When the iconic “Got milk?” campaign was translated into Spanish, Hispanics wanted to know why asking someone if they were lactating was so funny. Language and cultural misunderstandings in the business world could cost you a contract or block your entry into a new market unless you take the time and have the foresight to do your homework.
While a language barrier isn’t easy to fix overnight, even learning a culture or just knowing there are cultural differences can make an impact.
“A language is a lot of investment, not just for the employer but for the employee as well. However, people are more forgiving about a language barrier than if you’re perceived as rude,” says Victoria Berry, program manager of Business and Performance Development with Corporate College.
Smart Business spoke with Berry about some of the pitfalls business owners face when working with those from another culture.
What is the value of learning a new language or culture in the business world?
It has tremendous value in a global marketplace. Even as a U.S.-based company, you have employees who are dealing with overseas customers, clients and partners. There also are more than 3,000 foreign-owned companies in Ohio, 275 of which are in Northeast Ohio and employ more than 30,000 workers. Even within your own company, you can have people from different cultures working together on high-functioning and cross-functional teams. The U.S. is an anomaly when compared to the rest of the world in that having more than one language under your belt isn’t part of our culture.
On top of the more visible language barrier, cultural misunderstandings can be just as dangerous. For example, in the U.S., a high-quality brochure typically has high-gloss or thick-stock paper, but in China, that comes across as cheap; you should use a thinner paper with a no-gloss shine to it.
People tend to overlook the fact that other cultures have different expectations, especially regarding business etiquette or meetings. For instance, in China, it’s considered discourteous to take someone’s business card and not look at it, or at least pretend to read the title. As another example, you wouldn’t want to call a Mexican company between noon and 3 p.m. when businesses are closed, or discuss business during lunchtime. Following these kinds of protocols will impress people from another culture and show you at least did some background work.
What is crucial to know when dealing with foreign businesses?
It’s crucial to know the greeting and how to approach a business situation. In the U.S., we tend to be demanding and quick, assuming people are in a hurry, and therefore, we sidestep some of the formalities. In most other cultures, the friendly bonds that business executives build with others weigh heavily on whether or not they decide to do business you. This is true especially in China and many Latin American countries, where personality and whether or not they feel like they can trust you are essential factors.
Another consideration to remember is that in American culture, we’ll work through breakfast, lunch and dinner. We often have the expectation that you’re going to work until this project gets done. In many other cultures, they work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then the lights go off. Family and personal time is coveted. In the U.S., we might say, ‘Family comes first,’ but how many of us miss a Little League game to be at work?
How do you know when learning new languages and cultures is worth the resources?
Any time you can foresee that you may be doing business either out of the country or in the country where you know there’s a large population of a specific culture, you probably want to get the employees you know will be in contact with these individuals acclimated.
Which employees might benefit the most from learning a new language or culture?
Depending on the situation and business, it could be your customer service, sales personnel, human resources and/or marketing professionals. Managers and executives who are making the decisions might not need to speak the language but definitely will need to know the culture.
What should employers be looking for to help employees understand other languages, cultures, customs and etiquette?
Some have a tendency to go for the free programs that you find online, but those programs are not always worth your time. A free program, for example, might leave you without the natural fluency and dialect you need. You get what you pay for; this program might cost $200 less but you’re just getting a PDF that someone copied.
Instead, focus on programs with quality instructors and a good reputation in the education/training field. The instructors should be fluent in the language and have teaching experience. Research the organization to find a program that has a history of providing good service.
Remember, even a little knowledge will keep you from inadvertently offending someone from another culture, which brings stress and tension among team members — whether it’s a long-term team or if you’re just trying to get the contract signed so you can do business together.
Victoria Berry is program manager of Business and Performance Development with Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Event planning is no longer just “party planning.” Event planning has become a powerful tool for business success by helping to increase sales through live events and saving time and money when planning or organizing company events. Planning an event takes a great deal of time, energy, skill and creativity to effectively execute.
“Mid-sized businesses often do not realize the value of having someone actually trained in event planning; they often allocate the job to an administrative professional who has a full-time job and little time to pay attention to the vast details it takes to successfully implement an event,” says Michele Clark, program manager, The Shlensky Institute for Event Meeting and Planning, for Corporate College.
Even if a business thinks it cannot afford an event planner, it could afford training someone in its office. And, any administrative professional that is given the task of planning and executing events should be compensated for the increase in time and effort it takes.
Smart Business spoke with Clark about the importance of training employees in the fundamentals of event planning and understanding best practices in this essential role.
Why does a business need to ensure its marketing coordinator or a similar employee is properly trained in event planning?
Marketing and event planning really go hand in hand. Events have become an advantage for any business’s marketing strategy, and when combined with an advertising campaign, it vastly increases the awareness and visibility for a product or service. It gives your audience a live environment for your brand. The more people see, touch, taste and experience your product or service, the more you sell.
Marketing personnel also become involved in the acquisition of sponsors for events. To sell an event, it’s important to understand how to look at the event through the eyes of a planner so you are able to provide real marketing solutions to a sponsor’s goals.
What is involved in planning a business event?
A business event is no different than any event in that it all comes down to the details. Whether you are planning a large conference or a gala affair, knowing how to manage every detail is key to its success. If you don’t know the fundamentals of planning an event, you could be wasting a great deal of time. For example, a large conference can take up to year to plan. An event planner handles all of the tasks related to an event, such as research, food, decor, entertainment, transportation, invitations, accommodations, speakers, activities, staffing, supervision, evaluations, and the list goes on and on.
How does event planning affect a business’s profitability and reputation?
Having someone trained in event planning actually saves time and money. If you have someone who understands time management and the organization of an event, it is much more efficient than having someone just plan the event on the side trying to find their way through hundreds of logistics.
As for reputation, there is a remarkable difference between someone with experience and training who executes an event versus someone who just ‘wings it.’ If something can go wrong, it will, and a well-trained event planner understands the challenges and knows how to avoid or solve them. Your well-managed events will speak for themselves and be less likely to become a failure, which could, in turn, give you a bad reputation.
What kind of training should be provided to employees who deal with events and hospitality?
A comprehensive course designed specifically for event planning is excellent training for someone given the task of planning events and will provide that person with an appreciation of what it takes to plan an event. An employee needs to understand the fundamentals, such planning a budget, dealing with sponsors and clients, and utilizing organizational tools.
However, experience is the No. 1 attribute when it comes to executing events. So look for a course that also offers your employees experience through volunteer opportunities, internships and working with an event planner for the best combination of learning.
Also, if your company holds conferences on a regular basis, employees can receive further training specifically in Meeting and Conference planning. There is also other targeted training such as trade show and exhibition management or event planning trends and technology.
Trends and technology include information on registration software or how to take advantage of iPhones during a conference. Technology is now a large part of the hospitality industry, such as using something as simple as the ‘Bump’ app, where attendees can download their information then just tap other smart phones to receive their information. It’s a terrific networking tool and saves paper. There is an influx of meeting technology that changes rapidly and accommodates various attendee ‘smart’ tools.
As the hospitality industry grows in Northeast Ohio, how will this affect corporate business events?
It is a really exciting time for event planning in Northeast Ohio. The event and meeting planning industry is increasing in Northeast Ohio faster than the national average, at 14 to 19 percent over the next few years, according to O*net OnLine.
The new casino alone just begs for an activity, anything from corporate team building to a birthday party. Then you bring in the Medical Mart and Conference Center and you are surrounded by opportunities for event marketing projects, product launches, entertainment parties, major conferences and trade shows. The list of what can take place here is ongoing and event planning and management is alive and well.
Michele Clark is the program manager, The Shlensky Institute for Event Meeting and Planning, for Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2909 or email@example.com.
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Patients are walking billboards for your health care organization. Therefore, if you want to ensure and spread a positive message, having an excellent health care culture can help create the right atmosphere not only for patients, but for your staff, as well.
“If a health care organization doesn’t create a culture in which workers feel positive about where they work, it impacts patients,” says Patricia Reid, clinical nurse specialist and vice president of Health Care Education Initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College. “The health care environment is stressful. It’s important the organizational culture values the work that nurses and other ancillary caregivers provide. If the providers of care are not valued or lack the support of management, that dissatisfaction can indirectly be conveyed to patients. In today’s world, hospitals are graded by consumers through a nationally standardized satisfaction survey. These scores play a crucial role for hospitals, as they are publicly reported and available to all consumers of health.”
Smart Business spoke with Reid about how creating the right culture can increase patient satisfaction and lower staff turnover.
How are health care workers being trained to create a positive patient experience?
Today’s emphasis in health care is on a positive patient experience. Forty years ago, when patients were hospitalized, they were cared for and there was little emphasis on cost. With a greater awareness of health, and as costs have increased, so have patient expectations. Patients are more knowledgeable about their health and have become more discriminate in seeking care. Conversely, hospitals are being judged on the quality, safety and patient satisfaction within their institutions.
The Internet now provides a forum for patients to share both their good and bad health care experiences. They are demanding quality care. Health care workers are no longer caring for novice patients who are not knowledgeable of their health or the expectation of the hospital experience. Many patients come armed with suggestions of treatments or medications that may help in their care.
Health care is a much more collaborative environment and health care providers want to ensure patients understand why a particular treatment they may be asking for may or may not be appropriate for them. It’s important that care is collaborative and respectful for both patients and providers in order to support the highest quality of care and satisfaction for the patient.
Why is increasing patient satisfaction and lowering staff turnover so important to a health care facility’s quality of care?
Due to the recession, health care has not experienced the turnover it had experienced previously. Although there may be some higher attrition rates in the lower salary bands, there are many graduates in health care fields continuing to seek jobs. We will continue to see more hiring, and some predict a shortage as current health care workers continue to age.
The more turnover an organization has, the less consistency patient units will have on a day-to-day basis. In addition, there’s a lot of knowledge within a tenured staff that has been employed 10, 15 or 20 years, versus a new graduate. Most important, as new graduates come into the field of health care, it’s critical that experienced workers are available to assist the more novice workers in their roles. The culture of health care is about helping transform young staff into mature, confident health care workers. If there isn’t an expert they can go to, they must rely on their own knowledge, which can lead to mistakes.
Health care institutions also need to ensure that the more mature health care worker is knowledgeable about current trends in quality, safety and satisfaction, as many were not trained in these newly defined concepts. Health care workers must understand why patient satisfaction is so paramount to the quality of care. It’s more than just a score; it’s what the organization should be about.
Health care workers want to provide the best possible care. However, today they are being judged through quantitative measures, which is much different than 40 years ago.
What tools can those in the health care industry use to create this kind of positive culture?
It’s very important to train people in the educational setting, not just on the skills of taking care of patients but on how you provide quality care from a business perspective. Do you treat patients with respect? Are you efficient in answering their concerns? It truly is a reflection of a hospital’s culture, and you need to make sure all employees want patients to say, ‘That’s the best care I’ve ever received,’ regardless of the treatment or outcome.
How can people learn more?
On June 26, Corporate College presents ‘Disney Institute: Building a Culture of Health Care Excellence.’ The workshop covers leadership skills in the context of the Disney culture. It stresses that whoever you meet, whoever you greet, should have a positive experience. To achieve that, you have to be knowledgeable about your organization and everybody has to have the same goal. Not only does that create a good experience for the patient, but people feel good about working for that organization.
Today’s health care institutions are concerned about their staff-to-patient ratios and the bottom line, but just as much emphasis needs to be placed on the staff. Those on the front line providing patient care are the heart of the organization and they need to feel valued. The organization must recognize those who provide exceptional care and not lose these health care providers. Unfortunately, we commonly promote those with excellent bedside skills to management, instead of rewarding them monetarily to continue to do what they do well. Great caregivers eventually reach their maximum pay grade and the only option is a promotion to management, despite their desire to remain at the bedside. Organizations must rethink the paradigm and consider what truly makes a great organization and reward excellent providers so they can remain in that critical caregiving role.
Patricia Reid is a clinical nurse specialist and vice president of Health Care Initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College. Reach her at (216) 987-4659 or Patricia.Reid@tri-c.edu. To register for the Disney workshop, call (866) 933-5167 or email Patricia.Reid@tri-c.edu.
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Sustainability programs and energy conservation are rapidly gaining popularity in the corporate world. Economic advantages include reduced operating costs and savings on utilities, maintenance and capital expenditures. Environmental benefits include the use of recycled building materials and improved air and water quality.
According to Robert Jones, Ph.D., Vice President of Advanced and Emerging Technologies for Corporate College, a sustainable plan should begin with a complete assessment of current conditions.
Smart Business spoke with Jones about sustainability programs, what types of alternative energy options are available and how he sees the marketplace evolving in the future.
Why should more companies embrace sustainability programs?
It saves money and helps the environment. Many programs can be initiated at little or no cost. Beginning a recycling program, for example, may take as little as an investment in some recycling bins and employee training.
At Tri-C, one of our programs focuses on turning off computer equipment at the end of a workday. The only cost is training our employees, but the payoff can be substantial. Tri-C has a lighting program that uses LED lighting in all of the on-campus vending machines. Most offices have motion sensors that automatically turn off lights after a certain time if no motion is detected.
Tri-C has made the commitment for new construction projects to be LEED certified. The Advanced Technology Center currently under construction is designed to be at least LEED silver. We take sustainability programs very seriously. It’s a good way to do business.
What types of alternative energy options are available?
Most large-scale projects focus on wind or solar. Wind farms take up a lot of space and must be located where wind speed is sufficient and constant enough to create electricity, and often that is not where transmission lines are available. This increases the cost of the project because the supporting infrastructure must be built. Large projects need to be coupled with smart grid initiatives so the power grid can compensate for the loss of power when the wind dies down. Power cannot be stored on the grid, so power lost from the wind farm must be immediately replaced through increased generation from other power plants.
Large solar projects need to be built in locations to maximize sunlight and infrastructure could be an issue. However, small solar projects can be built in multiple locations. Tri-C has solar installations at some of our campus locations, including the downtown Metro campus and at the Advanced Automotive Technology Center on our Western campus.
What kinds of subsidies are available for businesses that use alternative energy?
The federal and state governments generally have programs for purchase and installation of alternative energy systems, either through grants or tax breaks. The availability of these programs changes frequently, so it is best to visit the Department of Energy website to find the latest programs.
How should a business go about formulating a plan to take advantage of alternative energy?
Alternative energy should be included as part of a complete sustainability plan, which starts with a complete assessment of current conditions. At Tri-C, we analyzed energy usage, climate, transportation, buildings, grounds, procurement, recycling, waste reduction and training. Based on where we were, we set specific goals and timelines. Input was solicited from all levels, including students, because for sustainability programs to be successful, everyone needs to do their part.
Some programs were inexpensive, such as creating a recycling program across all campuses or offering discounted RTA passes so students could take mass transit instead of driving to campus. Other programs were more extensive, such as retrofits to update lighting, boilers and AC systems. Tri-C made a commitment for all new buildings to be constructed to LEED standards. Campus green spaces were redesigned to decrease the amount of storm water runoff.
These are just some of the projects that Tri-C has implemented to increase efficiency, lower the carbon footprint and ultimately decrease operating costs. Not all of the programs that Tri-C is implementing will work in every business, but the process that Tri-C used should be widely applicable. The main steps are to analyze current conditions, set goals, develop a workable plan and gain employee acceptance.
How do you see the marketplace for alternative energy evolving
The Department of Energy believes that utilities will shift to more distributed generation in the next 10 to 15 years instead of large power plants providing all of the power generation. This is going to include wind and solar but may also include small biomass facilities and plug-in electric or electric hybrid vehicles.
However, renewable energy sources, at least today, are not completely reliable; the wind can stop blowing, or the solar panels can be obscured by clouds. To manage changing conditions in the power generation, utilities will need many of the features provided by the smart grid. These technologies allow utilities to monitor power conditions throughout the grid, bring online additional generation as needed, or to control load to compensate for lost generation. Deployment of smart grid technologies varies from state to state, and Ohio is far behind states such as Texas, Florida and California.
But even with smart grid technologies, renewable energy will account for only a small percentage of generation until the problem of storage is solved. Currently, all power must be consumed as it is created. Renewable energy would be more reliable if it could be stored when generated and supplied to the grid when needed.
Robert Jones, Ph.D. is Vice President of Advanced and Emerging Technologies for Corporate College. Reach him at (216) 987-3038 or Robert.Jones@tri-c.edu.
Insights Executive Education is brought to you by Corporate College.
If you’ve tuned into a news program or read a newspaper recently you’ve undoubtedly noticed that health care providers are struggling with increased cost, increased workload and funding cuts.
While looking for ways to deal with these problems, some health care institutions have found a possible solution in a very interesting place. Taking a page from the manufacturing industry, health care institutions are incorporating the Lean Six Sigma methodology. “Health care providers have started to understand they need to look from a process-based approach to gain efficiencies,” says Ed Siurek, Director of Quality at Corporate College. “Because of the increased scrutiny on costs, they have to find ways to keep patient care at a high level while minimizing as much process waste as possible.”
Smart Business spoke with Siurek about using Lean Six Sigma within health care institutions and its impact.
What does health care see in Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is a process-based set of tools. It can be applied to anything that follows or should follow a standard process. While the practice of medicine doesn’t really fall into this category, most things within a health care facility do. Think for a moment about all the administrative processes involved in running a hospital. Optimizing these not only increases efficiency, but the ancillary benefits to the staff, doctors and patients can be significant.
What’s driving this approach?
Quite simply, these organizations understand they must become more efficient in order to maintain their current business. Patient populations are continuing to grow, procedures are becoming more expensive and liabilities are a real part of everyday life. There is also the push from the ‘payers.’ Insurance companies and the federal government continue to push the industry to reduce costs.
In addition, there is the availability of information to the consumer. Consumers (or patients) have increased capabilities to understand their choices. While some individuals might not have the luxury to evaluate which facility they will use, many outpatient or elective procedure patients do. They shop for the best services available and hospital patient satisfaction results play a big role in some of these decisions. Creating the best possible patient experience means eliminating waiting times, paperwork and any other problems.
Is there a difference in the approach taken by health care versus manufacturing?
Essentially, there is no difference. Because Lean Six Sigma is a process-based tool, it can apply to any individual process. However, many health care facilities choose to use their own terminology to ease the process. Because Lean and Six Sigma are often associated with a manufacturing environment, the difference in terms and even modification of the key practices allows a smoother transition into the ultimate goal of continuous improvement.
Are there any pitfalls or obstacles to implementing this type of program in a hospital?
Many Lean Six Sigma practitioners have seen some level of resistance. Although this isn’t unusual, it is a bit different in clinical settings. Lean Six Sigma is not something to be applied to the practice of medicine, but rather to the processes within the institution. It has been applied to the transport of patients, medical billing, and redesign of work cells to optimize the flow of information and to reduce the amount of waiting by doctors, nurses and patients. If this point is carefully defined in the early stages and there is diligence in keeping a processed-based approach, individuals can see the benefits and ultimately adopt the program. Unfortunately, there have been examples where the lines between process improvement and patient care have become blurred and the program most likely fails to achieve any positive impact.
What are the benefits to using Lean Six Sigma in health care?
Lean Six Sigma is merely a tool used in the continuous improvement process of an organization. With the external regulatory and financial pressures placed on health care today and the increased demand from patients for the best possible experience, these organizations need to have a way to continuously monitor and improve all of their processes. In the end, the benefits are seen not only by the institution, but much further into the community. Better processes make employees feel better about what they are doing. Customers (or patients) have a better experience and the institution is able to eliminate wasteful processes that can directly impact their bottom line.
In addition to improving the patient experience, health care institutions can and have seen significant impact within the administrative portion of their business. As it does in any office setting, Lean Six Sigma can help to reduce variation and waste. Determining root causes and then streamlining processes saves time, effort and headaches for everyone involved. Consider the number of transactions conducted in one day at a typical hospital that do not directly involve the treatment of a patient. If you are able to cut even 5 to 10 percent, you can achieve significant cost savings.
What do you see as the end result of these programs?
Continuous improvement is a critical component to any business. In the field of health care, it can result in organizations increasing their internal efficiencies, patient satisfaction, employee involvement and overall strength of the business.
For medical staff, optimization can lead to the elimination or reduction in wasted time and effort, allowing more time with patients. Health care professionals always say they became involved in the field to help people. Elimination of wasted activities gives them that opportunity.
Lean Six Sigma is a preventive medicine that can be used on processes to avoid problems in the future. Many institutions have become more involved in using these techniques and the success stories become more significant every day.
Ed Siurek is Director of Quality at Corporate College. Reach him at (216) 987-2838 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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On April 24-26, Corporate College will bring the nation’s best legal and technology experts to Northern Ohio. There will be multiple continuing legal education (CLE) sessions offered each day, so attendees can earn all of their annually required CLE credits at one time, in one place. Plus, the latest in legal and technology-related products and services will be presented at the accompanying trade show.
Julie Savarino, managing director of Business Development Inc., will be presenting two nationally acclaimed sessions: “Mastering the ‘Sales’ Process for Lawyers,” and “Secrets of Success from Leading Women Lawyers.”
“Law is a practice, you have to practice constantly. If you want to maximize your strengths and further your career, these are great programs to attend,” says Savarino.
Savarino is an attorney and a nationally renowned expert in client and business development for lawyers and law firms. Throughout her 25 years of practice, she has helped thousands of lawyers and firms generate millions of dollars in new business through her nationally renowned training, coaching and consulting services.
Smart Business spoke with Savarino about the Continuing Legal Education Summit, who should consider attending the event and what types of sessions are available.
What is the purpose of the Continuing Legal Education Summit?
The purpose is to pull together an exciting roster of CLE programs. Some of the best CLE sessions in the country will be offered at one time, under one roof.
In addition to the programs, I’m also very excited about the location. Corporate College is an undiscovered jewel. It is a great venue, with beautiful property and excellent meeting facilities.
Who should consider attending the event?
Professionals who should consider attending include attorneys, legal marketers, legal administrators and IT directors from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia. The summit also will be beneficial for court reporters and paralegals because they need CLE as well.
What will the ‘Mastering the “Sales” Process for Lawyers’ workshop consist of?
‘Mastering the “Sales” Process for Lawyers’ is a workshop designed to help lawyers become the best rainmakers they can be. It is a full day and an exciting day. In the morning we cover the six key steps in the sales process for lawyers, which is very different than the sales process for typical business entities because of the ethical rules attorneys must abide by and the relationship foundation of the legal business.
A key feature of the afternoon portion of the workshop is the two in-house counsel who serve as instructors. During the afternoon, participants prepare for and have the opportunity to ‘pitch’ the two in-house counsel while gaining their direct, candid and invaluable feedback. This doesn’t happen in real life. In real life when you pitch them, you leave the room and they talk about you behind your back. The workshop provides the opportunity to gain feedback about your approach, your skill set, and where you might want to enhance your techniques. It is somewhat comparable to lawyers actually listening in on jury deliberations at trial — which of course is not allowed.
This program has been delivered hundreds of times around the country and achieved excellent results for law firms and lawyers.
How can participants benefit from the sales workshop?
Lawyers don’t learn the steps of the sales process in law school. We have a prohibition against solicitation. There’s a phrase called ‘ambulance chasing’ which we can’t do. We can advertise to some degree, but you can’t call someone and ask for their business — solicitation is prohibited in all 50 states. This is one-stop shopping for learning how to ethically and appropriately sell.
How would you describe the ‘Secrets of Success from Leading Women Lawyers’ program?
‘Secrets of Success from Leading Women Lawyers’ will feature a panel of successful women lawyers employed in various capacities. This will be an outstanding program because the panel of women lawyers comes from various sectors. Not all practice at law firms; some practice in the public sector, some in education. The fact is that women lawyers — just like women businesspeople across the country — are still not equally paid or equally rewarded for their work. The women on the panel are going to share some of the secrets to their success.
Why should women consider attending this session?
Parity is still a struggle for most women lawyers no matter where they work and this panel is designed to share tips and techniques on how to fuel their career. For example, one panelist is a lawyer who works as in-house counsel at American Greetings and another is an up-and-coming young woman lawyer from a large law firm.
It’s very hard to be a successful woman lawyer. It’s a very demanding profession and law is a jealous mistress. To have children, a family, a life and be a successful lawyer is challenging and difficult. This program is going to showcase that there are a lot of alternative career paths, not simply working at a law firm and billing 2,000 hours a year.
Julie Savarino is managing director of Business Development Inc. Reach her at (734) 668-7008 or Julie@BusDevInc.com. To register for the CLE Summitt, visit www.corporatecollege.com/cle or call (866) 933-5167.
For many business leaders, effective teamwork is viewed as the ultimate competitive advantage that can deliver excellent results. Imagine what you could accomplish if you could improve the performance of your teams: increased market share, enhanced employee involvement, continuous improvement, innovation and reduced waste.
However, true teamwork, with skillful members working towards a common goal, is very rare. We’ve all learned from first-hand experience that not all teams are created equal. So why do some teams produce more excellent results than others?
“It takes more work than just grouping people together and calling them a team,” says Meghan McHale Bilardo, director of Organizational Effectiveness for Corporate College, who cites “The Wisdom of Teams” by Jon Katzenbach and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni as valuable resource tools.
Smart Business spoke with Bilardo about critical components for developing effective teams, common challenges and best practices.
What are the critical components to having an effective team?
There are three critical components. The first is that people working on a team need to have complementary skills. Hiring or selecting the ‘right’ team member is crucial. Members should all be able to relate in terms of their technical proficiencies that they bring to the table. Think about the best performing teams in professional sports, each member is highly capable and well trained. Selecting skilled team members and maintaining their skills over time is essential.
The second critical component is that they have a clear and compelling set of goals. Winning teams have a defined purpose that members rally behind. They break the broader purpose into smaller goals and align each person’s efforts to specific tasks for which they are individually responsible. At Disney, for example, the mission of each employee is aligned with the mission of the larger organization — ‘Make dreams come true.’ This goal underlies all decisions made by teams at each of the Disney resorts.
The last critical component is mutual accountability. These are the promises that team members make to each other, starting with the leadership. Leaders should demonstrate accountability and respond to the lack of it on their teams. It is important to create a culture of responsibility, obligation and support to foster accountability. The best teams define who is responsible for what and track individual and group progress. Productivity is rewarded and celebrated. When individuals are struggling, the team provides support. The team creates a positive pressure to deliver results and members do not want to disappoint each other. Southwest Airlines has collective responsibility to ensure flights depart on time and to identify the root cause of a problem when flights are delayed.
What are some of the common challenges teams face and how can these challenges be overcome?
Even the most talented teams face obstacles. The first challenge has to do with building trust, a necessary foundation for a high performing team. With high levels of trust teams are more productive, have a great sense of unity and are supportive. The difficulty here is that trust requires time. In order to speed up the process an outside facilitator can guide your team through activities that help people gain new insight into each other, which builds trust. The second challenge that many team members face is conflict. It can be difficult to disagree with and debate members of your team. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model, which we use at the college, helps members build assertiveness skills and understand how conflict can be productive and useful to a team. The third hurdle is a lack of accountability. The more ambiguous leaders are about goals and progress, the easier it is for people to be unaccountable. The best way to foster accountability is to be S.M.A.R.T when setting goals, to publicly post progress on goals and promote ongoing team dialogue on accomplishments and setbacks.
How do you know when you have a high-performing team?
Members of a high-performing team produce excellent business results. When you observe them you will see open-ended dialogue and group participation in meetings. You will witness ongoing and public tracking of their performance, regular evaluation of their processes, innovation and continuous learning. You will observe public rewards and group support for team members that aren’t able to deliver. At the end of the day you will see a collective result.
What are some common best practices to promote team development?
All teams move from forming, storming, norming and performing as they develop (Bruce Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development). Their needs are different in each stage.
- When ‘forming’ a best practice, hire an outside facilitator to establish the team’s purpose, set performance goals and lead strategic planning. In addition, the facilitator can create a team charter, which helps members understand how they will work together.
- ‘Storming’ is when teams most often struggle with conflict. Group learning in communication and social style workshops help people build their assertiveness and conflict resolution skills so they can have productive debates and ongoing dialogue with their new teammates.
- The ‘norming’ stage is when a team begins to build a sense of unity so it’s best to review their progress and revisit their ground rules in the team charter. Professional development workshops for leaders are also recommended to help them learn proven strategies for increasing employee ownership and pride.
- ‘Performing’ is all about productivity and knowing how each member can best contribute. Evaluate performance and reward members who are delivering the biggest results.
Meghan McHale Bilardo is director of Organizational Effectiveness for Corporate College. Contact her at (216) 987-2800 or Meghan.Bilardo@tri-c.edu to learn how you can build an effective team that delivers business excellence.
Think back to your first day as a manager. You’ve been praised as a high-performing associate for quite some time and becoming a manager is the next step in your career. However, upon assuming the reigns of leadership you quickly learn the skills you’ve employed to accomplish your own work aren’t so effective now that you’re leading a team of individuals with their own work styles and goals.
“Individual contributors are expected to execute work themselves and suddenly, once promoted to the role of manager, they are expected to execute work through others,” points out Sarah Eppink, Leadership Program Manager for Corporate College. “This can prove challenging to high performing individuals who have rightfully been praised for being accountable for their own good work.”
In order to ease the transition from being an individual contributor to a strong leader, organizations should provide support for new managers throughout the training process.
Smart Business spoke with Eppink about why new leaders struggle, what competencies should be developed, and how to choose appropriate training providers.
Why do most new leaders struggle?
Managers oftentimes are promoted through the ranks of their organizations as high-performing individual contributors with expertise in their field. This is important, as you certainly need a leader to have technical expertise and a solid frame of reference. However, these newly promoted managers tend to lack the soft skills that prove crucial to leading a team and managing relationships.
Another challenge can arise when a newly promoted manager is leading a team comprised of former peers. It can be difficult for teams to accept a former peer as a new boss because that person ‘used to be one of us.’ A manager doesn’t usually just receive respect because of a title, especially not in this situation. To gain acceptance, a new leader needs to leverage their relationships within the team and accomplish quick wins. Organizations must adequately support these new managers through training and reinforcement during this challenging transition.
What competencies should new leaders develop?
Individuals new to managing others should look to develop behaviors that would help them tackle both day-to-day tasks, as well as more strategic thinking. A solid training program for new leaders addresses the following competencies: leadership styles, building trust, communication, delegating tasks, developing and coaching others, change management, conflict management and decision making. Programs that focus on skill development in these areas can effectively minimize the learning curve of new leaders. You might be wondering why I didn’t mention skill sets like building a team and acquiring talent. New managers typically inherit a team and don’t have the luxury of hand selecting the talent they will lead. Depending on the organization, some new managers may not have a need to acquire new team members for quite some time. When the need arises to develop these skills, this training should be made available.
In addition to training, what are some resources organizations should make available to new leaders?
One can’t possibly master a new behavior through classroom learning alone. While training will provide you with new knowledge, it is our experiences that shape us. Be sure to provide new leaders with the space to demonstrate new skills. Ensure that the new leader’s direct manager is fully engaged with this person throughout their new leader training program. Their direct manager should act as a sponsor for them — developing goals as they go through the program, and assisting with identifying current projects for which these new skills can be utilized.
Mentoring can provide a tremendous learning opportunity for new leaders as well. Align new managers with seasoned, well-respected leaders within the organization. A mentor is invaluable when you’re starting out and can benefit from someone else’s learning curve.
What are the risks to organizations if new leaders are not developed correctly?
Frontline supervisors are the primary driver to higher levels of employee engagement, as they interface with more employees than any other level of the organization. The reverse is also true — frontline supervisors with inadequate leadership skills can decrease levels of employee engagement, leading to low morale, turnover, etc. It can be a slippery slope. If you’re a manager in a revenue-generating area of your organization, low employee morale on a team may also lead to profit loss.
How do you choose the appropriate provider to help create a new manager program?
Not all training is created equally. Make sure whatever curriculum you choose is industry-recognized for presenting quality content. Professional organizations such as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) can point you in the right direction of a reputable training provider. A training provider should meet you where you are in identifying the appropriate solution, which should assess what the aforementioned new leader competencies look like in your organization. For example, what does it look like for a new leader to manage change in your company? For some, it may mean communicating change to employees and coaching their teams through changes passed down by upper management. For others it may be having a seat at the table to create change within the organization and facilitating change for their team. Learning activities delivered around these competencies should address what successful demonstration of these behaviors looks like in your world.
Be wary of any provider that does not offer solutions other than a host of classroom-based courseware. Learning occurs in different ways. A good provider will offer blended learning solutions, leadership coaching, assessments and consulting.
Sarah Eppink is Leadership Program Manager for Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2917 or email@example.com.
When you think of project management, you tend to think of massive IT implementations, construction projects or enterprise-wide endeavors. Or, you think of meetings, bureaucracy and headaches. But truthfully, almost any change you implement in your professional life can be broken down as a project. The Project Management Institute’s definition of a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”
“Through the use of project management techniques, companies have found a new and exciting culture change that can drive project and organizational success,” says Ed Siurek, director of Quality for Corporate College.
Many Fortune 500 companies have successfully incorporated this methodology into their way of doing business. But how can every organization take advantage of this opportunity? The key to understanding what is necessary and how to achieve those goals may lie in providing project management certification opportunities for employees.
Smart Business spoke with Siurek about project management and the importance of certification.
Why do projects fail?
The Bull Survey (1998) was conducted to understand how and why IT companies in the UK had project failure. It showed three primary causes: breakdown in communication (57 percent), lack of planning (39 percent), and poor quality control (35 percent) as the primary reasons. Given that most companies think they do these things well, it gives reason for pause. How can we do these things better and what are we doing wrong? The secret may lie in what we think project management really is. Companies typically rely on individuals rather than methodology. If everyone is not on the same page as the project manager though, problems can and often do arise.
What are the benefits of formal project management?
It is process based and allows everyone to work from the same philosophy. Creating organizational standards, templates and procedures helps increase productivity, communication and employee understanding of the task at hand. Most employees involved in a project know what needs to be done but too often the lack of control and ability to manage all project details can be overwhelming. Using a formal approach keeps everyone on the project team on the same page and moving in the same direction. They know each step of the process and the expectations, and it forces everyone to think about risk and unforeseen obstacles. Planning for these obstacles can keep them from becoming project derailments.
Why is certification so important?
Certification in project management is not for everyone. It takes training, experience and using proven methodology to be successful. The certification process requires not only up-front training, but documentation of past experience, testing and continuing education. Those that gain certification understand the importance and have the skill set to drive all aspects of a project to successful completion.
Certification to any of the project management standards is a great opportunity. Individuals can apply the skills learned across most industries and professions. It is a methodology that is highly valued by employers because of its success rate and discipline.
How does a certification impact your business?
Assigning a certified project manager to a project helps minimize risk. Projects are managed in a highly effective and efficient manner that produces on schedule, on specification and on budget results. Project managers understand that not every variable can be accounted for in a project, but they have learned how to manage and mitigate those risks before they become larger problems. Success in projects typically yields higher return on investments (ROI) and a better end product.
There is also a cultural benefit to providing a consistent approach. Employees understand their responsibilities and spend less time away from daily tasks while still being able to focus on the project. Highly engaged employees and successful projects will both contribute to a better working environment and higher returns for any organization.
What about the cultural aspect of project management?
When projects work properly and employees see success, confidence grows in the methodology. They begin to incorporate some of the tools into their work. Everyone wants to succeed, so what better way to do it than by using something that is proven? Soon, it becomes a way of doing business. Not only does this create commonality in practices in the company, but it also makes projects more successful. Project management can influence many aspects of an organization. Take, for example, a customer complaint. Using project management methodology, the complaint can be taken, evaluated and processed in a systematic manner. The reason for the complaint may lead to other projects to correct the product, process or system. The initial documentation from the first project will help to ease each subsequent project.
Who needs to get certified in an organization, and what certifications should they seek?
Certification is available ranging from the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) to the Project Management Professional (PMP). Which certification is best for a particular employee? It depends on that individual’s experience. Experienced project managers will seek a PMP credential while those just entering the work force will seek the CAPM. Both provide valuable insight and training and can be assets to any project team and organization. As CAPMs continue to progress and gain experience, they can take on more responsibility and more complex projects. Ultimately, this leads to seasoned project managers. Once the CAPM has gained the necessary experience, they can gain further certification by means of the PMP.
Ed Siurek is director of Quality for Corporate College. Reach him at (216) 987-2838 or Edward.Siurek@tri-c.edu.
Mobile cloud computing, where applications are driven from the “cloud” and not from the handheld device itself, is becoming a vital part of the business landscape. Is your company positioned to take advantage of this emerging and potent technology? Mobile apps powered by the cloud will include productivity applications that accentuate collaboration, data sharing and multitasking. Now is the time to adopt cloud computing strategies as there will be a seismic change in how information is distributed and applied.
“A lot of companies are dipping their toes into this new environment to see how their customers react,” says Toni Paoletta, Corporate College’s IT Program Manager. “Eventually mobile devices will replace desktops.”
Smart Business spoke with Paoletta about the shift to mobile and how business owners can take advantage of the new frontier.
What are some of the driving forces behind the shift to mobile devices?
Mobility is the key word. Mobile devices allow companies to take their products and services and place them directly at their customers’ fingertips. We have seen Internet-based tools and services reformulated to work on smaller devices. For example, customer relationship management and inventory control can now be managed remotely through the use of a mobile application on a smart phone. In the past, you had to log on to an Internet browser, connect to a Web site and log in credentials to access a company’s services. Now you can have a mobile application on your smart phone that is able to access the same software, services and data instantaneously.
How big will the shift be?
The shift will be huge. Being able to control everything from the road is the wave of the future. The convenience factor of smart devices — they’re small, portable and have excellent battery life — will drive the need for customized mobile app development. The emergence of new smart phones and tablets has created a huge explosion in the mobile device market and a need for new, innovative apps that can function on these various platforms.
How does the mobility and prominence of the cloud impact the IT industry?
All IT industries will need to know how to deploy, support and maintain their company’s intellectual property that is made available through these mobile apps. Not only will companies have to support their current physical infrastructure, but they will also have to support and secure their cloud infrastructure. This will mean investing in increased storage and additional servers.
Besides infrastructure considerations, companies need to consider the deployment and sustainability of mobile devices and the applications that reside on these mobile devices. If a company develops a mobile application for its customers, it must consider platform issues, interoperability, updates and security.
How does the shift towards mobile devices affect a company’s IT personnel?
IT personnel will need to become familiar with mobile devices and understand the capabilities of those devices, how to keep these devices updated and identify how they are going to fit within the company’s current IT environment. For example, an Apple iPad utilizes wireless Internet. If you have employees accessing data with an iPad from within the office you need a wireless infrastructure within your corporation that will support that access. Other considerations are software and operating system updates. How will your company manage these operating system updates on mobile devices? Are you providing a public cloud to your customers; meaning your software and services are available through a mobile app? If so, your security infrastructure will be critical to protect other applications, data or services available within the cloud. If you use a private cloud, how will you maintain access when there is a change in human capital within your organization and the app to connect to that private cloud resides on the employees’ personal smart phones? All of these questions need to be considered.
In order to address these issues, IT professionals need to expand their current skill set and become familiar with smart devices and how to access information in new ways.
What opportunities are available for application developers?
The sky is the limit for application developers as it relates to mobile app development. I think everyone who has a smart phone today has thought of an application they would love to write, whether it is a game they think would be cool, or a business app that would provide a solution to fix a problem. For instance, our college recently launched a mobile app called ‘Tri-C Mobile’ that provides students with information about courses, events, campus news, sports schedules and even the campus directory all through their smart phone. It is vital for people to start thinking about how they can transfer their business knowledge to a mobile device so people can access that information from anywhere.
How can business owners take advantage of and plan for these developments?
They need to think about what work they wish they could do if they were stuck at home, in traffic, or waiting in a line at the airport. They need to ask themselves how they can take advantage of these smart devices — these mini-handheld computers. They need to find software developers with business knowledge that can translate into innovative mobile apps. Every day you hear about companies launching their new ‘app.’ Whether it’s American Greetings’ ‘Ecard’ app, or Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff and its ‘Benesch Apportunity’ app to recruit new attorneys, mobile apps are going to change the way we do business. Businesses across the globe are leveraging the cloud to bring their business to their customers via mobile apps. It’s time to say goodbye to being tethered to a box; and say ‘Hi’ to mobile computing.
Toni Paoletta is Corporate College’s IT Program Manager. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (216) 987-2962.