Four Ways to Combat Lukewarm Leadership

By Brian Braudis

The CEO of a software firm was tasked with a major change initiative after a large and lengthy acquisition. The Board of Directors wanted to see a definitive integration plan that included a timeline, and an organizational management plan that would ensure the merging of cultures and continued growth for the long-term.

What followed was a classic case of “lukewarm leadership.” The CEO appeared halfhearted, indifferent and his inconsistencies mounted. The Board would hear positive progress reports from the CEO and senior leadership team members would report the direct opposite. From his weak stance on commitment to the flurry of mixed messages, this CEO earned the moniker “Tepid Tommy.” He seemed to be waiting in the wings for the flawless change initiative plan to find him

Leaders Take Note: Followers pay attention and watch more closely than given credit for. Indifference, lackluster communications and lethargic efforts are often more conspicuous than appreciated. When change is at hand and the future seems unstable, a leader’s performance can either diminish chaos or enflame it. In the backdrop of uncertainty, a mere spark of ambiguity or apathy can ignite the pervading fuel of resistance among the masses. Leaders have a significant role in creating a calm and productive culture. Click To Tweet

Lukewarm leadership is not just a phenomenon of the C-Suite. From the top to the front lines, followers everywhere watch intently. They are tuned-in and sensitive to the message that leadership sends. The leader creates the climate. If an apathetic message is conveyed, the employee will respond in kind. Team members follow in direct correspondence with what they see and feel from leadership.

Here are 4 Ways to Combat Lukewarm Leadership

1. Set the Tone: What you do as a leader has tremendous influence throughout your team, your employees and even your stakeholders. People respond to what you initiate. Begin with the energy and gusto you want to see in others. Demonstrate how much you are willing to give and show that you are duty-bound early and often. Make your messages steadfast. When people see and feel your energy, enthusiasm and promise they will not only buy in, they will help spread your “all-in” message. When you show unbound energy, your team will give more energy. When you are engaged, unwavering and decisive, your team will follow with their engagement, unwavering effort and decisive action.

2. Communicate: Communication is more than a word. It is the standard by which leaders guide, direct, motivate and inspire action. Leadership quite simply depends on communication. Clear, confident, resonant communication will engender trust and followership.

  • Get Specific: Simple and concise is more effective than complicated and confusing. Attention is a precious commodity and time even more so. Hit the high points in your speeches and save the granular details for in person communications.
  • Get Face to Face: Nothing can substitute for face-to-face dialog. Yes, dialog rather than monologue. This does not have to be the top leader. Employees and team members know the demands on leaders and managers. They know the value of authentic live contact and informal dialog where they can see and feel that their message is being received. Your team appreciates being heard.
  • Demonstrate Beyond Words: What you do supersedes what you say. Remember Emerson and his famous dictum, what you do speak so loudly I can’t hear what you say. The proven formula for personal communication is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone and 7 percent communication is through words. Body language and tone will validate everything that you say. Sending protocol out in a memo is not nearly as effective as walking around and informally sharing your thoughts and expressing yourself on the need for procedure. At bottom, lead at all times and if necessary use words.

3. Be the Island of Commitment in a Sea of Uncertainty: The new economy is well known to leaders. Increased global influence, more demanding customers and disruptive new players are challenges to be surmounted. But to your team members the new economy means uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to anxiety that makes people susceptible to stress, less productive and more vulnerable to conflict. During times of upheaval we need leaders who are anchored in commitment. Team members are quietly watching for the leaders who are islands of commitment in a sea of uncertainty. They bring commitment, a calming presence and their higher perspective to the context of uncertainty. There will always be some degree of uncertainty. But when leaders show resolute certainty in their commitment anxiety drops and morale climbs, team members take note and follow suit.

4. Show Consistent Enthusiasm: Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. Leaders who show enthusiasm as a way of operating remove any hint of lukewarm. People can visibly see and feel your heart-felt passion, energy and commitment and they buy in. Your team wants to win and they want you to be successful. No one tries to be second. Show consistent enthusiasm and your team reciprocate with buy in and enthusiasm of their own.

Leaders have a significant role in creating a calm and productive culture. Most important, they have the power to conceive, articulate and inspire actions that lift people out of their fears and petty preoccupations. When savvy followers see and feel your energy, commitment and enthusiasm shining through the daily challenges and frustrations, there’s nothing lukewarm about that.

Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Brian believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. Brian’s passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader. For more information on Brian Braudis, please visit: www.TheBraudisGroup.com

Five Pillars to Success as a Manager

By Jan Makela

Why does your organization exist, and why should anyone care? Organizations exist to perform—period. Be for-profit or non-profit, they all exist to do something, make a product, or supply a service.

Today, many employers say they’re having trouble retaining their younger employees—specifically Millennials. At 82 million strong, Millennials are the workforce of the future. Studies have shown they want to work where they can make a difference and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

It’s imperative to realize that the people in your organization—especially young people—are the fuel to your long-term success, and the one person who affects that outcome more than any other is the frontline manager. Fortunately, there are five defined pillars of success that managers can rely on to help them succeed in their aim to boost employee retention.

1. Engage employees with a compelling vision of what is expected, and provide the mission to achieve that vision. Why? What’s in it for the employee to want to achieve for you? People respond when they are doing or contributing to something bigger than themselves. When national crises such as earthquakes or hurricanes occur, people are driven to volunteer not because they have to, but because they want to. Your vision and the culture you create are the reasons you exist.

Tell your people that without them doing what they do you wouldn’t achieve the results that you desire. The way employees view a job and its role in their life is evolving. Employees don’t just come to work for a paycheck. They seek a purpose, the opportunity to do what they do best every day, and to lead a life they desire for their families and themselves.

2. Make decisions based on productivity. By keeping your eye on the goal and having your people similarly focused, everyone will understand why certain decisions are made and can buy in. If disagreements occur in discussions they are welcomed because they are focused on achieving a better outcome toward the end objective. When disagreements occur, be sure to ask what the ultimate goal is.

3. Motivate every team member to take action. People are more likely to take action if they know what is expected of them. When expectations are clearly defined, employees are less likely to disappoint their manager or their peers. Employees will work together without your direction or approval when they all know what is expected and have bought into achieving the desired results. Most people are going to live up or down to their perception of the expectations of them. If your people don’t know what is expected, don’t be surprised by what you get.Employees are not going to care if the manager doesn’t care. Click To Tweet

4. Have the assertiveness to drive outcomes. Are you more concerned with the process or the outcome? Managers are in place to strive for positive outcomes. Employees may find ways to produce an outcome that the manager never thought of. Provide employees the freedom to experiment and try new ways of doing things. Keep progress results in front of the employees. If they do not see the progress they are making as a team, they will lose interest over time and productivity will wain.

When your staff see that their work is making a difference they will continue to contribute. If you avoid providing appropriate feedback on your employees’ progress, you’ll immediate notice a decline in the contributions of team members. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions—be generous with your thoughts and expectations.

5. Create a culture that you want. Culture impacts every aspect of how you get things done, from hiring and developing the talents of the employees to customer service. Define your desired culture and then take it from words to actions. If you don’t like the culture you currently have or the results that you are currently obtaining, you are the only person who can change it. Your actions have to mirror what you desire. Do you allow the negative behavior to go unchallenged? Realize negative behavior brings down all your good employees. Your employees are watching and if they see you doing nothing, your lack of action has sent a powerful message. You don’t care!

Employees are not going to care if the manager doesn’t care. When employees know that the manager truly cares about them as a people, they will walk through fire for the manager. When people believe the manager doesn’t care the employees will let the manager walk off a cliff. This caring gets to the heart of employee engagement.

By creating a workplace where people want to come to work instead because they have to come to work managers will see positive changes. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I think I will do a bad job today.” Help them achieve the results necessary for the organization, but in a way that each and every employee’s contribution is recognized and appreciated.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Jan has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners, and professionals. For more information on Jan Makela, please visit https://strengthbasedleadership.net/

 

When It Comes to Communication, More Is More

By Elena Langdon

Elena Langdon

In our world of information overload, less is often more. This old adage still applies in the world of communications—think website or marketing copy that is best short and sweet. Yet context and preparation is needed when human interaction is involved. The more time and energy you invest upfront, the more time, money, and headaches you’ll save down the line.

Take the example of a Midwestern pharmaceutical company that contacted a local Spanish teacher to help with communication during a visit with South American physicians. All was going well until it came to the specific condition a new medication could treat: COLD, or chronic obstructive lung disease. The teacher, who hadn’t been briefed about the company’s specific focus, spent the day talking about the new “wonder drug” that could cure a common cold. The pulmonologists were not impressed and the company did not win any new business that day.

In your line of business you might not need to communicate with foreigners, but you will most likely work with some sort of communication expert at some point. Below are some guidelines to better prepare for working with any outside expert who specializes in communication, including copywriters, marketing and brand consultants, designers, and trainers.Clear communication depends on contextual knowledge. Click To Tweet

Know thy contractors: Before selecting an outside communications consultant, ask about expertise in your specific setting or field, not just years of experience. For example, if you hire a copywriter for a newsletter or website, look at her portfolio to see if she’s worked in your line of business before. Working directly with the contractor makes this easier, but if you are getting proposals through an agency, many will also provide information on the individual’s credentials and past work.

Explain your audience: Clue the contractor in as to whom they’ll be working with. For example, if you’re looking for a consultant to deliver a workshop on employee engagement, let them know what your corporate structure looks like. Names and roles are especially helpful, as are division, unit, and project names. This will help make the workshop relevant and personalized, even though an outsider is presenting it.

State your purpose: Your team and your counterparts across the table might know why you are discussing a contract, but an external expert brought in for the day won’t. What are everyone’s goals? Are the stakes high and the situation tense? Think of communication experts as extensions of your team and brief them accordingly. If they know your purpose(s), they can better understand you and transmit your message accurately.

Get it in writing: Perhaps this is obvious, but make sure you draw up a contract when working with an external contractor. Some important sections to include are confidentiality, deliverables, and duration of work. Think about licenses, certification, and insurance, too, if there is any risk involved in the work being supplied.

Provide context: Clear communication depends on contextual knowledge, so provide as much background information as possible. Let’s say you need an interpreter to help you sort out an HR problem with an employee who is more comfortable in another language. Inform the interpreter about any previous meetings, the main issues to be discussed, the type of work the employee does, and anything else you think is relevant.

Explain specific jargon and acronyms: Your internal jargon or acronyms might seem like second nature to you at this point, but they probably sound like alphabet soup to an outsider.  A short list or glossary can be helpful so that time isn’t wasted trying to decipher “the BPO merger” or the “quarterly up-queue.” And be especially careful with polysemous words like in the pharmaceutical example above.

Consider your space: If you will be working with someone who will need to speak to your employees or visitors, let them know what the physical space looks like. Will you be sitting, standing, or touring a facility? How many people need to hear the external contractor? Will you play a video or will participants join via Skype or speakerphone? Knowing this information will allow the external expert to better prepare for the situation or even suggest things you haven’t thought about. If working with foreign clients, for example, simultaneous interpreting equipment might be needed.

Make the most of their time: Whether it’s an hourly rate or a monthly quota of deliverables, you are paying for the contractor’s time. Think of ways to shorten meetings, including clear agenda items and committee work that does not involve the contractor. The more focused you are while the external consultant is on the clock, the better.

Send files ahead of time: Always send any documentation that will be discussed a few days in advance. Agendas, contracts, previous meeting minutes, presentation slides—anything that provides context and terminology will greatly enhance communication and save time during the actual meeting or event.

This all might seem daunting, but following these guidelines is the best way to ensure you are fully prepared to work with an outside communication expert. Share your goals, purpose, audience, and insider knowledge in advance and you will save time and money in the long run. Generally speaking, if you follow the rule of “more is more,” then everyone will be on the same page and you will reap the rewards.

Elena Langdon is a certified Portuguese-to-English translator and interpreter and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org

Discover the “Secret Sauce” for Customer Retention

Key Ingredients for Lasting Relationships

By Denise Ciardello

Peter Drucker famously wrote in The Practice of Management that the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer. Unfortunately, the latter of these is often overlooked. With the papers, online content and mailers filled with so many ways to attract new customers, what businesses tend to forget is that they spend almost three times as much on attracting new customers than retaining the customers they already have.

Every business has a culture, and the culture defines whether the office is customer, time or technology-focused, along with a sense of negativity or an attitude of joy. The standards and values of the team can become apparent to a customer as soon as the phone is answered. When the emphasis of the office is placed on exceptional customer care, the team becomes an asset that will continue to grow the business over time. The significance of creating greater customer satisfaction begins with a total team approach.

The following three ingredients form the secret sauce to create an office environment that generates raving fans, in turn developing an organic marketing strategy that brings in friends and family of your satisfied customers.  Customer service is the first step in effective marketing. Click To Tweet

Personal Attention: Customer service is the first step in effective marketing. When a customer walks in your front door, how do they feel? Is it cold and sterile or warm and inviting? Do you look up and smile when a customer enters the room? Do you realize that you can change someone’s entire outlook with a simple smile?

Personal touches, like shaking hands and individual greetings provide an immediate differentiator, and project a form of professionalism that people expect from a business encounter. By ensuring that someone feels like you are glad that they are there, they will only leave your office feeling happy—and even better—they will go tell all their friends.

Be Punctual: A major complaint from customers is the wasted time they spend in a waiting room or lobby prior to a scheduled meeting. Customers do not enjoy being forced to wait without knowing the reasons for the delay or how long the delay will be. These long waits may be interpreted as a sign of disrespect for the time and efforts your clients and customers spend to ensure their calendars are clear.

Staying on schedule (or close to it) is a major factor in customer retention—perhaps even one of the biggest. There is a clear message of “indifference” that flows when people frequently experience long wait times.

Businesses should work to prevent delays by avoiding overbooking appointments and advising their clients and customers on the nature and length of delays. By merely explaining to a customer that the office is running about five minutes behind, it can immediately diffuse any anger or frustration. Be honest with the patrons as soon as you know there will be a wait time.

Focus on Professionalism: This area is lacking in so many businesses. Is it because our society has become so casual and that is getting mixed up with how to remain professional? Here are a few parts of professionalism that a business may want to focus on:

  • Dress appropriately: Your workplace attire may or may not include wearing a suit and tie, but you are still a professional. Whether you have to dress up for work, you wear a uniform or you wear scrubs, your appearance should always be neat and clean. A wrinkled outfit looks no better than a pair of ripped jeans. Wear the type of clothing your employer requires and take pride in what you are wearing. Generally speaking, revealing or tight clothing is a no-no. Avoid clothing that is too low, too high, too tight or too revealing.
  • Don’t hide from your mistakes: As hard as it may be to do, take ownership of your mistakes and do your best to correct them. Try not to make the same one twice. Never blame others, but set an example so that those who shared in the mistake can step forward and admit it. By the same token, don’t constantly call others out on their mistakes; rather, help to teach them the right way.
  • Be a team player: A true professional is willing to help his or her co-workers when they are overburdened. He or she isn’t afraid to share knowledge, opinions, or simply an extra pair of hands. One person’s success reflects well on everyone in his or her workplace.

Every facet of your business—large and small—is important, and customers will always appreciate excellent customer service. While you put so much emphasis on the new customer, what about the returning customers? You need to woo each one equally. Give that personal attention that everyone longs for in every aspect of their lives. Treat customers with respect at all times. If you maintain a culture of respect, your customers will know that they are truly being well cared for. Stay on time; work together as a team to maintain that time schedule and when someone falls behind, let the customer know that there will be a wait.

Conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times; this includes how you look, what you say and how you treat others. Keep an open line of communication with your clients, and ensure prompt attention to any issues that may arise.

It doesn’t take a lot to create the secret sauce to customer retention—it just takes consistency and attention to detail. Most importantly, it takes a team.

Denise Ciardello is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions (GTS), an accomplished speaker, and author of the Office Management Gems series. Through her engaging keynotes and consulting, Denise provides unique insight, creativity, and humor for her clients. Her industry distinctions include serving as president of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants and membership in the National Speakers Association, and Toastmasters International. For more information on Denise Ciardello, please visit: www.GTSGurus.com.

So, You’re Being Acquired

Author Peter DeHaanBy Peter DeHaan

Most employees fear the changes wrought by acquisition.

I have never been “acquired,” but I have been on the other side—about a dozen times, buying small and medium-sized companies and integrating them into a larger operation.

The almost universal response to an acquisition announcement is trepidation and panic. Staff, especially front-line staff, expect the worst. Even those who dislike their present company or owner protest loudly at the prospect of a new employer. Increased pay, expanded benefits, and promises of job security do little to quell their swelling apprehension. Theirs is a fear of the unknown. You cannot control much of what happens to you, but you can control your response to it Click To Tweet

If you work for a company that is being acquired, the possible strategies and resulting outcomes are limited and predictable. The buyer could be looking for a working, functional facility, but not the staff . Conversely the focus could be on the customers, but not the staff or facility. In these cases, the facts are soon readily apparent and your future employment status is known, albeit not desirable.

However, in most cases, the purchaser wants the entire operation: the staff, the facility, and the customers. Happily, jobs are secure and the future is promising. Yes, changes will occur, but astute employees will anticipate and welcome these as requisite adjustments for a better future. It is those who oppose or reject the new owner’s directives who run a legitimate risk of unemployment.

If you work for a subsidiary or division and your parent company is acquired, the possible outcomes are more complex. The intent could be let the new acquisition continue to operate as is, in a hands-off, independent manner. However, some of the other prospects are not so encouraging. There could likely be a desire to cut costs, which unfortunately means that some positions or even departments could be eliminated. Sometimes, the goal is to sell off parts of the company to other buyers. (Analysts anticipated that News Corporation would sell off many of Dow Jones’s small regional papers.) At the most extreme, the entire company can be dismantled and sold piecemeal—then employees need to endure a second acquisition.

For those who acquire companies, never forget the human element. You are dealing with peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Honestly communicate as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Backup your positive pronouncements with tangible supporting action. And if the news is bad, treat people with dignity and respect, doing all you can to facilitate their movement into a new job or career.

For those who are being acquired, remember that though you cannot control much of what happens to you, but you can control your response to it. Be realistic and update your resume so it is ready if needed, but don’t prematurely jump ship. Instead, choose to have a positive attitude about the situation, support the new management, and prove yourself to be a valuable asset. You could end up pleasantly surprised by the result.

Peter DeHaan is a commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services and does ghostwriting.