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Showing posts from May, 2015

Ten Reasons For Embracing Storytelling As A Business Tool

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From Paul Smith's book, Lead With A Story, here are the 10 reasons for embracing storytelling as a business tool:
Storytelling is simpleStorytelling is timelessStories are demographic-proofStories are contagiousStories are easier to rememberStories inspireStories appeal to all types of learnersStories fit better where most of the learning happens in the workplaceStories put the listener in a mental learning modeTelling stories shows respect for the audience Smith goes on to say that:
you don't need a degree in English to tell a storystories can spread like wildfirelessons from a story are remembered more accurately, and for far longer, than learning derived from factsstories spark curiosity and interest rather than the urge to evaluate or criticizestories get your message across, without arrogantly telling listeners what to think or do

Common Mistakes Leaders Should Avoid

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In Leading Change, Step-By-Step, author Jody Spiro describes three common mistakes leaders should avoid.

Those are:
Thinking That a Mission is Developed by a Single Leader -- Spiro explains that in order to have buy-in from across the organization, the creation of a mission requires negotiation and genuine input from across the organization.  And that means a leader needs to be a good, active listener.Addressing Too Much in a Single Strategy; Inability to Say "No" -- According to Spiro, leaders should avoid the temptation to "pack" a given strategy with several other strategies.  Instead, you should be selective and narrow the strategy to a single thought that furthers your mission and is a niche where you can have a competitive advantage or offer a unique program or service.Confusing Strategies with Actions -- Both strategies and actions specify something that will be done. But, as Spiro explains, actions are more specific and concrete.  The strategy should cause …

Create SMART Goals

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Too often, businesses don't have clearly defined goals and even less often specific plans to reach those goals.

When you set a goal for your business, be sure it is SMART:
SpecificMeasurableAttainableRelevantTime-relatedShare that goal with your employees, so they understand all of the five attributes of the goal.

And then for your plan (sometimes called "program"), keep these tips in mind:
Realistically assess the obstacles and resources involved and then create a strategy for navigating that reality.  For me this year, that meant adjusting my race schedule this summer to accommodate a nagging hamstring injury.Plan for more than just willpower.  Instead, plan by taking into consideration your business environment, your employees' schedules and workload, and everyone's accountability so that all these factors will work together to support you to achieve your goal.

Conflict 101

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Handling conflict is one of the most difficult things a leader has to deal with. Unfortunately, conflict in the workplace is inevitable.
In fact, research shows that 42 percent of a manager's time is spent addressing conflict.  And, over 65 percent of performance problems are caused by employee conflicts. Managers new in their leadership role typically have had little to no training on how to deal with conflict.

Fortunately, in Susan H. Shearouse's book, Conflict 101, you can learn:
How conflict is createdHow we respond to conflictHow to management conflict more effectively Shearouse explains that even though conflict is inevitable, it can lead to both growth and progress. "There is little progress that is not preceded by some kind of conflict," says Shearouse.

I found particularly helpful in the book the definitions of the following five different types of conflict and then how best to deal with each:
Problems to solveDisagreementContestFightIntractable situation Also…

The Truth Is Somewhere In The Middle

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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.

Leadership Development Tips

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The authors of the pictured book suggest that readers 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. 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, and perceived by members of your team as an individual who care about their development and growth, you will increase yo…

Leadership Books For Your Summer Reading

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My Best Boss Did This

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In their book, Rapid Realignment, authors George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, reveal the most common responses from thousands of managers and workers when they were asked to think of the best boss they ever had, and then answer the question:
"What did that person do to qualify as your best boss?" And, those most common responses were:
My best boss listened!My best boss backed me up.My best boss trusted me and respected me.My best boss gave me feedback.My best boss left me alone.What else would you add to this list?  What did your best boss do?

How To Reduce Employee Turnover

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Knowing why an employee leaves your company can help you to reduce your employee turnover rate.

That's because you can use the reasons a departing employee provides to gather information about processes, people and departments that might need some redirection to correct situations that may have contributed to the employee's reasons for leaving.

So, do an exit interview whenever possible with each departing employee. Ask each person:
Why they are leavingWhat they liked about their jobWhat they would have changed about their jobHow they felt about the cooperation level among co-workersHow they felt about communication and interaction with co-workersWhether they received the necessary training to do their jobWhether they received frequent coaching and balanced feedback from their supervisorWould they recommend a friend apply for work at your companyHow they felt about their payHow they would describe the morale in the company and in their departmentWhat they would change about th…

How To 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.



How To Become A Stronger Career Mentor

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Author Paul Falcone offers the following great advice for how to become a stronger career mentor and coach by helping your subordinates grow and develop in their own careers.
Encourage others to engage in random acts of kindness.Find creative ways of surprising your customers.Focus on making bad relationships good and good relationships better.Look for new ways of reinventing the workflow in light of your company's changing needs.Think relationship first, transaction second.Realize that people can tell more about you by the depth of your questions than by the quality of your statements.Separate the people from the problem.Always provide two solutions for each question you ask or suggestion you raise.Employ right-brain imagination, artistry, and intuition plus left-brain logic and planning. And, one of my favorite pieces of advice from Falcone: Convert "yes...but:" to "yes...and" statements to acknowledge the speaker's point of view and to share additional in…

How To Embrace Change

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Change is inevitable. Change is good.  Help your employees and team learn to embrace change.

Here are some solid insights from Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan's (Liberty, Missouri) book, Change-friendly Leadership -- How to Transform Good Intentions into  Great Performance:
The kind of behavior change that results in lasting (sustainable) change must accommodate people's feelings--feelings that involve trust, confidence, passion, and all those other intangible but very real things that make us human.It's often the stress that people resist, not the change itself.Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights (Pauline R. Kezer).A transformational leader focuses primarily on initiating and "managing" change. He/she influences people to improve, to stretch, and to redefine what's possible.It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change (Charles Dar…

Observations About Leadership

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A relatively small Kansas City-area newspaper for readers over 50 years in age published an article by C.W. Hanson a couple years ago where he offered these keen observations about leadership:
The longer the contact with those you offer leadership to, the more scrutiny you will receive and the more self-disciplined you must be.People will pay attention to what you do as well as what you say.Your contingent may be one or many.  You may not even know you are being watched, but that does not preclude you from being a role model for someone.  Your word and your behavior are still important.Your contact with those you lead may last a lifetime or be just a passing moment.The preparation for leadership is necessarily more complex when you are responsible for many than for one. Source:  Kansas City 50 & Better

Don't Let These 20 Excuses Derail Your New Business Transformation Ideas

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In their book, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things, co-authors Neil Smith and Patricia O'Connell list 20 excuses commonly heard in companies for reasons why new business transformation ideas are not considered.

The authors recommend eliminating these 20 excuses from your vocabulary:
Our company is well run; there are no opportunities.We're inefficient, but my department is not the problem.The issue is support function and allocations, not my costs.Our problem is revenues, not how we do things.We have tried that before.We are already doing that.My boss/theCEO/legal will never agree to that.That won't save money or increase revenues.That would cost too much to implement.No one in the industry is doing that.We will lose customers if we do that.Anything that takes time away from serving my customers will hurt us.But we are unique.No one really understands what we do.I don't have time to think about that.We don't have the right technology to do that.I can't ris…

Don't Let Frustration Kill Your Business

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"Frustration in the workplace is a silent killer," claim authors Mark Royal and Tom Agnew in their terrific 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.

New Books For Leaders

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New books for leaders just now hitting the stores:


How To Build A Great Business

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When you start reading Mark Thompson’s and Brian Tracy’s book, Now…Build a Great Business!, you may feel like you are reading 200 pages of Blog posts, but the bite-sized approach to providing tools, practical steps and ideas, rather than theory, is precisely the authors’ intended approach.

The book thoroughly explains the seven keys for how to achieve business success:

1.  Become a great leader
2.  Develop a great business plan
3.  Surround yourself with great people
4.  Offer a great product or service
5.  Design a great marketing plan
6.  Perfect a great sales process
7.  Create a great customer experience

You’ll find a checklist at the end of each step (each chapter) where you can write down your action plan for applying what you’ve learned.

Particularly interesting is the chapter on strategic planning, where the authors recommend you should ask yourself these important questions before you act to create or reinvent the direction of your organization:

•  Where are you now? What is…

The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution

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If you serve on a nonprofit Board, are the executive director for a nonprofit, or are responsible for raising funds for your nonprofit, The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution, book by Laurence A. Pagnoni is a must-read for you.

Pagnoni bridges the gap between theory and practical methods and shows you (often via real-life case studies) how to:

increase your access to wealthy donorsraise your community profilestretch giftsoperate major campaignsavoid revenue plateauscreate a fundraising culture within your organizationtake specific actions if your Board's core strength isn't fundraisingconduct challenge gift campaignsintegrate social media into your existing fundraising methodscreate a planned giving program When it comes to transforming prospects into donors, Pagnoni suggests you follow these basic five steps: Get to know your prospectGet your prospect involvedAsk for a small gift of financial supportAsk them to open their network of contactsAsk for a major gift And, during those c…

Goals For A Nonprofit Fundraiser And Development Executive

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If you are stumped for how to write performance appraisal goals for a particular title and role in your organization, buy Paul Falcone's book, 2,600 Phrases for Setting Effective Performance Goals.

Falcone devotes about a third of the 200-page book to lists of goals for all types of titles and roles in a variety for organizations and companies -- including, this list of performance appraisal goals for a nonprofit fundraiser and development executive:
Develop effective strategies for donor engagement and the solicitation of top prospects.Research, identify, and cultivate individual, corporate, and foundation donors.Devise and implement strategies for donor cultivation.Drive the necessary development efforts to meet the organization's annual revenue goals.Create and manage a portfolio with an emphasis on corporations and individual giving.Develop strategies to approach large multinational corporations regarding national gifts.Maximize opportunities for cultivating and soliciting…

How To Build Trust

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You can't lead if your employees, team or followers don't trust you.

Building trust takes energy, effort and constant attention to how you act.

To help build trust, follow these 16 tips, recommended by author Susan H. Shearouse:
Be honestKeep commitments and keep your wordAvoid surprisesBe consistent with your moodBe your bestDemonstrate respectListenCommunicateSpeak with a positive intentAdmit mistakesBe willing to hear feedbackMaintain confidencesGet to know othersPractice empathySeek input from othersSay "thank you"

Encourage Excellent Internal Customer Service

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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.

Four Daily Questions For Leaders

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I'm a big fan of the magazine, Experience Life.  Particularly the monthly Perspective column by Bahram Akradi, the founder and CEO of Life Time Fitness.

Akradi tackled self-reflection awhile back. He firmly believes the business model that if you aren't innovating you are dying. And, to innovate, you have to regularly fine-tune both your business and your life.

What better way to do that than to ask yourself each day these four questions, says Akradi:
Where did I do some good or make some progress today?Where did I let myself or others down?What can I do to keep my good habits going?What can I do to address any negative triggers or trends before they get out of hand? Thanks Bahram for this great advice. And, thanks for a great a great business, health, fitness and quality-of-life magazine.

How To Be A Responsible Leader

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Tim Richardson offers this great advice from his book on how to be a responsible leader:

The responsible leader sees things as interconnected and interdependent.The responsible leader is both future focused and grounded firmly in the present, the here and now, and the practical on-the-ground impact of actions.Responsible leadership is about connecting at a deeper level with stakeholders - at the soul, story and heritage level that provides meaning for staff teams, communities and customers.The narrative is aligned with the vision across the wider organizational system through a culture that the leader role models wholeheartedly and authentically, often at considerable personal risk.Responsible leaders know who they are, what they stand for, and are not afraid to step forward, even at personal risk. They are passionate and can inspire others through their personal energy, commitment and sense of purpose.

How To Become An Optimist

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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

Leadership Lessons From Women Who Mean Business

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Every year, the Kansas City Business Journal honors 25 women business leaders in the Kansas City metro in its "Women Who Mean Business" awards competition.

The winners are identified as those women in the community who:
are outstanding in their business accomplishmentshave growth plans for their companiescontribute to the communityimprove the climate for women in business
Key insights from winners of a recent year's competition include these comments and observations:
"Listen to people who know the business.""I've learned when I'm angry to walk away, calm down. Never, ever, ever react in anger to anybody.""Loyalty is not something you can spot right away; attitude is. Attitude is something you can't teach.""Mentoring is opening doors for younger people.""Work hard, but enjoy what you do""If you don't give back to the community, how can you be a whole person?""Our job as business leaders is to …

Three Things Every Mission Statement Should Have

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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?

High-Performing Teams Are Made Of This

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According to Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese, authors of the book, The Collaboration Imperative, high-performing teams have the following characteristics:
People have solid and deep trust in each other and in the team's purpose--they feel free to express feelings and ideas.Everybody is working toward the same goals.Team members are clear on how to work together and how to accomplish tasks.Everyone understands both team and individual performance goals and knows what is expected.Team members actively diffuse tension and friction in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.The team engages in extensive discussion, and everyone gets a chance to contribute--even the introverts.Disagreement is viewed as a good thing and conflicts are managed.  Criticism is constructive and is oriented toward problem solving and removing obstacles.The team makes decisions when there is natural agreement--in the cases where agreement is elusive, a decision is made by the team lead or executive sponsor, after which lit…

How To Build A Connection Culture

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"Connection is what transforms a dog-eat-dog environment into a sled-dog team that pulls together," says Michael Lee Stallard, author of the new book, Connection Culture. "Connection builds an emotional bond that promotes trust, cooperation, and esprit de corps among people in the workplace."

Based on shared identity, empathy, and understanding, connection moves primarily self-centered individuals toward group-centered membership.

"Without that sense of connection, employees will never each their full potential," states Stallard.

The 10 ways you can improve your connection skills are to:

Recognize varying connection needsBe present in conversationsDevelop the ability to empathizeDevelop the habit of emphasizing positivesControl your tone of voiceNegotiate with the mindset to solve a problems rather than to winProvide autonomy in executionLearn to apply the five languages of appreciation Apologize when you make a mistakeDevelop social skills and relationsh…

Three Keys To Energizing Your Work And Life

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Today, Tom Rath, author of the incredibly popular, Strengthsfinder 2.0 book, releases his new book, Are You Fully Charged?

The book draws on the latest and most practical research from business and psychology and identifies the three keys that influence most of our daily well-being, as well as our engagement at work:

Meaning: doing something that benefits another personInteractions: creating far more positive than negative momentsEnergy: making choices that improve your mental and physical health "This book will challenge you to stop pursing happiness and start creating meaning instead," explains Rath. And, by doing so, you will rethink your daily interactions with the people who matter most.
"The actions you take throughout every single day accumulate to shape your years, decades and overall life," adds Rath. 
Even brief interactions count, says Rath, such as exchanging a smile or greeting while passing someone on the street. Those moments/interactions give your d…

The Power Of A Verbal "Thank You"

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Your words of recognition and appreciation delivered face-to-face with your employees will be compelling, effective, meaningful and memorable.

As an employee's leader, you are likely the most important person to them in the workplace. Their knowing you appreciate their hard work and success is critical to keeping them motivated and engaged.

So, don't underestimate the power of a verbal "thank you" for a job well done!