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Need Managerial Inspiration? Consider Music

Need Managerial Inspiration?  Consider Music

 

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4 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Employees

encouragementMost of us do have a life outside of our employment.  Sometimes our work gets in the middle of our life events – such as kids ballgames, doctor visits, school plays, graduations, etc. and we have to adjust to participate; however, sometimes, our life events creep into our workplace, as well.  Given the current state of our economy, increased home foreclosures, difficult relationships, challenging family members and more, it’s easy to understand how workers have these things on their mind even while at work.  Most times, we never know what’s going on in the personal lives of our employees or those around us.  We never know when just a simple word of appreciation or encouragement might be the highlight of someone else’s day.

So, here are a few quick tips to implement into your managerial regime while you’re at work…and maybe, just maybe, you will make a huge difference in the life of at least one employee:

  • Be Attentive – Watch for signs from your employees that something is going on.  Things like tardiness, lack of performance, bad attitudes may be just a symptom of a deeper issue.  Also, be certain to really listen to your employees when they come to you.  Listening will help you determine in what areas your staff needs encouragement.
  • Be Positive – Focus on the positives instead of the negatives.  If you always expect the worst, that’s probably what you’re going to get.  So, look for ways to highlight the positive aspects of projects, employees, and teams.
  • Be Genuine – Don’t give ‘canned’ encouragement to your employees.  Saying ‘Way to go!’, ‘Good job!’ or ‘You can do it!’ can come across as a bit insincere and meaningless.  Find other ways to encourage your staff by asking follow-up questions like “how were you able to do that?  I knew you would.”  These types of responses tell the employee that you are really listening and are in-tune with what’s going on with them.
  • Be Real – You owe it to your employees to be direct and straight-forward without glossing over reality.  Every day can’t be all roses and rainbows and unicorns.  Make your employees aware of specific hurdles they may be facing at work, but then give them the tools to overcome those hurdles.  Being in the loop of what’s going on within the organization and knowing how it may affect them will give your employees more encouragement than you may realize.

Applying these four simple tips will help you to become a better person, a better manager and a better encourager to those around you.  And…just maybe some of that encouragement they receive at the workplace will carry them through those life events when they need just a little nudge to make it to the next day.  Have a great day and go mark your spot!!  Catch up with me on Twitter too – @craigholloman.

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Is Your Cell Phone Damaging Your Professional Image?

cell phoneThe world has evolved at a rapid pace in various technological fields over the last decade, but none so much as the use of cell phones and smartphones.  While the ability to communicate with any person around the globe in mere seconds from a single device that rests in the palm of your hand is an awesome convenience, it might also be encouraging you to act in an unprofessional manner when you are around others.  The use of cellular devices is so common nowadays that it’s very possible our subconscious directs our behavior about when, where and how to use it.  We are all guilty of falling prey to the spell it casts over us each and every day…even to the point of becoming completely anti-social with your co-workers, bosses, employees and even friends and family members.

As a business professional, it’s important that we are aware of the way (or perceived way) we utilize our cell phone.  Some people must have it with them at all times, while others may choose to leave it on the charger for an extended period of time.  Some think they must respond to text messages immediately, while others may go for days without responding at all.  Regardless if you fall into one of the extremes or somewhere in between…you could be damaging your professional image.  So, here are just a few reminders and challenges (to some of you) that will help to maintain your professional behavior in the presence of your cell phone:

  • Stay Away from Others – No one wants to hear your conversation about how Aunt Louise forgot to feed the dog last night.  So, keep a distance from other people if you must talk on your cell phone while in a public area…or even in your office cubicle.
  • Keep Your Voice Level Low – As we learned in elementary school, remember to use your inside voice while talking on your cell phone.  Keeping your distance from other people won’t help if you can still be heard 50 yards away.
  • Never Use the Speaker – One thing that’s worse than having to listen to you talk on the phone…is having to listen to the other person talk back.  So, don’t activate your speaker while around other people.  It is truly an annoyance to everyone…including the person you’re talking with on the other end.
  • Be Respectful of the Environment – No matter how important you are…or think you are, there are certain places you should never use your cell phone — but we all see it happening every day – and even I am guilty of it in some cases.  So just to be clear – here’s a brief list of places that should be considered ‘off limits’ for talking on your cell phone:  restaurants, elevators, bathrooms, taxis, museums, weddings, funerals, movie theaters, airplanes, places of worship and…of course, during the weekly staff meetings at work.

This week, be more mindful of your surroundings and more respectful of others by practicing some of these cellphone techniques.  Doing so will show others that you are a true professional in and out of the office!!

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4 Basic Steps for Quality Customer Service

customer serviceIn most organizations today, customer satisfaction is a critical performance measure regardless of what type of product or service you provide to the consumer.  Even government-funded services (which are usually free to the consumer) weigh customer satisfaction very heavily when measuring performance.  The one key factor in increasing the customer satisfaction rate is customer service.  That’s why we have seen a significant increase in customer service trainings within businesses and organizations over the past decade.

Over the years, I have seen my fair share of good and bad customer service…and I am certain you have, also.  From the drive-up window at your favorite fast food spot to the service counter at the post office, there’s certainly a varying level of customer service.  Here are a few simple elements that your customers want to see:

  • Professional Appearance – Seems simple, right?  But you would be surprised how many times you go into a business and the first person you see looks like they’ve been hit by a truck.  Being dressed professionally and having a clutter-free work space will speak volumes to your customer that you care about yourself.  Think about it…if you don’t care about yourself, do you really think the customers feel that you care about them?  One single item that can improve your professional appearance – a smile.
  • Acknowledgement – Let the customer know you recognize they are present and then listen to their request.  After all, they ARE your customer, right?  Greet them appropriately by name (if you know it) and then inquire on how you can be of service to them.  A simple acknowledgement goes a LONG way.
  • Quick Response – Take action immediately on the customer’s request.  If it will take a while to provide a final product or service, then at least keep the customer updated on the progress of their request.  One of your goals should be to reduce wait time or eliminate it all together…because in today’s fast-paced world, no one likes to wait.
  • Follow-up – Be sure the customer received the service/product they requested.  Whether it be through a customer-satisfaction survey, a thank you note, or a quick question before they exit your business – always make certain that you inquire about the service that was provided.  This step will greatly increase your chances of a repeat visit from the customer (that is, if their experience was a good one).

Just applying these four simple steps as you deal with customers will increase your customer satisfaction levels.  Even if the customers don’t get exactly what they requested, the process of being professional, acknowledging them, responding and following up should create a satisfactory experience for all involved.  Take time this week to implement these elements and see how your customers respond.

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Difficult Employees: Coach or Fire?

difficult employeeIt’s stressful for everyone when we have to deal with difficult employees on the job.  Whether they have a bad attitude, lack in experience or just don’t have the necessary skills to actually do the job…the manager must determine the best way to deal with the employee.  Often times, it will be one of two things:  either coach the individual to become a better employee, or let the employee go.

So, if you’re dealing with a difficult employee and don’t know what to do about it, then look at these steps to get an idea on how to proceed:

  1. Set Expectations with all employees when they are hired about what behaviors and actions are grounds for immediate termination.  Also, provide regular performance appraisals of the work being done (or not done).  This provides the employee an opportunity to correct any deficiencies in his or her performance.
  2. Act Immediately when you notice any performance issues that are substandard.  Don’t wait for the next appraisal review.  Inquire with the employee about what is causing the poor performance and then offer suggestions on how to improve.  Be sure to keep written records of these conversations.
  3. Focus on the problem or issue that’s causing the employee’s performance to falter.  Discuss the facts only without commenting about the person.  Then coach the employee on specific action steps needed to correct the issue.  Sometimes, this may require transferring the employee to another department or assigning different responsibilities that will better match his or her skills.
  4. Document all conversations, appraisals, courses of action, etc.  It is vital that you have an adequate paper-trail to show evidence of the steps taken to make the employee aware of the issue and how an adequate amount of time was given for corrective action.
  5. Give Warning to the employee when the next step will be termination if they continue to underperform and not meet specific benchmarks for performance improvement.  This way, the employee will not be surprised when you have to terminate his/her employment with the organization.

It’s never an easy task to terminate someone, but some individuals just don’t have the proper skill sets to match the requirements of the position.  That’s why it’s even more important to develop hiring procedures to determine and assess skill sets prior to offering a job to a prospect.  Take time this week to review how you deal with difficult employees, then try to implement some of the steps listed above to provide an opportunity for him or her to improve.

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Action Required: Keeping Your Professional Image

ProfessionalAs we all know in the business world, first impressions matter; and most of us spend a lot of time preparing for that initial meeting with the new boss, client or customer. However, after the ‘honeymoon period’ has ended we tend to become more relaxed and complacent around others and it’s easy to start losing that crystal clear image we once possessed. So, here are a few areas of professional etiquette that we should strive toward each and every day in order to maintain an exceptional level of professionalism in our work environment:

  • Appearance – Pay special attention to how you look. Always be neat in appearance and hygiene, and strive to exceed your organization’s dress code.  Other things to consider are eating at your desk in front of employees or customers…and chewing gum while you’re speaking with others.  These seem like common sense ‘no-no’s’ – but a reminder is always good.
  • Phone Manners – Although technology has grown by leap and bounds, your phone etiquette is still a significant component of professional behavior.  Take time to identify yourself…and listen carefully by not dominating the conversation.  Also, if you say you will call someone back – do it.
  • Demeanor – Always be polite and well-spoken regardless of who is in the room.  How you act and react are noticed by others and communicate just how professional you really are under varying circumstances.  Strive to be more confident and remain calm – even under tense situations.
  • Written Communication – Keep your letters and emails simple, understandable and concise.  Be polite and somewhat formal in your communication, without being too rigid.  Your style of communication with others says a lot about your level of professionalism.  So, consider your words wisely.
  • Organization – If you’re professional in what you do, then you can find what you need quickly and easily.  Strive to be neat and organized…but if that’s impossible, at least know where things are so you can locate an item without digging through a mountain of papers.

If you work toward maintaining these five areas of business etiquette, then you will promote a more professional environment in your workplace.  Plus…professionalism can be contagious.  So, don’t be surprised if your see your employees and managers taking notice and trying to replicate the same professional qualities that they see in you.  Have a great day as you go about marking your spot!!

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Are You a High Maintenance Manager?

high maintenanceMost of us have friends, family members, spouses, or significant others that we consider to be high maintenance.  Some people choose to be a high maintenance person, while it seems others are just born that way!  According to definitions vetted through the Urban Dictionary, the most popular definition for high maintenance is “requiring a lot of attention…overly needy…and prone to over-dramatizing a situation.”  After reading that definition, I immediately thought of several of my previous managers who definitely meet that criteria.

Do you think you’re a high maintenance manager or employee?  Well, here’s a brief test to find out:

1.  How fast do you start to depend on others for day-to-day routines?

2.  Do you share as much information with others as you expect them to share with you?

3.  How often do you contact your employees and want to know what they are doing?

4.  How often do you communicate in vague terms just to see if your workforce is listening?

5.  Do you ever admit it when you’re wrong and then apologize for it?

It doesn’t take an answer sheet to know whether you’re leaning toward being a high maintenance manager.  And…maybe you’re asking “what’s wrong with being high maintenance?”  Good question.  Well, most of us tend to steer clear of high maintenance people.  They don’t motivate us (except to get away as quickly as possible) and they tend to suck all the air out of the room upon entering.  Is that the type of environment you would want to work in?  Neither do your employees.

So…take time this week to evaluate yourself and determine if you need to eliminate any high maintenance symptoms that may be lurking in your management and leadership style.  Have a great day…and don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter at @craigholloman.

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