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Hey Leaders: Lighten Up a Little

Walt Disney

One of my favorite Walt Disney quotes is, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.”

Now think about it a minute. You don’t need to “grow up,” in the common sense of the word, to be “professional” or a “leader,” It’s all about how you embrace yourself – your attitude – and how you present yourself. There’s nothing wrong with having some “kid” left in you. Having that bit of kid makes you more approachable – more likeable – easier to associate with.

The Right Balance

We all know the people who have changed as they’ve been promoted. They become more (too) serious and in the process lose touch with the people they supervise. They lose the kid in themselves – quite often on purpose.

When you lose that part of you it causes you to lose your:

  • flexibility
  • understanding
  • communication
  • ability to retain employee’s
  • ability to empathize.

It may also cause you to destroy your:

  • culture
  • ability to attract talent
  • current relationship’s.

What am I saying here? Act like a child? Not at all. Just keep an open mind. Continue with that ability to relate to your employees – on all levels. You did it as a peer so why lose it as a supervisor. Have some fun. Think about the best work experience you’ve ever had. I bet it had something to do with having fun.

Being An Encourager

A number of years ago I had a manager, a leader, (we’ll call him Bob) that was moving up quickly. Our team worked extremely well together and enjoyed it. We could joke around with Bob – not like a “buddy” – and we could all brainstorm to come up with any off-the-wall idea. In fact, it was encouraged. That’s a big key – no matter how goofy the idea, there may be something to it. You can’t cut ideas down. Bob always smiled, was energetic, and even poked a little fun at himself now and then. Bob’s position was putting him pretty high, but we were always on a first name basis.

But something, we don’t know what, happened in his life that drained the kid out of him. He became that serious “professional”, and it was all downhill from there. There was no more fun, no more lunches together, no more cohesiveness . . . and no more goofy ideas. People started transferring and Bob’s quick climb came to a screeching halt.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Organizations Who Have Fun

What’s one of the most common things that the most successful organizations have with each other? They have fun. People are allowed to hold on to that most precious part of their personal history.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Disney
  • Zappos
  • Flickr
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Cisco

If employees can say that they’re having fun at work, it also means that they’re not as uptight and communication will flourish because people are easier to approach.

Fun, But Serious

Now, they call it work for a reason. So I don’t mean wear a red nose, do magic tricks or a stand-up acts all day long. However, a sense of humor can go a very long way. It’s a great way to bond with people. It instantly lightens the mood and lifts morale.

The office is the office. There has to be some seriousness also. Some of us are in some very serious occupations. Just remember that no matter how serious the work is, it’s still being performed by human beings and we all need a little time to lighten the mood. As a leader, you have to be accessible and able to hear and sense when performance is needing a lift. Better yet is to not even wait that long.

Terminal Seriousness?

Do you know the general tone of your office or work environment?

Take this short quiz from Jody Urquhart to get an idea whether your staff is suffering from terminal seriousness.

Yes or No

Do you regularly catch people laughing or smiling at work?

YES or NO

When something funny happens do people stop and appreciate it?

YES or NO

Does your organization have fun activities at least monthly?

YES or NO

Do you have tools (fun giveaways, drawings) to invite employees to participate in having fun in your environment?

YES or NO

Are managers usually optimistic and smiling at work?

YES or NO

If you answer NO to two or more of these questions, your staff probably suffers from “terminal seriousness,” which is negatively affecting morale and productivity.

The Right Environment

If you need to create a turnaround in your culture, just remember, it’s not your job to MAKE work fun but rather it’s your job to create the conditions where fun and happiness can flourish.

Are your employees relaxed, or uptight? Do you see many smiles at work? Are you projecting a positive attitude? What can you do to create the opportunity for fun?

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch

Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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Leaders – Don’t Give In

New Hire Orientation

New employee orientation (NEO), or onboarding, is one of the most critical aspects of a new hire’s beginning.  But to so many leaders, from HR to department directors and managers, it’s becoming just a check on a quick list of to-do’s.

“Just get through the paperwork, tell them their schedule and who to report to.”  I’ve been seeing this more and more lately, and I just don’t understand it.

Creating Successful Organizations

In successful organizations, leaders focus on creating a culture that provides a feeling of ownership, belonging, and purpose.

And how best to expose new hires to this culture, that so many have worked so hard to develop, than new employee orientation?

The idea of NEO is not to just throw people some benefit information and tell them who to report to, but to immerse new people in the culture.

This includes:

  • How the organization began
  • What it went through to get to where it is today
  • The people who have made a difference
  • How these new go-getters can understand how they can make a difference

If asked about the organization, everyone should have a similar description of it.

Creating a Magic Kingdom

Probably my favorite quote of all time came from Michael Eisner, former President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

He said, “We don’t put people in Disney, we put Disney in people.”

Every new cast member goes through a 3½ day Traditions course (NEO), where the Disney culture is communicated through powerful storytelling.

In The Disney Way, authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson describe how Traditions was once reduced by one day . . . one day.

 “Complaints from supervisors throughout the parks began to pour in.  ‘The quality of guest service is not the quality we had last season.’”

That extra day was soon added back in and the complaints diminished.

Given Time to Succeed

NEO is the first opportunity for new people to learn about your company.  If they’re rushed through the benefits speech and the safety presentation and not given any information about how great the company is, that’s exactly the kind of employee you’re going to get.

  • You will get employees that rush their job and who don’t  feel any ownership for what they do.
  • You’ll have employees that are there just for a “job,” not a successful “career.”
  • Your company will never see the potential success it could if it properly set the tone in the beginning.

I’ve heard some managers say, “Well, they’ll learn the culture from working in it”.  They sure will.  But the culture they’ll learn is the “underground” culture – not the one that you should be immersing them in from the start.  There’s usually a culture all its own that says, “this is the way that it’s supposed to be, but this is the way that I do it”.

Right From the Start

You must teach the new people, from the start, the importance of your mission and vision and how they should act in order to fit into it and make it successful – whether its following local SOP’s, federal regulations, or putting themselves in the customers shoes to give extraordinary service.

Don’t let them learn things the hard way. Or the wrong way.

Okay, think of it this way.  Ask yourself this:

Why would I just throw a new employee into the fire to figure things out for himself? But if I bought a new piece of machinery, I’d follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set it up and get it working properly?

Getting a new employee going properly and getting a new piece of machinery going properly is the same thing.  You have to “install” a new employee in the culture, just like you would install a new piece of machinery in order to get it to run properly.

Leading By Example

Take a look at the Zappos culture.  This legendary company is one of the most successful customer-service-based companies ever. Everyone, regardless of department, hired into their headquarters goes through the same four week training that their call center staff goes through.

This includes:

  • Company history
  • The importance of customer service
  • Their long-term vision
  • Philosophy about the company culture

Everyone is on the same page because everyone gets the same information and they get it up front.  They know exactly what the company is about and how they fit into it.

Not convinced yet?  Lets turn the tables.  Yes it’s true that employee orientation centers around helping the new employee, but it just could be the company that ultimately gains the benefits.

Think about these company benefits:

  • Reduces costs associated with learning on the job
  • Saves coworkers and supervisors time training the new employee, thereby increasing production
  • Increases morale and reduces turnover by showing the employee he/she is valued

Hmmm, I never thought of it that way.

However you look at it, a strong new employee orientation program is a requirement for success – both for the employee and your company.  It’s been proven time and time again that happy knowledgeable  employees are productive employees . . . and productive employees create successful organizations.

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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Leadership Lesson: Do You Hear Me?

Hearing vs. Listening

Do you hear me?  Are you listening?

Many people use these two questions interchangeably, but they’re two significantly different questions.  You can “hear” people are talking, but then you can “listen” to what they’re saying.  Let me give you an example.

Hearing vs. Listening

When I was in the Navy, on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), I shared an office space with our Chief Petty Officer.  Basically the only thing separating our areas was a small file cabinet with a 13” TV on top.  In the evenings, I always had the TV on, but the volume low.

Harold asked me one time, with a puzzling tone, “How can you concentrate with the TV on?”

My reply was that I’m not “listening” to it.  I just “hear” the sound.  I really had no idea what show was on.

Straight Talk

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says, in part, that

To “hear” means:

1: to perceive or apprehend by the ear.

To “listen” means:

1: to pay attention to sound.

Big difference.  When you “hear”, it’s just sound going in.  But when you “listen”, you are actually understanding the information.  In other words, you can hear something without wanting to, but you can only listen to something intentionally.  Listening is a skill.

Anyone who’s been a leader for any length of time should realize that you have to learn how to phrase questions properly in order to get the most honest and useful information and understanding in return.

The answer is always going to be “Yes” to the question, “Do you hear me?”, but “No” (at least in their mind) to the question, “Are you listening to me?”

Never ask, “Do you hear me?”

Leadership Lesson: Focus on Listening

Now, with that background, let’s change direction and talk about our listening skills.  Leaders need to focus in order to keep listening, or else we’re just . . . hearing.  Too many leaders have so many things on their minds that if they don’t just stop and focus on listening, it’s not long before they’re thinking about other things and slipping into the hearing mode.

Listening requires you to stop what you’re doing and to have patience with the conversation.

In his book, Creating Magic, Lee Cockerell says, “it’s vital to hang in there, because you never know when a glimmer of an idea might shine through.  The sentence you tuned out on might hold a crucial fact, or reveal an important problem you need to know about.”

A Listening Attitude

If you want to actually listen to someone, and not just go through the actions of hearing, you need to use the proper means.  A lot of my work has been in customer service.  That’s a great subject to take a look at.

How many of you have suggestion boxes, or comment cards?  All you get there are statements that you’re most likely going to quickly glance over and then move along.  Do you send written responses back to the customers?  You tell them that “we hear what you are saying.”  You HEAR what they’re saying.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you are LISTENING to them.

Most people tend to be “hard of listening” rather than “hard of hearing.”

Active Listening

Guest Relations at Walt Disney World used to send apology letters to Guests who complained.  But those letters, like most organizations, are just a form that specific information is inserted into.  So they started phoning the Guests instead, creating a two-way conversation where they could actually LISTEN to the concerns and work them out.

So what can I do right now to start listening better?  Good question.  I’m glad you asked.

  1. Go to the door and greet the person – personally welcome them into your office.  Help put them at ease.
  2. Get out from behind your desk and sit with the person.  Chairs should be the same height so you don’t give off a domineering vibe.
  3. Stop what you’re doing and turn to face the person.
  4. Take notes.  Tell the person that you’d like to jot down some notes while you converse in order to help you understand better.
  5. Unless you’re a doctor on-call, don’t answer the phone.
  6. Use open, positive body language.
  7. Watch the person’s body language to help you “listen” to what’s NOT being said.

Keep in mind what Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni said in their book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go“It’s the quality of the conversation that matters most to employees.”

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Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development at Florida Blood Services
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Blog |  (727) 568-5433

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Racing Out The Door? Try Shifting Gears

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Do you think about trying to find a better job? One that gives you time to think. One where you can feel better about yourself. One that doesn’t feel like a rat race or a rat trap.

So what happened to that honeymoon period when you first took the job?

How did your elation about your new role and your telling everyone that you found the perfect job fall by the wayside?

Starting Your New Job

Utopia: Time & Confidence

When you were hired, people gave you time to think and learn. Your employees, peers and bosses were patient because you were on a learning curve. Even though you might have felt like you weren’t sure about what you were doing in this new environment, your confidence was high.

You knew you had just beat out all those other applicants for this position.

Those that interviewed and selected you also had confidence in you. You had swayed them that you were the best candidate and they weren’t about to second guess their brilliant choice.

NeuYear Calendar

The BEST Calendar for 2013

Finding Second Gear

A Very Scruffy White Rabbit

Then the learning curve period was over. Welcome to the real job where you’re multi-tasking at a crazy pace. Your position is actually doing the equivalent of several jobs. You are not just the manager – you are a key specialist. You don’t just oversee one function – you oversee a combination of teams.

Do more with less. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Do-Do-Do. You’re late, you’re late, you’re late.

There’s no time to think. You find yourself constantly dragged into the tactical and missing time to be strategic. You can’t think of the last time you were brilliantly creative because there is no time for pondering, brainstorms or experimentation. You suddenly realize this is not your best work. With the crazy pace, you may even have made a couple of errors that are very uncharacteristic for you.

Let’s add to that. Your bosses and peers are also working at this relentless pace. They need your answers now. You don’t have the bandwidth to get everyone what they want. Someone has got to wait. But now this waiting person starts losing confidence in you. You feel this behavioral message. Click – you’ve lost more of your confidence and your starting to feel like a very scruffy version of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

Stop & Breathe!

 How do you get off this treadmill without jumping to another company who probably has similar challenges?

Putting It Into Neutral

Be Clear What is Urgent and What is Important

Steven Covey’s Urgent and Important matrix from his book First Things First is a great tool.

Important and Urgent Graph

If you are spending most of your time on the urgent but not finding time for the “important and not urgent”, where strategy, prevention and improvements occur, you will have problems. Block time on your calendar to work in this quadrant and find that time to think.

To reduce the amount of work falling into the urgent quadrant be clear on who is defining it as urgent.

If it does not tie back to the mission or vision of the business then it is not urgent. The production line going down is urgent. The employee opinion survey being a week later than some Senior VP wanted is not.

Use the matrix to help manage your boss and key stakeholders. I used a modified version of this matrix as a monthly update on what my teams were working on. Each stakeholder believes their request is urgent and important but when they see it compared to the other mission critical requests being worked, they understand why theirs fell into the moderately important or moderately urgent. Managing upwards allows you to control much of your time and confidence perception issues.

Maintaining the Right Pace

Get Your Confidence Back

You are even more amazing than when you first started.

If you lose your confidence, you’ll start projecting all your insecurities onto your team, peers or boss. They may be already doing that to you so be careful what you start believing. List your strengths. If you were going to leave this job and start with a new company what strengths would you sell them?  In my workshops and coaching I often find leaders hold themselves to unrealistic standards .

In this fast paced, high-tech and low-connectivity workplace, chances are you are not the only one under-appreciated.

Like Ken Blanchard said in this quick video clip in the One Minute Manager “Catch people doing things right” – and let them know. Appreciation is a contagious act. People are much more likely to appreciate others once they’ve been appreciated. If you start the process it will spread to others and will probably even come back to you.

Appreciate yourself first and you will find you have the energy to appreciate others.

You might even find yourself appreciating where you work.

What other tips would you add? i would love to hear your advice!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————–
Carlann Fergusson

Carlann Fergusson is owner at Propel Forward LLC
She provides seminars and consulting on Strategic Leadership Challenges
Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWeb | Skype: carlann.fergusson

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