Tag Archives: management

The Overlooked Management Tool

Staff Meetings Matter More Than You Might Think

By Kate Zabriskie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STEP TWO: Highlight Relevant Metrics

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

STEP THREE: Follow a Formula and Rotate Responsibility

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

STEP FOUR: Celebrate Successes

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

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

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

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

STEP FIVE: Focus on Lessons Learned and Continuous Improvement

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

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

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

STEP SIX: Develop a Schedule and Stick with It

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

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

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

7 Habits to Take Your Workplace Culture to New HEIGHTS

By Elizabeth McCormick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting with Customers Through the Keyboard: Getting Your Chat Service Right

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie-chatCustomer: Hi, I’m having a problem with my bill. I’m being charged 50 dollars more than what I expected. Could someone please help? I’m finding this very frustrating. Thank you.

Chat Agent: Hello! Glad you are chatting with me this morning! This is Matt. What can I do for you today?

Customer to Himself: Huh? Well for starters, Matt, you could read what I typed before asking what you can do! Furthermore, you can take that smile off your face

Providing exceptional service via chat involves more than simply choosing a technology platform. Chat is a distinct communication channel with its own set of rules, and organizations that choose to implement a chat system need to prepare their service representatives to use it effectively.

Step One

After you’ve chosen a chat platform or while that activity is in process, you should determine who on your team is well suited to serve customers online. Chat service providers should be able to type, and they should have a basic command of English spelling and grammar.

Step Two

Once you have a team in mind, you must identify some rules to guide their chats. The following questions are examples of basic considerations you should know the answers to before your representatives start typing.

  • How many chats should an agent handle at once? (In the beginning, nobody should attempt more than one, and even experienced agents shouldn’t divide their attention among more than three.)
  • What topics can and can’t be addressed via chat? Depending on your industry, regulations may limit what your representatives can and can’t say.
  • When will you move customers to a different mode of communication if chat is not appropriate?A good way to start thinking about your organization’s look and sound is to start chatting. Click To Tweet

Step Three

Sometimes organizations implement chat, and the tone of what’s typed takes on a stilted or off-brand look and feel. For that reason, it’s important to think about what on-brand messaging looks like before rolling out the chat platform.

How should a chat start if a customer has already shared information? What words and phrases align with your brand? What words and phrases should providers avoid?

How should representatives address angry or frustrated customers? In what way should greetings differ?

A good way to start thinking about your organization’s look and sound is to start chatting. Visits sites that use chat. Think about each experience: what you liked, what you didn’t, the brand you felt, and so forth.

Step Four

Be prepared for the obvious. Anyone who has worked in service usually starts to notice patterns. For example, if the provider is an online retailer, close to the holidays the organization may receive more inquiries about delivery times. If the provider is a utility, representatives may realize they receive more inquiries about billing on certain days of the week.

The point is to plan for the expected. Just as telephone service agents in most industries should know how to handle the top twenty or thirty customer requests without having to reference a lot of documentation, the same is true for chat. Consistency is essential. This is especially true when it comes to the basics.

Before being set loose with a keyboard, providers should go through both systems training and roleplays that address common inquiries.

Step Five

Determine the extent to which you wish to use canned responses. Pre-written text has its plusses and minuses. On the plus side, it’s quick, it’s not written in the moment, and it’s had the opportunity to be proofread by one or more people. On the other hand, canned text can sound canned. Furthermore, representatives sometimes choose pre-written responses that don’t get to the heart of what a customer is asking.

So what’s an organization to do? The answer to that question varies. No matter the option chosen, canned text should sound conversational. If you wouldn’t say what’s written in the course of natural speech, it probably isn’t right.

Chat is supposed to be a dialogue. It’s not a brochure, the text from a website, or worse still, verbiage from a policy or legal document.

One way to help maintain a conversational tone is to keep your text short. Long sentences usually equate to a longwinded or unnatural feel.

A good place to source potential pre-written responses is from your representatives’ actual chats. If your organization is like most places, some people will show a natural gift for chat. Why not leverage their strengths and skills?

Step Six

Learn from your failures and your successes. When service goes wrong, most first-rate organizations address the shortcomings. Beyond fixing what’s broken, the best organizations also invest time in figuring out what went right and why. They then replicate the good.

As with any service interaction, chat can go well, or it can go poorly. The key is monitoring, course correcting, and standardizing success.

Providers and their supervisors should regularly review chats. What can we leverage? Where are the opportunities? What was on-brand? What was off-brand? The questions are essentially endless.

The trick is to systematically ask and answer them. The more methodically you evaluate your chats, the quicker you will capitalize on what works and eliminate what doesn’t.

Step Seven

Chat training is not a one-and-done activity. Needs change, technology evolves, and staff turns over. Ideally, organizations should focus on one or two best practices a week, they evaluate the pre-written text twice a year, and they spot check transcripts daily.

Chat is no longer a novelty, and more customers expect their service providers to offer it. No matter where your business is in the chat-implementation process, there is always room to improve the way you connect through a keyboard.

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.

One-on-One Coaching: The Most Effective Way to Develop Your People

By Jeffrey W. Foley

Jeffrey Foley: one-on-one coachingEffective one-on-one coaching is one of the most important skills a great leader must possess. Effective coaching inspires in others an internal drive to act ethically, without direction, to achieve goals. Effective coaching drives performance, builds competence and confidence, and ultimately enhances relationships. The best coaches help people find ways to make things happen as opposed to creating excuses why they can’t.

Effective coaching also requires you to believe in yourself. You need to believe that you can have an impact in the workplace, and that you can inspire others to achieve their goals they might not otherwise achieve. The real question is not if you will make a difference, but what difference you will make.

Respectful, transparent, and regular face-to-face communication between leaders and their people breaks down barriers and builds trust. What you can see in a person’s eyes or other body language can be revealing. While technology can be effective at times, it will never replace human contact for discovery and inspiration.

The most impactful leaders are adept listeners, and don’t allow their egos to become roadblocks. When egos are alive and well, listening ceases, effective coaching environments disappear, and organizations suffer.

Here are three recommendations that can help you raise the bar on your ability to coach others.Effective one-on-one coaching is one of the most important skills a great leader must possess. Click To Tweet

1. Create a positive and open environment for communication

People listen to and follow leaders they trust. They engage in meaningful dialog with people they trust. They are not afraid to disagree with people they trust. Trust provides the foundation for a positive and open communication environment where connections between people can thrive.

When people connect, they learn about each other. They enable understanding of cultures, individual strengths and challenges. Knowing your people’s unique capabilities and desires helps focus on how to help them be successful.

Knowing your people also reduces the probability of promoting someone into a management position who does not want it or is not otherwise qualified. Not all physicians want to be managers. Not all sales people want to be sales managers. Not all technicians want to be a shop foreman. The costs can be exorbitant to an organization that wrongly promotes someone into a management position.

There are three questions that can help establish this open line of communication: What is on your mind? What can I do for you? What do you think? How am I making your life more difficult? When asked with the genuine interest, people respond with more honesty.

Meet with your people regularly helps break down barriers. Not just in your office, but on the manufacturing floor, outside the operating room, in the cafeteria, or the warehouse. Talk to folks outside the work area like the jogging track, grocery store or the kid’s soccer game. The informal sessions can be wonderful enablers of opening the line of communication.

2. Establish agreed upon goals and strategies to achieve

Most people want to know what success looks like. They want to be clear in their goals as an individual and, if appropriate, the leader of a team. Well-defined, measurable, relevant goals on paper help people gain clarity on success for them. Assigning responsibility with authority helps inspire an individual’s commitment to be successful.

Success also includes how to reach their goals. Strategies are developed and agreed upon by the manager and team member so that both understand each other’s roles. The probability of success increases dramatically when strategies and accountabilities are well defined.

3. Enforce accountability by assessing performance

There are many and significant consequences when people are not held accountable for achieving goals or otherwise performing to standard. Integrity disappears. Discipline erodes. Morale evaporates. Leaders are not taken seriously. Problem employees become a cancer in the organization. The best people leave. Results are not achieved.

Effective coaching demands assessment of performance. Without this assessment, no system of accountability will be achieved. If the senior leader does not hold his or her executive team accountable, subordinate leaders are likely to think “Why should I?”

Consistent, regularly scheduled coaching sessions with your people are the key to ensuring effective follow-up assessments to celebrate successes and identify areas to improve.

Summary

Coaching session agendas will vary based on a variety of conditions. A good place to start is outlined below.

First, review the individual goals and those of the organization. Ensure alignment of both to clarify where the individual is contributing to the mission of the organization.

Second, discuss what is going well. Where do both the coach and the individual agree on successes? Provide positive recognition for achievements where important.

Third, discuss the challenges or areas for improvement. Underwrite honest mistakes in the pursuit of excellence so people can learn. Determine how you as the manager can help. Gain a clear understanding of the shortfall in the individual’s ability and desire to achieve the goal and what resources or assistance the individual needs to be successful. When unsatisfactory performance occurs, managers must address it. Leaders who never take action to remove an underperformer are doing a great disservice to their institution. All too often, good people serving in leadership positions fear the task of confrontation. They hope, magically, that something will happen which will turn the underperformer around and all will be well in the end. Hope is not a strategy; the magic seldom happens. Your goal as a leader and coach is to inspire a willingness to succeed. When coaching, it is often easier to criticize and find fault. Think before you speak—find ways to praise.

Fourth, as the manager, seek suggestions for how you can be a more effective leader for them. This question can change the dynamic of the coaching session and can provide powerful feedback for the manager in his or her quest to be the best they can be. Doing so will enhance their trust in you and help build confidence in their own capabilities.

Remember, effective one-on-one coaching can be the catalyst for attracting and retaining the best people, and that will ultimately help your organization to unprecedented results.

 Jeff Foley is a recognized speaker, executive leadership coach, and author of Rules and Tools for Leaders. He is a West Point graduate and retired as a Brigadier General having served thirty-two years in the Army. Drawing on his unique military experience, Jeff uses his singular insight to build better leaders. For more information on Jeff Foley, visit www.loralmountain.com.

Controlling Corporate Healthcare Costs

5 Simple Steps to Reduce Costs and Improve Care

By Dr. Josh Luke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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