Tag Archives: leadership

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.

7 Reasons to Put Golden Handcuffs on Your Best Employees

By Patrick Ungashick

Patrick Ungashick-top employee

High-performing employees are often the most valuable asset in most companies. Customers, products, technology, inventory, and many other assets come and go. A company that cannot hold onto its best employees, however, likely cannot grow. Yet ironically, few companies take any formal steps to minimize the risk of losing top employees. Sure, you pay your best employees well, and presumably , have a great culture and work environment. But your competitors can offer the same incentives. To truly hold onto your best people, consider tying them to your company with handcuffs made of gold.

“Golden handcuffs” is a generic term describing a wide range of programs that share one core purpose—to incentivize top employees to stay with your company for the long term. There are many types of programs: incentive compensation plans, stock options, phantom stock, stock appreciation rights, synthetic equity programs, share bonus plans, and more. Making things even more confusing, each of these types of programs have variations in their design and operation. This complexity makes it difficult to approach these programs and select a plan design that best fits the situation. However, learning about golden handcuffs programs is worth the effort. They offer a unique combination of advantages and benefits that can help your company reduce risk, propel growth, and maximize value at exit.

Companies that design and implement effective golden handcuff plans can accomplish the following seven important outcomes:

  1. Reduce risk that top employees leave prematurely or unexpectedly. Golden handcuff plans accomplish this by offering a future compensation payout that is partially or completely forfeit if the employee should terminate employment prior to an agreed-upon date (such as retirement age) or an event (such as the sale of the company). To create the desired impact, the potential compensation amount must be significant—typically several times the employee’s current annual income or more.
  2. Incent top employees to help create long-term, sustained company growth. The potential for a future compensation payout orients the employee towards achieving the company’s business goals, especially if the payout amount is tied to long-term company growth.
  3. Create incentives for top job candidates to join your company. A golden handcuffs program offered to a desired recruit—in addition to competitive pay and compelling career opportunities—can be the tipping point that convinces that important hire to join your organization. 
  4. Protect the company against the risk of losing customers, other employees, or trade secrets should an employee who has those relationships and information leave. Golden handcuff plans should include a legal agreement which commonly includes provisions such as non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure language wherever possible. 
  5. Provide a way for business owners to create alignment with non-owner top employees around creating business value prior to exit. Many business owners are understandably concerned about discussing their future exit plans with their top employees who don’t have an equity stake in the company. In those situations, the owner’s future exit is a potential wealth-building event for him or her, but it presents career uncertainty and risk to the non-owner employee. Golden handcuffs plans build a bridge between owner and non-owner top employees, by including those employees in a wealth creation opportunity at exit and providing for their career stability. 
  6. Enhance business value at company exit, particularly upon sale of the business. Your future business buyer will often see greater value in your company if a golden handcuffs plan has been effectively implemented, particularly when the plan includes “stay bonuses” which incent top employees to stay with the company after a sale, typically for one to two years.
  7. Thank top employees for their service with the company. Most business owners want to thank high performing employees after they have given years of effective service to the organization. While golden handcuffs plans are primarily intended to incent and reward top employees, they can provide double-duty by also providing lucrative compensation awards in the future to the very same people you likely will want to acknowledge. 

Many business owners and advisors assume that a golden handcuffs plan requires sharing actual ownership interest with the employees who will be included in the plan. This not always true. Some programs such as stock options plans include the potential for actual ownership sharing. Other plan types such as phantom stock or executive bonus plans involve compensation and do not share actual equity. Sharing ownership with employees presents significant risks and downsides. Whenever possible, consider a golden handcuffs plan that pays out compensation to the employee rather than shares actual company equity.

Business owners and leaders need effective tools to motivate top employees, retain them for the long term, and drive company growth. Few tools have the potential to address all of these needs simultaneously like a well-designed golden handcuffs program. A little research here can go a long way to securing a bright future for your employees and your company.

Patrick Ungashick is the CEO of NAVIX Consultants, a celebrated speaker on executive and business owner exit planning, and the author of A Tale of Two Owners: Achieving Exit Success Between Business Co-Owners. With his wealth of knowledge on exit planning, Patrick has provided exit advice and solutions to business owners and leaders for nearly thirty years. For more information on Patrick Ungashick please visit: www.NAVIXConsultants.com.

5 Keys to Protect Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset: Its People

Providing Your Teams the C.A.R.G.O. to Succeed

By: Jason O. Harris

Jason Harris_team memberes

Your company’s most precious cargo is its people.  Each day that you walk into your office, establishment, and organization, you are responsible for cultivating the culture. You are responsible for fostering a workplace culture that is one based on commitment and trust. As you nurture and grow the culture of your workplace, it is imperative that you realize that your most valuable resource—your most precious cargo, as they say in the aviation business—are your people. 

As you look to understand what you can do each and every day to impact your company culture, you need to look at the ways you can best take care of your teams. The foundation of taking care of our people is creating and cultivating a culture of trust. It is only when you cultivate cultures of trust and commitment that you can truly begin to support your company’s most valuable resource: the people within it.

When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success! Click To Tweet

A simple way that you can create the professional environment that you want is to implement a model, the C.A.R.G.O. model, designed to create and nurture the workplace ecosystem that thrives on commitment and trust.

C: Creativity to address challenges

As you look to take care of your people, it is essential that opportunities are provided that allow for creativity. This creativity is useful for many things—primarily in addressing the many challenges that present themselves constantly in the workplace. When you trust and empower your people to harness their creativity to address and solve problems it does many things across the many levels of your organization. Freedom to be creative instills a sense of intrinsic trust and helps to reinforce an employee’s innate abilities and talents. Creativity to address challenges strengthens the case as to why you hired them to work in your organization in the first place. 

A: Access to tools and resources

When the right tools and resources are provided, people know that they have all that they need to succeed. Too often there is an expectation of the people in an organization that cannot be fulfilled due to a lack of resources or support. Effective leaders must be prepared to properly equip their teams with the right people in addition to the right tools and resources to set them up for success. Access to the appropriate tools and assets is imperative to creating and building a company culture that is rooted in trust. 

R: Responsibilities

It is essential that team members are empowered to own their unique responsibilities in an organization. When team members truly own their piece of the daily duties, tasks, and projects, it reinforces the reality that their work really matters.  When your team is aware of their value to the entire operation and that others are counting on them, like a combat aircrew, they will step up and perform to their best abilities. Empowerment of staff, ensuring that the training and processes clearly define and delineate their responsibilities, will lead to an empowered organization. This empowered organization will be full of team members that know what they are responsible for and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. 

G: Goals & Objectives

Goals and objectives of your team(s) and organization have to be plain, clear, and articulated in a way that the team members can understand and appreciate. The best leaders must share the goals and objectives with the team. Your team needs to know that its leaders are fully invested. In turn, it’s necessary for members of your team to share their individual goals and objectives with each other and the leadership. This ensures that everyone holds each other accountable. Beyond holding one another accountable, knowing the goals and objectives of each other allows you to know that everyone is committed, in some shape, form and fashion, for the greater good of the organization and each other.

O: Opportunities for success

As a leader, you must provide the opportunities for your people to succeed. These successes exist as large and small opportunities. When provided with incremental chances to succeed and win, team members will stay engaged and continue to be committed to the organization and the team. Consider opportunities for team members to succeed in the simplest ways, that lead to team wins, that lead to organizational wins. Everyone loves to win. Everyone loves to be on a winning team!

The most precious resource in your organization, the most precious cargo in your aircraft, is your people. As you conduct business each and every day, are you and the leadership team equipping your people to sustain themselves and your organization through the inevitable turbulence that they will encounter en route to accomplish their mission?  When you provide your people with the right C.A.R.G.O., you will create, promote and cultivate a workplace culture of trust that is bound for success!

Jason O. Harris is a leadership and trust speaker, consultant, and certified character coach. As a decorated combat veteran, Jason brings unique perspectives gained from his battlefield experience to your organization. Jason’s No-Fail Trust™ methodology was crafted from his own harrowing, life-altering experiences, and conveys the importance of cross-generational communication and mutual trust. Jason enjoys working with organizations and leaders that are no longer willing to settle for cultures of compliance and are ready to build and cultivate cultures of commitment.  For more information on Jason O. Harris, please visit www.jasonOharris.com.

First Aid for Burned-Out Teams

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-burned-out

The team’s exhausted. They’re burned-out, and I am too. I don’t know if we can recover. We’ve been working at 150 percent for over a year—at least most of us have.

More change? Really? We’ve been through three major transitions in as many months. Everyone is really on edge. I am pretty sure Susan is going to quit.

Team? We work in the same building, but that’s about where it starts and stops. I’m hoping to get out of here soon.

Even in the best of times, creating and maintaining a high-functioning team is work. When the team is burned-out, the task is infinitely harder, but it can be done.

Step One

The first step is accepting a list of truths.

When the team is burned-out, the task is infinitely harder, but it can be done. Click To Tweet

Truth One: People have different levels of buy-in, a range of professional goals, and varying home/work demands.

Truth Two: Not everyone experiences burnout in the same way nor is work always distributed evenly in most organizations. Some people probably are more burned-out than others.

Truth Three: Great teamwork will compensate for a lack of resources in the short term. However, teams that are stretched too thin for too long begin to show signs of wear and tear after a while.

Truth Four: If the leader isn’t a believer in what the team needs to accomplish or isn’t working as hard as he or she can to bring the team over the finish line each day, team members will know it and react in a range of ways—most of which are neutral at best.

Truth Five: Transparency matters. People don’t like being left in the dark, or worse still, lied to.

Truth Six: Too many changes at once usually don’t go over well unless there’s a logical flow to them, a sense of fairness about what’s being changed, and the absence of unnecessary chaos or drama.

Truth Seven: Elephants in a room stay there if they’re allowed to do so. If a team is not prepared to operate with candor and address any unspoken issues, there’s only so much that can be done to save the group.  

Truth Eight: Team members’ perceptions of the team’s condition are their truth. You may have plenty of data to argue to the contrary, but until people are ready to listen and believe what you show them, what they currently think is what is.

Step Two

Once you’ve got a firm understanding of the basic truths, the next step is taking a long and hard look at what’s working, what isn’t, and why. Does everyone understand and buy into the team’s mission? Is work distributed fairly? Are some people doing more than they should have to do and others doing less than they should? Are people resentful of each other? Is there drama, and do you know the source? Is the team’s burnout a recent phenomenon or has its decay been long in the making? Is the burnout caused by internal factors, external factors, or a combination of both? Have people been misled or lied to in the past by those in positions of authority?

Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg and some ideas to get started. In fixing burnout, asking the right questions is as important, if not more, so than taking action. A good list of questions will help you reduce the likelihood that you are treating symptoms or curing the wrong disease altogether.

Step Three

When you think you have a good grasp of the current situation and have verified your findings with others, it’s time to start thinking about what could be. A fast way to imagine a different state is to work through some more questions.

  • Why does our team matter to the organization and what value do we offer?
  • How do we want to feel about our work?
  • What gets us excited about our work or what do we enjoy?
  • What changes do we need to our work product, our work processes, or our people interactions?
  • What needs to stay the same?
  • What level of performance do we need from each team member?
  • What are we going to do if those levels aren’t met?
  • What additional resources do we need?
  • What would success look like?
  • What can we do to encourage transparency and communication?
  • How will we celebrate improvements?

Step Four

With a clear view of the present and a possible future, the next step is prioritizing. In most cases, burned-out teams don’t burn out overnight. Often the process is long and marked by a series of declines, bad luck, and unfortunate circumstances. Consequently, the recovery process is often long. In fact, the team may never realize some of the elements identified in step three for a long time, or maybe ever. Most recoveries don’t happen overnight. The trick is to keep the truths discussed in step one in mind as you prioritize a plan of action to get from the reality you uncovered in step two and the future you envisioned in step three.

Step Five

The final step in the recovery planning process is creating a deliberate communication plan. Recognize that you need to over-explain and repeatedly share information. Once is not enough. Also, not all recoveries are linear. Your team will have some good days and bad. What’s important is making progress in the right direction over time. After a series of successes, everyone who is still with the group should be feeling a little less burned-out and a lot more excited about the work at hand.

With these five steps well in hand, you’re positioned to provide some immediate triage to your team members that are battling burnout. Burnout can be pervasive throughout an entire company, so get your first-aid kit out as soon as you pick up on the problem, and mitigate the issue before it negatively impacts your operation.

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

Identifying and Mitigating Unconscious Bias in Yourself and in Your Workplace

By Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli- Unconscious Bias in your workplace

Three fun facts: First, studies show that resumes with “white” sounding names (like “Greg”) were 50 percent more likely to get a callback for an interview by potential employers than a more stereotypically African-American sounding names (like “Jamal”), even when the resumes were identical aside from the name. Second, brunette and redhead women’s salaries are approximately 7 percent less than their blonde counterparts. And third, most 60 percent of corporate CEOs are over six-foot-tall; a large disproportion compared to the fact that less than 15 percent of American men are over this height.  In a popular political television show, one character says, “Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Tall men make great presidents.”

What do these three factoids have in common? They are examples of what is called “unconscious bias,” and actions are taken because of those unconscious or hidden biases. But what specifically are these hidden or unconscious biases, and more importantly how can you start to manage them so you’re making the right decisions in your workplace and our world? Let’s explore… 

What is “Unconscious Bias”?

Hidden or unconscious bias is the preference for or against a person, thing, or group held at an unconscious level. This means you don’t even realize your mind is holding onto this bias of, say, that person on the phone who is speaking English as a second language, or that effeminate man in front of you at the restaurant who isn’t what you were taught as “masculine.” In contrast, an overt—or explicit—bias is an attitude or prejudice that one endorses at a conscious level; it’s obvious and blatant.

Research on hidden bias shows that, regardless of the best intentions, most people hold deep-seated resistance to the “difference” of others, whether that difference is defined by evident factors as race, gender, ethnicity, age, or physical characteristics, or more subtle ones such as background, personality type, experiences, or even sexual orientation. But bias can also exist in a positive sense: you may favor your family, your community, and people with whom you feel a connection based on shared characteristics or experiences (like people who work for the same company or went to the same university as you).

These hidden biases aren’t purposely or consciously created; they are products of your brain’s self-generated definition of normal, acceptable or positive, and they are shaped by many factors: from past experiences to your local or cultural environment, to the influence of social community and the impressions from media. You don’t consciously create these definitions of “normal” versus “different,” “good” versus “bad,” or “acceptable” versus “unacceptable.” In fact, conscious and unconscious biases are often divergent; your hidden biases may exist in spite of our sincere desire to be bias-free and in direct contradiction of the attitudes you believe you have.

Why Do We Have These Biases?

Well, we can blame having an unconscious bias on our cave-ancestors. Back in the day, a cave-person had to quickly decide if the big-furry-sharp-toothed-animal at the cave-door was friend or foe; and those quick ascertains of safety were processed in their cave-brains. Science has shown that we receive 11 million bits of information every moment, but we can only consciously process forty bits of data at any time. How do we manage that 99.9999996 percent gap? Through our unconscious brains. So, as humans, it is perfectly natural for us to create these “cognitive shortcuts” to help us be safe and survive and manage all this data input.

But in 2019 we aren’t cave-folk, and that wiring sometimes goes against what we want our “auto systems” to work for the most part. Think about you at work: do you want your cave-wiring impulsively taking over who you should work with, the feelings you have toward hiring someone, or defining how you act towards a new co-worker or customer? No, you don’t. You want to have your conscious brains be prevalent, and that’s not always easy to do. But it’s something you should do.

Working on your unconscious base won’t just make your workplace more inclusive and successful, but it will go far to personally build trust between you and others, and that makes the world just a little bit better. Click To Tweet

“Micro inequities” & Why They Matter in our Workplace

OK: you’re at work and someone says to you, “For a woman, I’m really surprised how well you accomplished that task. Nice job.” Some would call this a back-handed compliment: a compliment that’s really an insult. The better term for this is a “micro inequity.” These are unconscious biases that come to life where people act or say things that “tip the hand” on their respective (most likely unconscious) biases. 

Why does it matter for you to identify and mitigate these microinequities in your workplace? For several reasons actually:

  • Micro inequities are a form of punishment for being different and occur in the context of work without regard to performance or merit.
  • Micro inequities undermine the effectiveness of the recipient.
  • Micro inequities take up workplace time and energy and undermine interpersonal trust and relationships.

Studies have found that over 71 percent of the workforce has experienced some form of workplace incivility or microinequity in the last five years. Incivility is evidenced by disrespectful behavior (Zauderer, 2002). What happened to these folks? According to this study:

  • 28 percent lost work time avoiding the instigator of the incivility/microinequity
  • 53 percent lost time worrying about the incident/future interactions
  • 37 percent believed their commitment at work declined
  • 22 percent have decreased their effort at work
  • 10 percent decreased the amount of time that they spent at work
  • 12 percent actually changed jobs to avoid the instigator

How Can We Start to Mitigate our Hidden Biases and Limit our “Micro inequities”? 

So, what do you do about this managing this unconscious, cave-selves? The first step is accepting that you DO have unconscious bias and become aware of the ones you specifically hold. One of the best ways you can start to explore what unconscious biases you have is through Project Implicit, or the Implicit-Association Test (IAT). The IAT is a free online assessment that will measure the strength of your hidden bias between various groups. Check it out—in a safe and judgment-free way—see what hidden biases you may have. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

Second, share and discuss the concept of “unconscious bias” with others in your workplace. Share the Project Implicit website with them. Talk (if you’re comfortable) what the results you had on the site. Encourage co-workers to hold each other accountable when those unconscious biases turn into microinequities.

Third, look at the bigger picture within your workplace. What are the biases that exist within your organization, and how can you start to challenge them. For example, look at your organization’s hiring practices. Does it tend to hire the same types of people or recruit from the same places? Are your marketing messages pretty non-inclusive? Are your customers or clients similar in demographic make-up? Think about your typically business practices and think as a team to ensure your collective unconscious biases aren’t impacting your business success.

Closing

So, we all harbor and exhibit an unconscious bias to some extent. And that’s OK; that simply means we’re human. But it’s taking that step to identify which biases we have, take steps to “debias” ourselves, share that action with others, and really look at how we do business that is the key to change. Doing this won’t just make your workplace more inclusive and successful, but it will go far to personally build trust between you and others, and that makes the world just a little bit better.

(source: Zauderer, D. (2002). “Workplace Incivility and the Management of Human Capital.” Public Manager, Vol. 31, p.36-43.)

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is the 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. www.topdoglearnign.biz .