5 Tips to a Winning Company Culture

5 Tips

What’s the difference between being a good friend and a good employer? According the happiest companies in America last year, not much.

Happy companies all have one thing in common: They give without expecting reciprocity.

Google This

Google, for example, is famous for going the extra mile to treat its employees like friends. In addition to health and dental benefits, vacations, and a stimulating workplace, Google offers unique perks like “takeout benefits” for new mothers and fathers, which stipulate a $500 allowance for takeout meals in the first three months they’re home with their new baby.

Well, OK, they might expect a little loyalty and hard work somewhere down the line, but their gifts aren’t about provoking competition among employees; they’re about generating real happiness.

How to Strike the Perfect Balance Between Gifts and Incentives

Striking a perfect balance between incentivizing and giving is crucial to your employees’ overall satisfaction. Some leaders tend to merge the two, but it’s important to understand the difference.

A Business Incentive

A business incentive is a reward used to motivate employees to reach professional goals. Achievements can be recognized with prizes like gift certificates or bonuses. This system creates an environment of healthy competition, which stimulates productivity and shows your company values results.

A Business Gift

On the other hand, a business gift is an item offered spontaneously without obligation to a valued employee as a token of appreciation. A business gift isn’t attached to a specific performance target, but it still motivates the recipient and encourages an appreciative, dynamic business relationship that boosts performance.

Incentives and gifts each serve a purpose. Incentives work well to keep employees continually motivated and reward them for putting in extra work. Gifts are perfect when you just want to say thank you, congratulate an employee on a major life event, or show him that he’s valued with a fun, heartfelt surprise.

5 Tips to a Winning Company Culture

Here are five tips for harmonizing incentives and gifts to nurture a winning company culture:

1. Think money.

It’s not particularly flashy or personal, but most employees will value cash above every other type of incentive. Awarding surprise bonuses or extra weekend funds can really boost morale. Offer these extra motivations in addition to the long-term incentive programs employees rely on, such as holiday bonuses or points that employees can trade for fun prizes.

2. Balance support and surprise.

Combining surprise gifts with long-term support will help your employees view their work in a positive light. Mixing security with fun is a recipe that most successful companies share. They increase the happiness of their team through a strong support structure while creating delight and joy through special surprises peppered throughout the year.

 3. Set up an internal currency.

Trackable point systems are a great incentive that allow employees to take pride in their job, make them feel like they belong, and help them wake up excited to go to work. Setting up an internal system also makes gifts more exciting when they’re given spontaneously.

For example, AMR Corporation leads an incentive program using an internal credit system to recognize its 100,000 employees. The company converts these credits into dollars, and employees receive a quarterly statement outlining their credit balance and redemption options, which include travel awards and gifts from retailers like Banana Republic and Gap.

4. Make it personal.

If you know your employees well, offer incentives that will personally inspire them and gifts that will make them happy. It’s the thought that counts, and the very best gifts suit the recipient perfectly. Take the time to pinpoint what motivates your team.

Ernst & Young, for example, offers stock options to its employees. This works because employees are interested in stocks, but for a different company, they might hold no sway at all. Understanding your team is key.

5. Spread the love.

Employees aren’t the only associates that respond positively to gifts and incentives. You can use your giving strategy for any business relationship — prospective and current clients, suppliers, advisors, and even employees’ families. Giving a business gift indicates that you care about a relationship and are genuinely interested in solidifying it.

Creating Top Performers

Gifts and incentives are both superb ways to delight your employees, show appreciation, and encourage top performance. When properly balanced, they can reinforce good behavior, instill loyalty, and make your employees feel great. And when your employees are happy, they’re more likely to stick around!

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———————
Emily Egbert

Emily Egbert is the co-founder of HitUp, a newly launched business app
She is developing business relationships in the gift-giving market
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On Leadership, Thoughtfulness and Doing Unto Others

Becoming a Giver

When was the last time someone did something for you with no strings attached? Maybe she covered for you during a meeting that you forgot, or offered unsolicited praise to a supervisor on your behalf? I bet it felt pretty good, didn’t it?

Now ask yourself this: When was  the last time was that you did something for someone else, no strings attached.

So the question comes: Should you “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” If so, then at what price?

Showing Up as a Giver

In this last of three articles on the importance of relationship-building as the common denominator in successful organizations, the focus is on communal and exchange relationships. As suggested by the name, exchange relationships are marked by a give and take between the parties involved.

Communal relationships are characterized by both parties work for the interest of the other part, regardless of whether or not their actions are reciprocated.

Communal relationship put the focus on the other party by attempting to truly address their needs, even if it means that you or your organization might not benefit. Some companies do this quite well. Southwest Airlines, already recognized for high levels of customer service, again recently demonstrated their unique approach to addressing customer concerns when a pilot ordered pizza for multiple Southwest flights that experienced a several hour weather delay.

Pizza on a PlaneWhile some may attribute this action to the quick-thinking of the pilot (and rightly so!), his behavior reflects the customer centric culture created by Southwest that enables its employees to come up with responsive and creative solutions such as this.

It seems unlikely that the pilot weighed the cost of the pizza and his effort against the likelihood of passengers purchasing another ticket from the airline.

Rather, he recognized that people facing a multi-hour delay around the dinner hour were likely to be hungry and he came up with a solution to address that problem. Zappos is another customer-centric company that has received accolades for the quick, “blame-free” solutions they give their customers.

Organizations that adopt a customer-centric culture can see rewards not only in customer satisfaction, but through more engaged employees as well.

Forming Communal Relationships

Forming communal relationships can result in a variety of organizational benefits; and while certainly there is great value in achieving this standard for relationships, not all organizations are in a place to do so.

In our highly individualistic culture we are encouraged from young ages to distinguish ourselves from others. As such, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of giving or getting something for nothing; or their circumstances may prevent them from doing so.

  • Owners of a small coffee shop may not have the luxury of a national chain in providing a free donut with every cup of coffee when they must rely on the income from the sale of each and every menu item.
  • Or, companies that offer niche products or services, such as manufacturers of unique components for medical equipment, may not have many opportunities to provide extras for their customers.

Leading With Thoughtfulness

Still, “freebies” aren’t the only way to support clients and colleagues. Forwarding an article relevant to a topic a colleague mentioned over lunch one day could save her hours of research; or making a client aware of a service provider who offers a resource he hasn’t been able to find, even if might result in a reduction of in the services he orders from you, truly puts the client’s needs first.

Offering to step in for a co-worker so he can leave work to attend his daughter’s soccer game might not take a great deal of effort on your part, but could make a huge difference in his day and family life.

We are all in a position to provide help sometimes. Whether we do it simply to help someone when she needs it, or because we’re paying back a debt, we have the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with that colleague or client.

When was the last time you went out of your way to give someone something you knew he needed? Do you make it a point to help others freely or is there an (explicit or tacit) expectation of payback? Are you fostering a communal culture within your organization? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————–
Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D is AMP Consulting
She provides Organizational Communication Consulting & Research Focused on
Relationship-Building and Presentation of Image
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Beyond Leadership: The Importance of Efficient Teams

Teamwork Fail

While we emphasize leadership quite a bit, most of us in the business world also recognize the importance of teamwork. Teams are made up of individual leaders who bring their own strengths and personality into the mix.

While some tasks can be handled by one individual, we all know that teams can create wonders.

>>> However, a dysfunctional team can derail performance and results quite rapidly.

Positive Team Dynamics

Team dynamics always fascinate me. I recently read Dr. Eric W. Stein’s book titled Designing Creative High Power Teams and Organizations: Beyond Leadership. It was a good read and I want to highlight some of the important aspects in this post.

Dr. Stein discusses poietic  organizations and their characteristics. He also demonstrates the muscle of high powered teams through various case studies such as LEGO and CERN. Although these companies deploy different processes within their teams that suit their businesses and products, the common theme is to have a well thought out model that works to build efficient teams.

Although sometimes processes are frowned upon in companies, having a well-defined process is essential for large corporations in order to build world-class products and do it efficiently.

The Role of Effective Teams

In his book, Dr. Stein demonstrates the role that team members play and how their personalities can complement or contrast with each other. I believe that most corporations set aside a certain budget for leadership training. At the same time, it is also a good idea to train employees to build highly efficient teams.

Of course, it is important to develop great leaders within organizations.

However, beyond individual leadership, what makes an organization excel is excellent teamwork.

Thinking Just Me, or We?

When individuals start thinking of team goals and organizational goals, the results are extraordinary. Therefore it is obvious that time spent in building high power teams will be certainly productive in the long run. Some teams may have to transform to become more efficient than before and it is well worth it.

Have you ever been in a situation where your team mate and you are at odds and you don’t see eye to eye? You are thinking about the team goals and they are thinking about their own goals! At some point, we have all been in a situation like this.

The crux of this matter is whether a person is driven by personal goal or a team goal.

When leaders are driven by personal goals, they achieve a lot and it makes them look good. However, sometimes it makes them look good at other people’s expense and sometimes it makes them look good at the team’s expense. They may fail to understand that in the bigger picture; team goals are more important.

To summarize, I would like to highlight the importance of teams and recognition of teamwork by the members. While we strive for individual leadership, we should never put that ahead of team’s goals.

So as a leader, how are you doing at building effective teams? How are demonstrating a “we-attitude” over a “me-attitude?” Do you have any tips or tricks that work to increase team performance and positive results? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————
Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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How to Connect With Your Team When You Don’t Have Time

Connecting With People

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”  ~Carl Sandburg

Having The Time To Connect

A client and I spent about 50 minutes during a recent session talking about all the things he was concerned about—meetings, motivating, and accomplishing the goals and objectives for his team. He had developed a good plan and way ahead, but something was still troubling him.

Toward the end of our call, he said, “You know, I just do not have time to connect with my people.”

“Brad,” I said, “We have talked for about an hour about how you can be a better leader.  Most everything we’ve talked about can be delegated, especially the technical work.  The one thing that can’t, however, and the thing that is the most important thing in helping you become a great leader, is connecting with your people personally, on a regular basis. You just can’t delegate that.”

He said he had never considered that.

Connecting with People 

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, John Maxwell talks about the Law of Connection, and that successful leaders are always the initiator of connections.

In it he says, “They take the first step with others and then make the effort to continue building relationships.”

So how does a busy leader, who feels that they don’t even have time to take a lunch break, find the time to make that personal connection with their team? (I feel that this is the MOST important thing they do!)

Coach and author of the book There’s Not Enough Time….and other lies we tell ourselves, Jill Farmer, says it starts with getting intentional:

“There’s not going to be a magic windfall of more time falling from the sky. It’s a matter of refocusing attention and intention.”

Getting Personal

3 Things To Try to Make It Happen

1) Hone those delegation skills.

If you are a perfectionist (or a recovering one, like me), you know that no one can accomplish tasks quite like you can. After all, by the time you show someone else how to do something the way you want it done, you could have it already finished. This is a common complaint I hear all the time.

But consider this: If you don’t delegate, they don’t learn.

You only grow your team or organization when they learn to do things without you doing it for them.  Time spent up front, teaching and coaching them to accomplish tasks that they can not only learn to do, but will help their growth, is well worth the investment.

2)  Try bagging it.

Try hosting a brown bag lunch in your office, if you have the space, or in a conference room if you don’t. Invite one team at a time, or mix it up to help people connect with people from different teams. Tell them to bring their lunch—it’s informal.

This isn’t about work, so you don’t have to prepare anything, but you might invite them to ask you questions if they desire.

If you are an introvert, and don’t do well with chit-chat, ask them a couple of questions such as: “What would you do if you couldn’t have this career?” or “If money were no object, what’s the one thing you have always wanted to try?” You will be surprised at how little you have to say and how much you learn about people.

 3)  Block out the time

When you have an important meeting, you schedule it on your calendar.  Since these are important meetings, schedule them just as you would any other meeting.  Block out a few minutes every day, or even twice a week, to visit a different work team.  Even if you just to stop and say “Hello, how’s it going?”–that’s a connection.

By scheduling it in small time increments, you don’t have to worry about the day getting away from you and realizing a week has gone by without connecting with anyone on a personal level.  You might want to add a few minutes in to take a walk, or have some quiet time to yourself (really?).

Schedule at least one 30-minute meeting with your direct reports once a month, depending on how many you have.  One executive I know schedules all her team members for an hour with her once a quarter, because that is the time she can afford.

Time Is On Your Side

Nothing can replace the precious time you spend with your team–it affects morale, productivity and your business culture.  It can raise a team from one that is mediocre to one that excels in pushing your organization to the next level.

Earl Nightingale said:  “Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

What ideas and recommendations have you used to help you make some time to connect with your people? How have these benefited you, your team, and your results? i would love to hear your thoughts!

******

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———————–
Susan (Chandler) Foster

Susan C. Foster is an Master Certified Coach & Owner of Susan Foster Coaching
She coaches & facilitates in Leadership, Motivation & Building Great Teams
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The Navy SEAL Experience: Leadership Lessons From Extreme Training

Navy SEAL Extreme Experience

When you need to recharge after months of grueling work, where do you go on vacation? Do you take a trip to a tropical island, a golfing paradise, or somewhere with a little culture?

All of these options may relax and refresh you, but if you’re looking to return to work with the feeling that you can go beyond the preconceived notions of your own limits, you may want to rethink your destination.

Becoming a Fearless Leader

In December 2011, I decided to get as far outside my comfort zone as possible by signing up for Extreme SEAL Experience, a small company south of Norfolk, Virginia, that gives civilians the opportunity to train like U.S. Navy SEALS.

This idea was born out of a desire to see what it meant to train like the most talented, determined, and fearless people in the world.

I knew I would face fears of heights, injury, water, doing something I might not be good at, and failure — my greatest fear in the world. But it also meant that I could become a better version of myself, which would ultimately benefit my company and teammates.

3 Ways to Becoming a Better Leader

Here are three ways ESE made me a better leader:

 1. It Forced Me to Take Challenges Head-On

ESE includes a physically demanding 24-hour-period with no sleep called “Hell Day” as a test of mental strength. It was grueling, but I made it through.

Earlier this year, when I had the opportunity to integrate a new methodology into a strategic relationship with one of our largest clients, I had nine days to build a team and execute at the highest level possible.

I had recently graduated from the Design Thinking Boot Camp at Stanford University, and I learned that there was a chance to apply design thinking to differentiate my company. We had meetings at 5 a.m. for nine straight days. It was our own personal “Hell Week.”

Despite making tons of mistakes along the way, there wasn’t a moment I thought we’d be unsuccessful. It didn’t matter that we were new to the process. I built a strong team and executed. We differentiated ourselves with a Fortune 50 client by ignoring our fear of failure and executing our goals. Now the client is using design thinking in its organization.

 2. It Encouraged Me to Make Decisions and not Dwell on Every Detail

Navy SEALS live with elevated risk as they’re frequently in harm’s way. As a result, ESE training teaches you to become incredibly aggressive so you can handle putting yourself in harm’s way. The course trains you to take risks, accept consequences, and move on.When I returned from nine days of training, I literally couldn’t sit still. I needed to do something or go somewhere.

The hardest thing, however, was coming back to corporate life and sitting through a meeting where people couldn’t make decisions.

You see, in ESE training, you have to make multiple critical decisions within seconds, and you know that your decisions affect not only your own life but also the lives of others. After the course, life at the office was vastly different.

I would have people come to me with complex problems. After telling them to go for the best option, they would want to discuss all the alternatives again. My typical response was: “I don’t care; do it.” Now I have a slightly more balanced approach, but I’ll always keep that willingness to take risks with me.

 3It Taught Me to Put Myself Last

Before my experience, a friend and Navy SEAL coached me, “When you finish a mission, make sure you are dead last to the showers.” His advice was invaluable. You always take care of team members and equipment first. Then you can take care of your own needs.

The profound level of teamwork and unity that develops among people who are truly selfless generates amazing results. This is rarely found in a corporate environment, but it’s a staple of the environment in which the SEALs operate.

My philosophy of being a leader has always been that it’s my responsibility to set direction and remove any roadblocks that stand in the way of my team.

I try to work for them instead of them working for me. That’s personal leadership.

While you may not get evaluated on a yearly performance review, you know in your heart whether you’re a good example of personal leadership. I’m fortunate to have learned that from the best, and I try to apply this to at least one situation every day.

Facing My Fears

Fear often paralyzes people into complacency. It keeps leaders from realizing achievements they never thought possible, and — worst of all — it prevents great things from happening. SEAL training taught me to face my fears head-on and smile in the glory of knowing I conquered them. It taught me the power of critical decision-making and how to conquer my next challenges.

You have one life to live, so live it boldly no matter what your fears are. You need to apply yourself at all times. If there’s one thing I learned from ESE, it’s to never stop pushing yourself.

So, I’ll ask you again: Where are you going on your next vacation?

******

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———————–

George N. Hines

George Hines is the Chief Information Officer and Head of Innovation at GES
He has 20 years of experience in various B2B companies
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6 Daily Practices of Effective Managers

6 Steps for Leaders

It can be easy for employees to take managers for granted because most employees are trying to avoid the attention of their managers.

But a company cannot be successful without a dynamic and experienced team of managers.

Measuring Results

Each day, the management team of your company sets out to do everything it can to put employees in a position to succeed. In order to appreciate the pressure managers are under, we first need to understand and accurately measure the daily practices of the most effective managers.

6 Daily Practices of Effective Managers

1) Maintain Departmental Culture

In order for a sales department to be successful, the manager has to create a culture that fosters success. Sales enablement is the process of giving sales professionals the tools they need to succeed. A strong culture is maintained by a manager who gets involved in what the employees are doing and helps employees to solve daily problems.

A good manager is out there sustaining a culture of success and not locked in their office wondering what is going on.

2) Constantly Evaluating The Talent Of Team Members

If an employee has displayed a talent for doing something that is useful for the company, then a good manager would have taken note of that talent. Each and every day, good managers talk to their employees and monitor the work that is being done to determine the talent level of each employee.

When the company faces a crisis, a good manager knows which employees to call on to help solve the problem and move the company forward.

3) Constantly Looking For New Talent

A good manager has told the human resources department to line up interviews with any employee that could benefit the company. That is not to say that a good manager is always hiring new staff members.

But a good manager does want to know what talent is available should the need ever arise.

The company could decide to start a new department or a key employee could decide to leave the company. If that were to ever happen, an effective manager already has a pool of potential employment candidates to call on.

4) Meets With Employees

Each and every day, an effective manager sets up meetings with his employees to gauge the employee’s progress in their development and to identify any challenges that may have come up.

A good manager does not wait until the annual review to sit down and meet with employees.

While there should always be that open level of communication between employees and their manager, it is always a good idea for managers to schedule one-on-one meetings with all employees throughout the course of the day.

5) Head Off Conflict Before It Becomes Disruptive

There are few things that derail a successful company faster than internal conflict. A little friendly competition for jobs and promotions is a healthy thing for any company. But when a real conflict erupts, that can disrupt the entire company.

A good manager is constantly keeping an eye out for potential conflict and working to eliminate the issue before it explodes into a problem. An effective manager does not avoid conflict in the hopes that it will just go away.

An effective manager addresses conflict head-on and eliminates it immediately.

6) Remain Honest With Employees

Employees know when they are being lied to, and they do not like it. While the truth can sometimes hurt, it is still in the manager’s best interest to be honest with employees at all times.

Employees will have to understand that there are times when the manager cannot be forthright with delicate or sensitive information.

But when the information needs to be distributed, employees want to know that their managers are being honest with them each and every time.

Effective managers are interactive leaders who understand and remember what it is like to be an employee. But managers also have to keep one eye on the future growth of the company, and that is what makes a manager’s job difficult.

So how are you doing with the above six daily practices? Are there areas of improvement that you can start today or tomorrow? What sort of challenges do you face in becoming a better manager or leader? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————
Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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