Management Success Tip #176: Volunteering: A Surprising Way to Recruit and Keep Those Sensational Hires

VolunteeringYou’d think that time spent by your employees in anything other than either doing their work, or attending classes and seminars to do their work better, would be a total waste. If anything, water-cooler time has to be tops on your “most annoying” list.

And yet . . . sometimes employees doing something entirely unrelated to their work, but doing it together, has surprising benefits for the company.

For example, giving your employees an opportunity to volunteer, by actively organizing, supporting and giving them the time to volunteer, has great benefits in attracting and keeping great employees.

Xactly Corporation, is a pure-play, SaaS company that provides cloud-based enterprise software and services, among which tools to allow for sales performance management, sales effectiveness, sales compensation, and employee engagement. The company created a volunteering program called “Xactly One,” in which small groups of employees, including leaders, are organized to volunteer at a local school or food kitchen–on company time! Their success in recruiting and retaining excellent employees is evidenced in the following: Fortune named Xactly among the 50 Best Small and Medium- size companies to work for in 2014. Xactly Corp. was also named one of the Top 10 Coolest Companies to Work For in the San Francisco Bay Area.

People who share a common purpose or mission, tend to be more engaged, individually and collectively. Let purposeful volunteering be yet another way to find and retain the very best employees.

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Management Success Tip #163: Give Employees What They Need to Know: Who? What? Why? When? How?!

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It’s common to think of job descriptions as a list of tasks or duties your employee must fulfill. Certainly, a job description has that function. However a job description has another, very important function, which too often is forgotten.

As Kristy Smith of Lead Change Group reminds us: “I would not accept a job from a company who didn’t clearly define job roles and expectations and I certainly would not lead a team without offering them. Why? Because I need to know what winning looks like. . . Without clarity and without painting the picture of what winning looks like, you can never truly measure performance. . . determining the who what why when how gets lost in the fog. When victories get lost in the fog and the “job well done” goes unrecognized, expect morale to drop.”

Don’t just hand out job descriptions, new or revamped, to employees and leave it at that. Instead, clarify roles and expectations. Specify in unmistakable terms what success looks like, and what are the rewards attached. Follow through by applauding all the victories along the way, small and large, and pointing out how those victories resulted from the accomplishment of various tasks and duties.

Morale will soar!

Management Success Tip #159: How to Be Nice And Tough AND Successful!

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Mr/Ms Tough Guy/Gal? Mr/Ms Nice Guy/Gal? Which should you be? Our society values “tough” above almost everything else – at least according to the media – yet today’s business uber-stars, from Richard Branson to Barrie Bergman claim that you don’t have to choose: tough and nice aren’t incompatible.

But how does that work? In real life, yours for example. In the real workplace. The one you work at, day in day out.

According to Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, co-authors of “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness,” two of the primary techniques are to listen to others, and to quit arguing your point.

Everyone has something of value to contribute. It may be a contribution of more or less worth, given the situation, but everyone deserves a respectful listen.

That’s where nice meets tough appropriately. The nice part is where you listen, genuinely, with respect, to your employee’s input. Where you listen for the value in what your employee has to say. And that you give his or her contribution the same consideration you give everyone else’s. The tough part is where you decide how to use the input, given all the other issues that must be considered.

Secondly, don’t argue your point. There’s a world of difference between stating your position, and arguing it. I conduct focus groups for attorneys (among other things) – it’s a great way pre-trial of uncovering issues, developing themes, and so forth. It fascinates me how some attorneys feel the need to argue with the mock jurors about the “verdict” they rendered, rather than respect the information gleaned from the group, and consider its value when shaping their case.

So it is with you. Listen, don’t argue. Take into account what you heard, and you will reap the enormous benefit of being both nice AND tough – all to your greater success.

Management Success Tip #153: A Little Education Goes A Long Way- Give Some to Your Employees!

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There is a thirst for education among today’s workforce that far exceeds that of the workforce just a few decades ago, for the simple reason that increasingly more education, especially targeted to certain career choices, results in better jobs.

In response to this trend, Starbucks, in association with Arizona State University, offers free tuition to their employees to earn an online degree, with few conditions – none of which are the reimbursement of the educational expense, nor does Starbucks even require employees to continue to work for Starbucks once their degrees are obtained.

This is not charity. This is smart business. A better educated workforce is usually a more motivated workforce, which can contribute better ideas, ways and means of doing things. Your specific pick of hires within a better educated workforce is likely to improve the quality of your team.

What is good for the employee becomes what is good for the company.

Now, you will say you are not Starbucks and don’t have the means by any stretch of the imagination to give such benefits to your workers. Not a problem! Whatever you can give to your employees in the way of advanced education will be appreciated – as long as you don’t limit such education to subjects or training that are company-specific. That tilts the scales too far in terms of benefit to the company with very limited benefit to the employee.

With the plethora of online courses, a little research will turn up possibilities which are fiscally manageable. And who knows, you might be able to partner on a limited basis with an online University – to the benefit of all concerned.

Management Success Tip #144: Use Targeted Questions to Get Employees Past the Fear-of-Change Boogeyman.

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Change upsets us. We grow used to a certain way of doing things, and even when it’s not terribly efficient, we’re usually more comfortable with that tried-and-true way, than we are with something new, even if it promises to be way more effective.

So it’s no big surprise that some of your employees buck that change you so desperately need them to accept.

Kevin Eikenberry offers a number of ways to approach their resistance, the first of which are:

“1. Understand the source of the reluctance. People have a reason – rational or emotional (or likely a combination of the two) – why they don’t want to make a particular change. The first mistake leaders make is assuming you know why. Even if your people have shared their reasons in the past, it is important to ask them about their concerns and reservations this time. Do this in as authentic and non-threatening way as you can. Your goal it to truly understand what they are thinking and feeling about the change. (In order to do that you must . . .)

2.  Shut up and listen. Your goal isn’t to convince them or influence them at this point. Your goal is only to listen to their responses. Respond only with follow-up questions designed to truly understand where they are in regards to the change.”

How common-sensical is that! Ask, with a genuine intent to find out what’s really going on, and then listen, again, with a genuine intent to discover the source of the resistance.

Once you address your employees’ concerns, regardless of how meaningful or absurd you believe they are, your employees will be far more willing to go along with your so ardently desired change.

Management Success Tip #143: Wanna Get Things Done While Maintaining Your Cool? Find Your Assertiveness Sweet Spot.

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As a manager, you have to get things done, yet you need your employees to think well of you.

If you’re aggressive, and demand, blame, threaten, or yell – cooperation and morale fly out the window. You may get this one thing done, but employees will sabotage and/or resist the next twenty. . .

If you focus too much on camaraderie and making sure everyone is feeling fine, well, chances are things aren’t getting done in the way or time they need to.

There is, however, an assertiveness sweet spot, according to research done by Ames & Flynn, 2007. It’s somewhere between the drill sergeant approach and the find-your-inner-guru approach. It’s where you respect the personal boundaries of others, you communicate clearly your expectations rather than demand or threaten, you ask questions you really do want answered about the feasibility of stated goals, and provide resources as needed, etc.

How to know if you’ve hit the assertiveness sweet spot? It’s easier to ask how to know if you’re being too aggressive: people will shy away from you, or be reluctant to ask for resources or support. Or if you’re being too touchy-feely: people are comfortable approaching you for anything, but goals aren’t being met, your numbers are dragging.

Interestingly enough, according to Ames & Flynn, when you’re in that sweet spot, your assertiveness isn’t even mentioned. Things are just going along fine, and that’s what your employees and your bosses want to know.

Management Success Tip #141: What You Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon: Respectfully Ask New Employees/Team To Get To Know You

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Most managers, when coming in to a new department, or taking on a new team, start with their credentials: “Here’s my experience, the other departments I’ve successfully managed, and why I’ve been asked to manage this department/team.” Or they dive right into their goals.

Managers often forget that the first order of business is to create relationship with those who now answer to them. Not gooey, sappy “Oh, you’re all so great and I know this is going to be wonderful” type of relationship building, but something much simpler, yet much more appropriate and powerful than that.

An introduction.

James Poniewozik commented for Times.com on Jimmy Fallon’s first Tonight Show gig as host:

“I was struck by one small, but in retrospect very important, thing that Fallon did starting out: he introduced himself.

“Not as in “Hi, I’m Jimmy Fallon, and I’m looking forward to this!” He very deliberately walked the audience through who he was, who his supporting stars were and what kind of show he was going to do. He literally, at one point, pretty much explained how a late-night show works, down to the fact that a host comes out from behind a curtain and tells topical jokes… It was simply Fallon respectfully asking his new audience to get to know him.”

Take a page from Fallon’s playbook: before you do anything else in your new position, respectfully ask your new “audience” to get to know you. And then make an effort to get to know them.