Igniting Your Team to New Levels of Performance

By Magi Graziano

Magi GrazianoWhen it comes to constructing a team of people who work well together to create winning outcomes, knowing ‘how to’ and understanding ‘how to’ are two very different phenomena.

The strong and astute organizational leader is one who is committed to optimizing their resources and maximizing their return on their investment. Given the people expense is often the largest investment in any enterprise; creating this kind of culture is simply smart business. As a leader, empowering your workforce to unleash their strengths and encouraging people to collaborate, and innovate leverages people’s ability to act as a team and produce results.

In work cultures where people focus on only their piece of the puzzle it leads to silo mentality and ultimately breeds ineffectiveness and inefficiency. A high performance team cannot exist in an environment where competition and one-up-manship prevail.  When people on the team focus on each other’s limitations and detriments—and why things cannot be done—they all too often miss opportunities to make the organization better. Additionally, teamwork is adversely impacted when the people on the team feel the need to focus on fighting and jockeying for authority or power. This need to be ‘better than’ decreases collaboration and limits innovation. It is a recipe for stagnation and conflict—neither which drive long term results.

As leaders, it requires rewiring our minds and our teams to repair an absence of trust; however before you can rewire, you first need to be aware and responsible for the absence of trust in the first place. Teams respond best to a system that allows them to fall, learn from mistakes, and move forward again. Click To Tweet

Whether you are seeking to create a high performance work team or a high performance culture; there are seven steps for creating an environment where high performance and teamwork can thrive.

1. Identify and Clarify the Purpose for the Team: People must understand the why behind what they are doing. Once the purpose for the team is crystalized and talking points are clearly outlined, it is the initiator of the team’s role to connect the dots for people to see how they connect to it. Communicating an inspiring vision for the people on the team and mapping what success looks like when it is achieved is a foundational element for congealing a group of people together and getting them geared up to work together in unison.

2. Select a Leader: The team’s leader does not have to be the person who invents the possibility and purpose for the team; it does need to be a person who accepts the responsibility for shepherding and guiding the team to success. The leader’s job is to be present—to be there for the team. The best leaders select the right people, inspire them towards a vision and back out of the way during the planning stage—unless they are specifically asked for guidance.

3. Establish Rules: People need to know what is expected from them, and from the team. People need to know and understand where the boundaries are regarding decision-making, autonomy and performance. Giving people the rules of the game before they agree to play it allows for people to opt in or opt out of the team and the game. Advanced clarity of expectations also reduces unnecessary problems, reduces ambiguity and confusion and serves to mitigate poor performance and unwanted turnover on the team.

4. Select the Players: Whether you are building an enterprise or a team of people to accomplish a project, it is crucial that you select the right people for the right roles, for the right reasons. When this happens people join the team for the right reasons; which is the baseline team engagement. When people are engaged, they have a strong desire to bring value—to be a contributor. They enjoy the type of work they are doing and are able to connect their work to the bigger picture.

The best team dynamics happen when there is a variety of people who bring their uniqueness to the team. Beyond competencies and skills, it’s important to consider unique traits that each team member brings to the table and how those unique traits can be leveraged for optimal creativity and innovation.

5. Set the Level: Level-setting allows each member of the team a new opportunity to begin again. During a level set, team members explore their limiting beliefs and barriers to working with others in a productive and effective manner, and do the necessary work to unpack those factors that get in the way. The team as a whole is challenged to work together in experiential learning in ways they never considered.

Even the most effective, astute and self-aware people discover limits that were previously hidden from their conscious view. The team lays out the pathway for the best way to work together, how they will resolve personality conflicts and internal challenges with dynamics on the team.  At the completion of the level set, the team creates a collective possibility for the team that is inspiring to each and every member of the team.

6. Planning: The best approach for a leader during planning is to be a source for inspiration, questions, and guidance. Leaders who step too far in to planning create teams that are dependent on the leader and lack creativity. If the leader notices a problem with the plan, rather than pointing it out, it is much more empowering to ask questions that provoke the team members to activate their critical thinking skills to answer and think potential challenges through.

7. Check in, Track Progress, Celebrate Success: When people are aware of the milestone meetings and rely on regular feedback it reduces uncertainly and unnecessary stress.  Laying out the stages of organizational effectiveness, beginning with what it means to be operating in formulation and concentration and then defining criteria for low, moderate and high momentum gives the team an opportunity to self regulate, correct and celebrate as they see fit.

Utilizing a customized version of the agile methodology is an excellent means to keep progress on track and support the team in attaining momentum with their project, program or goal.  Daily stand ups, bi-weekly declarations and intention setting as well as bi monthly retrospectives give teams a structure they can count on and gives the team healthy guardrails to work independently and remain responsibility to each other and the organization as a whole.

While knowing and understanding are two very different distinctions, doing is the link that shifts knowing to understanding. For the impatient leader, doing may be a challenge because progress is most often only experienced incrementally. Building a high performance team is not about exponential breakthroughs, if they happen great; however if sustainability is your goal, impatience is your enemy. Teams respond best to a system that allows them to learn, move forward, fall, learn from mistakes, move forward again and sustain progress over time. When high concentration and effort is celebrated, and low momentum is acknowledged and genuinely appreciated teams build confidence and fortitude to stay the course.

Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO of KeenAlignment, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent. Through her expansive knowledge and captivating presentations, Magi provide her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than twenty years’ experience as a top producer in the Recruitment and Search industry, she empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to the day-to-day operation. For more information on Magi please visit www.KeenAlignment.com.

Five Pillars to Success as a Manager

By Jan Makela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Discover the “Secret Sauce” for Customer Retention

Key Ingredients for Lasting Relationships

By Denise Ciardello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does the Virtual You Byte? Managing Your Digital Twin

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie“We were ready to make him the offer, but then I saw the domestic abuse arrests. With a quick Google search our clients could easily find the same information. I don’t need to ponder the larger risks because this problem alone is a showstopper.”

“Why would I buy from someone who chooses a middle finger shot as his Twitter profile picture? Goodness knows I made some bad choices early in my career, but clearly, he’s not ready to manage an account like ours. It’s too bad. I liked his presentation.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I came across what I did. She works for a great non-profit and I liked what she had to say, but that’s not her only career. The boudoir shots and escort activities are an interesting sideline. Call me judgmental, but I just don’t want to work for her. I can’t be associated with people involved in those kinds of activities.”

A little digging on the internet can reveal of wealth of information. Some of it is true, some of it isn’t, and all of it is out there for the world to see.

Fair? Probably not, but it is what it is. Our digital doppelgangers have tremendous power, and as long as finding information online is easy, it will be found.

So, what’s a person to do to get control of his or her online image without spending a fortune? By following seven simple steps, you can take charge of your digital reputation.

Step One: Understand Your Digital DNA: The first step in managing the cyber you understands who creates him or her. If you use social media, you’re contributing to your footprint. If you have ever owned property, had a land line, donated to charity, sat on a board, or participated in any activity where information is published in an online newsletter, that information is part of the digital you.

You need to understand your digital twin has lots of parents, and some of them are more concerned about presenting him or her in a positive light than others. Google yourself, and make a list of from where information is coming.

Step Two: Choose a Strategy: The key to an effective online presence (or absence) is planning. Without a strategy, you have no plan. To manage the online you, you must decide what you want people to find. You might choose to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate for a job, define yourself as an expert on a particular topic, or align yourself with a cause that means something to you. Whatever the choice, one should have a goal for presenting an online picture that matches your offline objectives.The key to an effective online presence (or absence) is planning. Without a strategy, you have no plan. Click To Tweet

Step Three: Remember, It’s Not All Bad: In most cases, a well-managed digital presence is better than no presence at all. Think about it; if you were in a hiring manager’s chair and could find nothing in cyberspace about a candidate you were considering for an important job, would it concern you? Maybe.

What most likely wouldn’t concern you, however, would be the discovery of a professional LinkedIn page. In fact, the existence of such a page would probably serve as additional evidence of the candidate’s qualifications and suitability for a job.

Step Four: Put the Best You Out There: A picture is worth a thousand words, and a lot of what people say about themselves when choosing a profile photo isn’t too good. The photos are blurry, old, or just inappropriate. Get a professional photo taken and use it.

Your virtual you should be congruent with the real you. In other words, don’t promise one thing and deliver something else. Update your photo every five years or after you’ve had any significant physical transformation.

Next, check your privacy settings on all social sites into which you opt in. Do you really want people knowing what you’ve “liked” online, what your following, and so forth? If your brand strategy isn’t to be political or provoking, think before you comment on anything controversial.

Also, don’t forget that privacy settings change, people share comments, and so forth. In short, what you say among friends may at some point be seen by people you wouldn’t expect to have access to your conversations.

When it comes to social media, be disciplined, and make choices that fit with your strategy.

Step Five: Manage Unflattering Information: If you’ve got information out in cyberspace you wish weren’t there, and you are blessed with a common name, your dark data is probably buried pretty far down in the search results—especially if you actively publish other information about yourself.

If you have a rather unusual name coupled with a bad PR problem, you’ll need to be more proactive. Make site-by-site requests for information removal, and start publishing. Comment on reputable blogs using your real name, leave product reviews also using your real name, publish articles, and so forth. Your goal is to create noise and push negative information to the bottom of the pile. The stronger the sites where you post “good” data, the more likely those items will appear at the top of the results.

For most people, a do-it-yourself approach is sufficient, but if you’ve tried and are still struggling, you can always hire an expert. Prices vary widely, so shop around.

Step Six: Set Up an Auditing System: Online reputation management isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s ongoing because the internet is fluid. What’s there today could be gone tomorrow and vice versa.

As your own reputation manager, this means you must be on your toes and aware of what’s being said about you. An easy way to stay in the know is to set up a Google alert for your name. Then, as that search engine finds new mentions of you, it will let you know.

Next, search the top engines for your name once a month. Check the first two pages of results for anything troubling. Finally, once a year, do a deep dive and look at every result. It’s time consuming but worth the effort—especially if you’ve encountered problems in the past.

Step Seven: Remember Why You Care: When you work hard to make the real you great, your digital twin shouldn’t be allowed to ruin your reputation. In other words, the online you should be your advocate, not your adversary, and if you don’t manage him or her, you roll the dice and take your chances.

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.

Well Suited: A Practical Approach to Understanding Personalities

By Kostya Kimlat

Kostya KimlatWe’ve been dividing people into four personality types, styles, or patterns since the time of Plato. These days, online personality tests are everywhere. After a number of fun questions you can discover which animal, shape, color or celebrity you’re aligned with. Or take a serious personality test to help identify your management, leadership, or communication style.

If you really want to get to know yourself, you can take a more scientific assessment that not only tells you who you are, but what drives you, motivates you and how people can best work with you. You’ll get thirty-five pages of autobiographical information, which can help you understand yourself.

And that’s great, but when you’re meeting someone for the first time—as you’re exchanging greetings, smiles or handshakes, paying attention and being present—it’s rather difficult to identify them and put them into one of sixteen categories off the top of your head.

And no one ever brings you their thirty-five page assessment and hands it to you like a manual and says, “Here’s who I am and how to deal with me.”If you’re in sales or customer service, reading your audience is critical to your professional success. Click To Tweet

If you’re in sales or customer service, reading your audience is critical to your professional success. This ability has long been a secret of the magician’s success. Magicians are astutely skilled in the fine art of perception and recognizing the individual personalities that comprise their audience.

Next time you watch a close-up magician, pay attention to the audience members and see how they react. There are generally four types of reactions:

  • There’s the excited participant, ready to be blown away by anything.
  • There’s the passive viewer, who is enjoying the show, hoping that they don’t get picked.
  • There’s the take charge A-type that wants to take control of the situation.
  • There’s the skeptical know-it-all who has to figure out the secret.

Now think of the four suits in a deck of playing cards and what images they bring to mind:

  • The Diamonds are shiny and exciting; they yearn to be seen and recognized.
  • The Hearts are compassionate and loving; they wish for everyone to get along.
  • The Spades are quick and strong; they want power and control.
  • The Clubs are very specific; they require attention to detail to be right.

The four suits perfectly align with the Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Merrill-Wilson and the Helen Fisher systems:

  • Diamonds are: Expressive, Explorer, Influence
  • Hearts are: Amiable, Negotiator, Steadiness
  • Spades are: Driver, Director, Dominance
  • Clubs are: Analytical, Builder, Conscientiousness

Once you know which four personality styles align with which suits, you’ll want an easy system to identify which person is exhibiting the behaviors of which suit. To do that, you just need to pay attention to a person’s speed and temperature.

The Speed and Temperature of Suits: What’s amazing about the four suits of a deck of playing cards is that their color and shape connect to a person’s speed or temperature.

First, think of the color of the suits—red or black. When you meet people for the first time, if upon introducing yourself they are open and engaged, they are most likely a red suit—a warm Heart or a Diamond. If they are reserved or withdrawn—acting colder towards you—they are a Spade or Club.

Next, think of the shape of the suits. The Diamonds and Spades have sharp and pointy ends—they move fast and talk fast, just like their edges are fast to draw. They go for the straight line of the situation; they get to the sharp end of the point! So if someone you meet is moving and talking fast, they are a Diamond or a Spade.

Hearts and Clubs are round suits. These people can’t be rushed or pushed to making a decision. They need time. The best way to remember the Clubs is that this suit is very difficult to draw; it requires attention to detail to do it right. So people who are critical, detailed and disciplined—people who require being right—are Clubs.

See how easy it becomes? Just pay attention to how fast/slow and warm/cold someone is. With two questions you’ll have a strong sense of which suit best describes the personality.

  • Warm and Fast? Diamond
  • Warm and Slow? Heart
  • Cold and Fast? Spade
  • Cold and Slow? Club

If you’ve studied other personality evaluation systems you can overlay the four suits over the terms you already know. The four suits make memory recall easier, helping you speed up the entire identifying process. They are a shortcut for your mind.

Depending on your own personality, you may think that this is amazing, or this is all obvious to you. Maybe you’re curious how this will affect others, or maybe you’re ready to put thoughts into actions.

What Hand Were You Dealt? Reacting to the Unique Traits of Suits: If part of your life involves meeting new people, and you want to connect and communicate with them for business or social reasons, there’s nothing better than paying attention to people’s personalities. It provides the groundwork to approach and understand someone. No matter your type, here’s how you can give the people you encounter what they need:

  • If you meet a diamond, provide recognition and attention.
  • If you meet a heart, provide support and approval.
  • If you meet a spade, provide opportunities to take charge and make decisions.
  • If you meet a club, provide opportunities to be “right.”

A great magician provides each of the personalities exactly what they need. For example, he allows the to analyze whether it’s a regular deck of cards. He then lets the decide which card to select by authoritatively shouting “stop!” And he invites the on-stage to receive the attention and credit for seemingly making the magic happen. All the while, he leaves the alone to take pleasure in watching others enjoy themselves.

Once you’re aware of what each suit needs, you, too, can provide each person the right opportunities to thrive, just like a magician.

Shuffling It All Together: Many people have taken personality tests to tell them who they are. But very few people can instantly assess the personality style of someone they meet. Thanks to this magical system, you’re now equipped to do just that.

You don’t have to rack your brain to search for the right word to describe someone. The magician’s method of four suits is simple to learn and easy to use in the real world. When you’re in the trenches of a presentation or negotiation, meeting people and trying to understand them on the fly, utilize the four suits to identify personality types quickly and easily. And then, give them what their suit needs.

The goal is for you to eventually be able to identify the personality styles without even thinking about doing it. Mastering this skill will enable you to be more adaptive to your audience—just like a magician. That will go a long way to help you build that relationship or close that deal.

Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service. For more information about Kostya Kimlat, please visit www.TheBusinessMagician.com.