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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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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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Transparency: How Can You See It?

transparencyOver the past several years in the public and private organizational worlds, there has been an increasing cry for transparency in how decisions are made and carried out.  There are thousands of articles and books on the subject of transparency – especially related to the corporate environment and government sectors – that promote the implementation of transparency methods at all levels of the organization.  And although I am not a research scientist nor have I spent much time in reviewing the implications of transparency, it doesn’t take much to recognize that using the word ‘transparency’ in your organizational communication is viewed as a positive characteristic in the eyes of the general public.  However, as a leader and a manager, I really struggle with what level of genuine transparency can really be achieved before it becomes just another manipulation tool to persuade the perception of others.

For an organization, one definition of transparency says it is basically a metaphor implying visibility in contexts related to the behavior of individuals or groups.  Another business definition says transparency is a lack of hidden agendas and conditions…and also it can be considered an essential condition for a free and open exchange whereby the rules and reasons behind regulatory measures are fair and clear to all participants. Now, maybe it’s just me…but when was the last time “rules of regulatory measures” seemed clear to you?  In some instances like this, even if all the information is published and made available for everyone to see…it is still difficult to comprehend exactly what is occurring.  So, do you think managers who put out such information purposefully do so with the intent to confuse us or make it difficult to understand?  Do you believe that when a company says it is making decisions in a transparent fashion for employees to see how decisions are made…that those same employees are actually seeing everything there is to see?

As leaders, one of our challenges within the organization is to change the behavior of our employees, as needed, in order to reach our intended goals and objectives.  Therefore, if leaders are aware that the decisions and actions being taken are going to be transparent to their employees, then leaders will take additional time to carefully plan how to be “transparent” in order to best change those behaviors that will move the organization toward its goals.  So…is that using transparency skills or manipulation skills?  That’s a good question and definitely an area I plan to explore and research in the future.  But for now…here are just a few ways a manager can best display transparency in carrying out his or her responsibilities:

  • Be honest about what you know…and what you don’t know
  • Be responsive to inquiries from your employees…and communicate information regularly
  • Really listen to what your employees have to say…without interjecting your own opinion
  • Be open about plans for the future…and how those plans may affect your employees

These four simple actions will speak volumes to your employees and will move you forward in being more transparent, as well as a more trusted and respected leader within your organization.  Take time this week to look at ways you can modify some of the small things you are currently doing in order to become more transparent to those around you as you mark your spot.  Give me your thoughts about transparency…is it real or fake?  Is it good or bad?  Is 100% transparency even possible for a company to attain?  Leave your comment below and have a great day!

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Your Word, Your Brand

WordMost 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 couple of weeks 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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Workforce Planning: Your Blueprint to Success

planningIn the aura of workforce and economic development, we always hear about workforce planning and how various entities are heavily involved in developing planning tools to help existing businesses and to recruit new businesses to their respective communities.  However, when you think about it…’what the heck IS workforce planning?’  Many businesses are conducting workforce planning without even really knowing that it is occurring – it’s embedded in the grain of the organizational operation.  Most workforce plans are written documents, policies, etc., but unfortunately many managers just tend to “wing it” when it comes to organizing the work schedule of his or her employees.  Hopefully, this article will help you to understand how important workforce planning is to your business…not just for the HR department, but for the organization as a whole.  So, regardless if it’s a call center, a restaurant, grocery store, manufacturing plant or a global corporation…workforce planning is critical in helping your business in the following areas:

  • Responding to Customer Demands – Your organization must be adequately staffed to be able to respond to your customers in a timely manner.  Therefore, management must plan to have enough workers on duty to meet your customers’ demands at all times.  That means, you must know the high traffic peaks and low traffic peaks of your business; you must know the volume of incoming calls and the time frames that you will receive the highest number of calls; you must have workers stationed at the cashier’s desk so that paying customers can checkout when they are ready to do so.  All of these steps and many others, depending on your type of business, will make huge strides in your workforce planning so that it will be efficient and effective.
  • Managing Organizational Costs – Salaries and wages of your workers will most likely be one of your highest costs in the organization.  Therefore, it is vital to have controls in place that prevent these costs from spiraling out of control.  Effective workforce planning means finding that optimal balance in making sure you have just enough workers on duty at any given time to meet the organizations objectives.  Too many workers on-site can result in unnecessary wage costs and too few workers on-site can result in an increased level of unsatisfied customers.  So it is very important to gather information and data so you can plan and schedule your workforce accordingly.
  • Adapting to Needed Changes – If you have a workforce plan in place, your business can more easily adapt to changes as they are needed within your organization.  For example, if your business is preparing to implement new technology or software systems, a proper workforce plan will help you to predict the time and cost savings that can be made and allow you to adjust staffing levels.  Without an effective workforce plan, then you will be operating on a trial and error basis with a high risk of wasting precious resources as you go through the organizational change.
  • Training and Re-Training Workers – Workers must be fully trained to do the job they have been tasked to do.  This is management’s responsibility to see that workers are adequately equipped with the skills needed to successfully complete their assigned tasks.  Workforce planning allows managers to identify skill gaps and areas of needed training in order to improve overall performance and/or productivity.  Careful workforce planning to meet these training needs will ensure that your workers are trained appropriately.
  • Identifying Inefficiencies – A workforce plan will help managers visualize how available labor resources are being utilized.  This will assist the organization in focusing on areas that are most costly to the company and develop practices that can reduce or eliminate wasteful spending, especially as it relates to salaries and wage costs.  Using an effective workforce planning document in this instance can also encourage more creative thinking that may result in new and innovative techniques being developed that will make the organization more competitive.

Regardless of the type of business you manage, if you have employees – then you should have a workforce planning tool in place that will allow you to make the best and most informed decisions about the operations of your organization.  This tool will help streamline operational practices and make your company more efficient in multiple departments and move you one step closer to marking your spot in the industry.  How is your organization’s workforce planning tool impacting the bottom line?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.  And be sure to follow me on Twitter here.

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