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Tuesday, 25 December 2012 11:29

4 necessary skills for managing people

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According to Merriam-Webster, management is “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.” While “controlling” is a bit harsh in my book, the definition is correct in it's focus on management of people. To be a good manager or team leader, you have to have an above average interest in people. Success in management is found in the relationship developed between leader and team.

The best managers see themselves as catalysts. They become that agent or force that provokes or speeds significant change or action. These managers get things done quickly by leading with solid people skills.

Here are 4 people skills that every good manager must possess:

1. Understanding the right way to give a critique.

The worst thing you can do if you want to get someone to listen to you is to criticize.

As human beings, we hate to be criticized. When we feel attacked, we usually attack back – even when we are in the wrong. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking “I know I am right and I am going to prove it to you.”

Over the years I have learned that this way of thinking simply does not work.

A good manager has the self-control and presence of mind to put aside the needs of his own ego and say “I've got a problem, will you help me?” Enlisting cooperation in this manner will always lead to better results.

2. Understanding the need to help.

If someone comes in to criticize you or to raise your game, under what circumstances would you be willing to accept the critique?

The answer for me is simple. If I think someone is really trying to help me, then I'll engage and listen.

On the other hand, if I feel that the person is just trying to get the job done or make himself look good, I may listen, but my heart will not be in it. My interest and creative energies will be lost.

The truth of the matter is: Managers will only have influence over their people to the extent that their people think they are sincerely trying to help them. It is simply the way human beings work. Good managers truly care about their team and work hard to help them.

3. Understanding no two people are the same.

As a manager, you do not influence everybody the same way. People do things for their own reasons – not for others and not for you.

Inspiring people to your company vision happens best when you help them to see what's in it for them. This varies from person to person. It is your job to discover what things motivate each member of your team.

Some people are motivated by a challenge, some by money and others by recognition.

It is about reading their needs, desires and wants and then leading in such a way that ensures their success at obtaining them.

4, Understanding the best way to get tasks completed.

An effective manager realizes that each time he has an interaction with someone about a task, there are two things going on:

a. A discussion about the task and how to get it done.

b. The way in which the interaction affects the managers relationship with the collegue.

The first is pretty straightforward, but it's success is determined by the tenor of the second.

It must be said that the task should not be sacrificed for the relationship at all costs. It must also be said that winning on the task is not good if the manager ruins the relationship. Both are important and the manager must do well in each area.

I refer again to the need for the manager to develop relationships with the team in order to understand the best way to get things done according to individual members needs, desires and strengths.

In the end, good managers know how to use their influence and power to help others achieve beyond their wildest dreams.

I like management guru Tom Peters' definition of power:

“My definition of power is understanding that all of managing — and this comes out of the old grade school book — is the notion of doing more than you and I can do by ourselves; that is, doing things through other people.”

He goes on to say:

“If you are interested in getting things done effectively and imaginatively through other people then what you're trying to do in the workplace is exactly what you're trying to do on the football field – which is to get people who work with you to achieve beyong their wildest dreams.”

Workplace managers understand that good people skills determine their success. They work hard to develop the skills needed to lead in ways that shows their interest in people.

DeLores Pressleymotivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.

She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email atinfo@delorespressley.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose; it’s how well you played the game.”

Do you agree? Or should the quote be, “Knowing the score will push you to play the game your hardest”?

I recently read “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling. The discipline that stuck out in my mind most was Discipline No. 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. While it may be true that it’s not whether you win or lose, a very important factor in determining how well you played is keeping a scoreboard.

Create a focal point

Whether on the field or in the office, if you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing. Imagine you’re watching a lacrosse game with players that aren’t keeping score. You might see the players screwing around, not passing or cradling the ball, being careless about field positioning, taking risky shots or playing without any strategy in mind. No one’s trying to win.

Now, imagine there’s a scoreboard. You see the teams start to develop strategies on how they can work together to outsmart their opponents, maintain possession and defend their goal. The players play with more intensity and have a will to win, and there’s more sweat and blood.

When you have a team working together to drive your business forward, unfortunately, there’s no time for practice shots. Your team needs to keep score and be “game on” — working hard strategically and pushing toward the same goal.

Let the team set goals

Many organizations have their top leader develop their scorecard, filled with a bunch of information and lofty goals that no one on the team knows about. Or if they do know about it, they’re not sure how it was derived or what it was based on. When the leader sets the goals and puts them in their office, how is the team to know what they’re trying to achieve?

Allowing your team members on the ground to develop the scorecard helps it become personal to them. They buy in to it. They have a passion for updating it and have a desire to reach the goals they help set. Ultimately, the scorecard is for the team, not the boss. So let them set it.

Display score clearly

Some scoreboards have data on every point played, stats on every player and even stats from the entire season. Some have graphs and charts. Cut through all the clutter and help your team stay focused.

What is the main goal the team is seeking? They should be able to figure out the score within seconds of looking at the scoreboard.

Also, where is the scoreboard displayed? Is it in the boss’s office? How are your team members to know whether or not they’re close to reaching it?

Don’t be afraid to put your scoreboard on display in a common area where people congregate. They should see it every day and know right away what they’re working toward. If you have people in the field, take your scoreboard on the road.

Everyone wins

When you keep score, allow your team to help set the score and provide constant updates, everyone wins. At Moe’s Southwest Grill, we have to be “game on” every day for the team, for our franchise partners and for our customers. Because when we meet our goals, our guests win, too. They get clean restaurants, the freshest food and high scores on the board across the system. This tells us that the guest is really enjoying the game.

But at the end of the day, I know our team can say — with confidence — that they set the score, they knew the score and they played their hardest to win. ?

Paul Damico is president of Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with more than 430 locations nationwide. Damico has been a leader in the food service industry for more than 20 years with companies such as SSP America, FoodBrand LLC and Host Marriott. He can be reached at pdamico@moes.com.

About six years ago, Doug Dunn and some his peers at other bus dealerships around the country began to sense that their industry was undergoing a significant shift. So a group of them sat down to take stock and talk things over. They concluded that while their market was quickly maturing, their branch of it — the dealership sector — wasn’t keeping pace.

“I had gotten into this business back in the 1980s when it was just getting started,” says Dunn, CEO of Atlanta-based Alliance Bus Group, a company that today operates seven dealerships in the southern and eastern United States and generates annual revenue of $120 million. “Transportation needs were starting to explode in a lot of cities, and most people bought buses that were converted school buses or they just ran 15-passenger vans. Transit budgets were starting to really catch some wind, and the commercial needs around airports were exploding. It was a good business to be in.”

By 2007, however, the bus industry was starting to grow up. Most of it was, anyway.

“We started seeing some consolidation on the manufacturers’ part,” Dunn says. “And the customers started getting a lot more mature too. They started knowing a lot more about buses than they did before. As a dealership, you needed a lot of infrastructure to keep up with these changes.

“One of my favorite sayings has always been ‘Volume speaks volumes.’ You need a lot of volume and a lot of product to catch the attention of manufacturers, from the areas of support and pricing. It wasn’t easy operating as independent, single dealerships.”

It was time to get bigger or get out.

Unite the colonies

Dunn’s company at that time was simply called Bus Group. It operated dealerships in Atlanta, New Orleans and Jackson, Miss. Those dealers operated almost as if they were separate companies, with outdated software systems, too much overhead, inadequate service facilities and no centralization of business functions to achieve efficiencies.

Getting bigger wasn’t going to be easy. While several other dealers had shown an interest in joining forces with Bus Group, the company saw that it would need to integrate these outposts into a more smoothly functioning unit first.

“We began to see that we wanted to make the transformation from a locally owned and managed dealership into one more national in scope, with all of the benefits that come from that,” Dunn says. “The synergies would make a lot of sense: being able to consolidate inventories, to have better training programs for our salespeople, to achieve the economies of scale of insurance consolidation and things such as that. All of this made a lot of sense, so we decided we wanted to pursue it. But, first, we would have to lay the groundwork and get organized.”

The key elements to achieving this expansion plan were centralizing the company’s operations by creating a corporate office in Atlanta, investing in a dealer management software system, expanding and upgrading the dealerships’ service facilities, and then, after all of that groundwork was laid, leveraging buying power by expanding and acquiring new dealerships.

“We designated Atlanta to be the corporate office for functions such as accounting, finance analysis, HR and legal,” Dunn says. “We reached out and used some different sources to add an assistant controller, some other accounting people, an HR manager and some financial people to help us run the business as an ongoing, larger organization.

“Getting the right people on the bus — pardon the pun — was a major focus for us.”

The task of centralizing the company’s operations and making the outposts operate more uniformly forced Dunn to change his management style.

“This is one of the things that has been a challenge for me,” he says. “I had to almost completely change the way I operate. I had always been very hands-on with my dealerships: everything from parts inventory all the way up to dealing with the largest fleet customers. As you start getting larger, though, you need to start assembling a different kind of team.”

One of the toughest challenges Dunn faced was taking the dealer principals he had been working with — “the lone rangers,” as he calls them — and showing them how to work within the framework of a large corporate entity.

“It was a difficult transition, and it took time to get it working smoothly,” Dunn says. “To go from basically running your own shop for many years to becoming part of a team running an integrated auto distribution business in a more corporate environment, with all of the associated checks and balances in place, has been a challenge for all of us. But these guys have been wonderful to work with. All along, they’ve had the right attitude to make this happen. And I’m very proud of where we are right now.”

Consolidate data

The dealer management software system proved to be a challenge to install and get running smoothly. The system, which centralizes all of Alliance Bus Group’s data and operations and is accessible 24/7 from any computer with Internet access, enables Alliance’s personnel to address customer service questions immediately with reference to any of the company’s departments.

“We launched the software system in 2010,” Dunn says. “It’s a complete dealership management system, similar to what automobile dealers use. It drives our entire process.”

The software system has a wealth of features. It has a contract manager for Alliance’s sales force. It interfaces with the company’s website so that as employees add and delete inventory items, the information is immediately uploaded to the site.

On the parts and service side, the system handles all of the company’s shop tickets and parts orders. It also manages Alliance’s service work orders and its accounting functions.

“One the best things about it is that it’s all in the cloud,” Dunn says. “The information is on the software company’s server, and we can connect to it through the Internet from anywhere. It has completely changed the way we do business.”

In the two years since Alliance centralized its corporate operations and installed the dealer management software, the company has acquired dealerships in Lewisville, Texas, Carlstadt, N.J., and Orlando, Fla. These acquisitions bring Alliance’s total number of business locations to seven.

Blending the new dealerships into Alliance’s corporate system, especially with regard to the dealer management software system, has been problematic, but it is growing less so as the company gets accustomed to the process.

“The integration of the new dealerships is getting less difficult as we do each one,” Dunn says. “With the first one, you know, you almost want to kill yourself, the second one, you just get real sick, and the third one, you sort of catch it in stride. That’s the way the process has gone for us.”

Dunn says conviction, clear communication and decisiveness have been keys to Alliance’s ability to successfully integrate the new dealerships into the company’s corporate structure.

“You can’t lose the faith,” he says. “It can be lonely at the top, and it’s easy to get discouraged, but I’ve learned that when you start feeling a little uncertain, you need to start communicating more. Get out and really research the situation, and then go at it with everything you’ve got.

“Gather as much data as possible, analyze it quickly, decide what’s important, follow up expeditiously, and then make the best decision you can. And once you make a decision, go for it. Don’t back off.”

That last point — not pulling back from decisions once they’re made — was especially important to Alliance as it moved through the process of acquiring the dealerships and assimilating those organizations into the company.

“If you make a decision and then you back off from it, everybody will start to question all your decisions,” Dunn says. “It can make it difficult to pursue an effective course going forward when people … you know, they may not necessarily lose confidence in you, but they may start to think you’re not as committed to something as you should be.”

With seven locations in six states spanning from Texas to New Jersey, Alliance Bus Group has expanded its reach from what was once a group of small, loosely connected “lone ranger” dealerships to a large regional bus distribution network. The greatest advantage Alliance has gained as a result of this expansion is its ability to offer more interesting and potentially lucrative opportunities to its employees.

“This is a different game now,” Dunn says. “I have the ability to take a good sales manager in Texas and promote him to be the general manager in New Orleans or Orlando. I’ve never had that opportunity before, and when you start talking about a company and the opportunities for people inside it, you know, that’s pretty special.

“As I’ve gotten older and seen things, what gives me the greatest pleasure is to see people that have come on board in the organization, worked hard and developed, and then benefited from it, for themselves and their families. That’s what gets me fired up most nowadays.” ?

How to reach: Alliance Bus Group Inc., (866) 287-4768 or www.alliancebusgroup.com

 

THE DUNN FILE

Doug Dunn

Chairman and CEO

Alliance Bus Group Inc.

Born: Atlanta

Education: Mercer University, bachelor’s degree in political science; Vanderbilt University, MBA

What was your first job, and what business leadership lessons did you learn from it?

I was an intern for a natural gas company my second year at Vanderbilt, and the senior vice president made me an offer to stay and fill a hole, which was director of personnel for a 600-employee utility. One of the first things I had to do was negotiate a contract with a pipefitters’ union. So I went from the academic world down to the front line about as fast as you possibly could go. I got instant management experience, immediate personnel experience, and more legal stuff than I cared to know about. That worked out well for me. It was a great springboard into what I’ve done since.

Do you have a central business philosophy that you use to guide you?

I try to rally the troops constantly by staying in communication with them, and I strive for clarity to make sure people understand what I want. Also, I’ve always been a data hound. I try to stay on top of as much relevant data as I can get.

What trait do you think is most important for an executive to have in order to be a successful leader?

I think it’s perseverance. Staying with it; staying on top of the important things. Deciding what’s important and what’s not. You don’t want a dollar chasing a dime.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

That would be from my father, who has passed away. He was an executive for 48 years with Delta Airlines. His advice to me was, ‘Decide what you want to do, do what you like and never worry about the money, because it will always come.’ That has always worked for me.

 

Irving, Texas is a recipient of the 2012 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for performance through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. Irving is only the second municipality to receive the award in its 25-year history.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said Irving has reduced costs by $44 million and improved satisfaction service levels by double digits.

“We reduced our work force by 10 percent without laying anyone off or implementing furloughs and, at the same time, increased benefits,” he says. “We identified numerous efficiencies that resulted in 50,000 labor hours saved. Code enforcement improved by 88 percent, and we dropped the number of days to turn around commercial building permits from 16 to three and a half. These efforts culminated with Irving retaining its AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s during a recession, while offering residents and business owners among the lowest tax rates and water fees in North Texas.”

Smart Business spoke with Gonzalez about the way Irving works with businesses and how to apply these lessons.

How should a good relationship between a business owner and the municipality work?

Good communication between the city and business community is important. By having a proactive communication flow, the city gets intelligence on issues business owners are having with city processes. For example, Irving was considering an ordinance that would impact the certification of restaurant servers. Because the city reached out to businesses, it was able to make the ordinance helpful to customer safety but not so onerous to implement. Another example was a state highway project through the middle of Irving where the city and the chamber of commerce coordinated with the state to help businesses relocate and/or work with the department of transportation.

So, both sides need to reach out to each other?

Yes. Irving has 39 different ways to communicate with customers — in this case businesses — like newsletters, our website, Facebook, Twitter, email blasts, etc. If there’s a new project, the city can let others know how it might impact them and keep them in the loop.

What are some of the best ways through government bureaucracy and red tape, including navigating the permit process?

The city made an effort to speed up the permit process because when a business is building a large structure, in order to create several hundred jobs, and in some cases thousands of jobs, you don’t want to hold up the work. Irving’s permitting process now takes three and a half days after eliminating unnecessary steps. Using incentives, Irving built a new culture and a new way of thinking. Another way to minimize the red tape is through surveys. Between random and point of service surveys, done at the departmental level, the city can listen and then change the way it does business. Many times problems or improvements are obvious to business owners, but not to the city.

Aside from letting the municipality know about issues, when business owners show up for permits, bring as much information — plans and documents — as you can. Those that come forward with complete and comprehensive information in hand will get processed quicker.

How can local entities assist employers with state or federal issues? 

Cities can work in cooperation with businesses on some developmental opportunities. In some cases Irving has received federal grants that not only help the public sector but also tie in with private development, especially for environmental issues. The local government also can supplement state or federal services. For example, the state picks up litter along state highways twice a year, but Irving stepped in to pick up litter more often, resulting in a cleaner highway that people assume is safer, which in turn increases the community’s value.

Tommy Gonzalez is city manager of Irving, Texas. Reach him at (972) 721-2521 or tgonzalez@cityofirving.org. Visit the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce at www.irvingchamber.com.

Click for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s profile on Irving — Baldrige: Irving is ‘A Lone Star Model of Fiscal Achievement.'

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce

Your employees work hard to ensure your company’s success, but when companies are cutting back on expenditures, it seems nearly impossible to recognize their efforts without cutting into your bottom line, says Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, major accounts manager, at Ashton Staffing, Inc.

“Many companies feel strapped for cash right now and run in the other direction at the mere mention of bonuses or raises. Nevertheless, tough times don’t mean that you shouldn’t reward your employees,” she says.

Smart Business spoke with Coon-Leeper about how to acknowledge employees through non-monetary means.

What are some ways to recognize and reward employees if you can’t give bonuses or raises? 

There are many ways that a company can reward employees without handing them money. Many things can be done with minimal effort. For example:

• Be flexible. Give your employees the flexibility in determining work schedules and the ability to take time for family or personal issues. Create summer hours with shorter in-office workdays. Rearrange working times to add an extra hour during the first part of the week in exchange for lesser hours later in the week. As long as the employee is deserving and does not abuse the privilege, this can go a long way to building trusting and mature relationships.

• Lunch from the president/CEO. Have the ‘powers that be’ bring in lunch as a nice surprise. It can be a home-cooked meal. Clear the conference room and have the president deliver the praise, lunch and sit down with the employees to get to know more about them. All business aside, just the thought would make employees feel appreciated.

• Give employees a free pass. Try giving out a certain number of free days off to employees to use as they see fit. Employees get a few of these a year and can use them as they like. They do not have to pretend to be sick. They can go to the beach, read a book and play with their kids. It does not matter how they use the time.

Do some employees prefer certain types of rewards and what’s the best way of identifying what works best?

Companies should make an effort to get to know their employees. Each employee is different and will have different values depending on how old he or she is and at what stage in life. Because of that, younger employees may appreciate different rewards than individuals who are middle age. For example, younger employees may prefer to earn more paid time off to use as they see fit, whereas studies have shown that middle-age employees prefer to be praised more on their work performance by either receiving a handwritten note from the president/CEO or by simply hearing verbal approval of a job well done.

If your employees still want bonuses or raises, how can you best handle turning them down?

In many situations, it is easy to turn down a raise request — if a person’s performance has not met expectations or if a person bases the request on what others are making, it is easy to explain that everyone is treated as an individual. The more difficult scenario is when you have to deny a request from someone who merits an increase but cannot get one because of the company’s financial situation.

The secret here is to ensure the employee knows he or she is a valued worker and is making a legitimate request that simply cannot be met right now because of the company’s financial status. A rational person will understand these kinds of circumstances. Acknowledge the employee’s disappointment by ensuring that you will come back to him or her with a raise as soon as the financial picture brightens.

Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, is a major accounts manager with Ashton Staffing, Inc. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or jleeper@ashtonstaffing.com.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

Companies typically want to do what’s right for those they serve. Key priorities should be customers, investors, employees and the communities in which the company is located — but not necessarily always in this order. The dilemma, however, is that many times short-term decisions can prove to be long-term problems that cause more pain than the initial gain.

It’s difficult to make all constituents happy every time. As a result, management must prioritize decisions with a clear understanding that each action has ramifications, which could manifest themselves in the short, intermediate or long term. Seldom does a single decision serve all of the same timelines. There are no easy answers and anyone who has spent even a short amount of time running a business has already learned this fact of life. So what’s a leader to do?

It’s a sure bet that investors want a better return, employees want more money and benefits, and customers want better quality products, higher levels of service and, oh yes, lower prices. This simply all goes with the territory and is a part of the game. The problem can be that, most times, it’s hard to give without taking something away from someone else. Here are a couple of examples.

Take the case of deciding to improve employee compensation packages. Ask the auto companies what happened when they added a multitude of perks over the years, as demanded by the unions? The auto titans thought they didn’t have much choice, lest they run the risk of alienating their gigantic workforces. History has shown us the ramifications of their actions as the majority of these manufacturers came close to going belly up, which would have resulted in huge job losses and an economic tsunami.

Basic math caused the problems. The prices charged for cars could not cover all of the legacy costs that accrued over the years, much like barnacles building up on the bottom of a ship to the point where the ship could sink from the weight. Hindsight is 20/20, and, of course, the auto companies should have been more circumspect about creating benefit packages that could not be sustained. Yes, the employees received an increase to their standard of living for a time anyway, but at the end of the day, a company cannot spend more than it takes in and stay in business for long.

Investors in public companies can present a different set of problems because they can have divergent objectives. There are the buy-and-hold investors, albeit a shrinking breed, who understand that for a company to have long-term success, it must invest in the present to build for the future. The term “immediate gratification” is not in their lexicon; they’re in it for the long haul. Another type of investor might know or care little about a company’s future, other than whether its earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates. These investors buy low and sell high, sometimes flipping the stock in hours or days. And, actually, both types are doing what’s right for them. The issue becomes how to serve the needs and goals of both groups. When a company effectively articulates its strategy, it tends to attract the right type of investors who are buying in for the right reason. This will avoid enticing the wrong investors who turn hostile because they want something that the company won’t deliver.

When interviewing and before hiring employees, it is imperative that candidates know where the company wants to go and how it plans to get there. Many times, this means telling the prospective newbie that the short-term compensation and benefits may not be as good as the competitors’ down the street, but in the longer term, the company anticipates being able to significantly enhance employee packages, with the objective of eventually outmatching the best payers because of the investments in equipment being made today.

The key to satisfying employees (present and prospective), investors, et al, is communicating the types of decisions a company will make over a specific period of time. Communication from the get-go is integral to the rules of engagement and can alleviate huge problems that can otherwise lead to dissatisfaction.

Knowing what is right for your company, based on your stated plan that has been well-communicated, will help ensure that you do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

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Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Monday, 03 December 2012 17:04

8 bad work habits to avoid

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In our world of quick text missives, sharing the daily joke via inner office email, and generally more relaxed workplaces, informality can become a workplace hazard. Studies show that employers and managers often assess an employee’s career potential based on how that employee carries himself or herself in the workplace. None of us wants to be judged by the externals, but our respective “book covers” matter.

Poor manners at work – however unintentional - can lead to workplace conflict because they distract fellow employees from working or, in the worst cases, offend co-workers who have differing viewpoints and cause potential legal liability for the employer.

Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid these 8 bad work habits:

  1. Talking loudly on telephones and in person in common areas.
  2. Interjecting comments into conversations between other employees, unless your opinion is solicited.
  3. Taking supplies – even if they were bought by the office – from other employee’s work areas without getting prior approval.
  4. Wearing perfume that can be smelled even after you leave an area.
  5. Gossiping about co-workers or people outside the workplace.
  6. Sharing racial, religious or sexual jokes in any format.
  7. Arriving late to meetings.
  8. Regularly using large chunks of work time to resolve personal and family matters.

Most employees want to be viewed as valuable, contributing members of the company team. Thus, it’s worthwhile to periodically assess our workplace demeanor and, perhaps, adjust our behaviors, to help convey that image. Your future with your employer likely depends on it.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

One of the signs of a boom — or at least a boomlet — is that companies start wanting to drive their competition crazy. This occurs when “survival” is no longer an issue and optimization or maximization can become a goal. However, the desire to do things to the competition can lead a company astray — or drive it to even greater heights.

Companies go astray when defeating the competition becomes more important than taking care of customers. When companies become obsessed with the pursuit of excellence, by contrast, they often reach new levels of greatness. Here’s how to avoid the former and achieve the latter.

1. Know thyself. Before you can drive your competition crazy, you have to understand what your company stands for. Otherwise, you’ll succeed only in driving yourself crazy. For example, Apple stands for cool technology. It will never represent a CIO’s safe bet, an “enterprise software company,” or service and support. If it decided it wanted to drive Microsoft crazy by sucking up to CIOs, it would drive itself crazy — that is, if it didn’t perish trying.

2. Know thy customer. The second step is to truly understand what your customer wants from you — and, for that matter, what it doesn’t want from you. One thing that your customer seldom wants to do is to help you drive your competition crazy. That’s in your head, not your customer’s. One more thing: A good company listens to what a customer says it wants. A great company anticipates what a customer needs — even before the customer knows it wants it.

3. Know thy enemy. You cannot drive your competition crazy unless you understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You should become your competition’s customer by buying its products and services. I never truly understood what it was like to be a customer of Microsoft until I bought a Sony Vaio and used Windows. Sure, I had read many comparisons and competitive analyses, but they were nothing compared with hands-on usage.

4. Focus on the customer. Here’s what most people find surprising: The best way to drive your competition crazy is to succeed because your success, more than any action, will drive your competition crazy. And the way you become successful is not by figuring out what you can do to the competition but for the customer. You succeed at doing things for the customer by using the knowledge that you’ve gained in the first three steps: understanding what you do, what your customer wants and needs and what your competition doesn’t do. At the intersection of these three factors lies the holy grail of driving your competition crazy. For most companies, the key to driving the competition crazy is out-innovating, out-servicing or out-pricing it.

5. Turn customers into evangelists. There are few things that drive a competitor more crazy than unpaid customers who are evangelists for a company. Create a great product or service, put it out there (“let a hundred flowers blossom”), see who falls in love with it, open up your arms to them (they will come running to you), and then take care of them. It’s that simple.

6. Make good by doing good. Doing good has its own, very sufficient rewards, but sometimes you can make good and do good at the same time. For example, if you own a chain of hardware stores, you can help rebuild a community after a natural disaster. You’re bound to get a lot of publicity and create bonds with the community — this will drive your competition crazy. And you’ll be doing something good!

7. Turn the competition into allies. One way to get rid of your competition is to drive it out of business. I suppose this might be attractive to you, but a better way is to turn your competition into allies. My favorite author of children’s books is Tomie DePaola. My favorite DePaola book is “The Knight and the Dragon.” This is the story of a knight and a dragon that train to slay each other. They are smashingly unsuccessful at doing battle and eventually decide to go into business together. Using the dragon’s fire-breathing ability and the knight’s salesmanship, they create the K & D Bar-B-Q. For example, if a Home Depot opens up next to your hardware store, let it sell the gas barbecues, and you refill people’s propane tanks.

8. Play with their minds. If you’re doing all this positive, good stuff, then it’s OK to have some fun with your competition — that is, to intentionally play with their minds. Here are some examples to inspire you:

  • Hannibal once had his soldiers tie bundles of brush to the horns of cattle. At night, his soldiers lit the brushwood on fire, and Hannibal’s Roman enemies thought that thousands of soldiers were marching towards them.
  • A pizza company that was entering the Denver market for the first time ran a promotion offering two pizzas for the price of one if customers brought in the torn-out phone directory ad of its competition.
  • A national hardware store chain opened up right next to a longtime community hardware store. After a period of depression and panic, the store owner came up with a very clever ploy. He put up a sign on the front of his store that said, “Main Entrance.”

Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, and The Art of the Start. He appears courtesy of a partnership with HVACR Business, where this column was originally published. Reach Kawasaki through www.guykawasaki.com or at kawasaki@garage.com.

Monday, 03 December 2012 16:28

Giving back: How much charity is enough?

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While attending an event we put on with a local charity, I was impressed with the difference that seemingly minor things can make in someone’s life. I was proud of the contribution and effort that our employees put into the event and the dedication the nonprofit showed for its mission.

The event made me think about the business community and all of the wonderful things companies do for those in need. Take the recent destruction from Hurricane Sandy as an example. Businesses have pledged more than $90 million in assistance, two-thirds of which was monetary donations to organizations like the American Red Cross.

While companies give back in as many ways as possible, even during these difficult economic times, I was wondering if there wasn’t more that could be done in our local communities. Not every effort has to always include a financial component.

Here are some nonfinancial ways to give back in addition to what you already do for the community:

  • Give more time. Some organizations have a greater need for man-hours in addition to financial backing. Your business may already give generously on the financial side, but maybe your favorite charity could use a labor boost as well. Nationally, about 35 percent of companies have some sort of formal volunteer program. Consider donating employee time to help out with a big project or basic cleaning and organizing.
  • Offer advice. You probably already serve on one or more boards for a nonprofit, but there is always another charity out there that could use your help. You don’t have to become a full-fledged board member, but you can offer advice as needed to help the existing members navigate through a problem that plays to your strengths. If the nonprofit is looking for a board member and you don’t have the time, help it find the right person by making a recommendation or referral.
  • Hire nontraditional employees. One way of giving back to the community is helping others help themselves. There are many skilled employees with either physical or mental disabilities that could be a great addition to your company if given the chance. When you have a job opening, make sure you are considering all candidates, including those from nontraditional backgrounds.
  • Do pro bono work. If you can provide a service that a nonprofit needs, consider donating it. Marketing, printing, IT services — basically anything an office needs is probably something a charity could use. Find out what the nonprofit could use, then figure out a way to help out. Even if your company can’t help, maybe you know someone else who can.

In this season of giving, it’s not hard to find a worthy cause. There’s also no question that you and your company have most likely already given a lot, assuming you are in a position to do so. But there’s an old question that asks, “How much charity is enough?” The answer is easy: Just a little more.

Take the time to evaluate whether you can do just a little more than what you are already doing to make an even bigger difference.

If you are in search of a worthy cause, consider donating to The Pillar Fund, a donor-advised fund administered through the Cleveland Foundation. For more information, contact Dustin Klein at dsklein@sbnonline.com.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or fkoury@sbnonline.com.

Salary negotiations can be one of the most challenging facets of the hiring process.

“Salary negotiations don’t exist in a bubble, whether you are interviewing for a new job or looking for a salary increase at your current job,” says Shauna Muldrow, payroll coordinator at Ashton Staffing. “Salary negotiation windows exist from the time you offer a job to a candidate until the candidate accepts the job.”

Smart Business spoke with Muldrow about the ins and outs of a successful salary negotiation for both sides — employer and employee.

What are some key factors to understand about salary negotiations and employee compensation?

Some key factors are the level of the position within your company, the skills and experience needed for the job, the fair market value for the job and the salary range for the job within your geographic area. Employers’ budgets are also a contributing factor in salary negotiations. You should align pay with organizational goals; make sure that the performance you are rewarding supports the organization’s mission and goals. Ensure the compensation system is procedurally fair.

Lastly, implement an excellent and measurable pay schedule. No compensation system can succeed without a clear, concise and comprehensive pay schedule.

What are some best practices for salary negotiations with new hires?

There are a variety of factors that determine which employee benefits a company offers. A company should view benefit packages as part of the total compensation of an employee. There are mandatory benefits such as unemployment and some optional benefits such as health insurance and paid vacations. A few practices for new hire salary negotiations are:

• Friendly approach — Your goal is for everyone to be on the same team. Approach the process that way from the beginning.

• Prepare — You risk offering too little or too much if you go in unprepared.

• Other options — If you simply cannot increase the amount of the salary, consider adding a few perks. Sometimes, something as simple as a gym membership may be enough to bring a desired candidate onboard.

• Honesty — If the candidate is an absolute superstar and you do not want to risk losing that person to the competition, make your best offer up front.

How should employers handle negotiations with existing top performers? Is this any different from new hire negotiations?

Yes, it is different from new hire negotiations. Negotiating a salary increase requires research, industry analysis, knowledge of economic trends and professionalism. You should review your company policies concerning compensation and benefits. Schedule employee meetings during a time when you can devote your full attention to an employee seeking a salary increase. Let the employee fully state his or her case for an increase. Present the company’s position on pay practices, using your research and expertise to support the company’s compensation structure. At some point, a factor in salary negotiation should be a sense of fair play. Both sides — you and your employee — should feel as if they have won.

What common mistakes do many employers make and how can they mitigate them?

A couple common mistakes made by employers are:

• Lack of documentation, and failure to document promptly and accurately. Pay attention to preparing every document regarding warnings, complaints and disciplinary action. The document should include the date it was created, the name and signatures.

• Policy issues. Employers should always follow company policies and standards.

• The failure to conduct adequate background checks on potential employees. Make sure you have a complete background.

• Ethical problems, such as the failure to appropriately evaluate employee performance. Make sure your assessment of your employees is accurate.

A great way to avoid these mistakes is to follow policies and standards. Keep a hard copy or electronic file on all employees and uphold ethical standards of behavior in all situations.

In today’s economy, what role are nonmonetary compensation packages playing and how can you make them work best for your company?

Nonmonetary incentives are proving themselves as much more effective tools in the workplace. A small startup, for example, might offer you a smaller salary but could instead offer you a nonmonetary option. Nonmonetary incentives have been used to reward employees for their good work by providing opportunities for training, flexible work schedules and improved work environments.

You can make nonmonetary incentives work best by using one of the most effective incentives: Praise is a powerful motivator.

What should you tell employees who are unhappy with their final salary?

Compensation is one of the major ways companies attract and keep employees. When a company no longer can provide a salary that satisfies an employee, it is best that the managers deal with the employee’s unhappiness directly. Once the employee comes to understand the company’s position, he or she may be less likely to vent the grievance to other employees.

Explain in detail how the company came to its salary decision and what the employee can do, if anything, to earn a bonus or salary increase. Provide positive feedback for the employee when it is appropriate. Being unhappy with pay sometimes is symptomatic of feeling underappreciated. Recognizing the employee’s talents and efforts will help them feel like the positive work atmosphere compensates for the salary. You should also encourage your employees more, restore trust in your employees and take an interest in your employees’ development, as well as keep employees in the loop as to what is going on.

SHAUNA MULDROW is the payroll coordinator at Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (678) 359-3786 or smuldrow@ashtonstaffing.com.

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