To Succeed as a Leader, Share the Big Picture

By Walt Grassl

Walt GrasslMike worked for a medium-sized business and went to work every day happy to have a job. But he wasn’t too enthused about his work environment. Employee morale was so-so because most long-time employees were merely going through the motions.

Greg was a friend of Mike’s from college. They both went to work, but in different industries. They stayed in touch on social media and decided to get together for lunch.

Mike picked Greg up at his work place. He felt inspired when he entered Greg’s building. There was an energy that was hard to describe. It was definitely not the same as at his company. He was warmly greeted by the receptionist and waited in the pristine lobby for Greg.

At lunch, Mike asked Greg about his job and what he liked about working there. Greg mentioned that the company has a management philosophy that every employee is important, like the links in a chain. They believe in sharing information that reinforces that message.

Every employee plays a role in the company’s performance. It is important that they know their role. This gives them a sense of purpose. It answers the question, “Why does it matter?” Some people always take great pride in their work. They know it reflects on them. Some people only push themselves when others are relying on them to do their part. Sharing the big picture helps to get the most out of these people. Getting the small things right leads to bigger success. Every employee plays a role in the company’s performance. Click To Tweet

Here are five different strategies a leader can use to foster a workplace where every employee feels valued and can contribute to the overall vision of the company.

  1. Include all employees in strategy meetings: To the extent possible, involve employees in strategy meetings. When you are contemplating a change in the company’s direction, modifying one or more processes or seeking new methods to improve delivery, involve the people who perform the tasks before decisions are finalized. They are liable to push back. When they do, use your wisdom and judgement to determine if the push back is valid. If it is valid, figure out a better path forward. This will prevent mistakes that save time and reduce waste. If it is the natural reaction to resist change, deal with it now. You will avoid passive-aggressive behavior that will sabotage the path forward. Done right, you will earn the respect and buy-in of your team members. However, things like impending job actions (layoffs, promotions, transfers) must never be shared until it is time. When you are otherwise open, the need for discretion will be respected.
  2. Stress the importance of every position: A good leader knows how every employee contributes to the overall performance of the company. Some employees interface with customers. Others provide a clean and safe work environment. Some create the finished product. All the employees play a part in the success of the company. Good leaders praise the individuals and the teams, both in public and in private, for the significant contribution they make to success of the organization. This is important. Over time, people who don’t deal with the finished product may forget the significance of their role. They need to be reminded.
  3. See the Big Picture: There is a common fallacy in the workplace that one job contributes more than others to the success of the project or company. It is a great thing when employees realize that what they do is important. It is not so good, however, when the needs of the other employees and other affiliated organizations are discounted. Local optimization can result in less than optimal total performance. Explain to your teams the bigger picture. Look at the needs of the other teams and individuals. Understand the other’s position. Explain your organization’s role and the roles of your internal suppliers and internal customers. Keep focused on the end-to-end process, not only your link in the chain.
  4. Your Business Story: The most powerful story for any business is the story of why the company exists. Who founded the company? What problem did the company originally solve? How did the company evolve into its current state? This works for businesses of all sizes. This is effective in external sales presentations. It is also effective in keeping employees motivated. When that story is known and repeated, employees will realize that they are part of growing or preserving a legacy.
  5. Maintain an open-door policy: When you involve employees in strategy, communicate the importance of the roles of each employee and see both the big picture of the company and the reason why the company exists, your employees will see you as someone who not only talks communication, but communicates. You can further enhance that relationship by having an open-door policy. Set boundaries and let people know, but invite people to approach you with their concerns or questions. Maybe they come to you. Maybe you walk around and catch them doing things right.

When you share the big picture, every employee feels valued. They know they play a role in the success of the company. Job satisfaction increases. It costs little to do this and brings back big returns.

Driving back to work, Mike realized that this aspect of work culture was missing from his company. He thought about his role and how it fit into the bigger picture. He felt better about his job. He vowed to look for ways to help his fellow employees understand their roles in the bigger picture, as well.

Walt Grassl is a speaker, author, and performer. He hosts the radio show, “Stand Up and Speak Up,” on the RockStar Worldwide network. Walt has performed standup comedy at the Hollywood Improv and the Flamingo in Las Vegas and is studying improv at the Groundlings School in Hollywood. For more information on bringing Walt Grassl to your next event, please visit www.WaltGrassl.com.

How to Make Your Training Stick

How Much Information Sticks during Training?

By Brannon Dreher

Your company delivers an expensive new training program to employees and then, like any smart company does, spends the next few months measuring the effects. Immediately after sales training, you find that your newly trained salespeople are only using two of the six selling approaches that training presented to them. Or six months after you trained your front-desk hotel staff, you discover that right after training, they started applying some of the customer-service strategies you taught them, but have now abandoned them and it’s back to business as usual. 

Frustrating? Costly? Infuriating? Yes, it’s all those things, and worse. How can you get trainees to absorb more of the information you give them, and increase the chances that that information will stick and be put into use for the long term? Let’s take a closer look.  How can you get trainees to absorb more of the information you give them? Click To Tweet

Cognitive Load Theory: According to psychologists who have studied how people learn (like Prof. Ton de Jong at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, John Sweller at the University of New South Wales, and many others), the human brain can be expected to absorb a relatively small percentage of the information delivered in a learning situationat times as little as 10 percent. But it is possible to improve that percentage dramatically.

To understand how that percentage can be increased, it is important to understand Cognitive Load Theory, which is a way of understanding the effect that sensory inputs have on your ability to process information and learn. When your senses are processing a lot of input, they filter how much information gets passed on into your short-term memory. As an example in training, your learners are dealing with a lot of input that is competing with the information you want to teach. They’re adjusting their eyes to see your slides, getting distracted by other trainees at their tables, trying to get comfortable in their seats, and maybe even getting their first gulp of coffee.

When information does get around that sensory/cognitive load, it makes it to your short-term memory, where you think about it. You judge it and if it is memorable, it then gets passed into your long-term memory where we can use it later.

To summarize, if a learner decides that information is important when it is in short-term memory, he or she will unconsciously transfer it to long-term memory. That information becomes what he or she learns because of training.

How Long Does Information Reside in Short-Term Memory? The answer to that question will probably surprise you, because new information only gets processed for between ten and fifteen seconds in short-term memory. If that information doesn’t stick during that time, it is lost. So, think of short-term memory as a kind of buffer zone that fills up quickly, and then empties as new information flows in.

What Can Help Get Information Passed from Short-Term Memory to Long-Term Memory?

  • Mnemonic devices: Back when you were a student in high school, you might have memorized the sentence, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” to help you memorize the planets in our solar system in the order in which they appear from the sun. (The words in that sentence stand for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.) Acronyms are useful in training too. For example, the acronym AIDA (standing for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) is sometimes used to remind sales trainees of different stages of making a sale.
  • Activities: Participation in shared group activities is another effective way to reinforce concepts and help them move into long-term memory. So are quizzes and self-tests delivered at key moments during training that reinforce concepts and skills.
  • Resources to be used after training: A content library for trainees to use once training is done can be very effective in making sure key concepts move into long-term memory. For example, you can create an online content library for field technicians to access; it explains procedures and concepts that were covered in training, though probably not fully absorbed.
  • Storytelling: Let trainees tell stories that explain experiences they have had that relate to a concept or skill you are teaching. (“Here’s what I once did when a customer was having that problem . . . “) Storytelling reinforces key concepts for the person who is telling the story and for the people who are listening too.
  • Scenario-based learning: Present a simulated situation and let trainees work through and try solutions. This helps learners realize, “If this happens, this is how I will handle it.”
  • Certificates and certifications: They allow trainees to feel satisfied and rewarded for learning specific skills or behaviors. When trainees have been recognized for learning important information, it tends to stick.

And Include Games Too: Games resonate especially well with millennials, although everyone likes them. They work much better than bombarding trainees with information. For example, you can have trainees practice new skills in a virtual environment that replicates one of your stores.

And add a competitive element, because competitive games can help training concepts stick. Healthy competition, in which learners try to outperform other trainees, can go a long way toward getting learning to stick. For example, you can give a quiz and keep score on a leaderboard until someone wins.

In Conclusion: Evaluating training programs can boil down to one simple, but somewhat profound, question:

Why are you spending time and money on training if nothing changes?

There are many ways to get a better ROI from training. You can revise your materials, hire more energetic trainers, send trainees off to a weekend retreat, and take other steps. All good ideas, but ultimately unlikely to provide a big payback unless you make sure that you are delivering training that sticks.

Brannon Dreher is a client engagement manager at Tortal Training. In the learning and development space, Brannon provides blended learning solutions for companies based on need and to create customized learning solutions for the clients, while increasing the effectiveness of company’s human capital. Brannon brings a continual learning focus, and communication skills to produce quantifiable results. For more information about Brannon Dreher, please visit www.tortal.net

Arriving at the Right Type of Language Professional

By Anne Connor

Business people don’t have to communicate with extraterrestrials (yet), but they can still learn a few things from the sci-fi thriller Arrival. The blockbuster film put a language professional in the leading role. Hollywood star Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor asked by U.S. Army Intelligence to help communicate with an alien species that has arrived on earth. However, the film blurred the lines between the three professions of translator, interpreter, and linguist, reinforcing some common misconceptions most business people have.

To “arrive” at the right language professional, you have to understand your needs. Click To Tweet When you do, it’s helpful to know the difference between the types of professionals involved in the process. Who do you call for a meeting with a new or potential overseas client for your small business or when you need to localize your ecommerce company’s website for foreign markets? Who do you contact when you receive medical records from an employee who required medical attention while on an overseas business trip or a contract from a foreign country?

Put simply:

Translators help you with written material, like contracts, letters, brochures, and websites

  • Before pushing that “Would you like to translate this?” button for the material that your advertising people spend weeks refining, remember that the nuanced language geared at persuading others to buy your products or services is best translated by a human who specializes in your company’s line of business.
  • If you’d like to create a professional-looking brochure or web page in other languages for new target markets, the last thing you should do is trust that task to an automated translation tool instead of its flesh-and-blood counterpart.
  • Should you be in a position to apply for an international patent for your product, you will definitely want a human patent translator specialized in your field to do that work instead of trusting a machine translation into languages unknown to you. Not doing so may lose you the patent if something in the application is mistranslated.

Interpreters help you with spoken language in business, legal and medical settings

  • Say a potential client wants to visit your facilities before deciding to place an order for your products. What a great impression you would make if you hired an interpreter to accompany you both on a guided plant tour so that all questions and answers could be handled in each party’s dominant language, putting everyone at ease. Hiring the same interpreter for a preliminary or follow-up telephone or videoconference meeting would go that extra mile toward sealing the deal and keeping this client’s business for years to come.
  • Well-informed business owners and managers also hire interpreters for employee health and safety training meetings that include limited-English-proficient workers. This helps them meet OSHA compliance requirements and keep their operations running smoothly and without interruption from preventable accidents.
  • Conference interpreters ensure that all attendees at an international business or medical gathering understand the presenters’ messages and are able to ask questions about the presentation’s content.

Linguists analyze language (including structure, history, and more)

  • To decipher an unknown extraterrestrial language, the linguistics professor in Arrival works with the aliens to learn the basic concepts of their language—the individual words and what they mean, building a lexicon as she goes. In the end, she has to use a complex, computer-assisted analysis to break the code and understand how the alien language works. This is neither translation nor interpreting, but linguistics.
  • In the real world, linguists help translators do their jobs by developing and updating the terminology-management software that allows those translators to work more quickly and efficiently, resulting in lower costs for their client and ensuring consistency throughout the entire translated document or website.

One thing that translators, interpreters and linguists all have in common is that they draw upon their extensive experience to solve linguistic “puzzles.” The stakes might not be as high as saving the planet from potential annihilation, but the work of all three professions is vital all the same, helping:

  • businesses communicate beyond borders
  • governments avoid conflict
  • healthcare providers make lifesaving decisions, to mention only the tip of the iceberg.

In order to “arrive” at the right language professional, you have to understand your needs. In the movie, the producers understood they needed a language expert as their protagonist, even if they mixed up the terms for how she went about helping them communicate with the aliens. What they did get right was to demonstrate that language professionals all draw upon:

  • extensive language study
  • expertise in the field
  • research skills
  • their ability to learn and utilize the latest technologies to solve linguistic “puzzles.”

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 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

7 Ways to Navigate Office Politics

By Walt Grassl

Walt GrasslThe first time Jay met with his mentor, Brian, he asked him what the most important thing to know to be successful at work was. Jay was surprised when Brian said, “Politics.”

Politics in the workplace is often an afterthought. But it is important to understand the landscape, the people, and the rules of the workplace. The key to reaching agreements is an understanding what motivates a person or organization.

Trusted leaders are aware of the politics. They make sure their team is aware of them as well. Trusted leaders seek balanced solutions. They navigate the tension between the competing needs of the bigger organization and the team.

Here are seven ways to navigate the politics of the workplace.

1) Be Visible: If nobody knows who you are, you will have little or no impact in the organization. There are several ways to effectively make your presence felt.

Take on tasks that get you out of your comfort zone, and find opportunities to interact with people and organizations that you haven’t worked with before. Readily volunteer for events, such as open houses or teambuilding outings. When important assignments come up, make sure you go beyond the norm to ensure its success.

The more people you interact with—work related or not—the more you will make your presence felt and provide an impact.

2) Everyone is a Volunteer: Treat the people you work with as if they are volunteers. You increase your respect. When you approach a subordinate and say, “We need to ship this part today. Can you please take care of it?” you give them the opportunity to push back. They may have a more urgent assignment that you aren’t aware of. Ask, never tell. If you ask someone to do their job, good employees will always say yes and respect you for it. When you demand and don’t tolerate push back, you sacrifice short-term success for long-term influence.

3) Be a Person of Influence: When people know and respect you, you will be more influential. As often as possible, you should be positive. You should not complain and you should avoid passive aggressive behavior. Help as many people as possible. Be aware of what is going on around you. Who is struggling? Who contributes beyond their job description? Who is an untitled leader? Be a mentor or coach to junior employees, in and out of your chain of command. Make sure the political nature of the workplace is part of the coaching and mentoring.When you use your political insights to manipulate or create win-lose situations, you lose influence. Click To Tweet

4) Have Many Networks: Develop relationships horizontally and vertically in your organization. Know your peers that work in other organizations. Know the people from top to bottom in your organization. Know the people in your internal suppliers. Know your internal customers. These relationships will improve the likelihood of you learning things informally. This will help you and your organization look good formally. These relationships will allow you to be more successful.

5) Manage Knowledge: Manage Knowledge, Share Knowledge. Share it to the people who need it. It will improve the value of your relationships. When you inform your team of a change in direction sooner, rather than later, you create good will. Why? They can immediately stop following the old course and redirect to the new course. They won’t feel like they’ve wasted their time and effort. However, one must be certain the change will occur. Things like impending job actions (layoffs, promotions, transfers) must never be shared until it is time. Never gossip at work and hold secrets close.

6) See the Big Picture: A common fallacy in the workplace is that my job and my organization contribute more than the rest to the success of the project or company. When employees realize that what they do is important, it’s a good thing. The inverse is true when the needs of the other employees and other organizations are discounted. Some decisions that flow down from above may not make sense to the team. Look at the bigger picture. Look at the needs of the other players. Understand the other’s position. Keep focused on the end-to-end process. Not just your link in the chain. Understand your organization’s role and the roles your internal suppliers and internal customers. This knowledge will help make processes make sense.

7) Managing Conflicts: Inevitably, there will be tension and conflict between individuals and organizations. The best course of action is to be neutral. Facilitate communication and seek to find a third alternative that satisfies both parties. When you are one of the parties, know when to push back. What are the ramifications for bringing up the problem? Not every battle is worth fighting for. When you must address a conflict, understand the other’s point of you before you explain yours. Look for a win-win result. And never make it personal. Always focus on the issues.

Should you play politics or not? Whether you call it politics or a best practice, you must play. Understanding office politics is critical to being successful. How you use your knowledge is even more important. When you use your political insights to manipulate or create win-lose situations, you lose influence. People won’t trust you. When you use political insights to create win-win results, you become a force to be reckoned with.

Jay rose through the rank of leadership. He was liked and knew many people. He understood all the organizations in the company. He was brought in to lead dysfunctional teams and was able to get them aligned and successful. People would go the extra mile for him because they felt he understood them. Nobody ever called Jay a politician. He just got things done.

Walt Grassl is a speaker, author, and performer. He hosts the radio show, “Stand Up and Speak Up,” on the RadioStar Worldwide network. Walt has performed standup comedy at the Hollywood Improv and the Flamingo in Las Vegas and is an in demand leadership speaker. For more information on bringing Walt Grassl to your next event, please visit www.waltgrassl.com.

Mastering the Mastermind

Making the Most of Cross-Mentoring Groups

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickThe mastermind concept came from an admirer of industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Napoleon Hill described the idea in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, but the mastermind plan adapts to many forms of business networking, not just entrepreneurs, as originally foreseen. The principles of a mastermind group can apply to any employee or workplace group aimed at continuous improvement and personal development.

A mastermind is a group of individuals devoted to mutual support, a sort of mentorship in the round, where each member plays both the role of mentor and mentee. The focus is on enabling the success of others, while in turn drawing on the resources of the group for oneself. As Hill saw the concept, he applied it to business owners who were otherwise on their own. This remains a very effective application for broadening knowledge and experience horizons.

Applied to the workplace, the mastermind structure suits groups of supervisors or department heads, those facing similar challenges yet with differing circumstances. The philosophy of the mastermind suggests a new approach to group dynamics over traditional workplace units. However, for those devoted to gaining a competitive edge, membership in an effective mastermind provides a fast track to success.

Why Should I Join? What Can I Really Expect to Gain? This is the critical question, isn’t it? The “what’s in it for me” factor. While that might seem cynical, there really isn’t a point in being involved if you don’t feel you can gain from the experience. That’s obvious. But the point on which many such groups falter is not the taking, but the giving. Before you look at how to invest in a mastermind, look at four distinct takeaways an effective alliance can offer.

  1. Community: The most effective masterminds bring together people with both like and unlike backgrounds. Each member is after increased success, for example, but comes from a different industry. That’s the model behind the typical business club mastermind. The group is connected by a desire to progress, but not undermined by direct competition. The key factor is, however, a new and diverse community that wouldn’t exist otherwise. It’s a community of intent, not chance, with members invited in for the strengths they can offer as much as for the benefits they can receive.
  2. Collaboration: Being the captain of a small business enterprise can be a lonely position. It’s all on you. If you’re an entrepreneur by nature, you’ll relish that feeling most of the time, but everyone is human, social creatures, so there are times you don’t want to be the lone wolf. Managers and supervisors sometimes face similar isolation. When everyone is looking to you to run the show with confidence and authority, to whom do you turn to express doubt or bounce ideas? When you can’t show weakness before clients and staff, a mastermind collective presents a safe sounding board for expressing concerns, doubts and options, while providing input, feedback and advice.
  3. Consolidation: Networking is generally accepted as a key to business growth, yet processes required from typical networking opportunities are often uncomfortable and consequently many of us don’t do them well. It’s “first date” syndrome – there’s not enough time to relax and be yourself. A mastermind alliance checks that in a couple ways. First, everyone is there by strategic invitation. Next, everyone around you is interested in your success as well as their own, for the good of the mastermind group. Opportunities to build effective cross-promotions don’t have to develop on the fly, in a couple hours. When you connect with a network partner on a deeper level, you’re closer to their network now too, in a way a business card exchange just can’t match.
  4. Continued Motivation: Inspiration and motivation may be the two biggest takeaways a mastermind has to offer. There are probably other sources for the new information you’re learning through your mastermind group. Consider the mastermind concept itself came from Hill’s book. But to get really excited about an idea, direction or plan that’s then reinforced a week later at the next meeting of your alliance, that is something so intangible yet so essential to your personal and business growth. Think of it as an inspirational pep pill, keeping you nourished, nurtured and invigorated on a regular basis.

Enjoy the Campaign: No matter if you are joining or starting your own group, whether you succeed or fail, there is experience to be gained and lessons to absorb. The clichés have all been used, and they are all true: enjoy the ride, it’s the journey, not the destination, and so on. Each mastermind can be enriching, even if it’s not what you were expecting or doesn’t achieve what you want. Part of the process that’s most valuable is that you’re opening yourself up as a person, to other people and other experiences. Ultimately, while a mastermind is a group experience, you will find the rewards are deeply personal. Good luck on your adventure!

Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker, author, and authority on Leadership. A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, she is the best-selling author of her personal development book, The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life. Elizabeth teaches real life, easy to apply strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in the vision of your organization and their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: yourinspirationalspeaker.com.

Save

Save

Save