Tag Archives: management

How to Manage Distracted Employees

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

As all managers know, workday distractions are everywhere, stealing your employees’ precious time and productivity. Between new technologies that beg for people’s attention to the prevalence of shortened attention spans, everyone on your team has the opportunity to be more distracted today than in the past. Of course, being distracted at work creates numerous problems from missed opportunities to strained business relationships. Therefore, you need to effectively manage your employees so their distractions are minimized.

First, realize that there are two categories of distraction. One is internal distraction, and the other is external distraction. Internal distractions include any physiological, emotional, attitudinal, biological, or physical discomfort. Some examples include having an upset stomach or a headache, worrying about a personal or professional matter, feeling overwhelmed with tasks, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, experiencing anger toward a co-worker, grieving a loss, etc. Any of these things can quickly take an employee off track from his or her tasks.

External distractions include other people and technology. Some examples include co-workers who stop by someone’s office to chat, social media and text alerts ringing on a smart phone, email notifications popping up on a computer screen, other employees who talk loudly in the office, etc. These seemingly innocuous items easily divert people’s attention.

The real challenge is that most employees aren’t experiencing just one or two of these distractions. They’re facing multiple each day. Consider this common scenario: A customer service representative is responsible for telephone, email, and chat communications. When a customer calls in, the rep has scripts to follow for each scenario. In addition to working from the memorized scripts, she is also instant messaging with customers and answering emails. In fact, her computer screen is divided into quarters: one quadrant has the details of the caller on the phone, and the other three quadrants are active chats she’s engaging in simultaneously. She’s also in an office space where the physical difference between her and the next customer service representative may be 5 to 8 feet. Even though she’s wearing a headset, she can still hear the other reps talking. The person to her right likes to stand while he talks, so that visually distracts her. The chair she is sitting on is old and uncomfortable. And because the company is trying to save money, they have the thermostat set to 80 degrees in the middle of summer. The distractions seem never-ending!

On top of all the internal and external distractions, organizational structures have changed over the years, packing in more duties and responsibilities to every job description. That means your employees today have to spread their attention thin just to complete their expected workload. With all of these factors, it’s no wonder so many people feel distracted at work.

Fortunately, most distractions can be eliminated from the workplace, if you take the time to manage them. Here’s how.

Design or redesign a job from a distractibility point of view: When a manager has a distracted employee, it’s natural to blame the person and say things like, “He’s not a team player,” “She’s not motivated,” or “He doesn’t work well here.” The manager may even reprimand the individual for poor performance. But before you go that route, take a good look at the job and environment to see if it’s making the employee distracted.

In other words, look at the job from a distractibility point of view. What are the job duties, both the ones explicitly stated in the job description and the ones that person just always seems to do? What’s the working environment like? What visual or auditory distraction triggers are present? How is the office set up? How are the lighting, the chair, and the desk layout? What other factors impact the employee’s efficiency, effectiveness, and performance?

Realize that if the work environment and the job are poorly designed, you will continue to bring in highly talented individuals who will not do well—not because of them, but because of the bad job design. Therefore, before you reprimand, analyze! What you find may surprise you.

Create a Distraction Elimination Plan for your distracted employees: Think back to your elementary school days. You likely had a few kids in the class who always bothered others, threw spit balls, or just stared out the window for hours. What did the teacher do? She had a plan. If the kids were disruptive to the class, she’d move them up front near her. If they were window gazers, she’d orient their desk so they could no longer see the window. No matter what the disruptive behavior, she knew what to do because she had a plan in mind for it.

Good managers do the same. They sit down with the distracted employee and together create a Distraction Elimination Plan (DEP). By working together, they may decide on some physical changes in the office that can help, such as moving to a new cubicle or changing the lighting, or they may figure out some strategies the employee can use to maintain focus, such as not having an email program always open or disabling smart phone alerts.

The great thing about a plan is that it gives you something concrete to reference and use as a benchmark to gauge progress. Additionally, all organizations have risk management plans, strategic plans, operational plans, and business plans … so why not also have distraction elimination plans? Remember, distractions rarely self-resolve. So the better the plan, the better the results.

Offer other resources when needed: Sometimes, even with the manager’s help and a solid DEP in place, the employee is still distracted. In these cases, the manager has to know when to offer additional resources. If your organization has an employee assistance program, you may want to consider making a recommendation to an appropriate resource or service.

If your organization does not have an employee assistance program, then present the idea of additional help in a supportive and neutral fashion. You could even suggest it as a step in the DEP, as in “If the outlined steps in this plan don’t resolve the issue, then the employee will seek outside assistance in the form of a counselor or therapist.” The key is to help the employee find the needed resources in order to determine if their situation is more serious than simple distractions.

No More Distractions: The next time you notice you have some employees who are underperforming, don’t immediately reprimand them. Instead, take the time to determine if there’s something you or the company can do to remove the distractions from the workplace. Distractions don’t have to be a major part of the workday. You can help minimize them. Remember, the fewer distractions people have, the more productive they’ll be.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, is being published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE). Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

There Is No Good Way to Manage People, But We Have To Try Anyway

By Tron JordheimTron Jordheim

“People are people” the old saying goes. That means everyone brings their own personal baggage with them to work. People make poor choices, act rashly and defend their own comfort zones. People have agendas all their own that often have nothing to do with the work agenda that you, as the manager, are promoting.

Sometimes the selfish and petty things people do are no surprise. Some employees repeat a behavior that has been seen before many times if you let them. Infighting, jealousy, jockeying for position and defending turf are pretty normal behaviors. Sometimes the selfish and petty behavior is quite a surprise.

In contrast, every workplace has people who perform well, take care of themselves, are supportive of others on the team when needed and keep below the radar.

The best managers try hard to motivate and guide their people to meet agreed-upon goals. Procedures, protocols and guidelines are put in place to help keep things fair and organized. Feedback, motivation and direction are given. But at the end of the day, good managers realize that there is no good way to manage people.

But since managing people is the key to any business success, you have to try anyway.

There are many books on people management, and you may have practiced all the different styles. If you boil all down the great people management advice as much as you can, there are really only two things to do. One is to make sure your staff is getting ongoing training, feedback, correction and motivation for all their work related behaviors. The other thing you can do is to leave your people alone and let them work. The trick is to know what to do with with each person.

Here are some ways you can try:

Best Practices: Try to create models of best performance and best practices for employees to learn, to copy and to aspire to. You can create goals, requirements and performance thresholds to use as measurement tools. Be fair and consistent in enforcing performance requirements and work rules and be honest with them in your assessment of business conditions, in your communication of company policies and your feelings about their performance.

Know Your People: Try to get to know each of your people so you can find the right way to approach them, motivate and correct each of them. Spend a little time with each of your direct reports and encourage them to spend time with each of their direct reports. Spending time together helps solidify team-work, helps clarify any issues and helps to make sure you and your people are being accountable to each other.

Communicate: Stop relying on email and memos; have personal conversations with the people in your group. Allow your people to be honest with you. Spend at least a little personal time with each person every month if you can. Learn to be a good listener. Your will learn a lot about how to deal with your people if you hear what they say.

Leave Well Enough Alone: Sometimes managers feel that people can perform better and can produce more, but if employees have found a comfortable and satisfactory balance it is best not to disturb. Resist the temptation to over mange them.

There are times your people just need to be left alone to do their jobs. Some days you will work hard to mold people’s behavior and performance when what they really needed was to be left alone to do their jobs. Some days you will leave people alone when what they really needed was to be working with someone. Try to ask yourself each day, who needs time from me today? Ask yourself who needs to be left alone?

If you allow yourself to admit that there is no good way to manage people, you can do your company a lot of good by trying to be a better manager every day. Work on best practices, get to know your people, communicate personally, and above all leave well enough alone. If you try too hard to manage people or if you go too far in attempting to manage behavior, you’ll end up throwing your hands up in the air and declaring there is no good way to manage people!

Tron Jordheim is the CMO of StorageMart, one of the world’s largest privately held self-storage companies with locations across the U.S. and Canada. He has helped lead the company to double digit revenue growth for the last four years by embracing digital marketing and call center support. Jordheim has consulted for companies and spoken at trade events in the U.S., Canada, The U.K., Spain and Mexico. Prior to StorageMart, Jordheim managed one of Culligan Water’s top U.S. bottled water franchises. With 40+ years of experience in sales, marketing and training, he continues to be sought after as a public speaker, sales trainer and consultant. For more information, visit www.tronjordheim.com.

To Drive Performance, Manage the Whole Employee

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

The term “human resources management” is essential in business. But have you noticed that the majority of the literature about the topic focuses on the “resources” and the “management” aspects but barely addresses the “human” element? As a result, most managers see their employees as resources to be managed, and not as a whole person that can contribute so much more.

Managing the whole person means acknowledging that everyone is multi-dimensional and has numerous roles to balance in life—all of which affect job performance. However, this goes much deeper than simply work-life balance. It’s about recognizing all aspects of an employee to ensure a work-life “fit” that benefits the company and each individual. In fact, when you focus on the whole person rather than just on an employee’s work performance, you build more meaningful connections with employees, which results in greater loyalty and productivity. Following are some suggestions for better managing the whole employee.

See the input, not just the output, of each employee: When managing the whole person, you need to look beyond the person’s job description. Look beyond the output (the deadlines, the expectations, and the day-to-day job duties) and start looking at the input factors, as these determine the quality of the output.

Input factors are the drivers and drainers in the employees’ lives that affect their job performance. Some typical input factors include:

  • The employee’s best time of day to get work done
  • What’s going on in the employee’s family
  • The employee’s physical, mental, and emotional health
  • Other stressors the employee has, such as being a caregiver to aging parents, being pregnant, being the only income-earner in the home, etc.
  • What community or hobby events the employee is committed to

Basically, it’s about paying attention to all of the different drivers and drainers of what motivates employees to either perform at the level of acceptable performance, to go above and beyond an acceptable level of performance, or to underperform to expectations. Because all of the various inputs affect the overall output, being aware of the input makes good business sense.

Acknowledge that everyone is multi-dimensional: Many managers believe that finding out about their employees’ lives outside of the work role is intrusive. They don’t want to ask personal questions for fear of appearing nosey. The good news is that you don’t have to ask questions to find out about people. You simply have to acknowledge the clues that are all around you.

For example, if you see photos of children in someone’s office, you don’t have to ask, “Are those your kids?” You can simply comment, “Those are beautiful children.” With that one acknowledgment, most people will open up, tell you who the children are, and offer lots more personal information. Likewise, if you see sports gear stashed away in a corner of someone’s cubicle, you don’t have to ask, “Do you play tennis [or whatever sport is evident]?” Instead, you can comment, “I’ve always been interested in tennis.” Again, the person will naturally start talking about the sport, the team or league she’s on, her accomplishments, and so much more. While it’s true that most people don’t want to sit through a session of 20 questions with their manager, they do enjoy being acknowledged—not just for their work, but also for their other interests.

Look at the big picture, not just the day-to-day details: The average full-time employee works 2,080 hours per year…at the office. That doesn’t include time the employee puts in at night and on the weekends. With all of today’s technological innovations, more and more people are connected to work 24/7, even while on vacation. As the separation between work and life becomes narrowed—what many people are referring to as a “blur” of roles—a person’s ability to focus intently on any one role becomes more difficult, resulting in errors and burnout.

In many organizations the managers set the expectation for this blur because they’re not looking at the big picture of what the organization accomplishes; rather, they are focusing on the day-to-day stressors, the errors, the requests for time off, or the employee’s lunch hour that was really an hour and a half. By keeping your eye on the day-to-day details, you’re missing the big picture of what your people really contribute. In essence, you’re adding undue stress on everyone—including yourself. Of course, details are important, but it’s also vital to take a step back and look at the big picture so you can see your employees as people and not as parts of a machine to be fixed.

Take Management to a “Whole” New Level: When you put the “human” element back into human resources management, you’re acknowledging the needs of the employees so they can perform better. When employees feel recognized as more than just a number on a monthly report, they tend to give you more discretionary effort or what’s called “citizenship behavior,” where they’re supportive of other employees and of the organization as a whole. As an added benefit, when employees are more supportive of their managers, the manager’s workload becomes less stressful too. Ultimately, the sooner you recognize all the drivers and drainers that impact people and then manage them, the sooner you’ll be able to create a high-performing team.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Seven Ways to Keep Young Sales Reps from Crashing and Burning

By Lance CooperLance Cooper

Millennials enter the nation’s sales teams as the most parented generation in history. Yet, they do not have the goals or plans to achieve compelling ambitions. Today, 20 million young men delay maturing until their late 20s and are without solid commitments and responsibilities guiding their lives. This leads to “helicopter parented” boys and girls often crash-landing when they try to take on the demanding responsibilities of monthly sales production.

Many young and seasoned sales managers have not been prepared for this new generation of sales reps. As a result, they often see the following three scenarios:

  • Fast Start Fades: A sales manager hires an engaging young man who seems full of fire and enthusiasm. His early success causes the sales manager to feel good about the hire. And, then it happens: he watches the new recruit’s enthusiasm and production fade.
  • Roller Coaster Rep: A new hire works hard to sell enough to meet assigned budget numbers, and then falls short the next month. Back and forth; up and down. The rep sells just enough to get close to budget and then misses for two months only to rise again, hit budget, and survive being fired.
  • Character Losses: Despite their helicopter parents, many young men and women today enter a sales team without the basic values and character traits necessary to make a positive social impact on new customers. If they do sell at quota, they may do so with poor customer satisfaction and unfulfilled co-worker needs.

New reps with these performance issues foster a poor sales culture with low referral rates and repeat business. This brings inconsistency to monthly sales production, creates high turnover, and may impact the company’s brand or reputation or marketplace.

Building a productive sales team from New Millennial candidates requires paying attention to two important areas: Recruiting, and Coaching. Here are seven ways to keep young sales reps from crashing and burning.

1. Use structured questions and validated profiles designed to identify the character traits, personality traits and sales competencies which would be possessed by a successful sales hire. These traits would include: honest and ethical, hard work ethic, personal responsibility, deadline motivated, a need for independence, asking questions and listening, and presenting solutions. For example, some sample questions could be, “Tell me about some previous successes at school, work, sports, a sales position, or with your hobbies. What was important about ______ to you? What was it about you that led to success?” “What is the minimum amount of money you must earn with us to feel successful?”

When asking questions, make sure you hire someone who has a motivational center, meaning they have a specific reason to excel. Also, hire someone who has to make enough money equal to or above the income earned at your minimum sales standard.

2. Install a 90-day ramp-up process designed to cause the candidate to exclaim, “Wow, this is a better company and sales job than I expected when I was hired!” Ask for feedback from reps on the sales team and create a checklist that includes training, introductions, and celebrating progress points.

3. During the first 90 days, have the sales rep complete a Survival/Lifestyle goal setting sheet which details the amount of money they need to survive and the additional monthly amounts to sell beyond survival and to fulfill a better lifestyle (building saving accounts, paying off debt, saving for new homes, etc.) You will discover some of their motivating influences when you do this; both you and your rep will know what income is important and why.

4. Get to know the rep and customize your coaching approach. Develop a scavenger list of 12 personal and important things to know about each rep. Interestingly, even helicopter-parented reps do not often feel they’ve been listened to by authority figures or that anyone has really tried to get to know them. What you learn will help you tailor your coaching for each rep. What they learn about you when you listen will increase their trust in your coaching.

5. Learn to ask coaching and mentoring questions. Then, begin asking these questions during a foundation interview for the new rep. This foundation interview will contain anchor questions like, “What do you want?” follow by layered questions like, “Why is ____ important to you?” “What difference will not being able to pay for ____ make in your life?” “How are you impacted by goals for which you have a low commitment?”

6. Help each rep develop a sales plan and show them the activity levels necessary to reach their lifestyle goals (see 3 above). Focus your reps on the activity levels (prospects found, first appointments held, presentations done) and the character and personality traits that will maintain these levels: hard work, perseverance, discipline, adapting to personalities, asking questions and listening. As a mentor, teach them how to handle setbacks and challenges. Many Millennial employees have been taught to believe that trophies and results are earned by merely showing up. Therefore, recognize and reward effort, courage, persistence and self-discipline. For example, reward behaviors like meeting prospecting and appointment goals or handling tough customer problems with great service. Do not harangue them for results in the absence of a process.

7. Operate your sales team with standards. Examples of areas in which to set standards are as follows: honest and ethical behavior, activity levels, dress, customer follow-up and minimum sales results. When introducing young reps to these standards, always explain why they exist and how they help people. If standards are not met, make sure you enforce them at once; do not wait to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. Then, once defined and enforced, make sure the reps know that you believe they have what it takes and they can get better; they can achieve the results for which they strive.

You can develop high-performance cultures with today’s young people. When you do the actions outlined above, you can recruit better reps and then coach them to high performance. You will teach people to sell beyond quota, above survival and at activity levels necessary for the incomes they want. You, and they, can do this.

Lance Cooper is a keynote speaker and author of “Selling BEYOND Survival: The Essential System for High-Activity Sales Professionals.” Lance is president of SalesManage Solutions, a company that teaches sales leaders how to recruit sales superstars and coach teams to greatness. For more information, please visit sellingbeyondsurvival.com or email him at lcooper@salesmanage.com.

The Impact of Domestic Violence at Your Workplace & How You Can Help

By Penny Lauer

Penny Lauer

Don’t assume that the co-worker or employee who is frequently late, absent, emotional with co-workers, tired, depressed or frequently calling in ill – and is frustrating you to no end- is lazy, lying or uninterested in his or her job or company. Chances are that there is another very deep-rooted reason for that employee’s poor job performance, a reason that affects one out of every four women and one out of every fourteen men in the United States: Domestic Violence, a national social problem that impacts each and every one of us from our relationships to our safety and to our personal and business wallets.

Here are the national statistics:

  • 21% of full-time employed adults suffer from domestic violence
  • 75% of abusers of working women use workplace resources to express remorse or anger toward their victims, to check up on them, or to pressure and threaten them to quit their jobs
  • 24% of American employers, both large and small, have reported incidents of violence in the workplace by an abusive partner of an employee. That figure reflects only those employers who understand DV and allowed the issue to be raised by their employees.
  • Overall, experts indicate that DV costs U.S. businesses an estimated $3-$5 B annually in lost time and productivity, and yet only 4% of all working establishments train employees on DV and its impact

Another disturbing fact is that domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in this country, especially among women and children. When a woman needs her job the most – when she is trying to leave her partner – the abuse gets worse and so does her job performance. It’s at that point that she is often fired. With no source of income and no support system, she can end up on the streets.

Unbelievable as it may seem, an abuser generally doesn’t want his partner to work – not because he can’t use the income, but because her success, interaction with others and time from him is seen by him as diminishing his power. The economic self-sufficiency of his victim challenges his control and he will do anything to keep that from happening, including these behaviors that sabotage his partner’s ability to work:

  • Keeping her awake at night so that she will perform badly during the day and lose respect –poor performance
  • Hiding her car keys or inventing issues to keep her in the house so that she will be late to work -tardiness
  • Destroying her work clothes – absenteeism, loss of respect
  • Degrading her verbally and emotionally so that she actually feels that she is not qualified to do her work and has no respect among her co-workers – anxiety and depression
  • Physically abusing her before or after work for taking time from him or not fulfilling his needs at home – fear, stress, absenteeism due to injury
  • Stalking her at work and frightening her through phone calls or coming to her place of work if he sees her interacting with fellow employees – fear and embarrassment to her and co-workers
  • Threatening to harm her co-workers out of jealousy, which often results in her staying away from work or quitting all together

Often, those women who are trying hard to become self-sufficient and leave their abusers in order to make better lives for themselves and their children lose their jobs and return to their abusers, go on welfare or become homeless. It doesn’t have to be that way, and there are steps that can be taken by employers to ensure that women don’t become even more victimized, while, at the same time, help ensure productivity and reduce company expenses.

Workplace support can significantly help victims when they’re attempting to free themselves from violent situations at home, but historically, particularly among small to medium-sized businesses, employers simply don’t understand domestic violence and its consequences and don’t provide opportunities for their workers to discuss the reasons behind their poor performance. And often their genuine desire to respect their employee’s privacy interferes with their objectivity. In fact, only four percent of all working establishments train their employees on domestic violence and its impact in the workplace. That’s easy to correct. Here are some suggestions:

  • Employers must be sensitive and not assume anything when it comes to poor job performance and must remember that when they hire someone, they’re hiring the whole package, not just job skills.
  • Supervisory personnel must approach the problems introduced by an emotional, stressed and physically incapacitated employee through discussing objective job performance measures to begin focusing on the underlying personal problems.
  • Be pro-active. Familiarize yourselves with community resources available to victims and make lists that are readily available to them. Encourage the employee to seek professional counseling and assistance before job loss becomes a possibility. Additionally, if appropriate, put her in touch with an attorney to assist her in securing a Protection Order.
  • Once informed about past or ongoing abuse, alert security and address legal issues with the employee.
  • Provide security in the workplace. Help screen calls, walk the victim to her car, and call the police if the abuser enters the workplace and refuses to leave.
  •  Show compassion. Your empathy could be the only signs of respect and caring the victim has received in a lifetime.

Never doubt for one moment that by becoming smarter about this issue you will not only be improving your workplace, but you could also be saving someone’s life. At the very least, you could be someone’s hero and make your company more successful. Do some research. Find out the names of those corporations that understand the issue of domestic violence and have programs in place through their HR departments to help employees who are victims, and then develop your own safeguards. Domestic violence is a huge social ill in this country that affects one-fourth of all working men and women and their children and costs our federal, state and local governments and our businesses billions of dollars each year. Don’t be caught off guard when the issue becomes a part of your own business. Develop a plan now. Become a part of the solution.

Penny Lauer is an author, motivational speaker, and writing consultant for memoirs. She spent several years working with abused women. Her latest novel, Skipping Stones, tackles the subject of domestic violence in an upscale community. Contact Penny at penlauer@hotmail.com for further information.