Tag Archives: business

The Overlooked Management Tool

Staff Meetings Matter More Than You Might Think

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-chatI sit right next them. We don’t need to have a staff meeting.

I used to have staff meetings, but we stopped having them. Nobody had anything to talk about.

We have enough meetings. We certainly don’t need another.

For a myriad of reasons, many managers don’t hold regular staff meetings. Furthermore, most who do don’t get the most they could from them, and that’s too bad. Good staff meetings can focus a team, energize employees, and engage them in ways ad-hoc interactions don’t.

So how do you turn a halted or ho-hum approach to staff meetings into a high-functioning management tool?Employees usually enjoy their jobs more when their organization’s leaders talk about the importance of their work. Click To Tweet

STEP ONE: Connect Daily Work with Your Organization’s Purpose

In addition to distributing information, staff meetings present an opportunity to connect your team’s daily work to your organization’s purpose. If you’re thinking, “My people know how their work fits into our overall goal,” you would be wrong. In fact, if you ask your group what your organization’s purpose or your department’s purpose are, don’t be surprised when you get as many answers as there are people in the room. (And you thought you had nothing to talk about in a staff meeting! A discussion about purpose is a good one to have.)

Purpose is why you do what you do. You connect the work to it by explaining how what people did aligns with the greater goal. For example, the head of housekeeping at a busy hotel might hold a meeting with the cleaning staff. In that meeting, the managers might recognize a team that received a perfect room score from all guests who took a survey and then talk about purpose.

The purpose of the hotel is to provide people a safe and comfortable place to spend the night. Having a clean, welcoming, and functioning room is one of the ways a cleaning staff achieves that goal.

By regularly connecting such activities as cleaning toilets, making beds, and folding towels to the guest experience, the manager highlights why each of those activities is important.

No matter what they do, employees usually enjoy their jobs more when their organization’s leaders talk about the importance of their work. They also tend to make better choices if they receive frequent reminders about purpose and what types of activities support it.

STEP TWO: Highlight Relevant Metrics

Connecting work to purpose usually works best when a team focuses on both anecdotal and analytical information. If you don’t currently track statistics, start. What you track will depend on your industry. However, whatever you decide should have a clear line of sight to the larger goal. For instance, a museum that holds events to attract new members might track the number of events held, contact information collected, memberships sold, and the percentage of new memberships that come as a result of attending the free event. With regular attention placed on the right metrics, the team is far more likely to make good choices as to where it should focus its efforts.

STEP THREE: Follow a Formula and Rotate Responsibility

Successful staff meetings usually follow a pattern, such as looking at weekly metrics, sharing information from the top, highlighting success, a team-building activity, and so forth. By creating and sticking with a formula, managers help their employees know what to expect. Once employees know the pattern of the meeting, many are capable of running it because they’ve learned by watching. Managers then have a natural opportunity to rotate the responsibility of the meeting to different people. By delegating, the manager is able to free up his or her time and provide employees with a chance to develop their skills.

STEP FOUR: Celebrate Successes

In many organizations, there is a huge appreciation shortage. Staff meetings provide managers and employees with regular intervals to practice gratitude.

“I’d like to thank Tom for staying late last night. Because he did, I was able to attend a parent-teacher conference.”

“Maryann’s work on the PowerPoint presentation was superb. I want to thank her for preparing me with the best slides shown at the conference. The stunning photos outshined the graphics others used. Maryann’s work really made our company look good.”

A steady drip of sincere gratitude can drive engagement. Note the word: sincerity. Most people have an amazing capacity to identify a false compliment. Real praise is specific. Well-delivered praise also ties the action to the outcome. Whether it’s being able to attend a conference, looking good in front of others, or some other result, people appreciate praise more when they understand how their actions delivered results. A praise segment in your staff meetings ensures you routinely take the time to recognize efforts.

STEP FIVE: Focus on Lessons Learned and Continuous Improvement

Staff meetings that include an opportunity to share lessons learned help drive continuous improvement. At first, people may be reluctant to share shortcomings. However, if you follow step four, you should begin to develop better communication and a sense of trust with your team. Modeling the process is a good place to start.

“I learned something this week I want to share with you. I had a call with a client that could have gone better. I’m going to tell you what happened and then I’ll discuss some ideas about how I would handle something similar in the future.”

The more you practice this exercise, the greater the gains you should experience.

STEP SIX: Develop a Schedule and Stick with It

Almost anyone can follow the first five steps some of the time, but those who get the most out of staff meetings hold them consistently. They publish a meeting schedule, and they stick with it. They may shorten a meeting from time to time or reschedule, but they don’t treat their chance to gather the team as the least important priority.

Good staff meetings aren’t perfunctory activities that add little value. On the contrary, when used to their full capacity, they are a dynamic management tool. Now what are you going to do about yours?

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.

7 Habits to Take Your Workplace Culture to New HEIGHTS

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormick“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”—Vince Lombardi

Your beliefs dictate your behavior and your behaviors create habits that determine your destination. You’re either going towards greatness or obscurity; there is no neutrality to your momentum. So, where are your habits taking you?

Leading your organization towards a specific destination or goal is like being a pilot of a passenger airplane—wherever you go, your company goes. There isn’t an auto-pilot setting for you if you expect to take your team to greater heights.

If you find yourself and your organization stuck, or you’re ready to rev up your engine to soar higher, it may be time to engage your discipline and do the difficult things that other leaders may not do.Encourage a company culture where employees at all levels have the chance to share their ideas, talk about what they do, and possibly mentor new up-and-comers in your organization. Click To Tweet

Here are 7 habits that can help you take your organizational culture to new HEIGHTS:

1. Hopeful Expectations: Whatever you look for is exactly what you will find. If you expect to find problems, you will. If you expect your team to discover creative solutions, exceed their potential, come together as a team and support you, your vision, and your company goals—they will. A positive mindset is the first habit you need to cultivate and grow a winning mindset. Without it, you will fail to see what’s possible.

ACTION PLAN:  When faced with a new idea, prospect, or proposal (especially in a meeting with your team), always communicate the positives first. Encourage and engage your team members to participate in developing new ideas. Cultivate innovation by asking them to spell out the pros and cons of their ideas. Then, when they’re ready, empower them to run with it.

2. Eliminate Multitasking: Just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you are productive. When too much emphasis is put on multitasking, it could lead to miscommunication, mistakes, frustration, and unmet goals. It’s not about how much you can multitask, it’s about knowing which task can multiply your results.

ACTION PLAN:  Remove all distractions and then decide which task needs your attention and work on it until it’s done. This works for meetings too. Put your devices away and give your full attention to your team. Before you know it, they will follow your lead.

3. Intentional Kindness: Many people have experienced random acts of kindness, but it’s time to be more intentional in showing kindness to yourself and your team members. Become more aware of how you can encourage others, add value, meet the needs you see, and extend grace whenever needed. As you do, you’ll begin to see that spread throughout your organization and beyond.

ACTION PLAN:  Set up a charity of the month. Assign a twelve-person committee with each member taking ownership of one month. Some ideas include collecting Winter Coats and canned food, walking as a team in a fun run or 5K fundraiser, hosting a blood drive, adopting a highway, or spending a day with Habitat for Humanity. Encourage involvement by participating full out.

4. Gear Down: In today’s world, it’s tough to find time to think, yet that’s one of the more critical elements of success. Studies show that intentional down-time improves productivity, energy, and results. Don’t fall for that top-speed mentality or you’ll eventually run out of fuel. Schedule some time to gear down.

ACTION PLAN:  Prioritize some non-negotiable time on your calendar just for you. Create a distraction-free space where you can clear your mind and unplug from everything. Start with just 10 minutes if that’s all you have, but just start. You’ll be amazed at the clarity and productivity you’ll experience as a result.

5. Hidden Opportunities: Being proactive is one of the hidden opportunities that leaders often miss. Instead of waiting to see what the day holds and reacting to that email, phone call or situation, a more strategic approach is to determine responses before calamity strikes.

ACTION PLAN: Along with your yearly planning meetings to finetune the company’s vision and goals, be strategic about anticipating potential problems.  Have an “Anticipation Meeting” with the goal of creating contingency plans and ask each department to develop a “what if” list, along with solutions. This type of strategy allows you and your team to be more creative in your problem-solving abilities while in a calmer state than an emergency allows.

6. Talk It Out: Make it a habit to communicate openly with your team and allow them the opportunity to take part in the conversation. When communication is lost, your teamwork and productivity will suffer right along with your company’s goals.

ACTION PLAN: No one likes to be kept in the dark. Be clear in meetings about expectations, goals, and their command structure. You can also set a time where everyone knows your door is open to talk for topics that need to be dealt with one-on-one.

7. Share the Load: Establish a habit of sharing the load. Delegating important tasks is another way you can honor and empower your team to take on new responsibilities that help to sharpen and show off their strengths.

ACTION PLAN: Encourage a company culture where employees at all levels have the chance to share their ideas, talk about what they do, and possibly mentor new up-and-comers in your organization. When leaders at all levels take ownership of the company vision and goals, there’s no limit to what you and your organization can do.

When you choose winning habits by believing in the potential of your team, looking for the best in others, extending kindness, and creating space for them to give back, share ideas, and lead, you provide the jet fuel to ignite their creativity as you empower them to discover new levels of success. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo—make winning a habit so you and your team can soar to new heights.

Elizabeth McCormick is a Keynote Speaker specializing in Leadership, Sales and Safety presentations. She was recently named #4 on the list of Leadership Experts to Follow Online.  A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, and author of “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life;” Elizabeth teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.

What Your Signage Says About You

By Anne Connor

Anne Connor-signageBen could hardly wait to set up his own business after years of working for a large company. Knowing the demographics of his market area, Ben wanted to market to the large Latino population there. So, he looked up the key words in Spanish and created a beautifully designed website and colorful, eye-catching signage to attract new business from the surrounding Spanish-speaking communities. Then he decided to hire his former coworker Carlos—who grew up in a bilingual home—to handle potential customers who felt more comfortable doing business in Spanish. The catchy bilingual sign Ben came up with turned heads as well, but not for the reasons he expected.

Your signs say a lot about your business—your expertise, attention to detail and overall competency. Click To Tweet

¿Qué Pasa?

Business was underwhelming at first. Latinos who did stop in to were genuinely surprised to find an employee who could speak their language because the sign out front contained “Spanish” words that were misspelled, missing accents or even non-existent! For instance, the Spanish word “servicios” was spelled as “servicies” instead.

Ben didn’t think much more about it until another Spanish-speaking lady came by to say that she was confused about one type of business offered because of a literal translation of “umbrella” as something to do with the device that keeps the rain off of you, not an encompassing service. While Carlos took the extra time to explain this to her, Ben suddenly realized that his seemingly minor mistakes were costing him business. As soon as he replaced all the signs inside and outside of his office —not to mention reprinting flyers and updating his website—at a substantial cost, Ben’s profits picked up tremendously.

Experienced signage professionals say some of their toughest jobs involve deliberately misspelled words, such as “Korner” or “Qwik,” which are meant to be catchy and attract attention, because they require extra quality-control steps. And if they’re making signs containing foreign languages, they usually ask their clients to have them proofed by a professional translator. Sign creators make sure the design is right, but most are not language experts as well.

Signage that Sells

As a business owner, your signage speaks volumes about you. It’s that first impression that will either encourage someone to step through your door—or click on your website—and take a closer look at what you have to offer. Here are some tips to make sure your signage sells:

  1. Make your stand-alone storefront stand out. Your logo and/or trade name should attract attention. Be sure to fully brief your designers: Who is your target customer (walk-in, passerby, drive-by, all of the above)? Ask for their advice about the appropriate font style and size for each piece of information and each kind of sign they make you. Remember to include your address number, phone number and website on the sign as well.
  2. Be consistent. Brand recognition is key, and consistent signage will help you build a recognizable brand that people will remember. Make sure your branding is on everything—from the sidewalk signs advertising special sales to the teardrop banners you use at trade shows. If your brand always speaks with one voice, more folks will remember your name for word-of-mouth referrals.
  3. Show them the way. Design branded way-finding signs that are concise and unambiguous. Make it easy for anyone to find you and less likely to find one of your competitors.
  4. Speak their language. Do many of your customers speak English as a second language? Consider hiring bilingual staff and announcing loud and clear—on your signs! —that your business can assist them in their native language. If nothing else, consult professional translators who specialize in your industry to ensure your marketing materials send the right message. Studies show that people prefer to shop in their native language.
  5. Keep them safe. If you employ people with limited English proficiency (LEP) or cater to LEP customers, you’ll not only help prevent workplace accidents, you’ll also win over staff and customers by having safety signs printed in their native/dominant language. Make sure to use professional translators with experience in occupational safety. They will not only ensure your signs send the right message; they can also make sure that message fits the sign, as letter-spacing and other nuances may need to change depending on the target language. Note that the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration provide the “It’s The Law” safety poster in several languages for free at: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/poster.html. And don’t forget that some US states and territories have their own signage requirements. Check whether yours is one of them at: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/index.html.

As a business owner, the last thing you want is for your signage to turn people off before you even have the chance to meet them. Your signs say a lot about your business—your expertise, attention to detail and overall competency. A well-designed, consistent and flawless message across your print and digital media will build positive brand awareness, get people in the door, and ultimately boost your bottom line.

Anne Connor is a professional Spanish and Italian-to-English medical and legal translator and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. For more information on ATA and to hire a translation or interpreting professional, please visit www.atanet.org.

Controlling Corporate Healthcare Costs

5 Simple Steps to Reduce Costs and Improve Care

By Dr. Josh Luke

Josh Luke-healthcareAfter working on his own as an independent healthcare insurance broker for several years, Ryan recently took a job with a bigger brokerage. When he broke the news to his wife that the company he joined did not offer a traditional PPO or HMO insurance plan, she wasn’t thrilled. After all, Americans have been conditioned to these models for years.

A few weeks later, Ryan’s wife woke up and found one of their three children not feeling well, and she immediately grew frustrated as she knew what that meant: she would have to cancel her plans for the day and arrange alternative plans to carpool her other two children to school so she could take her sick child to the doctor. She immediately went to the mobile app on her phone to schedule an appointment at her child’s doctor’s office, only to learn that a telehealth consult with a physician could be scheduled remotely within the hour. So she gave it a try.

Ten minutes later, from the couch in her living room, a physician conducted a telehealth appointment remotely via Ryan’s wife’s mobile phone. After asking a few questions of the mother and child, the doctor advised that he had written a prescription for the child and it would be available for pick up within 30 minutes at her regular pharmacy.

It turns out mom didn’t have to cancel her carpool schedule at all, nor re-arrange her schedule for the day. That was it.The more employees that engage in smart healthcare decisions, the more your company and the employee both stand to save. Click To Tweet

The irony of this story? The American healthcare delivery model is fragmented and broken, yet our innate desire to resist any sort of change keeps us clinging to ineffective plans such as a PPO’s or HMO’s. Stories like this exemplify how inane that resistance to change truly is.

New alternative approaches to providing employees and employee family member’s healthcare are sweeping the country. But you are not likely to ever hear about them unless you ask your broker. Why? Your broker is like a realtor, the more money you pay, the more they make.

So, it’s time to ask! When you do ask, you will learn that the more employees that engage in smart healthcare decisions, the more your company and the employee both stand to save. So creating a work environment that encourages smart, engaged healthcare decisions is the key. Many of these corporate offerings are turn-key and simply require your organization to contract with an organization and move forward! Here is a list of several offerings that could provide improved care and access to your employees, while drastically reducing your company’s overall healthcare costs.

1. Telehealth options: As discussed above, when used as an alternative to a primary care visit, both telehealth and 24-hour call lines can reduce wasteful spending and eliminate unnecessary delays in care.

2. Disease Specific Programs: The old saying that 10 percent of your employees account for more than 90 percent of your overall spending is never truer than in healthcare. Expenses on chronic diseases like diabetes can be reduced drastically if your company invests in and offers a prevention program for employees at risk for diabetes.

3. DNA Testing: Companies offering voluntary DNA testing or genome sequencing for employees are finding that the potential to save thousands on unnecessary medications and preventable chronic diseases has a swift return on investment. DNA test identify which medications are ineffective on an individual and also identify those who are pre-disposed to acquire several forms of cancer.

4. Integrative, Functional or Naturopathic medicine consults: The reemergence of natural methods to live healthier and prevent increased likelihood of chronic disease by better understanding each individual’s body composition has proven to be a quick return on investment as well.

5. Local Medical Tourism: Employees who choose a Center of Excellence, or in-network provider may save a few thousand dollars, but your company can save anywhere from 40,000 dollars to 80,000 dollars on major procedures. Making sure employees understand that the quality of care at both facilities is comparable often is enough to convince them to choose the in-network provider. And if not, why not offer to pay their personal co-pay if it saves the company 20,000 dollars or more?

Companies all over the country are proving that simple tactics like this can produce quick results. Not only will the employee and employer save significant dollars in year one, but you are also likely to see enhanced access to care, improved quality and an increase in overall employee morale as a result.

Keep in mind that you don’t even need to tackle all of these tactics in the first year. Many companies have had great success starting with two or three of these tactics and adding others later.

Of late, companies like Walmart, Disney, Apple, Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway have all declared war on healthcare costs. Isn’t it time that your organization declare your tipping point on wasteful and excessive healthcare spending?

Dr. Josh Luke is a celebrated speaker, award-winning Futurist, a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, and author of Health—Wealth: 9 Steps to Financial Recovery. Drawing on his experiences as a hospital CEO, Dr. Luke delivers engaging and entertaining keynotes that teach audiences simple concepts on how individuals and companies can save thousands on healthcare. For more information on Dr. Josh Luke, please visit: www.DrJoshLuke.com.

Stop Falling Behind Your Competitors

Seven Steps to Gain a Competitive Advantage

By Brad Wolff

Brad WolffDoesn’t it seem that business is more competitive and difficult than it used to be? ABC, Inc. experienced this challenging business atmosphere firsthand. A building materials manufacturer that previously dominated their marketplace, ABC suffered staggering losses in the previous fiscal year. It became blindingly apparent that what had worked in the past was no longer effective, and the company president had no idea how to fix things. It was time to use proven techniques for achieving a competitive advantage.

ABC engaged a firm that identified the root causes of their problems. After two years, sales and profits dramatically increased—even with the same leaders. The results came from a seven-step process based on sound principles that put a focus on leveraging their internal talent. If you find your business falling behind, you can follow ABC, Inc.’s lead by putting these seven steps into practice.

1. Employee alignment

When a significant percentage of duties performed by employees don’t fit their innate characteristics or core nature, they won’t perform well. For example, people low in detail orientation doing work that requires high detail. Training and development, management encouragement and other well-intended efforts will not fix alignment issues. As Peter Drucker said, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”Personal growth results in professional growth. Click To Tweet

2. Creating a competitive advantage through a culture of personal growth and development

In truth, personal growth results in professional growth. It results in a greater capacity to handle life challenges, accomplish long-term goals and work well with others. Personal growth and development includes an increased awareness of self and others, the ability to manage one’s ego, ability to manage emotions and development of innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness. Most performance issues that managers complain about relate to one or more of the above. These are fundamental character traits of success.

3. Aligning employees with the mission and vision of the organization

Human beings have an innate need for meaning and purpose in what they do. This means that they care about how their efforts affect the world outside themselves—people, the environment, animals, etc. For example, take assembly line workers that produce incubators for premature babies. In one scenario the workers are only told to mechanically perform the prescribed duties. In the other scenario they are crystal clear about the importance the quality of their work has on the survival of infants. Which workers do you think are more motivated? Engagement and performance are directly affected by people’s connection to the outcomes of their work.

4. Aligning employees with the culture and values of the organization

People need to feel that they fit in with their social groups. Employees who are significantly out of sync with an organization’s culture and values will never make their highest contribution. Having perfect alignment is not the goal, since diversity of thought and behavior allow a culture to adapt and thrive. However, significant misalignments are damaging. It’s also important for leaders to consider whether they should change their culture. Examples of this would include a culture that they know is toxic and when there’s shrinking population of workers who fit the current culture. In both cases, without the ability to attract and retain needed talent, organizations will fail.

5. Aligning roles and responsibilities with organization’s strategies and goals

In today’s environment, organizational goals and strategies must change to adapt. Frequently, roles and supporting job duties don’t adequately change to align with these shifts. When this occurs, some or much of employee work efforts are out of alignment and can impair the ability to achieve the desired outcomes. For example, a company changes strategy to shift most customer communications from telephone to online, yet the employees’ duties and training continue to focus on telephone communications.

6. Assessing personal and professional weaknesses, starting from the top

Weaknesses are the negative side of strengths. It’s impossible to have a strength without its vulnerable side. We’ve been taught to hide or deny our weaknesses despite them being obvious to others. Our ego’s impulse to protect our self-image is normal but counterproductive. It hinders our true potential from being realized—a loss to the organization and ourselves. When leaders openly and honestly acknowledge “challenge areas,” this sets the example for others. The organization opens the door to growth and development.

7. Committing to work on the personal and professional challenges discovered in the assessment process

Studies on human potential and positive change demonstrate that self-awareness is the first step—but it’s not the last. Committing to take steps (starting with baby steps) and taking them allows for the development of positive habits that create lasting positive change. Deliberate change intended to meet the needs of your environment creates a flexible, adaptive organization—one that is poised to thrive despite the torrent of unpredictable/unwanted change that defines your world. Thriving in an unpredictable world is about you. Your willingness to acknowledge change that you don’t like, openly discuss it and consistently take the actions required to adapt and emerge stronger.

At the end of the day, leaders are simply making choices that define the present and future of themselves and their organizations. There’s nothing magical about the most effective leaders. They’re just making more effective choices. These choices encompass how they decide to see the world, their openness to challenge their beliefs and their willingness to experiment with innovative ideas that can capture breakthrough advantages. Equally important choices include their willingness to objectively look at themselves and take actions to grow in areas. They choose to become a greater, more effective version of themselves. They know that what they demonstrate (not what they say) is what has the greatest impact on the entire organization. As a leader, the question is, what choices are you going to make?

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.