Encouraging Your Employees Leads to Better Business Outcomes

As a leader, embracing an attitude of empowerment is crucial to maintaining a high-performance team. Empowered employees are more confident, creative, and able to resolve issues without micromanagement. Having confident and caring employees ensures that customers receive the best possible service.

Many leaders strive to create empowering environments for their teams but are unsure of how to make this happen. Luckily, there are many simple ways to ensure positivity and empowerment are pillars of your workplace.

The Benefits of Employee Empowerment

Employees thrive in supportive environments in which they feel valued. They have the confidence to make decisions that can determine whether an interaction with your organization was positive or negative. An empowered employee feels able to speak openly about issues and successes they encounter on a day to day basis. When employees feel comfortable speaking up, leaders can have a clear picture of how their companies are operating and act to improve weak areas.

Empowered employees also tend to have higher on the job satisfaction than employees who do not feel empowered at work. This leads to higher retention and company loyalty.

Building Trust

The first action a leader should take when working to empower their employees is building trust. Trust is the foundation of human relationships—without it, it would be difficult for society to function. Letting your employees use their best judgement when it comes to performing tasks lets them know you trust them. You can do this simply by setting end goals then taking a step back. Do not be overly involved in each step of the process. Let your employees decide the best way to tackle tasks. This ensures each member of your team feels empowered every step of the way.

Have an Open Door Policy

Making yourself available to discuss matters important to your employees on a regular basis goes a long way to make them feel more empowered in their roles. Leaders who remove barriers of communication between team members and management find that they receive more important information regarding projects and can work to nip any arising issues in the bud. Fostering a culture of openness also has the added benefit of increasing creativity among your team. Opening the doors of communication can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

Provide Leadership Opportunities

Giving employees a chance to spearhead a project or take the lead in a meeting provides a structured way to exercise their own authority and gain confidence. An employee who is given added responsibility in the context of a responsive leader and a supportive team may be much more productive than one who is lacking in such support. Delegating small leadership tasks can boost cooperation and collaboration among team members.

Recognition and Encouragement

Don’t forget to let your team know when they do exceptional work. Whether it was a useful comment at a meeting or a well drafted report, take a minute to recognize their efforts. A compliment on a job well done goes a long way to retain good employees. And if you work with a very large team or have trouble fitting encouragement into the agenda, you can start a structured recognition program, such as an Employee of the Month award.

It is up to you, the leader, to give your employees a workplace conducive to growth and empowerment. But the hard work pays off. Giving your team the tools they need to become empowered ensures the success of the company as a whole.

Being Human as a Leader

It pays to care

There was a time in the not so distant past when a compassionate, humble and honest leader would be considered weak and doomed to fail. My, how times have changed. These days it is the human leaders who are most admired and emulated.

The monumental shift in the way traditional companies operate has been influenced in large part by the influx of Millennials, whose world view is slowly changing the definition of what it means to be an effective leader. This is the generation that wants to patronize and work for companies that care.

At the helm of such companies are human leaders who embrace conscious capitalism. This is a term used to describe organizations that take a holistic approach by considering employees, customers, investors, suppliers and the environment when doing business. This philosophy does not shun capitalism or profits, rather it enhances it by trying to bring everyone to the table.

Good leaders have always been creative, ambitious, confident and passionate. Great leaders encompass these traits and more, including compassion, honesty and patience. Human leaders view employees as part of a large family. Let’s face it – we spend more time at the office than we do with our own families, so it makes sense!

If that is not enough, human leadership is great for the bottom line. Eighty percent of people say they would be willing to pay more for a product if they knew it was created in a responsible manner, according to Conscious Company Media.

“The most conscious companies give more, and they get more in return,” writes author Tony Schwartz in Harvard Business Review. “The inescapable conclusion: it pays to care, widely and deeply.”

So how can you become a more human leader?

Effective communication is important. While constructive dialogue is great, leaders need to really listen to what employees say. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Listening means being actively present in the moment. Employees will value this because it makes him or her feel important.

Use your words wisely. There are many people who talk endlessly but say little. When this happens, you get tuned out. There is a reason why you are a leader, so try to impart your wisdom in a clear and concise manner.

Honesty really is the best policy. Communicate information when times are good and bad. Don’t try to hide anything about where the company stands because the truth will come out sooner or later. More importantly, people appreciate it when you are honest because they can better relate to you. This builds trust and means there are no surprises for employees.

Showing humility connects you to others. Great leaders do not need to be arrogant because their accomplishments speak for themselves. In fact, most human leaders would feel embarrassed by this type of behavior. Remember that even though you are a leader, teamwork and collaboration is what makes an organization flourish.

Trust your employees enough to delegate work. As a leader, it may be hard for you to let go of certain projects. However, resisting the urge to micromanage allows employees to take the spotlight. If mistakes are made, it gives employees a chance to learn and do better the next time. More importantly, it will demonstrate that you trust employees enough to handle large projects.

Finally, do not be afraid of the future. Things are moving at the speed of light and it is hard to keep up, but by not embracing change, your organization will be left behind. Encourage innovation and move forward with the times.

Is It Your Job to Motivate Others?

A colleague of mine spent all summer building a team with long-term temp employees. She thought things were going well. Then a big client project came along with tight deadlines. The project was challenging, but also an exciting new opportunity for the company. To her surprise, her team did not step up. They either pushed back, ignored their assignments or quit. She had no choice but to push through the client’s deadline, mostly by herself. She was devastated…and exhausted.

After the project was completed, she took some time to reflect on why her team had reacted that way. She considered herself a good motivator. Her team had always responded to her daily motivation. She had thought they were ready for any challenge.

That’s when she realized she had been carrying the motivation for her whole team.

Rather than helping them find their own sources of motivation, she had taken on the responsibility to be their daily motivator. Everything was dependent on her. She had become the source of energy for the entire team. Their daily contributions were an extension of her own enthusiasm, rather than their desire to do well.

When she needed them to really step up, they had nothing to draw from. They didn’t know how to find motivation from within. They had grown used to her carrying them along.

This is a common occurrence in leadership. As a leader, you have a deep well of passion and vision for what you are doing. That does not mean your team shares your passion. They might not be personally invested in your vision. The excitement and energy that you pour into your work does not translate to your team, especially when a challenge comes along.

In order for your team members to be fully on board, they need to have their own “why.” They need an internal source of motivation that speaks directly to them. You can’t make that happen for them. They have to find it, and they have to want it. If you spend your time trying to be their motivating force, you will burn out, and your team will not be engaged at the level you desire.

As a leader, the best approach you can take is twofold: First, create a motivating environment. Next, give your team the tools to discover what motivates them. This is a great team-building opportunity. When your team can come together and learn about what motivates each other, they will work more cohesively and energetically. Each person will learn how to become self-motivating. The team will help each other stay focused on their individual “why.”

This takes you out of the role of daily motivator. Instead, you will bring your creative ideas to set up the right team environment. Your team can take it from there. You can continue to oversee and encourage. When motivation seems to wane, think strategically about how to help your team refocus together.

The next time a challenging project comes around, you will see the difference. Each person will be working from an internal source of motivation. And your team will work smoothly together because they will know how to encourage each other in the right ways.

How to Become a Meeting Master (or Maven)

Meetings are testing grounds for leaders. This is where you can show your strengths and generate ideas. It can also be a time of boredom and frustration for meeting attendees. Fortunately, by following a few simple tips you can keep your meetings productive.

Here are some strategies to remember when running a meeting.

Have a Written Agenda

Meetings can feel unproductive when they get derailed. An attendee can bring up a related, but irrelevant topic and the discussion completely shifts gears. Now you’ve lost control of the room. Having a written agenda and sticking to it can fix this common meeting problem. Not only will you and attendees stay on track, you will also be able to make sure you get through every key point. You can also specify a certain number of minutes per topic. Doing so will keep your meeting running smoothly and keep your attendees interested throughout the meeting.  

Keep it Short

Let’s face it, no one wants to sit in on meetings for most of the day. Employees have other work tasks and, frankly, many consider meetings to be a tedious part of working life. To keep attendees engaged and happy throughout the meeting, keep it short. Keeping meetings under an hour is best for most topics. And once your specified time is up, let them go. Sticking to the agenda and ending the meeting at the specified time is a great way to show your attendees you respect their time.

Encourage Participation

Productive meetings take attendees’ viewpoints into consideration. People like to know their ideas are heard and allowing them the chance to do so is a great confidence building strategy. Encouraging participation also leads to better meeting outcomes. Attendees who have contributed their opinion are more confident in pursuing those goals once the meeting is over. It is important to be as inclusive as possible. If you notice there is someone who rarely speaks up in meetings, reach out to them beforehand and ask that they contribute their opinion. This way, they will have time to prepare.

Make an Action Plan

People can interpret the same conversation several different ways. The same holds true for meetings. While one attendee understands a certain task as having priority, another attendee might believe a different task is to be completed first. To minimize these types of misunderstandings, it is important to make an action plan and follow up. Make a list of key tasks and their priorities and send them out via email after the meeting has concluded.

Meetings don’t have to be inefficient. With a few preparations, you can run engaging and productive meetings that yield great results.

Making a Great Leader

Great leadership can be an invaluable tool that, when used correctly, can hone a group into a highly effective team. I recently asked my Facebook Community to describe a great leader in one word. Some of the terms that came up in the conversation were responsible, serving, motivating and inspirational. By using some of these examples we can find ways to improve our own leadership skills.

A great leader leads from the front.

A leader who is visible and doesn’t stay behind the scenes “pulling strings” inspires a team much more effectively. The leader is responsible and answers for the results (good or bad) of his or her team. Passing the buck will only lead to less motivation and poor outcomes.

A great leader always has the team’s back and provides comfort outside the comfort zone.

As a leader you want your team’s best shot every time. A team that knows their leader will always support and defend them when they work hard and do their best will continue to give great effort. Mistakes will be made. This is a fact of life. By using mistakes as an opportunity to improve rather than a reason for punishment, your team will strive for better performances each chance they get.

A great leader is empowering and listens.

Encouraging your team to brainstorm together and ask questions builds self-confidence.  The part that translates into better performance is a leader who is approachable and ready to consider these new ideas and listen to these questions. Team members that have the confidence to share new ideas and ask important questions are the ones that help the team improve.

This may sound like a leader needs to everywhere at once all the time. I know I’ve felt this way, and I’m sure you have too. The important thing is to understand where to be and when to be there. By being engaged with your team, you will understand and know when they need someone to lead the way and when they need someone to fall back on. Just make sure you stay ready for whatever the situation calls for!

Communication Skills on the Job

Every job today demands top notch communication skills. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” You may have been on the receiving end of this illusion once or twice. Developing communication skills is a great career booster.

Types of Communication

Let’s first examine the different types of communication. Often, when people think of communication, they automatically thinking of speaking. However, there are other types of communication as well.

Verbal skills are what you say and how you say it. This could be in front of a group of people or one on one. Brushing up on public speaking skills should be on your professional “to do” list. Look for comfortable opportunities as a starting point. There are also groups, such as Toastmasters, which focus on improving members public speaking skills.

Listening skills is often an overlooked type of communication. Instead of waiting for your turn to talk, focus on listening to understand the speaker. This activity leads to better communication all the way around.

Today’s jobs require good writing skills. Writing to make a lasting impression is essential for any professional career. Brushing up on writing skills generally involves getting feedback from others with a strong writing background. It also involves paying close attention to grammar, punctuation and proof reading.

Body Language

Body language can be considered a type of communication. Body language plays an important role in our everyday communication. It is not only limited to face to face communications, but extends other communications as well. For example, customer service phone training often involves participants practicing a smile over the phone because it can be heard on the other end.

Paying attention to your body language during critical interactions is important. Do you fidget when you are nervous? Do you bite your lip when you want to argue? Even when speaking over the phone, pay close attention to your body language.

Which Communication Type to Use

A hot topic these days is knowing when to use which communication type and how to use it. If you use written communication, will it be in the form of an email, a text or a customer report? Knowing the medium makes a difference. Also, knowing when to talk to someone instead of email or knowing when to meet someone face to face instead of conversing over the phone is becoming more important in today’s professional environment.

Although there are not hard and fast rules for these decisions, growing your emotional IQ will help. Emotional IQ means understanding your emotional self-awareness in dealing with others. Strengthening your emotional intelligence will, in turn, strengthen your interaction with others regardless of the type of medium you use.

When you develop effective communication skills, you gain control over what you can achieve and how you are perceived. This transferable skill sets you up for success regardless of your job.

Getting the Most out of Interviews: Making Candidates Feel Comfortable

The interview process is designed to assess which candidate should be hired to fill a job vacancy. In order for a hiring manager to learn all they can about a candidate during this process, it is imperative to engage in meaningful conversations with candidates during this process. All too often hiring managers will try to “wing it” by asking questions that come to them during the interview. Another common mistake is that they are too busy focusing on asking the next question, they miss important information about the candidate.

Create Trust

To engage in these meaningful conversations, create trust. Creating this type of environment allows the candidate to let down their guard to be able to share more during the interview.

Building trust with a candidate you just met is a practiced skill. Move too quickly into the killer questions and the candidate freezes up. Move too slowly and you may never learn if the candidate has the critical skills you are looking for.

Develop trust by making the candidate feel welcome by establishing common ground early on in the interview. Develop ice breaker questions which allows a candidate to talk about their personal experiences before diving into the formal question and answer interview format. Set the tone early on to develop deeper conversations with a candidate.

What types of questions generate this trust with a stranger? Great examples include:

  • What is motivating you to look for a new opportunity?
  • Tell me what you are looking for in your next employer.
  • What is important to you in your career now?

After those initial questions, make a smooth transition to the harder interview questions.

Practice Makes Perfect

Candidates can tell when they are with an unskilled interviewer. If you are leading an interview for the first time, prepare the questions in advance and ask a trusted colleague to provide feedback after you present the questions. Whether you realize it or not, you are being interviewed by the candidate.

Review the resumes and information from the candidates in detail. If there are some conversation starters you can glean from those documents, use them to build common ground.

You are asking the candidate to be as open as possible during an interview, so practice your elevator speech too. Be able to describe your experience and what you enjoy about working at the company. Show your vulnerability during the process. This leads to a meaningful exchange that will guide you in selecting the best candidate.

What is Your Online Reputation?

Personal Coaching for ChangeWhether you are looking for a job or establishing yourself as a leader in your organization, your social media presence counts. Good resumes are a first step, but that alone doesn’t cut it anymore. Is your social media working for you or against you? Using your online presence to bolster your career will get attention.

The Need for Online Presence
Online presence is no longer optional. It has the ability to support your personal brand and demonstrate industry knowledge. This position authority provides you the opportunity to attract employers and leaders to you.
Recruiters and employers are looking for job seekers who have a diverse and compelling online footprint. Take a moment to Google your name. If little to no search results pop up, you may be passed over for someone who has a vibrant online story.

Social Proof
Employers often will Google your name before contacting you. This helps them validate your resume and experience. Any discrepancies will raise red flags so make sure all your information matches.

Improving Your Online Reputation
If you discover you do not have much of an online presence, don’t worry, you can get started now.
LinkedIn is a great tool to establish your subject matter expertise, share professional opinions and influence others. You can even use this platform as your professional blog. Articles you post on LinkedIn are displayed in the posts section of your profile. These posts can be shared with your connections and followers. An added bonus is that each post is searchable-both on and off of LinkedIn. Don’t let content creation keep you from using this tool. Write articles based on keywords from your profile and resume.

Did you know if you write a book review on Amazon, it can be used as a search tool? Find great professional books you have read and post a meaningful review about it. You can write your professional opinion whether you agree or disagree with an author.

Employers utilize the tools at their disposable to get the best candidates and promote leaders. The best candidates have squeaky-clean online footprints, so be diligent in building and safeguarding your online reputation.

Turn a Difficult Conversation into a Productive One

Good news conversations are easy. Your leadership really gets tested, however, in the difficult ones. There are many reasons why leaders need to have difficult conversations. It could be an employee’s poor work performance is impacting the bottom line. Or a conflict affecting the department may need to be addressed.

While there is not a silver bullet to these conversations, there are ways to make this exchange more productive to achieve the desired results.

Plan it Right

Preparing for the meeting is key. Planning the right time and location to ensure a private conversation will allow you to focus on delivering the right message. You will want to practice the conversation. Although you cannot predict what the other party will say, prepare various versions based on the route the conversation may take.

Prepare the Message

Here are some tips on preparing what to say:

  • Keep it focused and simple.
  • Use “I” instead of “You”.
  • Avoid tip toeing around the issue or sugar coating your words.
  • State what you hope this conversation will achieve.

After these difficult conversations, follow up with the person. Even if the situation is not resolved completely, the employee will benefit from being kept informed of their progress. Many difficult issues require more than one discussion.

Need help figuring out the right words to say? Make sure to contact us to get more insight on leadership conversations.

Transitioning Into Leadership

You have been asked to take on a leadership role. Now what?

The transition into leadership can seem daunting, but don’t let yourself become overwhelmed. If you have been asked to lead that means others recognize your potential and believe you are the best person for the job. There will be adjustments, and things may get a little awkward before they get better, but you can rock this transition!

As you transition into leadership, here are some pointers to remember.

You will make mistakes.

Mistakes are inevitable. We are all human. For example, you may delegate the wrong task to the wrong person or you may say the wrong thing in a meeting, but don’t let that stop you from making progress. What’s important is that you own your mistakes, rectify the situation, and keep moving.  Learning from mistakes is a crucial step in learning how to be a great leader.

You will not have all the answers.

A common misconception is that leaders should have all the answers, but that is untrue and unrealistic. Understanding that it is okay to not have all the answers will make your transition into leadership exponentially less stressful. Do your due diligence to be knowledgeable about your field and your role, but if you are asked a question you do not have an answer for, it is acceptable to say, “I do not have an answer right now, but I will find one and get back to you soon.” Having the confidence to admit you do not have all the answers shows humility and a willingness to learn, which also sets a great example for those around you.

It will not be an overnight transformation.

While your responsibilities or job title may change overnight, your transition into leadership will not. It will take time for both you and those you are leading to adjust.  As you learn your new role, learn about those around you.  It will take some time to get used to each other and figure out the best way to work together.

As you transition into your new leadership role, it’s easy to be nervous.  Chances are, however, that you have already been leading, just without a formal title.  Throughout your leadership journey, read books and articles focused on growing as a leader invest in yourself and your development and seek mentoring.