Some organizations will use the terms essential and non-essential workers as a way to distinguish between who needs to be on site in the event of an emergency, and who does not. I do understand the purpose of this distinction, however, it’s very important that businesses not give the impression that some employees are more important or valuable than others. (more…)
I would like you to think about a great boss or mentor you had sometime in your career. What made them great? When I ask this question to seminar participants or during an executive coaching session I get responses such as “Gives me excellent ongoing feedback”, “Has a vision and knows how to execute the strategy”, “Builds an excellent and supportive team”, “Took the time to teach me the business”, and “Is supportive, respectful and compassionate.”
As you look at the above responses, what comes to mind? In asking this question to hundreds of people in many settings it has led me to one conclusion – great leaders know how to drive business results, and inspire others to want to follow.
When teaching service excellence workshops I often discuss the two-sided service coin. One side represents the “technical” side of service, the other the “human” side. The technical side of service represents the day to day responsibilities of one’s job (e.g. assisting customers, completing reports, etc.). The human side involves building the relationship with all internal and external customers (e.g. acknowledging the customer, following-through on customer commitments, demonstrating kindness and respect, etc.)
During the holiday season we are reminded to give thanks and extend our best wishes to family, friends, and colleagues. It’s a time to step back and reflect upon the accomplishments achieved in collaboration with your team, and feel a sense of gratitude for what you have.
Do you take the time to acknowledge the contributions of others? Do you have a full appreciation for the importance of giving praise?
Many years ago I had an eye opening meeting with an engineering director named Pete. The purpose of the meeting was to update Pete on the progress of my work with several members of his team. I facilitated a process improvement initiative that ended up saving the company over one hundred thousand dollars. In spite of this outcome, the group had very low morale. One day I stopped one of our meetings and asked the team why they were so upset. They said “Pete doesn’t value us.” I asked “Why do you feel this way?” Their response was “He never shows appreciation for our work.” I shared this story with Pete in an attempt to provide him with a valuable insight. His response was “I don’t need to tell them how much I value them, they are engineers and should know how well they are doing.” I said “Pete, everyone wants to be appreciated. It’s not based on one’s position or degree. You need to express to your team how much you value them.”
To this day, I can still see Pete struggling to understand the importance of giving thanks.
The following are a few suggestions for leaders regarding expressing thanks:
Many years ago at my first management job, I cried while firing an employee.
It was the first time I had ever fired someone, and this employee was an older woman whose part-time job was being eliminated. She comforted me, patting my arm and offering me a Kleenex.
Although no one else saw me cry, I was extremely embarrassed and vowed then and there that I would never cry at work again. It took a few years, but I learned to control my emotions and was able to stop crying at work. It was a big step forward for me in attaining the professionalism I craved. Or was it?
According to Charles Duhigg in his newly released book, The Power of Habit, Rhode Island Hospital was one of the nation’s leading medical institutions. It was the teaching hospital for Brown University and the only Level I trauma center in southeastern New England. Rhode Island Hospital also had a reputation as “a place riven by internal tensions”. In one surgery for instance, a neurosurgeon was preparing an emergency surgery for an elderly gentleman with a critical subdural hematoma. Just before the surgery a surgical nurse noticed that the medical chart and other paper work did not indicate the location of the hematoma. The nurse cautioned that the surgeon should wait until the needed paper work was seen. The surgeon yelled at her that he had seen the cranial scan and said he knew where to operate. He didn’t. He opened the skull on the wrong side. Although he corrected his mistake quickly, the patient died soon thereafter. Such errors are not foreign to most hospitals but the number of errors at this hospital due to poor communication, especially between nurses and physicians who overpowered them with their authority, eventually created a culture of high tension and anxiety.
We have had a lot of requests for the recorded version of our Webcourse – Creating a Credit Card on File Program in Your Practice, and we are excited to say that it is now available! For $29.95 you will receive the 60 minute video recording of the course, as well as the course slide deck, and the action pack of handouts to get you started on the program including:
Worksheet for Credit Card on File Program Return on Investment
Staff Script & Role Playing Suggestions for Staff Training
Sample Security Policy to Comply With PCI Guidelines
Credit Card on File Program Timeline Worksheet
Credit Card Program Comparison Worksheet
Patient Handout #1: Information About Our Credit Card on File Program & Discontinuation of Statements
Patient Handout #2: What is a Deductible and How Does It Affect Me?
We are also very excited to be adding a second book to our store: Heart and Soul in the Boardroom by Bob Cooper. We have been thrilled to reprint some of Bob’s great posts about leadership, and are now honored to sell his book. Heart and Soul in the Boardroom is a book that champions honesty, authenticity, and a management style based on a real assessment of success – both in the workplace, and in the workplace’s relationship to your life.
Get Bob’s Book for $14.50 plus 2.95 shipping and handling. And if you are buying for a group (or department, or your staff!) Bob will ship them free with the purchase of three or more!
You thought the individual would be a self-starter, but you found yourself having to give constant direction. Perhaps you needed someone with excellent customer service skills, and received complaints about the individual’s attitude and behavior.
One explanation for this dilemma can be found in the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Buckingham and Clifton. The authors differentiate between knowledge, skills, and talents. Talents are innate, whereas skills and knowledge can be acquired through learning and practice. You don’t teach someone to be a self-starter, no more than you teach someone to have a talent for empathy. This is why even after providing training on assertiveness skills, or how to provide excellent customer service, we don’t see much improvement or any at all.
I learned this lesson many years ago from a mentor named Bill. Bill was Vice President of Distribution and an excellent talent scout. During an off-site management retreat, Bill introduced his new warehouse supervisor. Bill explained that what he needed for this position was someone who has excellent communication skills, is decisive, and assumes accountability. Bill explained that he found the new warehouse supervisor in his health club. He had observed over several months how this individual communicated with others, the respect he was shown, and how he thought about resolving problems. Some of you might be thinking – “He found a manager while working out?” The point Bill was making is that he knew that he can provide the knowledge and skills required to be a warehouse supervisor, but he needed the talent to lead. I remember the day Bill asked me to move from the position of Quality Circle Facilitator (a staff position) to Customer Service Manager (with 30 direct reports). I said “Bill, I don’t know this operation, and I have never held a management position – why did you select me?” He looked me in the eye and said “Bob, people believe in you, and will follow you. You will learn the departmental functions, I can’t teach what you have.”
The point in sharing these stories from Bill is this – you must think about your hiring and promotional decisions very carefully. If you focus primarily on knowledge and skills which can be taught, and overlook an individuals talent, you can find yourself regretting the decision.
How do you find talent?
One strategy is to use behavioral-based interviews to assess whether or not this person has the talent you need. For example, if you require someone who is decisive, you might tailor your questions toward asking the candidate to discuss difficult decisions they had to make, and how they went about it. You might need to follow-up by asking for specifics. If empathy is an important talent, you might ask the individual to describe specific situations where a customer was very upset, and how they handled the situation. Pay close attention to how they describe the situation, and whether you get a sense that they fully connect with the importance of empathy. Although this is not an exact science, it puts the focus of your interview on the most important area – talent. We often make the mistake of looking at a resume and being overly impressed with the individual’s accomplishments. The real question is – how did they go about getting the job done? Are they consensus builders? Do they build strong teams? How did they overcome obstacles? Did they develop a successor? With an internal candidate, don’t make the mistake of promoting someone who has good technical skills and poor interpersonal skills, with the hope that they will learn to deal more effectively with others. Identify the talents needed for the role, and determine if this individual “owns” this or not. Don’t try to train them to be strategic, or nice, or anything else. They are who they are, and that’s OK. Select individuals who demonstrate on an ongoing basis the talents needed for success.
You might not find your next manager in a health club, but leaders should always pay attention to an individual’s talents.
Our role as leaders is to build on people’s strengths, not placing too much attention on improving weaknesses. Place individuals in jobs that allow them to leverage their strengths. If someone loves dealing with customers, and has a natural ability to do so, don’t put them in the back office. If someone doesn’t deal well with others, don’t force them into a position where they need to build consensus, and then be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
I encourage you to use peer-interviewing as a strategy to find a good fit for a position. The person being hired will need to work well with colleagues, so why not engage the colleagues in the selection process. Teach your staff to also be talent scouts.
An organization is only as good as its people. Being a good talent scout is a competitive advantage. You build customer and staff loyalty, reduce turnover and the associated recruitment expenses, and build a winning team for the future.
Always be on the look out for talent, it’s always around you.
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Innovations in Organizational Management
In between polishing off leftover turkey and stuffing, we’re looking back over some of our most popular posts from the month in case you might’ve missed them the first go round. Thankfully Presenting, The Best of Manage My Practice, November 2011!
Are you the kind of leader that can see your group through the toughest of times? Bob Cooper asks practice managers in Are You a Resilient Leader?
We’ve started this monthly wrap-up to make sure you don’t miss any of the great stuff we post throughout the month on Manage My Practice, but we also want to hear from you! What were your favorite posts and discussions this month? Did we skip over your favorite from November? Let us know in the comments!
A great column in last week’s BusinessWeek by Carmine Gallo gives the reader 4 steps to making difficult conversations with employees and coworkers more productive. I like his steps, but I have four of my own, and I’ll let you choose which works for you. Read Carmine’s suggestions here.
Here are my four steps:
Step 1. Always start with a question. I rarely feel that I know the complete story so I typically ask for more information about the issue or behavior in question. Nine times out of ten I learn something I didn’t know that helps the conversation. Asking questions and clarifying information usually gets both parties a little more comfortable.
Step 2. Express your concern about the issue or behavior and let the employee know why you’re concerned. More information helps the employee see how their work interacts with someone else’s or contributes to the organization as a whole.
Step 3. Ask for the employee’s input in solving the issue or behavior. There may be several solutions that would work, and choosing the best one together, or letting the employee choose one is a win/win.
Step 4. Restate the action plan for the resolution and close the meeting with an invitation for either of you to meet again if the issue needs revisiting.
It may be hard to talk to employees and coworkers about issues or behaviors, but if you are in a leadership position, you must learn how to have hard conversations of all types. The secret is asking questions and collaborating on solutions.