productive as they could be.

To help ensure the meetings you host are productive, lead them by:

* Observing nonverbal feedback and encouraging everyone to participate.

* Summarizing group consensus after each point.

* Reminding the group who is responsible for taking care of each follow-up action.

* Encouraging team-building, networking and problem-solving among your meeting participants.

Lead By Example

Image
Another month has gone by, which means it's time to post my favorite post -- the one about leading by setting a good example.

So, as a reminder, here are 15 things you can do to be an effective and successful leader:

1. Praise when compliments are earned.

2. Be decisive.

3. Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.

4. Communicate clearly.

5. Listen carefully.

6. Teach something new to your team members.

7. Word hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.

8. Show respect for everyone on your team.

9. Follow through when you promise to do something.

10. Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.

11. Allow prudent autonomy.

12. Respond to questions quickly and fully.

13. Return e-mail and phone calls promptly.

14. Take an interest in your employees and their important personal milestone events.

15. Give credit where credit is due.

And, last but not least, be humble!

Mix Your Feedback

When you provide overall feedback to your employees, mix praise with constructive feedback about what they can do to improve.

By mixing your input, you are satisfying a person's thirst for knowing both what he/she is doing well and what he/she can do to continue to improve.

Be sure to always start with the positive when giving feedback.

Learn Team Member Names

If you are a leader high up in an organization, or in charge of a large team, learn the names of as many of your team members/employees as you can -- even if that means learning hundreds of names.

And, then, equally important, address team members/employees by name when you pass them in the hall, share an elevator ride, or see them in the parking lot.

Everyone likes to be addressed by their name. And, the impression you'll make by addressing someone many layers below you within an organization by name will be powerful and memorable.

Unfortunately, many leaders don't practice this behavior often enough.

Foster Mutual Commitment

I read the following in a discussion forum on Linkedin recently and want to share this good advice about leading from writer Joseph Marzano:

"Great leaders clearly and constantly remind people of their mutual common mission, keep people and resources pointed in the right direction on the right things, and are personally known for what they expect and will do. It's all about mutual commitment, given and returned."

Nicely said, Mr. Marzano!

Clearly Communicate Change

When you communicate change to your team, explain the logical and rational reasons for the change:

1. Explain how the change will make employees feel before, during and after the implementation.

2. Explain the tactical plan and goals.

3. Answer questions from your team.

Admit Your Mistakes

We all make mistakes.

Yes, even leaders make mistakes.

When you do, admit to them and apologize for the negative consequences they have caused your team members, vendors, or customers.

Your ability to admit to a mistake will gain you the respect of your employees.

Lead Through Personal Relationships

Create an environment where your employees want to follow you and achieve common goals because they respect you and because they feel a personal relationship with you -- a relationship built on open communication and not one based on your positional power.

If you lead through only your positional power your team will always be fearful of being blamed and being judged, and their personal development and your ability to truly lead will be stifled.

Show Courage

Here's a powerful paragraph from the book "Execution -- The Discipline of Getting Things Done" by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan:

"Most people know someone in their organization who doesn't perform well, yet manages to keep his job year after year. The usual reason, we find, is that the person's leader doesn't have the emotional fortitude to confront him and take decisive action. Such failures can do considerable damage to a business. If the nonperformer is high enough in the organization, he can destroy it."

If you have a nonperformer bringing down your organization, show courage to confront that situation.

Give Constructive Feedback

Eric Harvey and Al Lucia wrote a booklet called "144 Ways To Walk The Talk." They provide the following great advice about giving feedback:

1. Make it timely -- give your feedback as soon as possible to the performance.

2. Make it individualized -- tailor your feedback to the feedback receiver.

3. Make it productive -- focus your feedback on the performance and not the performer.

4. Make is specific -- pinpoint for the receiver observable actions and behaviors.

Seek These Qualities When Hiring

Hire individuals who demonstrate these behaviors and attributes, even if they don't have all the technical skills you require:

* Energy
* Enthusiasm
* Ability to persuade and galvanize others
* Ability to follow through
* Proven consistency in deliverables
* Strong work ethic
* Resourcefulness

Either a person has these qualities or they don't. If they have them, even if they are short on the technical skills, they will likely succeed and grow within your organization. They also are probably prime candidates to be mentored by you.

Be A Volunteer

Use your leadership skills outside your workplace and volunteer in your community.

You can find volunteer opportunities in your area on the following web sites:

http://www.iparticipate.org/

http://www.volunteermatch.org/

Being a volunteer sets a good example for your employees and team members. It also helps to enrich your life while you are positively impacting the lives of others.

Promote Good Internal Customer Service

Too often, we think of only external customer service, and forget about the need for excellent internal customer service.

No matter what type of business, organization or team you lead, teach your team members/employees the need for and importance of internal customer service.

Similar to external customer service, that means employees/team members should:

1. Return phone calls on a timely basis.
2. Answer e-mails.
3. Be polite.
4. Probe to discover how else he/she can be helpful to a co-worker.
5. Be respectful of co-workers.

Lead your team in providing excellent internal customer service. If need be, make internal customer service a discussion topic at your next group meeting.

Show Trust

If you as a leader don't show trust in your employees, you and your team will not achieve maximum results.

Judith E. Glaser states it so well in her book "The DNA of Leadership:"

"Leaders who are secure in their own abilities allow others to display theirs."

So powerful. So true.

Encourage Peer Coaching

Do you create an environment at your business/organization that allows peer coaching to succeed?

Hopefully you do. If you don't, encourage peer coaching among the members of your team. Peer coaching can be formal, informal or a combination of both.

You'll likely find that everyone on your team has a skill, technique, behavior that they can teach a fellow team member. That coaching is rewarding for both parties, and it helps everyone to learn an important skill for being a successful leader -- coaching.

Welcome Input

If you are a manager or leader, you likely know more than your employees or team members about many things within your business or organization. And, you often have many of the answers.

But, you don't know it all. So, readily admit when you meet with your employees/team that you do not know all the answers. Invite others into conversations. Ask for their input. Value diversity of thought.

Encourage inclusion. Welcome input.

Be Willing To Change Your Decisions

Leaders make decisions.

Good leaders are willing to modify their decisions as changing circumstances and data dictate.

If you are stubborn about a decision and think that tweaking your decision will be a sign of weakness, think again. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Often, circumstances change and new information becomes available after a decision has been made. If that takes place it is a sign of strength to modify your decision to fit the new situation.

Share Compliments

Paying a team member a compliment is powerful.

Even more powerful is repeating a compliment to your team member that you heard from someone else about your team member.

So, if a co-worker, fellow manager, customer or vendor compliments one of your employees, be sure to share that praise with your employee. Then watch him/her smile.

Be A Good Role Model

The first day of each month I like to remind us to be good role models. Successful leaders lead by setting a good example.

So, as you start October, don't forget to incorporate these behaviors and actions in your daily/weekly/monthly activities:

* Praise when compliments are earned.

* Be decisive.

* Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.

* Show and demonstrate trust.

* Communicate clearly.

* Listen carefully.

* Teach something new.

* Work hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.

* Show respect for everyone on your team.

* Follow through when you say you will.

* Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.

* Allow prudent autonomy.

* Respond to questions quickly and fully.

* Take an interest in your employees.

* Give credit where credit is due.

* Be humble.

Explain Each Person's Relevance

Your employees appreciate clearly knowing how what they do each day specifically contributes to your company's or organization's success.

So, it's important that you explain the relevance of each person's job. Help each employee or team member to understand how what they do makes a difference.

Answer their questions about the significance of their work. Demonstrate how if their job isn't done well, or isn't fully completed, how that negatively impacts the rest of the process or your business' overall product or service.

Sometimes in organizations too much time is spent explaining the relevance of sales positions or management positions. But, everyone on the team needs to understand their relevance and the importance of what they do.

Explain Decisions

Making a decision is one of the most important actions you'll take as a leader.

When communicating your decisions to your team, be sure to explain both the process (how you came to the decision) and the reason for making your decision.

Sometimes, unfortunately, managers announce a decision without clarifying the process and the reason for the decision.

If you take the time to be clear you'll get better understanding of your decisions from employees, and also more buy-in from your team.

Let It Sit

As a leader a time will come when you have to write an email, memo or letter to address an issue of great importance or concern to you. Or, perhaps in response to something that displeased you, disappointed you, frustrated you, or upset you.

Write that document. Then, let it sit. Preferably, let it sit for 24 hours.

Then, re-read it. It's almost guaranteed you'll end up tweaking the document. You might add a fact that you accidentally omitted in the heat of the moment the day before. Or, more likely, you'll alter the tone so it will achieve a better response from the document's recipient. You may even decide not to send the document at all, and instead will discuss the matter in person or over the phone with the intended recipient.

Usually, time and circumstances permit you to let your document sit for a day. And when your document sits for a day, you'll end up ultimately crafting a better message.

Be Humble

The best leaders possess a host of skills, natural talents and learned behaviors that make them successful.

Leaders are also humble.

Perhaps Margaret Thatcher said it best when she declared: "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

End Your Meetings With A To Do List

Every time you host a meeting, be sure to end it with an actionable To Do list.

First, briefly recap what was discussed. Then, make the To Do assignments, stating what needs to be done and by whom it needs to be done. Include a due date for each To Do.

Sending a follow-up e-mail to your meeting attendees that includes your discussion highlights and the To Do list will keep everyone on the same page. It will also ensure there is no confusion about the accountability for each assigned To Do.

Develop Your Middle Layer

As a manager and leader, your focus may gravitate toward your lower level employees and your higher level employees on your team.

But, don't forget your middle-layer employees who appreciate your attention and coaching, and your training and opportunities for new challenges.

Often these employees are more eager to learn and to tackle new projects because they have the drive to move up and to learn new skills. And they recognize they have a shorter path to achieve advancement.

So, develop your middle layer employees. It's a win-win situation.

Make A Lasting Impact

Leaders make an impact every day. Really good leaders leave a lasting impact -- often, long after they have left a company or organization.

Many of the things I write about in this Blog are behaviors my second supervisor in my career taught me. He's moved on to other places. But, on my 25th anniversary at the company where I worked, I emailed him to thank him for the leadership skills he taught me that I am still using today.

As a leader, work hard to make a lasting impact. Help create a little of you in each of your promising employees who will lead after you have moved on. They will surely be eternally grateful.

Read To Lead

Leaders are always learning. They readily welcome new ideas, suggestions and techniques.

Successful leaders also do a lot of reading about how to become even more effective.

A book a colleague recommended to me is one I recommend to you. It's called "Execution -- The Discipline Of Getting Things Done."

Particularly powerful are the seven behaviors of strong leaders that the book mentions on page 57:

1. Know your people and your business.

2. Insist on realism.

3. Set clear goals and priorities.

4. Follow through.

5. Reward the doers.

6. Expand people's capabilities.

7. Know yourself.

You'll find posts on this Blog about some of these behaviors, but for expanded thoughts about each, give the book a read.

Use Job Descriptions

Whether you have one or many employees, be sure each has a current and accurate job description.

A job description is a written document that should include the employee's duties, responsibilities and outcomes needed from that position. It should also include the required qualifications and reporting relationship.

If your employee has a poorly written job description, or one that is out-of-date, it will lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

Once you have a job description for each employee, you'll be able to ensure the descriptions all fit together logically and leave no holes in the duties that need to be assigned.

Check your job descriptions at least yearly to be sure they reflect the employee's proper title and current duties. Very often employees get new job titles or are assigned new tasks mid-year, and those don't get reflected in their job descriptions. Don't let that happen.

Finally, if you don't have access to a Human Resources department that can h…

Encourage Personal Growth

Encourage your employees to grow professionally.

If your budget allows, send them to a training program to learn a new computer skill or how to improve their customer service skills.

Perhaps you don't have training dollars to spend, but you have a budget to send your employee to a trade show or industry conference.

If you don't have any budget for outside training or travel, then invite your employee to sit in on a meeting or discussion where they'll be exposed to something new and enlightening.

Follow Through

Set a good example for your employees and follow through on everything you say you are going to do.

If you promise to get an employee an answer, get it for him or her. If you say you'll send a team member a report, do so. As the Nike campaign/slogan so aptly says, "Just Do It."

Too many managers don't follow through. Perhaps they get busy. Perhaps they forget. But, following through is critical to keeping your team effective and efficient. And it's necessary for gaining respect from your employees.

Following through also means doing so in a timely fashion. If you take too long to follow through, it's as bad as not following through at all.

Share The Bad News, Too

Of course it's much easier to share good news with your employees, but it's perhaps even more important to share the bad news.

If revenue is down, or if you've lost a large customer, or if a new competitor has entered the market, let your team know. Your employees need to know about the health of your company or organization. And it's only when they have the full picture -- the good news and the bad news -- that they can rally together with you to brainstorm possible solutions.

Don't keep your team in the dark. Don't give them a false sense of the situation by sharing only good news. Keep them fully informed. They can handle the bad along with the good.

Most likely they have a sense of the bad already. Or, they'll hear it second-hand. You'll gain their respect when they hear the bad news from you.

Start Meetings On Time

You call a meeting. Chances are one or more people will show up late. Perhaps 10 minutes late.

If there are six people waiting on the latecomers, that's 10 minutes times 6. Sixty minutes. One hour of collective wasted time.

If you hold a lot of meetings that each start late, the wasted time will really add up.

So, start your meetings on time. It won't take long before the habitual latecomers will start coming on time, particularly if you start your meetings with a piece of really important news that your employees would much prefer to hear first-hand.

Acknowledge Personal Milestone Events

Your employee will appreciate your acknowledging his birthday, advanced degree graduation achievement, wedding engagement, wedding, or other personal milestone event.

If he (or she) shares with you information about any important event in his life, take the opportunity to congratulate him, honor him and acknowledge him. You can give him a card. Or, take him to lunch. Or, even a simple handshake can go a long way.

Taking an interest in your employee goes a long way and it's one of the easiest, meaningful actions you can take.

If you manage a large team, you'll likely want to create a way to help you remember upcoming milestone events for each of your employees.

Think About What You Liked

As a manager, you've undoubtedly worked for other managers in your career. You've likely worked for good managers and for not so good managers.

One of the simplest things you can do to ensure you are a good manager is to think about what you liked and disliked about your past managers.

Then, adapt your management style to include the things you appreciated most from your past good managers.

Most important, don't do the things that you disliked about how your past managers behaved. Odds are that those are the same things your employees won't like you to do.

Close Your Door

This may seem obvious, but some managers don't, or forget to, close their door when disciplining an employee.

If you don't have a door to close, move your discussion to a private area away from the rest of your employees.

Some employees like to be praised in public. Some prefer to be praised in private. But, all employees should be disciplined in private.

Help Your Employees Learn From Their Mistakes

Mistakes happen. The best thing you can do as a manager is to help your employee learn from his (or her) mistake.

If your employee is afraid of ever making a mistake, he will be paralyzed from taking action or taking even calculated risks. If he knows that mistakes happen in the course of doing business and that one learns from making mistakes, you will have a more productive employee.

Most important, be sure your employee knows that if he makes a mistake, he should let you know as soon as possible.

As soon as he does, quickly rectify the situation.

Then, discuss with him how the mistake happened. Find out what he did or didn't do. Ask him what he thinks he can do in the future to avoid the mistake from happening again. Chances are he has already figured this out. If not, teach him what he needs to do differently to avoid the mistake from reoccurring.

Finally, you may discover that the mistake happened because policies, procedures or your assignment instructions were confusing or …

Ask For Help

If you are new to managing, or if you are struggling with a management dilemma, ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help.

Seek the guidance of a colleague at work. Reach out to a mentor at or away from work. Turn to an online resource. Consult a book on managing.

Whatever you do, don't sit back and do nothing. Managing even one employee can be challenging. And many managers receive little or no formal training on how to be a manager. That means you have to be proactive about learning how to be a good manager.

Your team is depending on you, and to lead them effectively you need to know to how manage effectively. So, ask for help.

Listen Carefully

Being an expert listener is one of the most powerful things you can do as a manager.

When you listen carefully to your employees, you'll gain their respect and you'll learn more about what's going on within your organization.

Listening involves much more than what you hear. When you listen carefully, you are maintaining eye contact with the person speaking. You are watching for non-verbal clues, body language, gestures and facial expressions.

Being an effective listener also means repeating back to the employee what you heard her say to ensure that you understood her correctly. This is a crucial step that many managers forget to do.


Being an expert listener is not easy, but it's vital to making a manager successful.

Tailor Your Motivation Techniques

If you manage a team of more than a couple employees, chances are that each person is motivated by something different.

As their manager, learn what motivates each person on your team and tailor your motivation techniques accordingly.

You'll find that most people are motivated by much more than money. Some want and need routine praise. Others seek public recognition for a job well done, while some people prefer less public acknowledgement.

Some employees are motivated by being given increasingly more challenging tasks.

You may also find that you'll have employees on your team who are motivated by being included on your decision making process when you establish policies or procedures. And still others are motivated by being given as much autonomy as reasonably possible.

So, observe, listen, and then tailor your motivation techniques for each of your employees, and be prepared to tweak those techniques if necessary as each person grows within your organization.

Support Mentoring

Sports heroes mention their mentors at award ceremonies. Successful business people thank their mentors at career milestone celebrations. Young adults who become accomplished acknowledge their mentors when asked who was influential in their success.

Mentoring is indeed powerful.

Most managers have been both a mentor and a mentee at some point in their careers. Sometimes, though, not everyone understands the important difference between informal mentoring and formal mentoring.

Formal mentoring is structured, intentional, and short-termed. It also requires the support of top management.

In addition to the informal mentoring that is surely taking place at your company/organization, consider establishing a formal mentoring program.

You can learn about formal mentoring from many sources, but here is one resource/company that can provide you with easy-to-follow workbooks for both the mentor and mentee:

The Mentoring Group in Grass Valley, CA

Lead By Example

Because I believe leading by example is one of the most powerful things a manager can do to ensure success for his or her employees, I'll start each month of my Blog with my "Lead By Example" posting.

Try any or all of the following actions and your employees will learn to emulate your winning style:

* Praise when compliments are earned.

* De decisive.

* Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.

* Show and demonstrate trust.

* Communicate clearly.

* Listen effectively.

* Teach something new.

* Work hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.

* Show respect for everyone on your team.

* Follow through when you say you will.

* Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.

* Allow prudent autonomy.

* Respond to questions quickly and fully.

* Give credit where credit is due.

Teach Something New

Take the opportunity today to teach an employee something new. Nearly everyone likes to learn and is capable of tackling a new challenge.

Teach your employee something that expands his (oer her) current job description. Teach something that will help him to get promoted within your organization at a later date. Teach him a skill that uses new technology. Or, teach him something that will allow him to be a more skilled leader and manager in the future.

You can even teach something that you no longer need to be doing in your position, but that will be a rewarding challenge/task for your employee.

The benefit to your employee is obvious. The benefit to you is you'll have a more skilled team member who is capable of handling more work that can help you to grow your business and/or make it run more efficiently.

Don't Take All The Credit

Insecure managers hog the credit for a job well done. Or, they hide the credit and don't give credit where credit is due. These managers are afraid to let their employees be in the limelight.

Secure and successful managers talk up their employees, highlighting the good performance they've done, and are eager to give credit where credit is due. They promote their staff to their supervisor and to others within their organization.

Successful managers know that they look good when their employees look good.

Giving credit where credit is due is a sign of a manager who is wise and confident. It's a sign of a manager who demonstrates good leadership skills. So, when your employees excel, allow them to take the spotlight.

Learn Legal Terms Quickly

As a manager, you likely review vendor agreements, sales contracts and other documents with legal terms you may not know so well.

Perhaps you've run across terms, such as:

Governing Law
Counterparts
Material Breach
Representations
Indemnifications
Material Default
Fiduciary
Letter of Intent
Penalty Clause
Arbitration
Copyright

You can find the definitions and explanations for all these and thousands of other legal terms in the pocket-sized Barron's Law Dictionary by Steven H. Gifis. You can find the book on Amazon for less than $5.00.

Whether you buy this book or find another more suitable resource to meet your needs, it's good to have on hand a legal terms dictionary, or access to legal terms information online. You'll need that information to help you navigate your next legal document.

Don't sign or approve a document with legal language you don't understand.

Do This Exercise With Your Team/Department

One of my most talented former direct reports uses with her team the book "Now, Discover Your Strengths" and the exercise that accompanies that book.

She recently got me hooked on the book/exercise program.

The program helps you identify your five most important strengths in ways I've never seen before. Among the 34 strength themes covered in the book, I discovered my strengths to be:

Maximizer
Consistency
Empathy
Responsibility
Achiever

Equally, important to knowing one's own strengths is understanding the strengths of each employee you manage. With that knowledge you can build and organize your team, make strategic work assignments, and even hire more effectively.

When I last used the exercise with a department I oversaw, it was fascinating to see how each person discovered something they hadn't anticipated as a strength. It was also fun and enlightening to go around the meeting room and watch the team guess the strength themes of their co-workers.

Marcus Buck…

Get A Second Read On Your Important Documents

When writing important memos, policies, instructions and/or global communications, ask a co-worker or fellow manager to read your document before you distribute it.

Getting that second opinion/read can be very helpful. Often, the other person will spot misspellings. Sometimes, she (or he) can help you tweak the tone to better fit your document's audience. And most important, she can point out areas that are unclear. Those in particular are the things you'll want to re-write.

It likely won't take much time for your co-worker to review your document. And after she does, offer to return the favor the next time she has written something where she needs a second opinion/read.

In my experience, every time I've asked a fellow employees to preview a document, they've always had good suggestions for improvement. About 99% of the time I've made the changes they recommended.

Be Visible

If you are a manager in a small business or not so large department, it's probably easy for you to be visible to your employees and co-workers.

If you manage a large business, department or organization, you'll want to make a conscious effort to be visible. Don't spend your days behind closed doors or constantly in meetings.

Walk around. Make conversation with your team members. It's important that you maintain visibility with your employees. That also means associating with employees at all levels. Don't limit your time for only your direct reports.

The benefits for your employees are that they get to know you better and feel that you are more in tune with what's going on. The benefits to you are that you'll build a stronger rapport with your team, and you'll undoubtedly hear about good things and bad things through casual conversation that you would have missed if you had been less visible.

Hire To Complement, Not To Duplicate

Despite the temptation to hire someone like yourself, hire someone to complement your skills --not to duplicate your skills.

Managers often find it easier, more comfortable, or less threatening to hire someone with similar skills and work habits. But, to build a well-balanced team and to achieve maximum success, you need to have employees who can fill in your weaker areas.

So, if you are a great idea person, but a poor communicator, hire someone with strong communications skills. Similarly, if your team excels in sales but lacks organization, add an employee who leads in organization.

This may all seem like common sense. And you obviously need to hire someone to meet certain/minimum skill sets and who will be a good overall fit. But, do what you can to avoid the trap or temptation to hire someone just like you.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Think about how much feedback a football coach gives his players. Or, how much feedback you get from a private lesson golf instructor. Think about how much feedback you give your kid when she is first learning to ride a bike.

We all are learn from getting constructive feedback. We learn what we're doing well. We learn what we need to improve.

Good managers provide constructive feedback to their employees on a routine basis. They give feedback when an employee does well to reinforce that behavior. Equally important, good managers give feedback when an employee needs to change what they are doing incorrectly.

Be sure that part of your day today, or sometime this week, you are spending time giving your employees constructive feedback.

Plan A Job Learning Day Each Month

Having your employees learn more about what their fellow employees do is invaluable. When everyone knows how each job/position on your team fits together, your team can accomplish so much more. Plus, the new-found knowledge drives a better appreciation for what everyone does, and proves to the team, that success comes only when all the pieces fit together like a well-oiled machine.

So, plan a half day where you pair up employees. Once paired, one employee explains to his (or her) partner what he does in a "typical" day. Allow enough time for sharing samples of his work and for Q&A. Then, it's the second person's turn to share about their "typical" day. If your half day is a morning, suggest the pairs of employees have lunch together, where they can finish by incorporating more discussion about away-from-work hobbies and interests.

Schedule your job learning days for once a month and have your employees meet with different partners each time. It's be…

Dig Deep For Ideas

The next time you are looking for ideas for how to grow revenue, streamline processes and procedures and/or reduce expenses, dig deep within your organization. Don't ask only your direct reports for their suggestions.

Instead, ask everyone at all levels. Some of the best ideas will come from your lower and mid-level employees who are interacting with your vendors, customers and co-workers every day in the very areas that, if improved, could make the most dramatic impact.

Be sure to acknowledge receipt of each idea. Keep everyone informed of the types of ideas you've received. Perhaps update them on a monthly basis. When you implement a suggestion, recognize and reward the submitter, including possibly financially.

Feel free to accept ideas anonymously. But, if employees know you are sincere about wanting their input, and witness you acting upon suggestions, most of your team members will be proud to tie their names to their ideas.

Finally, if there are some of the same suggestions…

Build Your Team Through Community Service

If you manage a small business or a department within a large organization, a great way to improve the cohesiveness of your employee team is to engage them in an activity away from the workplace.

Engaging in a community service activity is a great example. Your team can work at a food bank. Or, they can pick up liter along a highway. Or, they can provide a service at a local senior citizen center.

When you and your team are away from the workplace, working together and giving back to the community, everyone bonds in a way that is often difficult to do within the workplace. Away from work, it's an even playing field. Job titles and position levels disappear. Walls come down. Discussions open up.

Shoot for having your team do one activity per month. Make it voluntary. You may start out with a small group, but as the months go by and participants benefit from the team-building and the good feeling of providing service to their community, you'll soon likely get close to 100% particip…

Have An Open Door Policy

As a manager, having an open door policy means your employees know they can come to you just about any time with any news, problem or concern. Good managers also let their employees know that the open door policy means employees can and should come with even bad news. Or, news about mistakes they have made.

But, for employees to bring you bad news -- often more important for you to hear as a manager versus hearing good news -- you need to provide a non-threatening environment as part of your open door policy.

That means, when an employee delivers bad news or tells you about a mistake they made, resist from yelling or losing your temper. Instead, listen carefully. Ask clarifying questions.

If a mistake was made, ask your employee to explain how it happened. Learn what the employee did or didn't do that caused the poor result. Then, thank the employee for coming to you with the bad news. Next, take the time to teach him or guide him so the mistake doesn't happen again.

Your employee…

Pretend You Are The Customer

One of the best ways to determine if your service/business/organization is providing excellent customer service is for you, as a manager, to pretend you are the customer.

Try it today. Contact your business via the phone, mail, and via the web. Use all three methods! Make a different contact each day for the next week.

During those different instances, ask to reach a person where you only know their first name. Next time, ask for a person who no longer works at the business. Another time, complain about the service/product. Ask how to return a product. Or, you can pretend you want to talk to someone to learn more about the business. Try different scenarios that would be typical for your customers when they contact your business.

Then, observe what happens. I bet you'll be surprised. Hopefully, pleasantly surprised. But, you may be shocked. In addition to likely getting helpful assistance, you may experience people being rude or unhelpful. You may get bounced from person to person. Wo…

Send A Thank You Note

Nearly all employees want to do both a good job and please their supervisor. When they succeed, send them a thank you for a job well done.

A short note (handwritten is particularly good) thanking them for a good job is extremely powerful. Particularly for new employees on your team. Or, for employees new to the workforce and early in their careers. Include in your note a sentence regarding what they did especially well and how their specific action made a positive impact. Remember, be as specific as possible in what you write.

Be sure to send your note soon after the job was completed. If you wait too long (more than a week), the note will lose its impact.

Send your note in a way it can be easily saved by your employee. Even employees who have been on your team for a long time will likely save your note. I still have 20-year-old memorable thank you notes in a file.

Finally, reserve your sending thank you notes for the big jobs, large projects, extra special work. If you send thank yo…

Quickly Lose Respect - Don't Do This

Picture this. You call an employee into your office for a meeting. As your employee is explaining something to you, you turn to your computer monitor to check e-mail. Or, you answer your phone. Or, you look at your mobile device. Or, you engage in a conversation with someone who enters your doorway.

Do any of these once and your employee will likely forgive you. Do any of these actions regularly and you'll quickly lose the respect of your employee!

Rarely is there a reason not to give your employee your full, undivided attention during a meeting/conversation. You can only be a good listener if you are maintaining eye contact with your employee and not multi-tasking.

Find The Truth In The Middle

If you're a parent of two children you already know that when the two are fighting and child #1 tells you what happened, you then ask child #2 what happened, and most often the truth is somewhere in the middle of what the two children have told you.

Surprisingly, many managers, even when they are parents, don't use this parenting "discovery" skill in the workplace. Instead, they often listen to only one side of a situation. Whether it is because of lack of interest or lack of time, they don't proactively seek out the other side of the story.

The unfortunate result is those managers form incorrect perceptions that can often lead to poor decisions and/or directives.

So, the next time two employees are at odds, or when one department complains about another department within your organization, take the time to listen to all sides of the situation to discover the truth that's in the middle.

Read This Must-Read Book

The next time you have three to four hours to read a business book, pick up a copy of Peter F. Drucker's "The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization."

Whether you are you are in business, non-profit or the private sector, you'll find the five questions helpful in better understanding what you do and how to do it better.

And, the five questions make for perfect discussion points with your employees/team.

A leader of a non-profit organization recently recommended the book to me, and I am glad he did.

Don't Delay The Tough Conversation

If you have an employee who needs to improve his/her performance don't delay the tough conversation with them.

If you don't address the issue right now, the employee has little chance to improve and you'll only get more frustrated.

Most employees want to do a good job. Sometimes they just don't know they aren't performing up to the required standards.

Waiting until the employee's annual performance appraisal to have the tough conversation is unhealthy for you and the employee. So, address the issue now.

Sit down with your employee in a private setting. Look them in the eye. First, tell them what they do well. Thank them for that good work. Then, tell them where they need to improve. Be clear. Be precise. Ask them if they understand, and ask them if they need any help from you on how to do a better job.

Explain to them that your taking the time to have the tough conversation means you care about them. You want them to do better. You believe they can do better. E…

Instill Good Customer Service

Have you noticed how many more companies are providing better customer service right now? Many have beefed up their service primarily to hang onto their current customers during these tough economic times.

I've noticed it. Particularly during the past six months while shopping and communicating with businesses over the phone. More are addressing me by name, thanking me for my business and asking how else they can help me.

But, why does it take a recession to make some companies wake up to realize the importance of providing good customer service?

Successful managers lead their teams in providing good customer service, both internally and externally. And, when that happens those teams provide good service year-round, during bad AND good economic times.

Let's hope that when we pull out of this current recession businesses don't abandon good customer service. Let's hope they continue to:


Learn and remember your name, and then address you by name when you visit that business w…

Be Decisive

A manager who can't make a decision or who can't make a timely decision will frustrate his/her employees. Equally bad, a lack of decision will impede the progress of the manager's team.

Some managers make endless requests for data as a way to postpone their having to make a decision. Employees end up spinning in circles, slicing and dicing the information far beyond what is truly needed for the manager to make a decision.

Some managers are simply afraid to make a decision in fear of making a "wrong" decision. These managers don't necessarily request needless data, but simply just never decide.

Successful managers gather the data from their employees, make any truly necessary follow-up requests (probing beyond what their employee may have researched/gathered on their own), and then make their decision...knowing that in virtually all cases most decisions are not black and white "right or "wrong," but are the best decisions made at that time for the…

Lead By Example

One of the most powerful and effective things a good manager can do is to lead by example.

You've undoubtedly heard this many times before. But, it's surprising how often some managers don't lead by setting a good example.

Try the following and my bet is most of your employees will learn to mimic your behavior:Work hard and lend a hand when deadlines are tight.
Show respect for everyone on your team.
Follow through when you say you will.
Allow learning to happen when mistakes are made.
Allow prudent autonomy.
Give credit where credit is due.
Communicate clearly.
Listen effectively.
Teach something new. Nearly everyone wants to learn how to do something better or faster.
Show and demonstrate trust.
Praise when compliments are earned.
Say "Thank You" and sincerely mean it.
Respond to questions quickly and fully.
Be decisive.These behaviors all sound pretty simple. They really can be. Select the ones you may not be doing and give them a try.