Posts Tagged ‘Team Building’

Mondays with Mike: 8 Ways To Keep Employees From Wasting Your Time

Though I’m on the road a lot, I love the days when I work from my office.  I get so much from my staff – inspiration, constructive criticism, and an excitement that only comes from pulling together to accomplish great things.  But we all know that putting people together in a workspace often leads to serious time black holes – conflicts, gossip, and confusion that eat away at productivity.  Here are my eight tips for keeping you and your staff on track:

  1. Institute a daily huddle.  I run my daily huddle standing up.  People don’t settle in with a cup of coffee and notepad for doodling.  I cover the day’s objectives and challenges, and we get right back to work.  It’s not a gab session, and it’s not interactive.  I transmit critical information to keep us on the same page, and we get right back to work.
  2. Maintain 360 communication.  Though I don’t use my huddle for gathering information from my staff, keeping lines of communication open is critical for eliminating confusion.  Sometimes I’m the problem; if I haven’t clearly delineated responsibilities and goals, I need one of my staff to let me know what needs clarification.  Keep your door and your ears open.
  3. Manage conflict.  Conflict is inevitable.  You can’t avoid it altogether, which means you must actively manage it.  Watch for inner-office rivalries and disagreements and step in to diplomatically resolve conflict when it’s necessary.  Ignoring problems can result in bigger blowups later on.
  4. Eliminate chronic problems.  The 80-20 rule holds true when it comes to problem staff:  80 percent of your problems are caused by 20 percent of your staff.  Warn and then weed out the folks disrupting your company’s progress.
  5. Trust your staff.  If you realize you’re dealing with a mountain of questions from staff who are afraid of making the wrong move, then it could be the stakes are too high.  You have to realize that mistakes will occur, and you will benefit from creating a climate in which your employees learn when it’s okay to take a chance.
  6. Get the right people doing the right things the right way.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and taking a step back to observe how your office runs can highlight staff members who aren’t in their ideal positions.  Shuffling responsibilities can make your company far more efficient.
  7. Give your staff the pride of ownership.  If your employees see a personal benefit from improving the bottom line, they’re far more likely to give it their all.  Profit sharing and phantom equity can be powerful motivators.  You can also include an update on the company’s health as part of your daily huddle to keep your staff focused on the ultimate mutual goal.
  8. Praise your staff publicly.  Not only do you want to reinforce the good behavior of your stellar staff members, but you also want to make sure you’re not spending time publicly addressing undesirable behavior.  Praise in public, and chastise in private.  Great work earns your staff recognition and a sense of satisfaction.

Finally, here’s a bonus tip: make your workplace fun.  Now, don’t get me wrong:  We work hard, and in fact I’ve instituted library hours in the office – chunks of time when it’s all business and we work quietly.  But during break time, you might walk in on a nerf gun battle or trashcan basketball.  We work hard, and we take the time to blow off steam so we can focus better when we return to our desks.

Secret Handshake? Why Rituals Are Critical to Your Business Culture

10-5 company rituals smallDoes your company have a secret handshake? Probably not, but you may want to think about creating one. Look at any sports team and see the special things they do before, during and after a game. They prepare and celebrate in a way that is unique to them.

I saw one of the best examples of this while I was traveling to New Zealand and witnessed the national rugby team, The All Blacks playing a match. Their ritual of doing the legendary Haka, a native Maori dance before each game is legendary.  Paolo Guenzi, an Associate Professor of Marketing, Bocconi University in Milan, Italy states in Harvard Business Review that “It expresses the team’s pride in their heritage and teammates. Neuroscientific research shows that rituals like the Haka trigger feelings of connectivity, timelessness, and meaning, which stimulate mental flow states. These, in turn, reduce anxiety and increase energy and focus.”

This has also been tested by Francesca Gino, associate professor of business administration, at Harvard Business School. He conducted a series of studies and got people to do tasks that caused anxiety. Half the subjects had to perform the stress-inducing task without performing any ritual, while the other half were taught a ritual to carry out before the task. According to Professor Gino, the ritual in itself can be nonsensical. For example, Gino had one ritual in where the participants were asked to draw a picture of how they were feeling, sprinkle salt on the picture and then tear it into five pieces. He reveals that “we saw lower physical arousal and there were real differences in performance, [among those performing the ritual]…Ritual puts you in a mindset of ‘I am going to do this’.”

Rituals in a company are such an important part of any culture. It makes all employees feel like they are part of an exclusive club. Like in sports, it creates a share social identity which drives the team to deliver a better and happier performance.

A company that I worked at had a ritual of giving annually a Mercedes luxury car to the top sales manager. The following year, if another manager won the car, the previous winner had to drive the car to the new winner’s location wherever they were in the country. This ritual gave an incentive not to lose the prize each year since the managers were spread around the U.S. Similarly, top sales performers at Mary Kay Cosmetics are awarded driving privileges of pink Cadillac’s.  Some companies ring a gong when a new sale is made. 

At Gentle Giant, a Somerville, Mass.-based moving company, they host "The Stadium Run" up and down the stairs at Harvard to highlight its culture of hard work. For this team, it has become a rite of passage ritual for new movers.

Here are rituals every small business owner should add to their company:

  1. Awards ceremonies. A lot of companies give out prizes for outstanding performances. But, the successful organizations go one step further and give awards for things that are a bit more quirky with some elaborate pomp and circumstance. For example, the "Passing of the Pillars" is an important ritual at Boston Scientific's facility. When an employee has a tough project, they are "awarded" a small two-foot high plaster-of-Paris pillar to show that they have the support other team members.
  2. Team building exercises. These may be company outings, contests or sports team activities. They can be specific exercises that get them to solve a problem working together. These should be done in an open, creative and non-judgmental environment.
  3. Celebrations. This can revolve around holidays or birthdays. But, a more effective ritual is to create a company’s unique celebrations: Formal Fridays, Milkshake Monday, Pina- Colada hour, Ice Cream Sandwich day, and Crazy sock or hat day.

Let some of the rituals happen organically from the employees. Observe what the group does naturally and then reinforce them formally. A secret handshake may actually do the trick!

How to Retain Talented Employees In Your Small Business

9-23 Retail employees smallIn your business, your team is everything. Even if you follow the guidelines from my blog on how to hire your first employee on the best practices for hiring and interviewing candidates, some bad seeds will still find ways to slip through the cracks. It’s not just poor workers who will affect how your team pool changes. Millenials, who comprise the largest generation currently working, have exhibited a trend of job-hopping in search of the best job with the highest compensation. The goal for you, as a small business owner, is to prevent your most talented employees from jumping ship. Here are some tips for how to retain your best and brightest employees.

1. Think Long-Term

If it’s financially impossible to increase an employee’s compensation, you need to remind him/her that one day it will be. Be sure that all of your employees have a concrete idea of what your vision is for your business and what role they’ll play in helping your get there. Make them understand why you do what you do. If you voice how much you believe in yourself and your team, the desire to stay working for you and helping you reach that goal will follow. If you treat your employees well, they’ll trust you enough to know that when you become successful, so will they.

2. Compensate Fairly

Depending on the skill and education levels you require for your position, compensation will play a large role in obtaining and keeping talented people in your circle. A paycheck and its accompanying benefits are a huge factor when workers consider leaving for another employer. Do you offer health benefits, a retirement package or an annual review during which good work is rewarded with a raise? You should consider all of these things and figure out compensation that is fair to keep you best employees

3. Give Perks

While small business owners have the desire to compensate employees very well, we all know money can get in the way. If you can’t financially afford to pay your employees exactly what they deserve, figure out what else you can do to balance the scale. Sculpt a laidback, but professional, work culture where creativity and inter-office friendships are encouraged. Offer paid vacations and sick days, maternity and paternity leave or the use of your equipment for an employee’s side project. Time is free, and if you feel that your employees might deserve more than what they see in their paychecks, there’s no harm in offering other benefits to them.

4. Offer Growth Opportunities

Talented employees are people who crave responsibility and growth. If you’re sure an employee is someone you want to keep on your team, offer him/her the opportunity to take on more challenging and engaging work. This will keep your employee interested while also preventing the job from becoming mundane or predictable. Keep your talented employees on their toes with more demands. They will see and feel the trust and faith you have in them.

You need your employees and they need you too. You will run across your fair share of bad employees during your time as an entrepreneur, but when you begin adding really valuable, talented employees to your team you need to know how to hold on them. It will be the best thing you can do for your business.

Four Ways to Make Employee Peer Reviews Effective

9-5 peer reviews smallMany employees and managers alike quake with fear when they learn that their company is implementing a system that involves peers in the performance review process. Employees see writing reviews as a waste of time, even as they foresee co-worker conflict in their futures. Recognizing that peer reviews are not typically accurate, managers see them as an unnecessary complication to an already-stressful process.

The good news is that well-designed peer review programs can add value to performance reviews. Here are four ways to make them effective.

1. Choose Appropriate Reviewers for Each Employee

On the surface, it seems kinder and gentler to allow employees to choose the peers they want to write their reviews, but this approach can go wrong in two primary ways. At one extreme, friends give gushing praise to each other. At the other end of the coin, co-workers become overly-critical in an attempt to appear fair. Either way, you cannot fully trust the feedback that you receive to be accurate.

As a manager, you are in the best position to choose the right employees to review the work of their peers. Naturally, your decision needs include peers who regularly work together — and whose work may be affected by the employee who is under review. You also have to consider interpersonal relationships. While you don't want to choose a best friend, you also don't want to select a clear competitor.

Whomever you choose, make sure that everyone understands that your choice is as confidential as wage and salary information. Without confidentiality, the peer review process can easily lead to significant morale issues.

2. Provide Reviewers with Detailed Guidelines

Not all employees are managers; they probably have little experience and training to accurately review a peer’s performance. Avoid essay questions in favor of a set of multiple-choice questions that you want them to answer. Their choices can range from "Exceptional" on the high end, and avoid overly-negative terms for the low-end score. "Needs Improvement" might be as negative as you want to go. Then, make sure that they clearly understand the precise definition for each point on the scale.

Just as important, make sure that all employees understand the overall purpose of their peer reviews. While they may provide managers with new insights into their employees, they cannot directly affect any employee's official performance rating.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Employees are not privy to each other's job descriptions or to the expectations that you may have set forth. It is your job to review each employee's performance. You are the only one who should look at issues like accuracy, speed and errors. Peer reviews should enhance the process by focusing on the factors that you cannot witness on a daily basis.

In other words, the questions on your performance review should not overlap with those on the peer review forms. Co-workers are in the best position to provide meaningful feedback when rating attributes like the following:

  • Ability to solve problems on the fly
  • Natural leadership abilities
  • Willingness to help other employees
  • Ability to interact effectively with employees at all levels within the organization
  • Consistent display of motivation for the job

4. Keep Peer Reviews in Perspective

No manager can constantly observe all activities on the floor, so peer reviews are a good way to help managers gain insight into what's happening when they're not around. But they should not receive too much weight in the formal performance review process. Positive or negative, they might say more about managers' successes and failures than they say about employee performance.

Peer reviews can enlighten your insights about your employees, but they cannot — and should not — carry as much weight as the assessment of the immediate supervisor. In fact, it is best to avoid the temptation to roll the peer rankings in with your own rankings, which are typically more objective.

Peer reviews can be invaluable in helping you address the future direction of your employees. For example, negative reviews pertaining to interpersonal skills or attitude can help you formulate a plan to help an employee improve in these critical areas. Just as important, positive feedback on leadership  and motivational abilities can help you work with employees to identify how they can move upward within the organization.

Peer Reviews Have a Bad Rap

In their original form, employee peer reviews were typically blatantly unfair, wasting time and often causing disharmony within the ranks. With finesse and forethought, however, peer reviews can add a valuable new dimension to the review process.

Mondays with Mike: 8 Ways To Alienate Your Employees

I recently ran into a friend of mine who works for a Fortune 500 company. He’s absolutely miserable, and while he’s been looking for another job, he’s been doing the absolute minimum he can to keep his boss off his back. He’s just marking time, and while he was running down the list of things he hates about his company, it occurred to me there’s something we can learn from my friend’s misery. Here are the things we need to be on our guard against, the ways in which we destroy employee loyalty.

  1. Demand 24/7 access. Your company is your baby, and it makes sense for you to work around the clock to nurture it.  You can’t expect your staff to make the same commitment, though.  We need downtime to rest and recharge, and pushing your staff to be available all the time will push them away.
  2. Require your employees to do work they hate.  We all have unique skill sets, and if you’re forcing your staff to work outside their areas of expertise, not only are you not getting the most from them, but you’re also damaging company morale.  Take the time to sort your staff into jobs they enjoy.
  3. Call your staff “human resources.”  I just sat in on a meeting in which a guy lamented the fact that his company was “low on human inventory.”  He’s a real gem, that guy, and he is probably clueless about why the company can’t recruit and retain great staff.  I see that it’s because he treats people like numbers.  If you value your staff, treat them like human beings.
  4. Require your staff to make the company part of their social life.  Not only do you need to allow your staff to keep their private lives private, but you also should avoid the potential for inappropriate Facebook posts about your company.  Don’t tell your staff you want to see them promoting your business on their personal social media.
  5. Blame the rules.  You’re the boss.  That means it’s up to you to make and adjust the rules as necessary.  If you’re hiding behind rules you’ve made to explain your decisions, you’re missing an opportunity to earn staff loyalty by demonstrating your flexibility and changing rules to benefit both your staff and your business.
  6. Ask for feedback and ignore it.  If you ask for input from your staff, you owe it to them to consider their suggestions.  You needn’t implement everything an employee suggests, but you need to make it clear you value your staff’s input.
  7. Use money as the sole motivator.  It is important to compensate your staff fairly, but there are a host of other benefits that can matter even more than money to your employees.  If you focus on finding ways to challenge and reward your staff that have nothing to do with a dollar, you’ll learn just how effective fulfillment is when it comes to retaining good employees.
  8. Put your company ahead of your staff.  If your employees feel like you care more about the bottom line than anything else, you’re liable to lose them at their first opportunity to jump ship.  Make an effort to support your staff, and you’ll have ‘em for life.

Many times we push our staff away completely by accident.  We think we’re doing the right thing for our business, but we end up making decisions that are penny wise and pound foolish.  Take a step back and make sure you’re avoiding the common traps and strengthening your staff’s ties to your company.

What is Amazing Service? We’re Raising the Customer Service Standard

7-14 Amazing Service smallAt Nextiva, we believe that standard customer service isn't good enough. Any business can deliver a customer experience that leaves the customer satisfied but not “wowed”. We are raising the standard of what customer service should be by delivering Amazing Service. This principle is at the heart of everything we do. It drives every decision, product innovation and customer interaction at Nextiva.

So what does Amazing Service mean for the businesses that rely on us for their communication needs?

100% U.S.-based Support

Outsourcing, especially when it comes to our support team, is not part of Nextiva’s business model. Every member of our support team is located at our headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.

When a customer joins Nextiva, their Account Executive is sitting just a few feet away from the Onboarding team that will set up their phone system and the support team that will assist with any questions or issues that may arise during their time with Nextiva. This makes for efficient and effective internal communication so our customers can get the help they need as quickly as possible.

No Customer Service or Sales Scripts

We believe in letting each team members’ personality shine through. You don’t want to talk to a robot, you want to talk to a person you can connect with.

We focus on hiring team members who exhibit a positive attitude, are driven and passionate about helping others. Our team is our greatest asset, and they are what set Nextiva apart from other communications providers. We focus on fostering a fun and positive work environment because we feel this directly correlates to the service you receive as our customer.

Advocates for Your Business

Our customers are not just a number at Nextiva. They trust us to deliver reliable service and we take our job seriously. Account Executives, Technical Specialists, Account Managers, and everyone at Nextiva are here to help your business succeed. We don’t believe in saying “We can’t do that,” but instead not giving up until a solution is found and the issue is completely resolved. We're dedicated!

Each Business is Unique – Treat Them That Way

We don’t believe in the one-size-fits-all mentality. We want to provide the communication solution that best fits our customers’ business needs. We tailor our plans and feature offerings to fit each customer’s business needs and pain points. Personalization is key and each team member takes this approach when interacting with the businesses we serve, from the first call with an Account Executive to the last support interaction.

What does Amazing Service mean to you? 

20 Quotes to Inspire Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, you are most likely a glass-half-full kind of person. Without a positive attitude, it is nearly impossible to maintain the edge that you need to keep moving forward. But, no one can be happy and confident at all times. Here are some thoughts from entrepreneurs, athletes and innovators, including one from me, that can help you look at issues with a different viewpoint — and fill your goblet to the rim.

Persistence, Success and Failure

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

“Fail often so you can succeed sooner.” -Tom Kelley

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” -Dale Carnegie

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” -Bill Gates

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” -Wayne Gretzky

Ambition and Focus

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.” -Elvis Presley

“Jet pilots don’t use rear view mirrors.” -Joel H. Weldon

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.” -Ayn Rand

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi

“Entrepreneurs too often make choices based on ROE– Return on Ego– vs. ROI– Return on Investment.  A particular opportunity may make you feel great, but if that opportunity is not supporting your goal, or isn’t the best way to achieve your goal quickly and efficiently, then pursue the opportunity that will.” –Carol Roth


“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” -Arnold H. Glasgow

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” -Peter Drucker

Competition and Motivation

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” -Steve Jobs

“And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.” -Andrew Carnegie

“I gave it my body and mind, but I have kept my soul.” -Phil Jackson

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Problem Solving

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” -Albert Einstein

“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.” -Peter Drucker

Mondays with Mike: 7 Tips For Improving Office Morale

3-16 Employee Hapiness smallEvery office goes through cycles – from motivated, focused productivity, to the doldrums of boredom and complaints.  When you see the need for a collective boost in spirits, try out these tips, guaranteed to get your staff back on track.

  1. Daily Huddle.  Try conducting brief, daily meetings designed to keep your team collectively focused.  Identify challenges and goals, then get right back to work.  I like to conduct these meetings with the entire team standing, so there’s no temptation to get too comfortable.
  2. Schedule change-up.  In nearly all cases, there’s really no reason to require every single member of your staff to work the same set hours.  If it makes sense for some folks to work unique schedules and manage their personal lives better, you’ll discover they’re more focused and ready to be productive when they’re on the clock.
  3. Focus on the Why, rather than the What.  Remembering why you started your business – and reminding your staff of your purpose – can help employees redirect their energy toward accomplishing big picture goals.  Look at the benefits you provide your community if you need inspiration to keep going.
  4. Say thank you.  It doesn’t cost you a cent to express your appreciation.  Make sure your staff knows how much you appreciate them, and they’re more likely to go the extra mile for you and your customers.
  5. Listen.  Just like dealing with an irate customer, you need to provide a private way for dissatisfied employees to air their grievances.  Getting the problem out in the open lets you manage office problems, and it keeps your employee from spreading dissatisfaction to the rest of the staff.  If your staff thinks you don’t care about their concerns, their productivity and morale will inevitably suffer.
  6. Take the bullet.  While you don’t want to fall into the trap of being the number one troubleshooter for your company, sometimes the very best thing you can do is swoop in to save the day.  Letting your staff know you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work will inspire them to greater heights.  If they know you have their backs, they’re more willing to be creative and innovative.
  7. Provide a change of scenery.  Monotony is the slayer of creativity.  When your staff tires of staring at their cubicle walls, take a field trip!  Whether you reward your employees with a day at the baseball park, or you band together for a community service day, sometimes giving your staff a change of scenery is all you need to reinvigorate them.

Most of us are operating on a budget and have more work to do than we have hours in a day, but you’ll be surprised at how effective an investment in your staff’s collective happiness can be for your company.  Keep ‘em focused.  Keep ‘em on track, and you’ll reap the benefits. 

The Importance Of New-Employee Orientation – And How To Do It Right

3-6 employee orientation smallDo you know—for certain—what the first day of work is like for your employees? Is there a chance you’re frittering away orientation–a key part of building your corporate culture–on inconsequential details? (‘‘This is the break room. We clean the employee fridge out each Friday.’’)

Each day, all around the world, careless orientations like this one are creating lasting negative expectations among employees. And executives and managers typically have no idea it’s happening. Be sure your precious first moments with an employee aren’t squandered (or worse). Institute a careful, effective orientation process.

Use Orientation to Instill New Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs

Employees are especially impressionable during their first days—and especially their very first day—on the job. This is because beginning any new job is disorienting, and psychologists have shown that during periods of disorientation, people are particularly susceptible to adopting new roles, goals, and values. Those new values and beliefs might turn out to be destructive ones, or constructive ones like you want to seed. It depends largely on your orientation program.

With this in mind, I recommend that you focus your orientation process not on instilling practical know-how, but rather on instilling the most useful attitudes, beliefs, and goals possible. Keep the focus on what is most crucial for your business: core customer service principles, your company values, and why and how your employee is an essential part of the company’s overall mission.

Involve the highest leadership level possible, ideally the CEO, to personally provide the orientation on values, beliefs, and purpose. Sound impractical, even impossible? Consider this: The CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company conducts, personally, every single Day One event at every hotel and resort Ritz-Carlton opens, no matter where it is in the world.

So, figure out a way. You only get one Day One.

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