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Showing posts from March, 2014

9 Tips For Delivering Excellent Customer Service

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Leading a customer service team? Have the team members use these 9 tips for delivering excellent customer service:
Rely on winning words and soothing phrases. A simple but sincere “Thanks for your patience” or “I’m listening” can go a long way toward defusing a holiday shopper’s frustration, anxiety, or panic. Develop a repertoire of short, easy to remember phrases around issues that are important to customers. Practice until the words come naturally.Communicate with silence. Remaining silent while your customers are talking is a basic courtesy, and nodding tells them you’re listening and understanding what you hear. An occasional “uh huh” or “I see” tells them you’re still listening without interrupting.Make customers feel seen. Making eye contact acknowledges that you see your customers as individuals. But there’s a balance to be struck here: staring can make your customers uncomfortable, too. Also keep in mind that eye contact is governed by specific cultural rules. A good rule to …

Schedule A Job Learning Day For Your Employees

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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 bes…

Nelson Mandela Leadership Quotes

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Here are my favorite Nelson Mandela leadership quotes:
"Lead from the back--and let others believe they are in front.""The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.""It always seems impossible until it's done.""I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.""I've learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.""Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."

April Is National Volunteer Month

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If you are a workplace leader who supports a volunteer program at your business, you already know that by encouraging employees to give back to the community you are: building teamworkmotivating employeesattracting new hiresIn fact, job seekers much prefer companies that have a strong volunteer program. And, a growing number of businesses are rewarding employees who volunteer by giving them extra vacation time and other incentives. Fortunately, throughout the country there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities where employees can contribute individually, or where leaders can organize teams of employees to volunteer together on a routine and scheduled basis.

And, April is National Volunteer Month! You can find organizations in need of volunteers by visiting the website, Volunteer Match. And, if you are a leader in the workforce, take note of the 2010 research that VolunteerMatch.org and United Healthcare published.



They found compelling evidence that volunteering not only enhances voluntee…

How To Write A Company Policy

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Keep these five tips in mind when you craft your next company policy:
Keep the policy short and simple.Get rid of two old policies for every new policy you implement.Make sure that your organization's policy and procedures are written to serve your employees and customers--not just your organization.Don't write a policy in reaction to a single incident.  The problem may never arise again.Don't write a policy longer than one-page, no matter how large your organization may be. Thanks to author Bob Nelson for these great tips from his book, 1001 Ways To Energize Employees.

Six Essential Project Review Questions

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Here is some great advice from the authors of, Helping People Win At Work.  Those authors, Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge, recommend you ask the following six essential questions whenever you do a project review:
What did we set out to do?What actually happened?Why did this happen?What will we do next time?What should we continue to do?What should we do differently? Seems simple enough, but how often do we really take the time to step back and ask ALL six of these questions?
And, these questions are important to ask even if there was no mistakes made during the project. Continually planning and executing without the value of a review can blindside you.

Get more great advice from their book.

Lead With Purpose

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“Purpose is the why behind everything within an organization,” says author John Baldoni, of the book, Lead With Purpose.

Baldoni also believes that it is up to leaders to make certain that organizational purpose is understood and acted upon. And, to harness the talents of their employees, leaders must recognize their responsibility to instill purpose in the workplace.

Other recommendations include:
Make purpose a central focusInstill purpose in othersMake employees comfortable with ambiguityTurn good intentions into great resultsMake it safe to fail (as well as prevail)Develop the next generation According to Baldoni, purpose forms the backbone of what an organization exists to do; upon which you can build vision and mission.

To define an organization’s purpose, you must ask three questions:

1. What is our vision — that is, what do we want to become? 2. What is our mission — that is, what do we do now? 3. What are our values–that is, what are the behaviors we expect of ourselves?
Some…

Leader Profile: Clayton Daniels

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Clayton (Clay) Daniels is VP of Operations, Midwest Service & Solutions at Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering Company.  He's also one of the Kansas City area's most inspiring leaders.

The company was established in 1893 and is now one of the most experienced, diversified and respected mechanical constructors in the United States. It has three locations and annual sales of $270 million.




Daniels was a Major in the US Army, has an MBA from the Bloch School of Management at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), and moved into his VP role at U.S. Engineering in November 2013.


Daniels recently shared his insights on leadership with me:

Question:  As you move from Project Manager to Vice President, what do you plan to do the same, and do differently, from a management standpoint?
Daniels:  Several project management skills translate to skills indicative of a Vice President.  A VP is just managing and leading at a higher, more strategic level.  Whether a project manager, or a VP…

6 No-Cost Things Leaders Can Do To Retain Employees

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh Branham over the past few years.  He's the author of the popular book called, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, and he's the owner of the Overland Park, KS-based business called Keeping The People.
He told me that in research that he has done about the leaders of companies that have won "Best-Place-To-Work" competitions in 45 U.S. cities, that there are six things these effective leaders do that don't cost money.  They do, however, cost time and effort.  But, that is time and effort that can pay big dividends.
Here are the six things you can do: Make the commitment to create a great place to work. Inspire employee confidence in decisions and clear business direction Work to build trust based on honesty and integrity Practice open, two-way communication, especially in times of uncertainty Look out for the organization before you look out for yourself Believe employees should be developed and retained; not burned out and…

Mission Statements Must Have The Three Things

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A lot of companies struggle when creating their mission statement.

Author Peter F. Drucker provides the following good advice in one of my favorite book's of his, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization:"

Every mission statement has to reflect three things:
OpportunitiesCompetenceCommitment In other words, he explains:
What is our purpose?Why do we do what we do?What, in the end, do we want to be remembered for? How well does your mission statement meet Drucker's recommended three requirements?

The Parallels Between Canine And Human Leadership Needs

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I never really thought much about the parallels between canine and human leadership needs, but Lesley Hunter, the author of, Who Put You in Charge?, has convinced me the parallels are compellingly strong.

In her book, Hunter explains:
Like dogs, humans need training, leadership, respect and reward. And most importantly, a sense of belonging.In every pack a dog has its role.  The pack leader is there to provide direction and maintain order.  Harmony happens when pack leaders and followers fulfill their respective roles. As a longtime dog lover and owner, Hunter reflects in her book about her own leadership successes in business, "Bringing together and leading a group of dogs was no different to leading a group of people -- by recognizing the strengths and characteristics of each individual, and by consciously choosing to adapt my own behavior and response, I became an effective leader and got the best out of each of them."

You can make your way through the 100-page book in a …

50 Leadership Tips In 132 Pages

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The authors of this leadership book recommend that you don't read their book cover to cover.  But, if you're like me, you'll read the book that way.

That's because I found, The Little Book of Leadership Development, by Scott J. Allen and Mitchell Kusy, a compelling read, packed with practical tips and techniques for both leading and helping others to learn how to lead effectively.


What you'll find is basically 50 one- to two-page chapters, each highlighting a leadership tip.  And, that's why the authors suggest you digest their book, finding the chapters/tips most readily useful to you.

Some tips seem easy and no-brainers.  Others are more difficult to implement.  But, even the "easy" ones are surprisingly absent from many organizations, so they are well worth a reminder of what to do and how to do it correctly.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the book that highlight the keen observations by the authors:
As a leader, if you are active, involved, …

Dig Deep For Ideas

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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 suggestion…

The Enemy Of Engagement - Book Highlights

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"Frustration in the workplace is a silent killer," claim authors Mark Royal and Tom Agnew in their book, The Enemy of Engagement.

Further, "in an organizational context, frustration is not as simple as failing to get something you want.  Rather, it involves the inability to succeed in your role due to organizational barriers or the inability to bring the bulk of your individual talents, skills, and abilities to your job."

Royal and Agnew further explain that a staggering number of highly motivated, engaged, and loyal employees quit trying--or quit, period---because they feel frustrated.


And what's causing all that frustration?  It's lack of enablement

According to Royal and Agnew, as employees grow in experience in their roles, they begin to focus less on learning the ropes and more on achieving desired results.  In the process, they are increasingly confronted with enablement constraints that limit their ability to get their jobs done effectively.

And, th…

5 Good Reasons To Do An Employee Survey

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Business leaders who wonder whether they should conduct an employee survey should think about these five good reasons for conducting surveys, as recommended by John Kador and Katherine J. Armstrong in their book, Perfect Phrases for Writing Employee Surveys:

1. To discover what employees are thinking and doing – in a nonthreatening survey environment. You will learn what motivates employees and what is important to them.
2. To prioritize the organization’s actions based on objective results – rather than relying on subjective information or your best guesses.
3. To provide a benchmark – or a snapshot of your employees and their attitudes at a certain point of time that you can then compare to future surveys to spot trends.
4. To communicate the importance of key topics to employees – by communicating with employees the survey results that shows your organization is listening to employees.
5. To collect the combined brainpower and ideas of the workforce – that sometimes cannot be acce…

How To Be A Collaborative Leader In The Workplace

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Edward M. Marshall's book, Transforming The Way We Work -- The Power Of The Collaborative Workplace, remains relevant today, more than a decade after Marshall wrote it.

Particularly useful is the book's section that teaches readers how to be a collaborative leader.

Marshall says that there are seven different, important roles and responsibilities of collaborative leaders when leading teams, and those leaders should select the appropriate style to meet the team's needs.

The seven roles are:
The leader as sponsor -- You provide strategic direction, boundaries and coaching for the team. You also monitor progress and ensure integrity in the team's operating processes.The leader as facilitator -- You ensure that meetings, team dynamics, and interpersonal relationships function effectively. You also ensure internal coordination of activities among team members.The leader as coach -- You provide support and guidance and you serve as a sounding board.The leader as change agent/…

The 5 Open-Ended Questions To Ask Your Customers

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I really like author Paul R. Timm's advice to stop asking your customers the "typical" questions and instead ask them open-ended questions.

Here's what Timm recommends:

Don't Ask:
How was everything?Can I get you something else?Did you find everything you need?Will that be all?Was everything satisfactory?Instead Ask:
What else can I do for you?What else can I get for you?What else can I help you with?What else could we do to better serve you?How else can we be of help? These open-ended questions will let your customers really express their ideas, opinions and needs. Timm is the author of, 50 Powerful Ideas You Can Use To Keep Your Customers.

How To Be A Customer-Facing Employee

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According to author Micah Solomon, to ensure you have customer-facing employees, help them to:
Display simple human kindness Sense what another person is feeling Have an inclination toward teamwork Be detail oriented, including having the ability and willingness to follow through to completion Bounce back and do not internalize challenges

How To Make Your Virtual Meetings More Successful

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Business leaders and employees are holding virtual meetings more than ever. Despite the cost-saving and other advantages, virtual meetings versus in-person meetings have their challenges. One of the largest is because participants cannot bond in the same way as they do when they are sitting across the table from one another.

In the book, The Collaboration Imperative, co-authors Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese, recommend you follow these 10 tips for making your virtual meeting successful, particularly when you are leading the meeting:
Before the meeting, make sure attendees have all the preparation materials they will need and the time to review them.Begin with a quick warm-up. For example, start the meeting by asking remote attendees to describe what's happening in their office, town or city.During "blended" meetings, where some attendees are gathering in person and others are participating virtually, address remote attendees first and then offer the opportunity to speak to in-…

The Gifts Your Customers Give You

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When a customer takes time to contact your organization, that comment, suggestion, question or complaint should be seen as a gift.  Yes, a gift!

This is the wise advice from the book, Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service.

Why a gift?

Because, a customer who could have simply walked away because of confusion, a problem, or lack of information is taking time to tell you about the situation -- and most importantly, giving you an opportunity to work with them.

An opportunity to make something more clear.  An opportunity to correct a problem.  An opportunity to change for the better.


4 Simple Steps For Providing Feedback

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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.

Spring Break Leadership Book Recommendations

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Stumped for what business books to bring along on your Spring Break?  Here are five must-read books for leaders well worth adding to your list:
Lead With A Story -- A Guide To Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire.  Author Paul Smith explains why storytelling has emerged as a vital skill for every leader and manager.  In the book, you'll find over 100 ready-made stories you can use as templates to tell your stories.  Stories are so powerful because they are simple, timeless, demographic-proof, contagious, easy to remember and inspiring.  Most important, they put the listener in a mental learning mode.What's The Future Of Business? (WTF?) -- Changing The Way Businesses Create Experiences.  This book, by Brain Solis, details the incredible transformation happening in business today, driven by new social and mobile technologies.  And, he explains how experience design helps your business and how you can harness its power for business growth.  This boo…

How To Be A "Do More" Leader

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I so appreciate this advice from William Arthur Ward, one of America's most quoted writers of inspirational maxims:
Do more than belong: participate.Do more than care: help.Do more than believe: practice.Do more than be fair:  be kind.Do more than forgive: forget.Do more than dream: work.

How To Become A Healthier Leader

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If you're like many leaders, you're "too busy" to exercise on a regular basis. And, you don't give yourself time to renew and refresh. Truth is, there are ways to fit exercise and healthful habits into your busy day that will pay off in dividends.

From Experience Life magazine, here are 10 tips for how to fit even just moments into your day (at work, on the road and at home) to help you become more healthful:
Make a plan to exercise. Include exercise times, even if they are just in 10-minute increments, on your calendar.Find time to exercise and build on that time. Start off by walking for five minutes at lunch and add to that every few days until you've worked up to 30 minutes every few lunch hours.Limit screen time. Set a timer for how long you'll watch TV or surf the Net. Then, use the time you aren't in front of a screen to exercise.When you are watching TV, do squats, push ups, lunges, yoga poses and crunches.Think positive. Psychologists suggest…

Don't Be This Type Of Annoying Boss

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A former co-worker shared a great blog post with me this past week about the most common complaints about the annoying things bosses do without even realizing it.

Here are the highlights: 1. Making social events unofficially required. 2. Pressuring employees to donate to charity. 3. Calling employees who are on vacation. 4. Holding endless meetings. 5. Not making hard decisions. 6. Delegating without truly delegating. 7. Hinting, rather than speaking straightforwardly. Read on for the details behind each of the above statements.

The Power Of Asking, "Why Not?"

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Early on in Eli Broad's book, The Art of Being Unresaonable, he reminds us of the power of a child's instinctive asking, "Why not?"  Unfortunately, most adults lose that habit and Broad goes on to explain that it was his continuing to ask "Why not?" throughout his career that brought him success.

"The questions you're willing to ask when others think they have all the answers are doors todiscovery," says Broad.

Other words of wisdom from the book, and my favorite takeaways, include:

Most successful businesses have to begin by bucking conventional wisdom.  Invention and innovation don't happen without it.Do your homework no matter how much time it takes.Big ideas don't happen in a moment.You can't do it all yourself, so ask questions and delegate.The trick to delegating is to make sure your employees share your priorities.Find the best people to whom you can delegate, and know their strengths and weaknesses. Younger employees simply …

How To Say "I'm Sorry"

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One of the most difficult words for anyone, leaders included, to say is, "sorry."

Yet, the time will likely come when that's the word you need to say.  Research shows that apologizing in a heartfelt way can help you reduce stress and alleviate guilt.

In the position of needing to apologize?  Do this:
Apologize immediately.  Say you are sorry.Take responsibility for the situation.Acknowledge the offense.Ask forgiveness with a promise that it won't happen again.Offer restitution whenever possible. And, should your apology go unaccepted, most experts say forgive yourself and move on.

Note:  Thanks to St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, MO for this sound advice.

6 Universal Drivers That Maximize Employee Engagement

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Overland Park, Kansas-based author Leigh Branham, along with Mark Hirschfeld, awhile back completed a survey of 10,000 employees in 43 states to better understand what separates a "best places to work" company from other companies.

What Branham and Hirschfeld discovered is that the best companies use six "universal drivers" that maximize employee engagement:
Caring, Competent, and Engaging Senior LeadersEffective Managers Who Keep Employees Aligned and EngagedEffective Teamwork at All LevelsJob Enrichment and Professional GrowthValuing Employee ContributionsConcern for Employee Well-Being Branham also explains that to get the best from your employees you need to re-engage them. You can learn more about how to do that in his book, Re-Engage.

What You Need To Be A Trusted Leader

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I found particularly compelling the following about trust from Andrew Leigh's new book, Ethical Leadership.

He writes:

To be trusted, leaders must show:
ability - competence at doing their jobempathy - a concern for others beyond their own needs and having benign motivesintegrity - adhering to a set of principles acceptable to others, reflecting fairness and honestypredictability - over time, acting with consistency

Mid-Week Recommended Leadership Reads

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Here are my Mid-Week Recommended Leadership Reads...

Each week, I share with you one recommended blog postvideo, and profile about leadership, communication and/or marketing.

The recommendations are be some of my favorite finds that I hope you'll think are equally interesting and helpful.

So, here goes:
Blog Post:  Tanveer Naseer on leadership lessons from the recent Winter OlympicsVideo:  Paul Smith on the top 10 reasons for storytellingProfile:  Chris Larson Please let me know if you have a recommended post, video or profile you would like me to read and see for possible inclusion in my Mid-Week roundup.

Thanks! Eric Jacobson

Tips For Projecting An Effective Professional Image

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From Jay Miletsky's book, 101 Ways to Successfully Market Yourself, here 10 tips for projecting an effective professional image:

Discipline yourself to be positive and enthusiastic.In tense situations choose positive responses by maintaining perspective and getting along well with others.Acknowledge mistakes and shortcomings and learn how to correct them.Develop a reputation for being a resourceful problems solver.Leverage your strengths and expertise to have maximum impact on the decisions you make.Be organized, efficient, flexible, and self-motivated.Master your tasks and fully expand your area of expertise so that you can boost your output.Keep up with the latest developments in your company and in your field.Cultivate unique talents that give you a definite edge.Gain visibility by taking the kind of action that will propel you into the right sights of management personnel.

The 6 Questions Marshall Goldsmith Recommends You Ask Your Emplolyees

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As explained in John Baldoni's, book, Lead With Purpose, Marshall Goldsmith suggests all leaders make it a habit to regularly ask their employees these six questions: Where do you think we should be going?Where do you think you and your part of the business should be going?What do you think you're doing well?If you were the leader, what ideas would you have for you?How can I help?What suggestions or ideas do you have for me?

Best Ways To Put People First

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According to leadership expert, John Baldoni, the best ways to demonstrate that you truly put people first at your business is to:

Deliver intrinsic awards (comp time, bonuses, etc.).Offer developmental opportunitiesProvide timely recognitionPromote from within

7 Smart Things To Do To Succeed In The Future

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Here are the seven smart things you need to do to succeed in the future, according to leadership expert. John Baldoni, in his book, Lead With Purpose:

Make purpose a central focus.Instill purpose in others.Make employees comfortable with ambiguity.Turn good intentions into great results.Make it safe to fail (as well as prevail).Develop the next generation.Prepare yourself.