Category Archives: Blog

Employees just want to have fun!

Thoughtful businessman drinking coffee and thinking at workplaceHelp! My employees are experiencing quarantine fatigue! My employees are disengaging! How do I motivate my team remotely?

Shortly after school went online, my daughter said to me, “They’ve taken away all the good stuff from school and made the bad stuff even worse.”  There’s no more lunchtime with friends, prom, spontaneous trip to Starbucks after school, and classes have gone from hands on interaction to dreadfully long zoom meetings where half the kids turn off their cameras.

Work is the same way.  If you ask most employees what makes work good, it will be the people they work with.  People like going to work because of the social interaction—and that’s exactly what’s missing right now.  There are no “water cooler” conversations, no Friday lunch outings, no after work activities.  We just go to dreadfully boring zoom meetings.

Managers have good reason to be concerned that their employees are not motivated because they aren’t.  Quarantine fatigue has set in.  How do you keep your employees engaged when they’re not working face-to-face?  There are lots of ways to incentivize performance remotely (see my free webinar for tips), but, right now, fun is the answer.  It’s time to add fun back into work.

Fun goes beyond the now-cliché virtual happy hour.  It means setting up the infrastructure and culture for people to engage with each other about personal things, enjoy humor, and feel connection.  Here is a small list of ideas that are working for leaders I work with.

  • Fun zoom meetings that are not about business. Introduce your families or pets, most creative dish you’ve made with limited ingredients, best vacation you’ve ever had, and so on. These can spawn themed Slack channels or email lists for continued engagement.
  • Fun Slack channels or email lists. Favorite playlist, favorite theme (jazz/hard rock/show tune/etc.) song of the day, Netflix binges, kids activities, pets, and so on.
  • Games. There are many online games available that are approachable to everyone. Try a 4:00 game time during work hours.  Break people up into teams to increase engagement and bonding among team members.
  • Virtual coffee and virtual lunch. Go for smaller, more personal meetings with team members and colleagues. Take someone to coffee or lunch one-on-one like you might normally do at work.  Just set it up virtually.  Perhaps you can even do a socially distant coffee or lunch in person and offer to drive to a park our other outdoor setting near where they live.
  • Teambuilding activities. We offer several teambuilding activities that are fun and engaging and are more relevant to work.  The Invisible Path game helps build trust and communication, the Strengthen Your Team activity uses the Gallup StrengthsFinder tool to help team members appreciate each other’s contributions, and our more sophisticated business simulation brings out the competition and challenge for people who crave that.

No matter which path you take, try to get your employees to smile again.  It really helps build morale.

Coronavirus Tips: How to work from home when your kids are home too

Kid reading for school lying on floor at home

With schools closing down and workplaces going online, many of us are finding ourselves in uncharted territory.  It’s not just that we have to work from home, but we have to do it with our kids running around the house.  The fact is you’re going to be more distracted working from home over the next few weeks when the whole family is home with you.  But there are best practices to help you stay focused without ruining your relationships with your spouse and children.

  • Get privacy. If you have a separate office in your house, use it and close the door.  If you don’t, create a temporary office in a separate room where you can close the door and have quiet.  It may mean taking over the dining room table or bedroom during the day and cleaning up your work materials at the close of the day.  Privacy is not only for you, it’s for your colleagues and clients, and it will help the kids adjust better too.
  • Set boundaries. No doubt kids will see being at home with you as an opportunity to spend more time with you (unless you have teens or college age kids, which may require creating more space).  It will be up to you to set the boundaries early on and stay disciplined.  They will likely try every trick in the book to get your attention at first, but if you stick to a routine, they will adjust.
  • Personalize your plan. You know what works best for you and your family.  If you Family lying outdoors smilingneed to take a lot of breaks to check on the kids or to maintain your own sanity, do it.  Set your plan to work for 1 hour then take 10 minutes off to socialize, get coffee, stretch your legs, or whatever you need.  But set a timer and get back to work.  If you know that saying good-bye to your kids will trigger a huge separation issue, plan to see them only at lunchtime and the end of the day.  If you need to trade off childcare responsibilities, figure out a plan that works for you and your partner.  It may take a few tries to get it right.
  • Be flexible and forgiving. Adjusting to working from home takes time and experimenting.  Be patient with yourself, with your colleagues, and with your family.  Plan ahead for mitigating and resolving frustrations.  That may include creating “safe words” to use with your family or boss to compassionately tell them to back off.  Humor can be of use for this.  For example, if you choose a safety phrase of “purple dinosaur,” you could say to your 5-year-old that you need to meet with a purple dinosaur to mean that you need to step out of the room and calm down.  Respect them when they say it too.  With your boss, it could simply be, “I need to take a quick personal break and I’ll call you right back.”

The last word for this time of the Coronavirus crisis is that it is only temporary.  You can set up routines that won’t last forever, like giving your kids more screen time or shifting your work to the evenings or playing tag in the yard at lunchtime or calling your coworkers just to chat.  We’re all on edge with the ambiguity of the illness and the effects of cabin fever.  Treat yourself and others with compassion during this period of time.  Think about how you will want to look back on it.

Coronavirus Workplace Tips: Manage a Virtual Team

Man sitting at desk working from home on laptopHow do you lead your employees who work from home?  How do you manage a virtual team?  What are the best virtual communication hacks?

Two important challenges arise when we ask our employees to work from home.  First is the technology challenge and second is the leadership challenge.  To keep your team members productive, make sure they have the technology they need, are trained on how to use it, and have quick access to IT help to solve tech problems.  This should be delegated to your IT department or service provider.  You do not want to have to shift your role to IT support to keep your team up and running.

What you will need to do as a virtual leader is to shift your management style.  No matter what your leadership philosophy is, going virtual will impact it.  If you are normally hands on, for example, you will need to make peace with the idea your team working without you when they are working from home.  If you are normally more hands off, you will need to find ways to check in more with your team to make sure things are going smoothly.

Working virtually is not fundamentally different than working in the office, but leadership challenges tend to amplify in virtual teams.  Communication, trust, and engagement are three areas that are impacted the most.  Here are some tips on managing virtual communication.

Make a Communication Plan

Set the expectations of how often and by which method you want to communicate with your team.  Questions to consider:

  • For what types of issues should they call you? Each other?  Send a text?  Email?
  • What is a reasonable response time for each mode of communication? Hours, days?
  • How do you want to be able to reach them? Should they have their phone ringers on?
  • Should they send out a message or set a flag in your chat room when they are taking a break, like for lunch?
  • Would it be useful to set up some group chats or channels for specific projects or issues to reach multiple people at once?
  • What should they update you on and how often?

Use Effective Virtual Communication Techniques

Recommendations:

  • Choose the right modality. Use voice or video for any emotionally charged interactions, like performance feedback, disagreements, and sensitive issues.  If text-based interactions seem to be going down an emotional path, immediately pick up the phone or open a video channel.
  • Practice active listening. Ask others to summarize what they heard and understood to make sure you are on the same page.  Similarly, summarize what they tell you to make sure you understand what they are saying.
  • Communicate the same message more than once and in multiple modalities, such as verbally, followed up by an email.  Ask for confirmations for receipt of text-based messages.
  • Assume the best of others. When someone does not respond in a timely manner, don’t make up a dozen reasons why they are ignoring you.  Check in with them.    Ask if they got the message.  More often than not, they didn’t see it or they got tied up and meant to get back to you.

To see more tips on building and maintaining trust in virtual teams, and engaging employees on virtual teams, stay tuned.  Here are tips on running virtual meetings.

The truth about using personality tests for hiring

DispleasureShould I use a personality test for hiring?  Are personality tests legal for hiring?  What are the pros and cons of using personality tests in hiring?

Many people are skeptical about using personality tests for hiring—and they should be.  But not for the reasons you may think.  Personality tests can be extremely effective in screening out problem employees at all levels of the organization, including executives, but they have to be used correctly.

Before even contemplating whether to use a personality test in your hiring process, think about what else you will be using to gather information about the candidates.  A personality test alone is not sufficiently predictive of job performance.  Other factors and methods of assessment need to be included in your hiring process to select good candidates.

What is the best predictor of job performance?

Cognitive ability, or intelligence, is the single best predictor of job performance across all jobs.  If you were to include just one assessment, a test of cognitive ability would be your best bet.  However, many of these tests suffer from adverse impact, which means they predict differently for people in different ethnic groups.  Employment laws and our societal values suggest that we use other measures instead or in combination with intelligence tests to make sure we are giving people of different backgrounds equal opportunities for employment.

What is the worst predictor of job performance?

Interviews are typically the least predictive method of assessment because employers often don’t conduct them in a systematic or uniform way across candidates.  Rather, individual employees typically decide whether they like or connect with the candidate and rate them accordingly.

What methods should I use to assess job candidates?

You may have noticed that we’re talking “apples and oranges” because cognitive ability is a characteristic of a job applicant whereas interviewing is a method of assessing candidates.  This is a very important point and one to carefully consider.  You can measure cognitive ability in an interview, with a test, or with a job sample, or in a number of other ways.  Some of these methods of assessing cognitive ability will be more accurate and more predictive of job performance than others.

The bottom line is you want to choose the right factors to measure and the right methods of assessment to use in your hiring process.  Now, back to personality.

Does personality predict job performance?

Personality is not the best predictor of global job performance, but it will predict certain things that are critical to job performance.  That is, if you use a high quality, multi-factor personality test.  The popular tests that you see out there generally are not appropriate to use for hiring and, if you get sued, you’ll probably lose if you are using them.  What you need is a highly “reliable” and “valid” measure of personality.

Which personality test should I use?

We use several different personality assessment instruments that were designed for hiring.  One of them is the personality test battery in the Hogan Assessments.  We use the Hogan for hiring leaders and executives because it is one of the best assessments of derailing factors.  In other words, the test can tell you how likely the candidate is to exhibit tendencies associated with the dark side of leadership—the kind of leaders you don’t want in your organization, the ones who are out there for themselves, who bully others, who take great risks and give little credit to others and who will run your department, division, or entire organization into the ground if given the chance.

These leaders, unfortunately, are often very good at fooling interviewers, but they are not so good at fooling quality tests of personality, such as the Hogan.  These kinds of tests typically require a qualified person to administer and read the test and often are administered by external consultants, like us.  An external assessment is a great way to get objective data about your candidate to incorporate into your hiring process.  When you look into the cost of such an assessment, you will find that it is far less expensive to assess a few candidates on the front end than to fire a bad leader once they are employed in your company.

4 Excuses Not to Delegate: Are You Using One?

Successful bossThere’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep control over projects and minimize room for failure.  Why do managers resist delegating?

“They’re not ready.”

This is a typical reason leaders give to keep doing the work themselves instead of letting someone else take it on.  What they should be asking is, what would it take for them to be ready?  Also, what are they ready for now?  In other words, even if they aren’t ready to take on the whole project, what aspect of it could you let them take responsibility for?  And what do you need to do as a leader to get them ready to take on more?  This is an opportunity for you to coach and mentor and facilitate learning for your team members who, more than likely, crave growth opportunities.

“We can’t afford a mistake.”

This is the fear that drives managers to hover over their employees and make them feel useless.  Of course, there is always a risk of failure or a mistake, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. Ask yourself: when you’re away from the office, can your employees get things done without you?  If not, this is a wake-up call for you to empower your team.

“They won’t do it as well.”

This is another reason for managers to do the work themselves instead of trusting others to do it.  Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.  You never know, maybe they’ll even do a better job than you!  This may be yet another fear that drives you to keep the work to yourself.  But, in the end, it is better for you, for the company, and for the individual for them to do better work than you.  Now you can stick to leading and growing your own skills.

“I don’t have time.”

Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse yet it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. It’s often quicker for an experienced person to do something him or herself, but if you keep doing it yourself, you’ll have to keep doing it.  That’s where the overwork comes in: if you do the work and are responsible for leading the team, you will quickly run out of time.  In other words, you don’t have time not to delegate.  It may take more time initially to train someone, but the savings will begin to show up very quickly.

“One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.”  Jesse Sostrin states in To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well, in Harvard Business Review.  As a leader, if you keep doing the work, you will reach your output capacity quickly.  If you have a team of people who contribute to the output, you can scale and have much greater impact.  The reason for teams to exist is to increase productivity.  In high-performing teams, each team member does what he or she does best and relies on others to contribute in different ways.  Effective leaders facilitate this process.

Adulting: How do young people learn life skills?

Flying without a Helicopter Book Cover finalI came across an article in the LA Times today about how college students at UC Berkeley have started up an “adulting” course.  They created a student-run course to teach life skills to each other because they’re not learning them anywhere else.  The question is, why aren’t they learning life skills in life?

One of the students interviewed for the article says that kids don’t learn life skills from their parents because parents don’t trust their kids to be able to handle things.  The parents do it for them.  Schools have also taken life skills off the curricula in favor of academic courses preparing children for standardized tests.

My take on this is that the kids must resort to teaching each other adulting skills because all of the adults in their lives failed to prepare them for adulthood.  Parents, teachers, professors, administrators, and government protection agencies have disempowered children to the point where they don’t know how to take care of themselves when they grow up.

Presumably, these adults had good intentions to protect the children and give them the academic skills they thought were needed to succeed in life.  Or is it that they felt the need to control their children’s lives to fulfill their own insecurities?  In either case, the outcome is the same: many young adults are missing critical skills to succeed in life.

It is troubling to see that the college students don’t trust the adults, just as the adults don’t trust the kids.  And we wonder why there’s such a strong generational divide!

I offer a small solution, my book, Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life.  I wrote this book because I saw how this problem was arising and I wanted to help young people (and their parents) prepare for life.  I’m there for young people and old.  If you want to talk, schedule a meeting with me, free of charge.  I am an adult who supports adulting.

Another solution I offer is building trust between the generations.  My Collaborating Across Generations workshop helps people in the different generations better understand each other and work together.  We need less Millennial bashing and fewer “OK Boomer” comments and more leveraging of our different perspectives and work styles.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

NetworkingHow likely are you to lose your key employees?

According to Gallup, only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. And only about one in five say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. What’s worse, 51% of employees are actively looking for new jobs.  The answer is, you are very likely to lose an employee very soon.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

What does it cost to replace an employee?  The range is large, but it is expensive at any level.  Studies show it can cost 20% of a low-to-mid-range position and more than 200% of a high-level or executive position.  Let’s look at the numbers.  The cost to replace a mid-range administrative manager being paid $40k would be about $8k.  But the cost of a highly educated contributor, director, or executive who’s paid over $200k would be over $400k.

What goes into calculating turnover costs?

  • Hiring (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring)
  • Onboarding (training and management time)
  • Lost productivity (months, years to match a high performer’s level of performance)
  • Low team engagement (other employees are affected when someone leaves)
  • Customer service and errors (new people don’t know what they’re doing and make mistakes)

The costs may be much greater in your company, especially if a key person leaves at a critical time.  Missing a release deadline could cost the company funding or market share.  Lost knowledge could cause a faulty product to be released.

How will you keep your best people?

The top way to keep employees today is to engage them.  This means allowing them to do meaningful work that helps them grow.  When people are doing something that matters and are growing in the process, they are likely to stay.

Sixty percent of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them.  The problem is that people often don’t know what they do best, and it’s even harder for their employers to know.  The solution is to assess what people’s natural talents are and let them do work where they apply them.

A fun way to assess people’s natural talents is in a team-building session where people self-assess and share their talents with their team members.  People get excited about their discoveries and they learn how to better engage each other in projects.

If you are leading a team and you want to keep your key players, you may want to give our Strengthen Your Team Team-Building Activity a try.  It costs only a small fraction of what it costs to lose someone, and it will pay back even more in terms of the increased productivity and engagement of your team.  You will also have fun discovering how your own natural talents come into play.

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Is Your Company Suffering from the Tech Effect?

Teacher and schoolchildren studying in front of a computerRemember when computerized communication technology first came into being?  If you’re too young to know what that was like, it was magical!  We went from waiting impatiently for the mail carrier or staying near the phone to receiving emails and texts in minutes or seconds.  We went from wading through file cabinets and encyclopedias to getting information instantaneously from the internet.  We went from living in siloed communities to being globally connected.  Think about it: we now can access just about anyone or anything at any time!

But, have you noticed how the magic is starting to wear off and anxiety is moving in?

Woman Buying Train Ticket Using Vending Machine At StationBusiness leaders are finding their enterprises rely too much on technology and not enough on people.  Employees are suffering from overwork, owners have lost control over what their employees are doing and saying about their companies, and the general public is suffering from social media addiction.

There’s a longing to slow things down and go back to the personal principles and values that made companies grow and operate better, such as culture and reputation.  Customers and employees are also crying out for privacy, to protect their personal information and to go back to having control of what they share with others.

Ironically, communication technology is the driver of many communication problems.  People are feeling more isolated than ever before, company reputations are suffering, and conflict is rising—and it is costing companies a lot of money.Woman in computer room using personal digital assistant

  • Employees lose an average of one day of work per week to their phones—and they’re getting paid for that day. Nearly 50 percent of people say they can’t live without their phones, which people on average check every 12 minutes and touch 2,600 times a day.
  • American businesses are losing $62 billion per year from poor customer service, according to Forbes Magazine, because of autoresponders and pre-recorded help messages or remote call centers with people who don’t speak the language well.
  • Tesla’s stock dropped over eight percent in a day in response to Elon Musk tweeting he was thinking about taking the company private. Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet cost over $1 billion and 200 people lost their jobs from cancelling all of her shows.

Aggressive furious businessman shouting and working with computer in officeThese problems all have one thing in common, what I call the tech effect.  The tech effect occurs when communication technology loses its human focus and/or the people who use communication technology lose their human focus.  It’s when people communicate with their screens in the form of makeshift messages to ephemeral followers and measure reactions in quantities, instead of building relationships with people.

How do we combat the tech effect?  We need to get the people back in.  Business leaders need to change the culture in their companies to be more human-centered, modify structures and practices within their companies to increase employee and customer engagement and loyalty, and promote healthy, humane work practices and products that sell.

How do we do this?  I have lots of ideas and systematic solutions.  Stay tuned for more on the tech effect

How Do You Hire Mature Millennials?

Asian millennial woman selfieI continue to get complaints about how the Millennials are not responsible employees who can be counted on to show up to work and act professionally.  I hear things like:

  • He asked for a day off the first weekgraphicstock-group-of-friends-millennials-sitting-in-pinewood-using-digital-devices-social-addicted-phubbing-technology-concept_rpxae5qYkb
  • She showed up in shorts that were so short her bottom showed
  • She played on her phone and ignored customers
  • He was 2-hours late and didn’t call

While the Millennials do like to have their fun and many have not been prepared for work like their predecessors were, it is certainly possible to find good Millennial employees.  The Millennial generation is very large–over 71 million in the U.S. and growing—and many of them are very responsible, mature people.  You just have to find them.  You can do this using good selection methods.

1. Start with a job description.

Every good talent management system begins with an accurate job description.  This means researching within your organization what knowledge, skills, behaviors, and other characteristics are necessary to be successful in this role.  If it’s an existing role, ask the manager(s), people in or previously in the roles, and others who interact with them what knowledge skills, behaviors, and other characteristics have led to success and failure in that position.

For example, if it’s an account manager position, you might hear things like:

  • Professional demeanorPretty operator
  • Customer service oriented
  • Good communication skills
  • Develops relationships with customers and with coworkers
  • Knowledge and skill with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software

You’ll need people to expand on specific knowledge and behaviors that make up these categories.  For example, what does having a professional demeanor mean?  It might mean:

  • showing up on timegraphicstock-multiracial-business-people-working-together-connected-with-technological-devices-like-tablet-and-notebook-teamwork-business-working-concept_BTebaVJYyZ
  • calling ahead if you’ll miss work
  • wearing appropriate clothes
  • being well-groomed
  • using respectful language and not curse words.

If it’s a new role, or if you just want help getting started, search for the job the US Department of Labor database of job descriptions.  You can also ask others in different organizations for their experiences.  If maturity is needed for success in the job, it will show up in your research.

2. Include Maturity in your Job Posting.

Write a job posting that includes the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are necessary for the job.  Maturity would fall under “other characteristics.”  If maturity is extremely important, put it front and center in the job posting, as in

  • “looking for mature people of all ages who show up on time, are dependable, and work well with others.”

By putting it out there, you are encouraging applicants to self-select to apply if they are mature or skip this job if that seems too much for them.  Hopefully, the applicants are self-aware enough to see whether they are mature, but this may not be the case.

3. Screen Applicants for Mature Behavior

There are many tests and methods to screen for mature behavior.  Whatever you choose to use, make sure you are consistent with all of your candidates so that you get good data and you are not introducing bias into your hiring practices.

I like to put people to the test right away with a few hurdles they have to jump to be worthy of an interview.

  • Require candidates to email you by a certain deadline with a cover letter and People on laptopsresume. You can give them instructions for what to include in their letter, such as why they are a good candidate for the job.  You can see if they meet the deadline, if they follow instructions, and how professional their letter is.  Is it proofread or full of typos, formal or in text speak, did they do their homework to learn what the job is about or is it generic, and so on…?
  • Email candidates who meet your criteria and have them set up a call with you. See how professionally they interact to set up a time that works for you.  Are they cordial, flexible with your schedule, reliable to call you at the number you give them at the agreed-upon time, etc.?
  • Invite them to a face-to-face interview. See how they dress and behave with you and others during their visit.  Did they arrive early to be sure to be on time, are they wearing appropriate clothes, do they look you in the eye, do they treat other staff members respectfully, and so on…?

Multiracial business people working outdoor in townThere are many other things you can do to screen candidates for maturity in your hiring process to make sure you are getting Millennials on your team who are mature, responsible, respectful employees.  To learn more, contact us for a free consultation.