The Lead Yourself First Blog

Workaholism – A Sanctioned Addiction: A Message For Dedicated Slaves…And Slave Drivers

How do you extricate yourself from an unhealthy work situation? Is it more difficult to do when you relish a challenge? Can you tell the difference between being a workaholic and a hard worker? If you are an employer, are you treating your best people with respect, or are you rewarding hard work with more work? Continue reading “Workaholism – A Sanctioned Addiction: A Message For Dedicated Slaves…And Slave Drivers”

Leadership Lesson: Can You Motivate “Dead Wood” Employees?

“I’m done.” These are thoughts or words that indicate an employee’s time with your organization has come to an end. Of course, many people reach this point for reasons that have nothing to do with low morale, lack of opportunity or a dislike for their jobs. They are ready to move up, move on or begin a new chapter in their lives, once their careers are finished or their time in the workforce is over.

Scenarios like those above are easy to understand. However, the same cannot be said about an employee who shuts down, becomes apathetic at work, or sucks the life out of their co-workers by displaying negativity day in and day out. While there is little doubt that a lack of motivation manifests itself in various forms, there are often underlying issues that can be addressed positively and proactively. Continue reading “Leadership Lesson: Can You Motivate “Dead Wood” Employees?”

It’s Not You, It’s Me. Four Reasons Why Some Leaders Need to Look In The Mirror

“Mirror Mirror on the Wall. Who’s the Fairest of Them All?” And the Wicked Queen would wait for the magic mirror’s expected response:  “My Queen, you are the fairest in the land.” And so it was, until one day the mirror shockingly revealed that times had changed:  “My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White beyond the mountains at the seven Dwarfs is a thousand times more beautiful than you.” Instead of facing the truth, the Wicked Queen vowed to poison Snow White, plotting revenge at every opportunity. Continue reading “It’s Not You, It’s Me. Four Reasons Why Some Leaders Need to Look In The Mirror”

Group of young people

Three reasons why you aren’t winning the talent war

Although the buzzwords “Talent Management” were first coined more than 15 years ago, many organizations are still searching for ways to attract and retain the best and brightest in order win the talent war.

Attraction is arguably the easiest piece of the talent management equation. However, companies that spend energy creating the perfect cocktail of salary and tailored compensation packages are missing the point for long-term success. High engagement and retention, coupled with developing outstanding leadership skills are the critical elements for gaining the strategic advantage. Conversely, your business will continue to lag behind if any of the following conditions persist: Continue reading “Three reasons why you aren’t winning the talent war”

How to tell people at work what you really think of them

ID-10054899Act One Scene One:  Learning a brand new way of implementing: “Don’t get mad, get even.”

During a recent training session regarding workplace relationships, I asked attendees to think of a time when a co-worker, client or manager’s words left them absolutely speechless.  Shock waves filled the room as participants willingly shared their stories. One example in particular threw everyone for a loop. As one of the attendees revealed the details of an encounter with a VP, the workshop discussion quickly heated up as people chimed in with their best comebacks. The collective “you have got to be kidding” sentiment made me think about the importance of knowing how to respond professionally to a disparaging remark in order to keep one’s credibility and composure, as well managing as the ramifications of unpleasant business interactions spiralling out of control.

What were the words that left everyone aghast? Continue reading “How to tell people at work what you really think of them”

Seven deadly mistakes that destroy employee motivation

Originally published in the Globe and Mail Leadership Lab Column

Don is the CEO of a family run business. His entrepreneurial roots span three generations and he is fiercely proud of his lineage . When “the good times” recently came to a grinding halt and the business headed into a rapid decline, a foreboding cloud of doom overtook a once, happy thriving workplace. With seventy employees on his payroll and a shrinking customer base, Don’s anxiety skyrocketed with each passing day. No one was immune from Don’s tongue-lashing as he grappled to manage his emotions and prevent his business from collapsing. Continue reading “Seven deadly mistakes that destroy employee motivation”

US Flag

The “Wow” Factor…Brought to you by the U.S. Post Office

Cynics may say that you would never expect a public servant to give outrageously good customer service. So let me prove you wrong. Ross, who works at the USPS located in Point Roberts, WA provided incredible service…so good that he puts many corporate retailers to shame.

Despite the fact that Canada Post has an outlet across the street from my house, I deliberately drove 45 minutes to the nearest U.S. border to mail my packages bound for multiple destinations across the United States. You may be asking “why”? Well, from past experiences I can tell you that not only are the savings enormous, the service that I have received at my Post Office across the border is second to none.

Last Friday, Ross delivered a customer service experience that I will never forget. As I placed my packages on the counter and waited for Ross to carefully weigh each envelope, he asked the game-changing question: “Can I offer you the “WOW” factor?” Continue reading “The “Wow” Factor…Brought to you by the U.S. Post Office”

Young Business People

Confidence, Composure, Credibility: How to maintain a collaborative spirit at work

It is often said that we spend more time with our work colleagues than our own families. With many of us working long hours, the pressure of juggling multiple tasks, doing more with less and managing mounting stress can often take a toll. In addition, we find ourselves spinning our wheels knowing that we need to be the best versions of ourselves at all times; maintaining a helpful and pleasant demeanor with our internal and external clients alike. However, the ability to work collaboratively while being mindful of our emotions sometimes eludes us for one simple reason: our humanness.

How do we preserve a spirit of cooperation when working with diverse personalities, differences of opinion, clashing values and varied interpretations of priorities?  How is it possible to rise above the small stuff and remain focused on the big picture? The answer lies in leading yourself first in all relationships, professional and personal, by honing these skills: Continue reading “Confidence, Composure, Credibility: How to maintain a collaborative spirit at work”

When Customers Walk – The Business Consequences of Disengagement

Please help meAfter a seventeen hour journey from Australia to Canada, plus forty-five frustrating minutes talking to airline staff about a pair of prescription glasses that were left on board, our friends left Vancouver International Airport knowing that the chances of anyone caring enough to resolve their concern was almost zero. A young woman who listened to their plight while repeatedly attempting not to yawn informed them that if found, the glasses would be taken to the appropriate location for lost articles. She scribbled down the company’s website name and told them to fill out the on-line form for lost and found articles. It was time to go on her break and there was nothing else she could do. The fact that their airplane was still at the gate, and the fact that the “at your service” agent could have easily communicated with airline’s ground staff to check for the glasses seemed all too difficult.

This scenario is not merely an example of poor customer service. It demonstrates something much deeper…a problem that is reaching endemic proportions in many workplaces of every description: Skyrocketing levels of employee disengagement. The results of a new Aon Hewitt study, reported in HRM Online, found 47% of workers are disengaged from their work – the lowest employee engagement levels in North America in five years.

Healthy levels of workplace engagement indicate discretionary effort, i.e. wanting to do, rather than having to do a job. HRM online also noted that “the drops in areas such as diversity, customer experience and leadership lead to an overall decrease in how employees felt about their overall work experience.” In the case of my friend’s lost pair of glasses, she encountered an individual who was not only unwilling to ask another colleague at the gate about the status of the glasses in that moment, but gave no thought to the bigger picture regarding the future buying decisions of an unhappy customer in her highly competitive industry.

Workplace cultures, together with employees’ perceptions of their role in the grand scheme of impacting the bottom line are key indicators of engagement. A recently published report entitled: The impact of the new long-term employee…Dealing with the Increasingly Shorter Definition of “a Long Time with the Company” defined engagement as: “the degree to which employees are psychologically invested in your organization and motivated to contribute to its success.”

The above definition ought to become the new benchmark for assessing the entire spectrum of organizational effectiveness. Employers of any size and industry that continue to ignore the significance of their staff remaining disengaged do so at their own peril. Unfortunately, the front line is not the only cohort who is psychologically “checking out” on the job. Management are also disconnecting for a host of reasons that include pressures to achieve higher performance and productivity with reduced staffing levels, limited resources, and increased workloads. As a result of being pulled in divergent directions, they are compromising their own abilities to lead, inspire, and motivate in order to meet or exceed senior leadership’s expectations.

Sadly, the story of my friend’s lost pair of glasses continued on a downward spiral. Email communications with supervisors and managers proved futile, as it became evident that their apologetic responses were obligatory rather than empathetic. At no time did my friend get a sense that there was a genuine desire to resolve her concern, from the top down.

When individuals at every level of an organization lose sight of the “how” and “why” of their job function, the disengagement cycle continues to build, job satisfaction wanes, client service is affected and opportunities for business growth are lost. As a leader, are you personally setting the example for your team to be highly engaged? Is your customer service a reflection of a team doing what they do because they have to or want to? Disengagement is not only evident within your internal operations; it is also evident to your customers who may ultimately experience its consequences and take their business elsewhere.

 

Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur…Is it an either/or question?

During an afternoon break at a conference, a participant who had just attended my breakout session on building collaborative workplace relationships approached me to discuss his dilemma regarding whether he should stay with his company or start his own business. He spoke candidly about his managers, colleagues as well as his future employment path, and whether he was ready to take the plunge and venture out on his own. I admired his honesty and appreciated the challenge he faced in terms of making a decision. Based on our conversation, I got the impression that he really enjoyed his work and had great camaraderie with his managers and peers, but wasn’t as enthused about the prospect of being his own boss and running his own company. It is a fascinating quandary that many of us face. I began to ponder whether this needed to be an either/or question?

Being an intrepreneur is defined as follows:

in-tra-pre-neur (In¹tre-pre-nur) n. A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation [intra(corporate) + (ENTRE)PRENEUR.] -inftrapre-nouri-al adj. -intra-pre-neuri-al-ism n. -in’trapre-neuri-al-ly adv.

Consider the success story of  Dutch-owned Optiver Asia-Pacific, an algorithmic trading company that was just named Australia’s best place to work. CEO Paul Hilgers says the company has a genuine open door policy and a philosophy that working with “brilliant minds attracts brilliant minds”. Hilgers says: “A brilliant mind isn’t only skill-based. We really want to know who we are hiring and we want to make sure that people know us before they decide to work for us.”  The 2013 study to determine best workplaces was made up 179 competing organizations and their 25,905 employees nationally.

Entrepreneurial skills are highly sought-after by companies that support an innovative culture. If you are an individual who can identify a huge need for ground-breaking approaches regarding any aspect of your  organization’s operations, you could be handsomely rewarded for speaking up and sharing your ideas. Being the catalyst of creativity and change is a very rewarding experience, in terms of career satisfaction and financial compensation. Here are three core concepts to keep in mind:

 1. You CAN make a difference in your workplace

Passion for your work , together with a proactive mindset will always be desirable attributes. When you believe that your initiatives can positively impact your workplace, be assured that people will listen. Especially when your ideas can benefit your customers and the bottom line. Learn to present your recommendations from the vantage point of your leaders. When you demonstrate an understanding of the business from their perspective, you will be in a great position to have their undivided attention.

 2. Build alliances with like-minded people

Surrounding yourself with naysayers is a sure fire way to zap your enthusiasm. On the other hand, seeking out individuals who support your solutions-based way of thinking will energize you as you pursue your plans. Entrepreneurs make a point of aligning themselves with others who can challenge their ideas in a positive manner. Start your own internal mastermind group. When your personal values regarding success, creativity and originality are in sync with those who think and act similarly, you will find opportunities to grow your career path.

 3. Recognize and create opportunities within your organization

There is a difference between critiquing and criticizing…whether it is a system, internal process or someone else’s idea that can be improved upon. You create opportunities to rise through the ranks by demonstrating a willingness to take the initiative and express your ideas for change in proactive manner. When you demonstrate your expertise and innovative ideas in a particular area or job-function, you are carving out your own, entrepreneur/intrapreneaur opportunity.