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Honor: Applicable in the Workplace?

honor1Most every school has something they call the ‘honor roll’ and it’s always a distinguished recognition of those students who are doing things right and are successful in the classroom.  But when we move from the halls of academia and into the world of business, it becomes more and more challenging to know when you are ‘doing things right.’  It’s my opinion that even in the business environment, one’s honor can still be utilized as a measurement tool of a managers effectiveness and overall success within the workplace.

In today’s organizations, it’s easy for managers to feel compelled to ‘adapt’ or be everything to everyone.  But being a person of excellence – one of respect, means you must strike a careful balance in all your actions and decisions in order to maintain your honor in the eyes of others.  We’ve all heard the horror stories of those bad bosses that basically take advantage of every opportunity – both ethical and unethical ones – just to get ahead and benefit only themselves.  It’s those scenarios that play out in the minds of workers that create a tension sometimes between various levels in the workplace, i.e. upper management and other workers.  Therefore, to correct or improve upon that stereotypical mindset…it’s vital that today’s managers display honor in the workplace.  How can one maintain his or her honor and still be an effective manager?  Here are five suggestions to consider:

  • Be honest – It’s critical to be honest with your employees whenever they ask direct questions…or even indirect questions.  If you try to lie or exaggerate truths, then you will be found out and your image of honor will be damaged beyond repair.  Always be tactful, but truthful.
  • Trust others – Give others a chance to develop that trusting relationship.  The more you trust others, then the more others will view you as being trustworthy.  Be sure to develop a strong bond with your workforce and always-always-always keep your word.
  • Protect your space – Don’t feel like you have to be a ‘part of the crowd’ just to be liked or honored by the workforce.  It’s easy to be lured into doing things that everyone else is doing.  So be mindful of what is ‘appropriate’ behavior, then guard your personal space to maintain and display that behavior.
  • Operate on facts – Identify and call out others (if you have to) that are spreading rumors, gossip or any information that can’t be proven or substantiated.  Sending a strong message that you’re only interested in facts will show others that you don’t want to participate in the ‘water cooler conversations’.
  • Know the difference – Be able to distinguish between an honorable act and a dishonorable act.  If it doesn’t sound right, feel right or look right…then more than likely it’s a dishonorable action.  So, be cautious and think before you act or before you speak.  Not knowing the difference is probably the quickest way to be out of a job.

These are just a few suggestions to help you in establishing and/or maintaining your honor in the workplace.  Take time this week to practice these and other ideas and see what type of response you get from others.  Have a great day!!

 

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Making Your Word Count

Word

(Repost of ‘Your Word, Your Brand’ of April 5, 2013)

Most of us have certain defining moments in our lives that make us stop to ponder that age-old question, “Why do I do what I do?”  Whether you’re at the helm of a large corporation with thousands of employees or you sack groceries at the local neighborhood supermarket…we all have various reasons for the paths we take in life and at times it is important to reflect on the choices we make.  One of those defining moments for me was standing in my office on the morning of September 11, 2001 and watching the events unfold on television regarding the terrorist attacks in New York City and the countless lives that were lost that day.  On that day, it was no longer about meeting a print deadline or making sure enough ink pens were ordered or even making sure I got my car payment in the mail on time…it was all about ‘what am I doing to make a difference in the lives of others?’  That internal question defined a whole new way of thinking for me and changed the course of how I managed others.

For me, I quickly realized that there were no policies and procedures, no personnel manuals, no workplace training and no professional management courses that can replace your spoken “word”.  I would even go as far to say that the days of cutting a business deal with a simple smile and a handshake were back – for me, at least.  And looking back at that internal question of how am I making a difference, I knew that when I take away all of the glitz and glamor…my “word” was the most valuable tool I had to make a true difference.

As managers, it is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of business operations that we tend to forget that what we say and do affect many others around us – individual workers, multiple families, whole communities.  It’s easy to get riled up and ticked off at upper management or your colleagues or your customers (yes, even your customers can tick you off); but if you want to make a true difference – don’t let those things steal your joy or your passion for doing what you do because your word IS your brand.  When it comes right down to it…your ‘word’ – who you say you are – is all you have when you really want to impact and encourage your employees or when you are negotiating a business deal to bring jobs and revenue to your local community or when you’re trying to motivate others toward a common goal.

I experienced another one of those defining moments just a few months ago with the tragic loss of my 22 year old nephew.  Realizing how we all have such a brief window of opportunity to mark our spot in this world and to make a difference in the lives of others is an energizing and rejuvenating jolt that should bring us all back to the core of why we do, what we do.  There’s a quote by an anonymous writer that says, “You’re only as good as your word.  Use them wisely, and stick by them.  That’s capital worth investing in.”  We all need to heed this saying and integrate its meaning into our lives.

So, I guess this blog post is geared toward encouraging you to do your very best in keeping your integrity in check and being true to who you say you are – so you can truly make a difference in the lives of those who cross your path – whether it be your employees, co-workers, friends or even family members.  How you brand yourself speaks volumes to others.  I challenge you to take some time this week and reflect on how you can make a difference and what you can be doing right now – today – to make that happen.  Then, go mark your spot in this world!

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Create a ‘Shiny Quarter’ Moment

quarterWhen I was just a young lad, I always loved to do things outdoors and go exploring through the woods in the back-hills of Kentucky.  There’s nothing that can get your adrenaline pumping like finding a shiny quarter on an old dirt path, chasing a wild rabbit through a field or discovering that the tree you’re standing under has a huge, active hornets nest hanging directly above you.  Boy – those were the days!!

Now…fast-forward 30 years:  you’re winding your way through an organizational maze trying to increase revenue, lower expenses and maximize profits while providing quality, meaningful leadership to your employees.  Some moments (especially on Mondays) might be just like you are standing under a hornets nest…so overwhelmed with surprises that you are basically ‘running in place.’  Other moments may be more like chasing a rabbit…you know what needs to be done but you just can’t seem to catch up to it so you can stamp “completed” on it.  And then there are those moments that make everything else worthwhile.  Those are the moments where it feels like you just found a shiny new quarter in a layer of dirt and grime.  The moment that an employee says, ‘thanks for your help‘…or the one time a customer says, ‘I don’t know what I would’ve done without you‘…or the simple ‘pat on the back’ you receive from your colleagues for a job well done.

As managers…unfortunately, we sometimes focus too much on chasing the wild rabbits and running from those crazy hornets that we fail to see that one bright, shiny quarter that’s directly in our path.  What have you done this week to help someone around you experience one of those ‘shiny quarter’ moments?  Take time to express your appreciation to the talent that helps you day-in and day-out.  You never know how powerful a positive word might be to someone else.  Go out and make your mark today!!

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7 Characteristics to Mark Your Spot

Management is somewhat like technology, as soon as you get accustomed to a specific process then someone comes along and re-invents the whole system and we suddenly find ourselves having to adapt, learn or re-tool new managerial methods and executive strategies.  Thankfully it doesn’t happen as often as the changes we witness every 24 hours in the world of technology…but we are starting to see an increased rate of modifications to management styles in order to adapt to an ever-changing global market and to appease the public eye that is more adamant about transparency at all levels.

Well, I propose that these following seven characteristics will help lift your management style to an advanced level – not just in your management position, but across your whole organization.  I’ve bulked these characteristics together in what I call the “X Characteristics” and they serve as the foundation to the information I share through my blog “X…Marking Your Spot.”  So, if you really want to mark a spot in your organization, implement these characteristics and you will begin to see a new level of activities and responses that will keep you in sync with your supervisors, employees and others as the world enters into this era of the new normal:

  1. eXpress – You are seen by most of the world as ‘what you do’; so remember your actions are communicating the type of person you are to others.  What type of message you are conveying?
  2. eXcel – To be exceptional at what you do, you must be better than the rest and surpass the expectations of others.  What are you doing to excel as a manager?
  3. eXpect – Be on the lookout for issues to address; presume there will be challenges ahead and try to plan accordingly now so you can deal with them when they occur and then keep moving forward.  What can you expect to happen in the next week?  Next month?  Next Year?
  4. eXamine – Making decisions each day require you to study or analyze information on an ongoing basis – either consciously or subconciously.  You should take time to observe things carefully before reacting or making a decision.  What tools can help you enhance how you examine things?
  5. eXplain -Verbal communication with others sometimes is more effective if the message is plan and comprehensible.  You can score a lot of points with your workers if you simply offer reasons for the actions you are requesting.  What steps can you take to be certain your instructions to others are clear and understandable?
  6. eXplore – Being creative and innovative means you must explore for all possibilities.  Learn how to investigate issues systematically in order to remain objective keeping in mind that the purpose is to discover new information or confirm existing information.  How do you search for new and creative ways of doing things?
  7. eXceed – Push yourself to be greater than others and to become better than your best.  Go beyond the limits of your job description and make a positive, life-changing impact on those that are near you.  What can you do today to get out of your comfort zone and become exceptional?

Take a few moments to view the video, leave a comment below, and then begin marking your spot right where you are at…today.  Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @craigholloman.

Video:  The first portion of the video is credited to the National Association of Workforce Boards, an organization devoted to bettering our communities one day at a time.

 

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The Future Is Coming: Have a Policy for That?

For centuries, organizations have been extremely slow to adopt new or revised policies related to new processes, controversial practices, increased technologies and a host of other modern issues that seem to spring up more and more every day in the routine workplace operations.  To me, there’s only one thing worse than not having effective policies in place to address common employee issues…and that is having policies that you fail to follow and/or enforce.  For auditing purposes, it’s easier respond to a finding that says “no policy is in place” than it is to deal with the consequences of violating your own written words in what you say you will do.

There is a new, more competitive global market out there that is constantly evolving; and if we, as organizations, fail to modify or develop new policies to help monitor and promote specific workplace behaviors then your business could quickly be left in the dust by your competitors.  So, how can you stay ahead of the curve?  You must anticipate more and more changes will be required of your current policies as societal issues will force closer scrutiny of how organizations operate…and trust me, if you are lacking in any certain areas, then eventually you will be called out – either by headquarters, your own workforce, local government officials and/or the general public.

Therefore, if you haven’t already started considering policies to address the ‘new normal’ in conducting business, then you may want to start looking at the following areas now before even they become obsolete and are replaced by more advanced and complexed issues:

  • Digital Communication – If your business doesn’t already have a policy dealing with social media, then you are WAY behind the competition.  However, the social media trend is already here and happening right now.  What you need to begin to consider for the future is how you plan to police all forms of ‘digital communication’ from the organizational stand-point.  You need to think futuristic – because in the technology world, those futuristic ideas will pop up tomorrow.  Examples are Google Glass, telepresence robots, avatar technology, etc.
  • Cyber Security – Closely aligned with the rise of digital communications comes the rise of cyber crimes and cyber war.  How is your organization protected?  Your organization’s knowledge and information is a source of competitive advantage that will become increasingly difficult to protect as we see cyber attacks on information systems.  Expect to see upward trends in litigation surrounding cyber security and a push for increased government control.  Therefore, any policies you develop related to cyber security should be thoroughly researched and detailed to withstand any legal arguments.
  • Virtual Employees – With technological advancements in communication and connectivity you will see a significant rise in the use of virtual employees – those employees that work from home or some other location.  We’ve seen many businesses experiment and implement tele-commuting practices; however, I expect to see that trend develop to a whole new level as demand for more productive employees increase in ways that can provide greater cost-savings to the organization.  Being prepared to deal with such employment issues is critical to any organization that wants to remain in front of its competition.
  • Interactive Technology – Welcome to the world of FaceTime, Skype, video messaging and a host of other advanced interactive programs that allow you and your employees to speak face-to-face with others all over the globe.  Interactive programs such as these are projected to increase significantly over the next 5-10 years.  There’s already talk about a new and interactive LED-laden beer bottle – of all things!  So, it makes sense to get a handle on it now and begin to let employees know how you plan to utilize it to better the mission of the organization and what the consequences will be if its availability and usage is abused.  This tool is very closely aligned with digital communications; however, you may want to consider a separate policy that focuses on specific video technology uses – especially if your employees will be on a video channel with customers (or talking to a beer bottle).

Of course, these ideas are only a small fragment of what you can expect to see in the future.  As new and innovative processes are born, we all have to adapt – whether we want to or not.  That’s the name of the game…and the only way to remain competitive in this ever-changing world we live in.  So, consider other areas in the organization that may possibly need a policy revamp…such as, financial systems (because banking as we know it today will be obsolete soon), purchasing and shipping systems (because we will trend toward a more environmentally conscious society), employee benefits and eligibility issues (because definitions to ‘family’, ‘dependents’, etc. are already changing every day) and there’s a host of other issues.  So, begin to think ahead and get your team together to explore ways your business can be prepared for when the future does arrive.

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Building Collaborative Partnerships: A Unique Skill Set

collaborationIn this day and age, forming a partnership (whether formal or informal) between multiple entities toward a specific cause or goal is pretty much the norm.  It’s easier and more efficient to conduct collaborative efforts that will maximize resources of an organization and/or a community to accomplish specific objectives.  Most times, this collaboration should result in significant cost-savings, as well as an improved sense of teamwork stemming from bringing various groups together for a common cause. Due to ongoing budget cuts and funding restraints, it just makes sense to bond together with other similar entities that can move you forward in marking your spot and being successful in the implementation of new ideas and processes.

However, in my experience working with and trying to lead a group of partners toward a common goal is often very frustrating and challenging due to conflicting policies, different motives, misaligned performance goals, and a whole list of other variables.  Being successful in moving your community partners forward to take action steps that can benefit the organization or community as a whole requires a unique combination of skills.  There are four skills that have best served me in this role and have made a major impact on how well the group interacted and came together to make decisions.  So, if you are charged with the responsibility of pulling a group of partners together to address a common issue, then keep these four skills in mind as you interact with the group members:

  • Be Diplomatic – One of the most important aspects in dealing with other partner groups and/or representatives is to be tactful as you deal with individuals who all have diverse goals other than your own.  Keeping a diplomatic relationship established will go far in negotiating a variety of issues, i.e., schedules, a memorandum of understanding, calendar items, meetings, events, etc.  Conducting yourself in a polite manner as you employ tact is actually a strategic maneuver that requires a lot of thought and patience in order to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions.  Learn this important art of diplomatic leadership.
  • Be Organized – When dealing with multiple partner groups, it’s important to understand their mission and underlying goals.  This will help you go far in building a single, cohesive workgroup from an array of partner agencies.  Having information organized and presentable for all to understand will help the group move forward toward a common goal.  Take time to learn names, backgrounds and interests of the group members.  This information will assist you in developing a connection of respect and trust with your counterparts.
  • Be Assertive – Just because it’s important to be diplomatic and polite, doesn’t mean you have to rollover and take whatever your partners give you.  You must remain assertive so that the collaborative efforts of various partners will meet the specific goals outlined for the group.  It’s all about give and take, of course…but it’s also important to keep the ‘big picture’ in front of the group at all times so that they do not slip back into their individual agency silos.
  • Be Responsive – When working with a diverse group of people from different entities, it’s vital that you keep an open line of communication.  But it’s even MORE critical that you actually respond to any and all questions, issues, concerns, etc. immediately.  Being responsive will help make sure your message is concise and is understood by all group members, and it will send a strong signal that you are interested in their participation.  So, replying to that e-mail or returning a phone call as soon as you can is a major aspect of keeping your group together and functioning.

As the saying goes…’practice makes perfect.’  So, the more you place yourself in the role of working with multiple individuals from different departments or organizations, the more you will be able to practice the four skills that will make a difference in how you are perceived as a leader.  I challenge you to take a closer look at how you can become more diplomatic, organized, assertive and responsive with those you work with and search for ways you can improve upon these four skills.  What other skills have you utilized to help in leading a group of diverse individuals?  Take a few seconds to leave your comment below!!  Also…you can find me on Twitter at @craigholloman – click to follow me today!!

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Good, Better, Best…Then What?

exceptionalA few days ago I went to the drive-through window of a local fast food business.  After placing my order, I pull up to the window to pay and the worker opens up the window.  I can tell she is in the middle of a conversation with a co-worker, but she rings up my order, takes my money, shoves out the bag of food and my drink without ever looking at me or speaking a word to me – all the while not missing one word in her conversation with her co-worker.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I have witnessed this type of behavior and I am sure there’s a high probability that you have witnessed similar type actions before, as well.  Do you remember how that made you feel?

Well, once I got past my “how rude” ranting…it really strengthened my resolve to be the best I can be in everything I do.  Then that made me start thinking about all the areas in my professional and personal life that I need improvement.  But, you know what I have discovered?  Sometimes doing our best just isn’t good enough.  There are times when we do everything ‘just right,’ yet we still don’t get tasks completed or someone else is selected for a promotion or you suddenly find yourself receiving a layoff notice.  Well, I am going to argue that there’s a way that we can do better than our best.  Will it make a difference in every decision that affects you?  Probably not.  Will it make a difference in how you manage yourself and others?  Definitely.

Whether you are a manager, a CEO, a custodian, a stay-at-home mom or dad or just a volunteer worker…going beyond your best efforts will springboard you into being an exceptional person.  My grandfather always said, “Craig, just do your best and that’s all you can do.”  So…is it even possible to do better than our very best?  Contrary to my grandfather’s encouraging words, I believe we can do more than our very best by continually being exceptional…and this is how it can happen:

  • Exceed Expectations:  The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word ‘exceed‘ as to extend outside of; to be greater than or superior to; or to go beyond a limit set.  Therefore, if we ‘box ourselves in” to just doing our very best or if we set a “limit” at just doing our very best, then this definition alone tells us that we can do something more…something greater.  That we can “extend outside of” our very best; that we can “go beyond” our very best.
  • Explore All Options – One definition of “explore” is to investigate systematically; to examine all possibilities.  If we systematically explore all possibilities as we manage, then once we reach that benchmark of doing our ‘best’, we will be prepared to examine and explore possibilities that go beyond that benchmark.  It’s a management culture that should be instilled in our very being.
  • Expand Your Mindset – Unfortunately, for a lot of managers – their attitude when they arrive into their management position is fixed and focused, and most times there’s little that can be done to change that; however, in order to be ‘exceptional’ in what you do, you must learn to expand your mindset.  One definition of ‘mindset‘ is a fixed mental attitude.  And, to ‘expand‘ is to increase the scope of; to enlarge.  Therefore, you must ‘enlarge your fixed mental attitude’ in order to be exceptional.  Be willing to consider other suggestions or opinions without having a bias toward your own fixed mental attitude.

I firmly believe that if you can continually exceed expectations, explore all possible options and learn to expand your mindset, then you can go above and beyond just doing your very best.  You can become exceptional…and when that happens your family, co-workers, friends, managers, employees, etc. will all thank you for it.  Now…take time today to look at how you can apply these steps to your daily routine and go mark your spot by being the exceptional person we all know you can be.

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