Flexing Your Leadership Courage

By Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli-leadership courage

Remember in The Wizard of Oz how the Cowardly Lion—when he got to see the Wizard—was like, “What? I already had courage? WTH?” It was kind of not cool that the Wizard made the poor guy goes all the way through that drama, only to say, “That gift you want? You already got it!” Well, leadership courage is a lot like that. Often when leaders ask, “How can I get more courageous in my leadership?” the answer is—like the Lion—you already got this; just tap into that which you already have.

At its core, it’s easiest to think of courage as that adrenaline-filled action hero that you see in the movies or when you’re home Netflixing and chillin’. Amazon warriors like Wonder Woman, death-facing young wizards like Harry Potter, countless soldiers and sailors entering the massive battle to win the war: you see these images in media and get an idea of what “courage” is supposed to be. But if you’re not a Navy SEAL or a wand-wielding wizard or an immortal Amazonian princess, you’re in luck! Courageous leadership doesn’t require you to be any of those. But—by nature of being in that leadership role within your organization—there’s a strong argument that you already have some semblance of courage up your sleeve. The challenge is to build and harness that courage to be even more effective as a leader.

When you think about being courageous in the workplace, even if you’re being your bravest self, there’s still a lot of factors that can prevent you from being your most courageous (and effective) leadership self. Time and again, these are the top three “courage-inhibitors” that tend to come up for many leaders:

Leadership courage here is to be OK with failing, with being perceived as that outsider for the sake of doing better work, benefiting your team members and organization. Click To Tweet

1. The Challenge of Fear

If you were to ask around, you’d likely find that a lack of courage and abundance of complacency in the workplace comes down to one simple thing: fear. When you think about this in the business context it can be broken down into two subtypes: (A) Fear of (Perceived or Actual) Failure, and (B) Fear of Feeling Like an Outsider.

With Fear “A,” you tend to strive for perfectionism, where the idea of submitting anything less than perfect could alter the opinion of a boss or trusted ally. Typically, most folks want their best foot forward; they want to be seen as a rock star performer. Anything less is deemed a failure (even if your “C” work is on par with some others’ “A” work!).

But Fear “B” comes from a more personal place, where challenging the status quo may make you feel like an outsider within your own workplace. At some point in your career, you’ve likely had that feeling before (or maybe you currently do). It’s not fun, it’s alienating, and, for some, it’s a feeling they don’t want to ever feel again.

So, in a work context, this desire to avoid the feeling of being the “other” leads you to be compliant, even if in your core you know the idea at hand really needs to be challenged for the good of the organization. Having leadership courage here is to be OK with failing, being OK with being perceived as that outsider for the sake of doing better work, benefiting your team members or moving your organization forward.

2. The Challenge of Assumptions (or “Filling in the Blanks”)

As humans, it’s common to fill in the gaps when presented with a situation where all the data isn’t available. It’s easy to connect the dots between one problem and the next, even when the two aren’t related, without taking the time to examine your own approach. It’s how humans are wired.

When you think of this in the context of courage, you’re either avoiding truly understanding the situation, or you’re scared (back to fear again!) to dive deeper into the truth of the situation. Having leadership courage means lifting up those rocks and seeing what’s underneath. Lack of courage here is making assumptions about the situation without knowing all the information.

3. The Challenge of Being Locked into Current Behaviors  

Let’s talk about change for a minute. Here’s a little secret you probably already know: most people don’t like change. On a fundamental level, change is a really awesome idea: it’s fresh and new, it expands horizons, it allows for innovation and to have new experiences. In the workplace context, you initiate change so that the organization can grow and prosper. But the hard truth?

The vast majority of people hate change. Why? Well, on one hand (at an unconscious level) humans don’t like to change because it hits a part of our brain that likes safety and security. As our cave-ancestors survived and grew as a species, they (like us) were wired to be fearful of changes. Engaging in something new could lead to a dangerous situation. 

Now, flash forward to today: you’re still wired like this in changing situations. When most people engage in change, it leads to an unsettling feeling of vulnerability. On the other hand, your conscious self doesn’t like change because it’s difficult. There’s a tendency to simply get used to situations and know how to act and adjust to them, even if the situation isn’t ideal.

You might have heard the old adage: “The devil you know versus the devil you don’t,” meaning that we as humans tend to be OK with even bad situations/bosses/friends/ relationships/etc. because we know where we stand in this context. Some people don’t like change so much that they’d sooner stay in a bad situation because it’s familiar rather than make a move to newness. So, whether unconscious or conscious, for most people change is hard! It takes courage to try something new, something different, and individual resilience to keep at it when it doesn’t work perfectly the first time.

As a leader, courage should be the bedrock that’s your foundation—the courage to challenge the status quo, and to be your authentic and effective self in front of the world. It’s a super power that every leader has within them: it’s just a matter of avoiding the three “courage-inhibitors” and channeling that courage just like the not-so-Cowardly Lion did.

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, FL, USA, with affiliates across the globe. With over twenty-five years’ experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle came out June 2019.

Job Candidate Ghosting: Three Ways to Minimize the Risk

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy Eskenazi

The Urban Dictionary describes ghosting as “the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date.” While dating and interviewing candidates is not the same thing, they are very similar in the early stages and can elicit very similar behaviors. Candidate ghosting is when you are actively engaged with a prospective employee, and at some point before their first day of work, they cease all communication. Ouch!

The market for talent is hot right now and this goes across all industries and career levels. It means candidates have more choices than ever and might be entertaining multiple offers. Even if you assume that job candidates have the best intentions during the recruiting phase of the relationship, sometimes good manners and their own candidate brand fall to the side when there is a lot of interest in their skills. When candidates stop communicating with you, it’s not only frustrating—it’s costly too.

Your candidate experience is so critical to your success. Click To Tweet

To avoid being ghosted, you must focus on the overall candidate experience. While there is as much head (clear processes and accountability), as there is the heart (being respectful and kind) in this process, there are efforts you can make to minimize job candidates ghosting you. Let’s start with these four areas:

  • Go deep on expectations. Provide a level of detail which includes who is on the interview panel (share LinkedIn profiles) and how they contribute to the decision process. Share the timeline for reference checks and background screening and the role the candidate will need to play, and any tests that might be part of the hiring process with a detailed description of the reason and approach.
  • White glove travel experience. If the candidate will be traveling for their interviews, make it seamless and build your policies with their experience, not your cost at the forefront. For example, don’t ask the candidate to pay for their travel and wait a period to be reimbursed. Book direct flights (not the cheapest that involve a connection), and book them at reasonable times. A day trip with a morning flight, back to back interviews, and a red eye return flight is not an ideal way for a candidate to learn about your brand or put them in a good headspace to think about entertaining an offer from you. 
  • Stay connected. Check-ins and pre-selling during all points of the process is critical. After every step, you should be asking the candidate how they feel the interview went, what they are thinking in terms of the company and the role, and how interested they would be in getting an offer at this point. You can use scales to ask them to rank from 1 to 10, and then follow up to understand why their interest is where it is. This shows you are invested in their success and they are not lost in a tunnel of endless interviews. 
  • Ask about shopping. Building trust with the candidates and then boldly and directly asking about their interaction with other companies is critical. Ask what other roles they are considering and what about those roles is potentially more appealing than what you might offer. This will help you be more effective at making an offer that targets their needs and is more attractive.

When planning for the steps above speed is paramount. We live in a world of instant feedback and immediate reaction. While the interview process can take time, if you focus on the candidate experience, they can assume you’re not interested and stop replying. Much like waiting for someone to call after the first date, what used to be a four-day standard is now more like a same-day follow up. Candidates need and deserve to know how long you will take to consider them for the next step in the recruiting process, and that you will get back to them either way.

Now, let’s assume you have made it past the interview stage and extended an offer. A certain way to get ghosted is to make an offer that is less than competitive. In hourly jobs, 1 dollar makes a big difference. For top candidates in middle management, certain perks are now standard, and multiple offers are common at all career levels. Sending an offer that is too low or not at all competitive increases the chance that you will be ghosted and remove the opportunity to even improve the offer or negotiate. This is where market data and non-salary perks become important as well. Not every company will be able to get into a salary war for their desired candidate, so knowing what other non-compounding benefits you can offer to sweeten the deal will help your chances of keeping the candidate engaged and interested through the recruitment process.

Suppose you got through the first two milestones and your candidate is ready for their first day. Would it shock you to learn that candidates today are increasing their first-day ghosting tactics? What a horrible experience to expect a candidate on-site for their first day of work and they never show up! All the work that has gone into welcoming and planning for their onboarding is for naught. Many employers try calling, emailing, and even try to contact the new hire through social media—they are often perplexed as to why someone would just not show. At this stage, the reason for ghosting often is because of a terrible onboarding program. After spending weeks of cumbersome processes and silence once signing their offer, they no longer want to be part of your brand. It’s possible they received another offer in that time while your team was not fully invested in them. While it’s certainly not good for their personal brand to ghost, it seems to be the non-confrontational option of accepting a role where they feel more valued. It was too hard before they even started.

Unfortunately, ghosting seems to be a growing practice. You rarely see it coming and there is no profile to predict who will ghost and who will not. Therefore, your candidate experience is so critical to your success. If you aren’t already, have a look at your practices at all the key touchpoints. Pressure test your process and think about how easy and exciting it is (or isn’t) for a candidate to move through. Think about how you can drastically reduce your chances of being haunted by the ghost of offers past! 

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm. Jeremy is not a headhunter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information on Jeremy Eskenazi, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com.

Is Your Office Air Filter Installed in Error?

Dirty Registers, ‘Popping’ Sounds among Signs You’re Using the Wrong One

By Jonathan Carson

Jonathan Carson-HVAC System

As a business owner, you understand the need for routine maintenance to protect the equipment you use every day. One of those valuable investments is your HVAC system. Part of your routine may be to change your HVAC filters before winter starts. So, when you match your system with a filter that is the right size according to specs and seems to fit just fine, you are all set for the year, right? That’s what a lot of people would assume.

But there are four ways to know you are using the wrong air filter on your HVAC system—and the wrong filter wastes energy, and in turn, increases utility bills.

1. You hear a “popping” sound while installing the new filter.

Indoor air often is dirtier than outdoor air.  Click To Tweet

If it takes any real effort for you to remove the old filter—especially if you hear a “popping” sound when you do so—that is a sign the filter was too dense (e.g. too thick). This makes the HVAC system less efficient, which means it costs more money to operate and may lead to expensive repairs.

In addition, a filter that is too small will be sucked into the filter holder—and again you may hear a “popping” sound. In a case like this, you should either install a larger filter holder or add a second holder. Or if you have a pleated cotton filter that appears bowed when you are removing it, that lets you know that it was the wrong size.

Depending on the type of HVAC system, you may not be able to add a filter holder. In some cases, all you can do is slide in the new filter. In such cases, you can monitor the volume of air coming out of his ductwork by removing a grille. If you feel a rush of air after removing the grille, then you have the wrong filter. The airflow should be constant—a rush of air means the filter is too dense.

However, regardless of the exact HVAC system, it cannot be overemphasized that an incorrect air filter size will decrease airflow and increase strain on the air handler. This leads to the following:

  • Higher utility bills
  • Shorter equipment life span
  • More frequent repairs

2. How to “read” your filter and see if it is worth your “salt”.

If you can read the newspaper through your filter, then you know it is not dense enough to capture most dust and dirt. Another good test is to shake some salt on the filter. If the salt goes right through the filter, then is not keeping out dirt and other particles the way it should. This sometimes occurs when using a cheaply made, woven filter (often these are blue in color). While inexpensive, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Pleated filters made of cotton—usually 1 inch thick—are recommended for most standard grilles, as they keep out more contaminants.

Remember that a filter that isn’t dense enough is just as bad as one that is TOO dense (thick)!

  • The coil and ducts get dirty due to the dust and dirt passing through the filter.
  • A dirty coil and fan lead to more energy consumption (and higher power bills).
  • The increased number of particulates and pollen getting through the filter and stirred up by the HVAC system leads to poor IAQ.

3. Your air registers are dusty or dirty.

The supply and return vents for your HVAC system are more commonly known as “registers”. Supply registers are the covers for the openings in walls through which conditioned air is blown out into your workspace.

The return vents also have register covers, except they are connected to the return ducts. When your system is running, it sucks the air from the return vents through the ductwork and back to the HVAC system. Return vents are typically larger than supply vents and typically you won’t feel air being blown out of them.

If any of the registers are not clean—supply or return—this leads to poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). The most common reason for this problem is a dirty air filter. With clean registers and a clean filter, you can improve IAQ quickly and easily. This also lets your system work more efficiently, using less energy and saving you money.

4. Your workplace is dusty but it takes more than a month for the air filter to look dirty.

Like the previous point, this is an indication that:

  • Your air filter is, in fact, dirty.
  • Your filter is either too small or not dense enough.

Summary

In conclusion, indoor air often is dirtier than outdoor air. It’s imperative that business owners like you have the correctly sized air filter. Further, keeping registers clean and replacing your system’s filter at least every three months is recommended for most HVAC systems. Considering how much you spent on your system and the cost of running it, a few filters a year are far less expensive than an inefficient and unhealthy system. Well worth it, don’t you think?

Jonathan Carson is an associate with the Lake Wales, FL-based Natural Air E-Controls, LLC. Natural Air E-Controls, LLC designs and builds HVAC control systems that enable the building’s HVAC equipment to provide fresh air and remove pollutants by taking in outdoor air in amounts needed to improve indoor air quality while saving on heating and cooling bills.

Build Robust Customer Relationships by Taking a Proactive Approach

By Jill J. Johnson

Jill Johnson-customer relationship

While today’s sales process can appear streamlined and online, it creates complexities and confusion for consumers who have vastly more options in a global marketplace. The internet has blurred traditional sales territories because consumers can now search the world for the products and services they want or need. Finding the right one requires them to weed through many alternatives so they can make optimal purchasing decisions. Proactively building robust and trusting relationships with your customers provides opportunities to become their top advisor and go-to vendor. Anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving these issues in a manner that protects your customer relationship. Software applications and marketing automation also create opportunities for enhanced customer insight and relationship development. 

Team Efforts Build Strong Customer Relationships

The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients hanging for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities for your customers and present new ideas when your customers are most likely ready to consider them.

Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions. Click To Tweet

Successful sales and marketing team members work closely together to create synergies among all the communications being used to connect with customers. Production and service teams must also work in sync with sales to deliver the quality order that has been promised the customer. There is nothing worse for the client relationship than a salesperson making a promise that production cannot honor. In most organizations, the production or manufacturing divisions are siloed from sales. Each has its own metrics by which they are evaluated and there is often little communication among them. When that happens, the entire customer relationship can be at risk.

Enterprises that effectively calibrate and coordinate their ability to supply goods and services the customer demands will be the most successful over the long-term. They minimize waste and scrapped inventory because they are creating specific products their customers want and will buy. Sales relationships that have been strategized throughout the enterprise provide the best opportunities for gaining accurate customer intelligence on product specifications and anticipated sales volumes. The same things hold true for those selling services. 

Maintaining Customer Relationships Requires Trust

When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it can become easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high trust relationship.

When there is a glitch in service or delivery, client relationships can be jeopardized. Clients make buying decisions based on trust. If something significant interferes with the trust relationship, the entire account can be at risk. It may be a missed delivery, inferior product quality, service glitches or price-points that are too high. When this occurs, it can be easy for everyone to assume that the relationship will resolve the issue. But when it does not, everyone must remember that business is business. The personal relationships developed with care over time can vanish when suppliers make mistakes.  Both parties have their own jobs to protect and their own internal political challenges.

Often the best approach is for a vendor to operate on a “No Surprises” basis with clients. When they know there might be an issue with service or delivery, the sooner they alert the customer the more options they have to maintain the trusted relationship. Understanding the latitude and flexibility you each have when there is a problem can move you faster to finding a resolution. Perhaps it is offering a price discount for accepting some reduced quality options or including additional merchandise in order to offset the inequity. No matter what, your client problem needs to be resolved effectively before it becomes a social media nightmare or results in the loss of a major revenue stream to your enterprise. 

Effective Client Relationship Management 

Building and managing relationships with your prospects and key referral sources require effort. It is more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. More personal and consistent one-to-one relationships are a must in achieving your mutual goals. 

You have to move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Then match your outreach and communications to move them through their decision-making cycle. Reassess your prospect management to determine if you are relying on stale efforts that do little to move the sale forward or deepen your relationship. 

Years ago, salespeople tracked customer information on index cards. Today, robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has been a game-changer in managing interactions with current and potential clients. CRM integration with email marketing applications can enhance sales productivity and offer options for customer personalization.

Leveraging your CRM tools helps you stay on top of customer follow-up. This requires an investment of time in capturing information into the system. Once you do this, you can take advantage of opportunities to use its robust capability for data capture and market segmentation options. These efforts will help you more effectively manage your client relationships and provides options for efficient and appropriate outreach.

Final Thoughts 

Take time to review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management. Don’t take your client relationships for granted. Just like any relationship, they need to be nurtured to be preserved and grown. Actively managing your customer and prospect interactions create more opportunities for engagement. Each engagement takes you one step closer to closing another sale or selling a bigger deal than you can currently imagine. Being your customers’ subject matter expert, anticipating their needs before they do and doing their homework for them is essential to successful and lasting customer relationships. Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

Remote Control

8 Tips and Tricks for Conducting Stronger Conference Calls and Virtual Meetings

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-meetings

Despite large advances in technology, few people look forward to participating in remote meetings. When fellow participants fail to mute their lines, don’t give the interaction their full attention, or commit some other virtual-get-together sin, the mood of the group quickly deteriorates. So is there no hope for the countless teams who must connect through broadband instead of boardrooms? Of course not. By taking eight simple steps and following some proven guidelines, almost anyone’s virtual gathering can improve.

Tip One: Keep the meeting’s focus narrow. The more specific your agenda, the less likely you will find your conversations jumping off-topic. For example, instead of discussing office security training, narrow the focus to non-technology-related office security for customer-facing employees. By shrinking the field of discussion, you may realize you need less time and fewer people to arrive at a satisfactory decision.

No matter what kind of remote meeting you run, you can make it better by increasing your planning, tightening your delivery, leveraging technology and people, and taking stock of what works at what doesn’t. Click To Tweet

Tip Two: State the goal of the meeting at the beginning, end, and several times throughout to remind people why they are there and how they are expected to contribute. 

Before we begin, I would like to thank Ted, Rhonda, Nel, Jerome, and Fred for joining the discussion today. Each of you comes from a different area of the business and can offer a perspective the rest of us may not readily see. As we move through the discussion, I’m going to call on you to offer your point of view. Our goal today is to come up with some preliminary topics for training our customer-facing employees on security measures they need to take to keep themselves, the company data, and our customers safe. When we’re done, we should have a robust list of non-technology ideas. We’re going to deal with technology during a separate meeting.

Tip Three: Think like a newscaster. Newscasters plan in segments or blocks. Your agenda should do the same, and your language should advertise what’s happened previously and what’s coming next. 

First, we’re going to talk about our current occupancy rates, next we’ll look at forecasts for the next quarter, and finally, we’ll review plans to ensure we make our forecast.

Tip Four: Steal a few more ideas from the news. Dialing your energy up by 10 percent to 15 percent and editing your content should help you increase engagement. Edits might include such activities as removing weak or uncertain language. “I’m not sure, I don’t know, and this may be dumb” have no place in any meeting—especially a remote one. After all, if you don’t believe in or know about what you’re discussing, why should anyone else?

Tip Five: If possible, use a platform that allows people to use cameras, chat, and screen sharing.

Cameras allow people to use their faces and bodies to supplement their verbal messages. Cameras also keep people honest, as it’s difficult for most of us to multitask or go on mental vacation when you’re doing it in plain sight.

Chat engages people’s fingers. If you are typing in a chatbox, you aren’t checking email, texting a client, or doing anything else unrelated to the meeting. Furthermore, chat levels the playing field and allows opportunities for both extroverts and introverts to weigh in at essentially the same rate.

Screensharing focuses people’s attention on the topic at hand. It’s human nature to want to look at something. If you can, do yourself a favor and provide visuals. One word of caution: do not read from your slides. If you put slides in front of a team, they’re going to read them. They don’t need you to insult the repeat what they’ve seen verbatim.

Tip Six: Assign roles. You don’t have to be the leader, timekeeper, notetaker, and so forth. Delegation engages people and allows the leader to lead the meeting. Of course, role delegation will work best if you model what’s expected. 

For instance, provide a notes template and an example of notes to the notetaker and provide the timekeeper with some instructions, “Ted, I’d like you to serve as our timekeeper and agenda monitor today. If we wander off-topic, please poll the group to ascertain whether we should deviate from the agenda or take the topic offline.”

Tip Seven: Be prepared to do a little warm-up as you are waiting for people to join in. That means jumping on a call early and giving people something to do before the start of the meeting. If people are regularly late to your organization’s meetings, this is especially important. If you are using technology beyond the telephone, this is particularly easy. For example, you might set up a poll with everyone’s name listed and take attendance by asking them to select their names from the list. You could also show reminders (e.g. how to mute your line) and the notes from the last meeting and request people take a minute to review them. The possibilities are endless. The main idea, however, is to ensure that you don’t lose people who come early or on time to your remote meeting and that you can absorb people who join late with little disruption.

Tip Eight: View your remote meetings as works in progress. Ask those who participate what’s working for them and what isn’t. As teams change, technology evolves, and workplace demands vary, what works now might not work in the future.

No matter what kind of remote meeting you run, you can make it better by increasing your planning, tightening your delivery, leveraging technology and people, and taking stock of what works at what doesn’t. The key is trying, assessing, learning, and repeating the cycle. Happy meeting!

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.