David Harding: How expressing positive thinking efficiently may help shift outcomes

David Harding, President and CEO, HardingPoorman Group

David Harding, President and CEO, HardingPoorman Group

“Save your breath.”

My mother used to say this to me when I was desperately trying to explain my way out of a situation. In her view, the more I tried to explain, the more worked up I got, the less she was interested in my argument because she knew it was flimsy.

I believe the same philosophy holds true in business — and in relationships too, for that matter.

Maurice Saatchi, cofounder of the famed New York ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi used to say, “If you can’t reduce your argument to a few crisp words and phrases, there’s something wrong with your argument.”

My mother would have agreed with him.

Save time by honing your thoughts and streamlining your written words in all situations. Not only is this a worthy trait — but you will be heard. You’ll save time too.

The power of “no”

Should you learn to say “No?”

“No” is so very easy to say. With that simple syllable, you can safely obstruct change, thwart action, seize power, and slow things down.

No isn’t rebellion. It’s a status quo power grab, and it comes from fear.

“Yes” is the real rebellion. It’s harder to say because it involves innovation, responsibility, creativity, achievement and thought. Yes is ingenuous, strident, candid, open.

Say yes as much as you can.

But the word “why” is always valid.

Asking why is always appropriate. And it isn’t asked enough.

Why gets to the heart of any decision you or your organization makes. It’s too easy to assume the answer. And too simple to believe that “because we’ve always done it that way” is the right reason this time around. It isn’t, because the game changes every day.

Ask why this is the way we operate. Ask why we need to meet. Why did you decide no? Why is this our goal, our forecast, our policy, our plan?

Always ask why and wait for the real, not the flip or the most convenient answer. Do it because the real answer matters.

Have the goal of fewer meetings

That means dealing with the fact that the modern office is an interruption factory. 

In the age of centralized files and costly office equipment, it made sense for people to work and collaborate in centralized workplaces. Today, that logic no longer applies. We actually need fewer meetings and interruptions to get more work done. That means, more work done remotely.

According to The New York Times, for example, an average office demands 5.6 hours per week in meetings — of which 71 percent of us report as being unproductive. Why do this to ourselves?

The truth is, the most fundamental reason we have not shifted away from the office is because we are stuck on the appearance of an office culture.

Who do you spend your time with? Take a closer look at those who surround you, personally and professionally. Choose your peers, mentors, friends, and advocates carefully — especially in the workplace.

It really is all about your energy. Once energy is added to any situation, it has to continue. You learned this natural law in high school physics class. But this law is just as true in our dealings with others.

When you get cut off in traffic and get angry, negative energy increases. When you provide encouraging words to someone, positive energy expands.

Communicate negative energy and very likely, you will receive even more negativity back. Only rarely will negative energy be calmly acknowledged and the situation neutralized. (When this happens, aren’t you impressed — and feel calmer yourself?)

Being aware of the energy you express. Add to the positive. Work to diffuse the negative without escalating.

Your energy can dramatically shift the outcome of your communications.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at [email protected] For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

 

 

Patrick Hiller: How to get ROI by creating a great place to work

Patrick Hiller, CEO, Abacus Solutions

Patrick Hiller, CEO, Abacus Solutions

For the second year in a row, Abacus Solutions has won a workplace award, and I’d like to tell you that it was the result of a very detailed plan — but it wasn’t. It started with a simple premise of respect and teamwork. Along the way, we learned specific behaviors that attract and keep talent.

Our efforts to create a great place to work have been paid back many times over in employee and client loyalty and in profits. Here are specific ways your efforts to improve workplace culture bring a return on your investment.

General productivity

When employees feel respected and enjoy coming to work, productivity rises. If you foster a culture of teamwork, then people are less likely to be worrying about competitive advantage over each other and more likely to be focused on advantage over competitors.

This directly impacts the bottom line because you are not adding more people to the payroll to drive business. Teamwork gets the job done with less personnel and better results.

Better ideas

Creating a safe space where employees are free to try out new ideas and then get honest and respectful feedback about them means you are getting the best out of your in-house brain trust.

An attitude of discouragement and dismissiveness breeds passivity. Respect and encouragement breed innovation. With a global marketplace competing for business, you want to be the company with the best ideas.

Retention and new talent

We’ve all worked jobs in our career where we had to deal with a nasty manager or co-worker. Employees know when they find a supportive place to work it elevates their everyday lifestyle.

We have very little turnover at our company and rarely lose a team member to competitors. Part of this is being very selective of whom we bring on-board.

Retention is also about paying people what they are worth. We look at the going rate for positions and reward talent and extra effort financially. And, when you have a great workplace culture, it also makes it easier to attract the best talent for new positions. Word gets around.

Client interaction

So now we get to the client-facing side of where workplace culture meets bottom line. At Abacus Solutions, we help customers leverage IT to solve business problems with managed solutions and infrastructure improvements. This is where our high retention is such a bonus. Clients genuinely fear having to deal with a changing roster of support.

High retention lets us give them what they want — a stable resource that knows their business inside out. In-house retention translates into client retention.

Here is another way workplace culture helps us meet client needs: personal initiative. By empowering employees to make decisions and paying them well for their work, clients get the best of our team without multiple layers of accountability.

Every week we get an email from a client about someone on our engineering team who went the extra mile to solve an issue.

Strategic planning

As CEOs, we are responsible for looking at the big picture and making sure the company continues to grow and evolve in the right direction. It’s hard to do that if we are intimately involved in every detail.

I can tell you that it feels great to know that I am not needed on an everyday basis. I can focus on growing clients and partnerships. The proof for us that this kind of workplace culture brings meaningful ROI is the growth in revenues and profitability we’ve enjoyed every year we have been in operation.

Patrick Hiller is the CEO of Abacus Solutions, an IT solutions provider in Atlanta, Ga., specializing in vendor neutral solutions that help companies manage IT to protect and grow core business. Contact him at www.abacussolutions.com

 

Maggie Harris: How a brand’s control of its public perception has diminished significantly

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Maggie Harris, vice president of account services, Hitchcock Fleming & Associates

Consumers expect two-way communication with brands that is timely, relevant, human and most importantly, accurate.

Companies and brands that have embraced this reality are in a much better position to engage customers, build relationships with these customers and create advocacy. Those with phobias about technology and customer engagement will find growth and creating customer loyalty increasingly difficult.

Shift from one expert to many. One industry that is highly affected by the growth of this trend is health care. For health care systems, doctors have traditionally been the experts and patients took direction solely from their family physician.

That no longer happens in many cases as consumers seek information from search engines, websites and health care ratings organizations that are all perceived as “experts.” And in light of health care reform, the amount of misinformation that is accessible and shared is enormous.

These information shifts, however, are not exclusive to the health care industry. We have seen this in virtually every industry we represent, from automotive to health care to home and building products. The categories and industries may be different, but the shift in consumer behavior as a direct result of digital technology is similar.

Brands no longer have complete control of their message, and the best thing to do is take advantage of that by embracing digital influencers and developing strategies that leverage influencers rather than trying to ignore their presence.

Brand advocates. Every brand has the power to create advocacy. This is what leads to the influence-the-influencer approach to marketing. By embracing technology, brands can engage consumers to the following:

  • Gain additional perspective on your brand, products and services. Give them online venues to write about positive experiences.
  • Acknowledge their feedback through Facebook posts, forums, comments and tweets. Answer their questions, address their concerns and correct any information that is incorrect. Take them offline so you do not offend them or create a negative perception for you.
  • Delight and enlighten them: Content is king. Photos, videos, infographics … any way you can engage your audience, do it! Create content that is relevant, timely and focused on what consumers want and need. Optimize content for search engines. Create blogs with relevant and fresh content. Drive consumers to your website and ensure proper analytics are set up so that you can track their behavior.
  • Lastly, track and measure! Determine what your goals are and what your key performance indicators will be prior to any endeavor.

Relationship building. To be authentic, brands must focus on helping consumers and not selling them. Brands do this by ensuring messaging is targeted and relevant at every touchpoint in the customer’s journey.

Advocacy building. The best way to build authentic advocacy with consumers is to understand their concerns and mindset. This can be accomplished by incorporating a digital listening and responding strategy that includes a specific and timely process for consumer support, to acknowledge their feedback through social media and other means. The goal is to create mutually beneficial relationships with consumers.

Future Team. A team of this type helps keep us ahead of cultural shifts. Their insights help us create and implement metrics to support a brand through all touchpoints and help offset competing brands’ efforts. You should do this too.

Embrace digital technology now to capitalize on this important way your target consumes information.

Maggie Harris is vice president of account services at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates (hfa). Reach her at www.teamhfa.com.

Dave Lindsey: How ‘focus = growth’ for rapid business expansion involves the ‘main thing’

Dave Lindsey, founder, Defender Direct

Dave Lindsey, founder, Defender Direct

You will never get it all done!

My first job out of grad school was managing one product line, no people and a “to do” list that was a mile long.

I remember breaking down to my dad one night, who at that time was a bank executive who managed multiple divisions, hundreds of people and a lot more responsibility than I could ever comprehend. I was beyond frustrated working 70+ hour work weeks yet I couldn’t manage to get everything done, and my to-do list kept growing!

That’s when Dad gave me some of the best advice that I have ever received. He said, “David, they don’t pay you to get it all done. They pay you to get the most important things done.” Wow! That simple phrase changed my life.

Let me clarify by saying that some jobs, entry level specifically, do warrant the employee to get everything done; all phones need to be answered, hamburgers cooked, etc. prior to leaving for the day.

But as we begin to move up the ranks of responsibility we don’t want to take this mentality with us. When we are managing people, places or things, the options of what we spend our time on grows exponentially. We can conduct training, print a new catalogue, go to a meeting … the list goes on and on.

 

Learn to focus

So many options and requests on our time and soon, we find that we can never get it all done. This is why it is imperative that as we grow in our positions, we learn to focus on the right things.

The power of prioritization is undeniable in terms of your future success and in order to be exponentially successful, you must learn how to differentiate time management from prioritization.

Peter Drucker says it best: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Don’t waste your energy just crossing things off your “to do” list. Instead, spend some time prioritizing. Then pour your energy into the projects and tasks that you have deemed to be the most important things to complete today.

In the early days of Defender, I was a young entrepreneur obsessed with thoughts about how I could grow our business. As Defender grew, our team members were presented with new opportunities everywhere we turned.

While sometimes it was hard to turn away from an opportunity to sell what was presented as the “next big thing,” early on I took a step back to really evaluate our business. Every time we said yes to a new idea or product, it meant more training, more options, more complexity.

 

Stay in focus

Success does create more and new opportunities, but that means we must stay focused say no more often! Otherwise, our team and focus will fragment and slow us down.

I hear so many stressed out business leaders say, “But it’s all important!” However, by definition, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

If you want to be the leader of a high performance, fast-growth business, then your No. 1 job is to figure out what is most important and to “keep the main thing as the main thing.”

Still, today I divide my to-do list into A,B,C and D priorities and every morning I write my top three A priorities on a Post-It note, which I carry with me throughout the day as a reminder to keep me focused.

If each day I can get my top three most important things done amongst the chaos of life, I figure I’ll have a pretty successful life.

Remember, there will always be more things to do than there is time to do them. You’ll never get it all done and your “to do” list will never be empty. Let this philosophy release you from the stress of trying to get it all done and put that new energy into getting the right things done today.

Merrill Dubrow: What my dry cleaner doesn’t do that every company has to do

Merrill Dubrow, President and CEO, M/A/R/C Research

Merrill Dubrow, President and CEO, M/A/R/C Research

I drop off my clothes at the dry cleaner weekly and the staff is always friendly. A hello, good bye is always said but there are a few things that are missing.

1. A few weeks earlier, I dropped off some clothes and picked up and paid for the clothes that I had dropped off the week earlier. As I was getting out of the car I asked my son to bring in my dry cleaning. He said, “Dad — these clothes don’t look like yours.”
As I took a quick look, he was 100 percent right and two minutes later we were back at the dry cleaners exchanging the wrong clothes…. I hoped. Thankfully after 15 minutes they found my clothes and life was back to normal and my shirts were back with me.
The interesting thing was what the owner said or actually didn’t say. The only thing he said was, “Thanks for bringing back the clothes,” which I thought was very odd. There was no sorry for the mix up… no sorry for any inconvenience… in fact, no sorry at all.

Lesson No. 1: Say I’m sorry. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it isn’t a sign of embarrassment. Frankly it is a sign of honesty and sincerity, and it shows the customer you really, really care about them and their business.

2. In the past few months I have also noticed that my dry cleaner will give me a date/time when my clothes will be ready. Lo and behold when I show up, they aren’t. I understand that you can miss a deadline but when you know you have missed a deadline, say something. they have my phone number and email. Make a call or send a text/email.

Lesson No. 2: Everyone will miss a deadline. Doing nothing, sweeping it under the rug and not communicating is a huge mistake and can only cost your business in the long run!

3. This next one was actually very funny or at least I thought it was funny. I lost one of my buttons on my shirt and asked my dry cleaner to sew it back on. They said, “No problem at all and it will be ready when the rest of your clothes are ready.”
A few weeks later I wore the shirt that the dry cleaner had fixed and noticed the button (on my sleeve) was actually a different color than the one next to it. My dress shirts have two buttons on the sleeve so it is very easy for me to notice. I looked at the bottom of my shirt where there is always extra buttons sewn in and lo and behold, all of the extra buttons are still there. Ok, I will admit I did chuckle a little bit.

Lesson No. 3: Pay attention to details. It is the smallest of details that can and will affect your business the most. Rest assured if you pay attention to details your enterprise has a much better chance to be successful.
Merrill Dubrow is president and CEO, M/A/R/C Research, located in Dallas, one of the top 25 market research companies in the U.S. Merrill is a sought after speaker and has been writing a blog for over six years. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (972) 983-0416.

 

Kent Reed: How leading by example with involvement and family promotes success

Kent Reed, owner, North Atlanta office, Murphy Business & Financial Corp.,

Kent Reed, owner, North Atlanta office, Murphy Business & Financial Corp.

Nothing builds and sustains credibility better for a business professional than when he or she can lead by example. Whether you take the time to chat with new colleagues before a meeting, help out with a difficult project, or are the first to ask the hard questions, you alone are responsible for setting standards and expectations.

As a father, husband and business intermediary, people count on me for advice, leadership and guidance. I found the best way to earn their trust is by setting a good example.

Actions speak louder than words, particularly when your attitude and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Doing otherwise only confuses the people who look up to you.

By incorporating the following practices into your life, you will not only improve the way others perceive you, but you will also feel better about the way you are presenting yourself as a person that others will follow and emulate — the very definition of leading by example.

 

Get involved

While working your “day job” may already be taking up too much of your time, getting involved in industry organizations may be just the thing you need to advance your career and set a positive example for others. I am involved professional organizations such as the Georgia Association of Business Brokers, the International Business Brokers Association, Rotary International and Street Grace.

I have found that getting out from behind my computer can be a challenge.  But meeting new people and talking big-picture about my industry has been crucial to my professional advancement.

Joining professional organizations in my field has given me a chance to do just that. Best of all, most organizations have local chapters so I did not even have to travel very far to get involved.

 

Put family first

Putting family first is something that we all strive to do, but in today’s busy world, most of us have jobs that do not allow for much free time to spend with our family.

I know that trying to put family first above everything else may seem like a mission and not knowing how to do this can make things even harder. Jobs can be a huge part of our lives and sometimes our jobs can get out of hand and make us spend less and less time with our families.

I make it a point to be involved in my children and wife’s lives as much as possible. Taking interest in their hobbies and being an active participant is a great way to spend time with your family.

I am a lacrosse coach and Cub Scout den leader. In these roles I have the opportunity to shape lives and demonstrate to other parents how they can become involved in youth organizations to point kids in the right direction.

 

Look to your community

The best way to stay involved in your community is through maintaining a commitment to make a positive impact in the environment in which you work, live and play. You can gain respect, friendship and pride through community involvement.

One of the most satisfying, fun, and productive ways to lead by example and get involved in your community is through volunteerism.  When you commit your time and effort to an organization or a cause you feel strongly about, the feeling of fulfillment can be endless.

Your peers, colleagues and family members are always watching you and taking notice to what you do. They will see the benefits of being involved in professional organizations, putting family first and being involved their communities.
Owner of the North Atlanta office of Murphy Business & Financial Corp., Reed has been serving clients for more than 20 years in the Atlanta, Ga., area as well as across the country. He is an accredited business intermediary, a licensed real estate broker and has owned and managed his own limited liability company. Reach him (678) 383-4781 or [email protected]

 

Kelly Borth: How to measure your marketing spend to get the best of both

Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

In nearly every marketing conversation, I am asked how to measure return on investment. It is a fair question, but the answer is not always simple to address. 

ROI, and equally important return on opportunity, are measured differently for most companies and are calculated on factors that are specific to each organization.

Here are some considerations for formulating ROI and ROO:

Establishing marketing goals — Know the marketing outcomes you desire. Are you trying to generate leads, build exposure, get the phone to ring, grow market share or retain customers?
Also keep in mind that marketing goals and sales goals are different. If direct human interaction is not a factor in the sale, they could be the same. For most, this is not the case. Marketing creates the opportunity and sales books the order. They are different disciplines.
Make your marketing goals measurable — in other words, be specific by stating percentage of growth, number of leads, degree of increase in market recognition, increase in market share and percentage of retention.

Understanding tracking — Determine tracking methods for what you want to measure. If you want a hard measurement of increase in market recognition, you can establish a benchmark by implementing before and after research surveys of how well-known your company, product or brand is in the marketplace.
Sometimes tracking can be easy, such as the number of leads generated from Internet advertising or an email campaign. Other times, unless we train customer service and sales representatives to ask how that prospect heard of us, we may never know where that opportunity came from.
Tracking percentage of growth and increase of market share require that we understand current measures as well as the sales team’s impact on the overall result. We need to understand what result we are looking for so the marketing campaign can direct prospects to do what we want to measure.

Calculating investment costs — Determining the cost of advertising, creative development, printing, postage and so on is easy. The more difficult factors are what else you are including in that calculation such as technology costs, staff cost and sales cost including sales tools such as brochures and websites.
Understanding all that you want a return on is a big factor in measuring and managing the expectation for return. Typically the more you factor in, the longer it takes to anticipate a return.

Determining profitability — Cost of goods sold is the typical calculation for understanding what it costs you to produce a product or deliver a service to a customer. How quickly a company will see a return is based on how much gross profit is derived from the sale.
Another consideration is the lifetime value of new customer. If the sale of your product has the potential to generate future maintenance or service work, add-on components, replacement parts, reoccurring revenue and the like, then your return can more readily be met by factoring the lifetime profit your company realizes from acquiring a new customer.

Factoring the sales cycle — What is the typical time frame from when a lead is generated to when a sale is booked (signed, sealed and delivered)?
How quickly you will get a return on investment is largely based on how quickly you can book the new business. If it is a long sales cycle, you may want to engage interim measurements or milestones to ensure your return is on track.

So, what should you be measuring? There are numerous ROI and ROO measurements — I could easily name 25 off the top of my head. You need to determine which are most important to your organization. Choose no more than a handful so that your team can easily manage the tracking and measurement.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 22-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into market leaders. She has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, [email protected], @brandpro or for more information www.greencrest.com.

 

 

 

Sue Parks – Why exercise is a great way to boost your bottom line and trim your waist line

Sue Parks, founder and CEO, WalkStyles Inc.

Sue Parks, founder and CEO, WalkStyles Inc.

I remember, as a 5-foot-5-inch executive, being at senior-level conferences and trying to act “taller.” I noticed and later read that the majority of CEOs are more than 6 feet tall. That is a personal stat that is hard to change. Lately, there is one other stat that is getting a lot of attention: BMI. For those of you not sure what BMI is, it is a measure of your body fat as determined by your height and weight.

A Wall Street Journal article highlighted research that showed that executives who have a BMI under 25 percent are perceived more positively by peers than those with BMIs over 25 percent. Why? Perhaps it has to do with self-control or discipline or energy levels. Regardless, it is a perception that can impact your career — and your company’s prospects.

The great thing about this is that you can do something about it. And, it doesn’t have to be doing triathlons or taking up hockey again after all these years. It is about moving more every day. How do you know how much you move? You track it.

Consider every other metric important to your company’s success. You track revenue, receivables, payables, aging inventory, product turns, absenteeism, retention and, I am sure, many other things. If it is important, you track it. As we all know, we achieve what we measure.

While you are thinking about what you personally can do to move more, think about how it would help the rest of your senior team and all your employees if they do the same.

How do you get started in this effort?

Create a baseline and then focus on continuous improvement. If you care about productivity, you need to pay attention. Studies have shown that the cost of obesity for every 1,000 workers equates to $285,000 each year. This number includes absenteeism, increased medical costs, worker’s compensation claims and increased drug costs.

Of course, not everyone is obese, although more than 70 percent of the people in the United States are overweight and obesity is now considered an epidemic.

Moving more helps everything. It helps our creativity, it keeps our brain younger, it helps ward off heart disease and cancer. You name it; it helps. (For more information on BMI, including how to calculate yours, go to this web page from the National Institutes of Health: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm)

Make it happen

Wouldn’t it be great if your employees felt as accountable for their own health as they do for other aspects of the company? Productivity will soar, your retention will be at record levels and people will clamor to work for you. I couldn’t grow taller, but I could be in shape.

In a variety of top-level corporate jobs, I traveled all the time so a gym wasn’t always an option. So I put on a pedometer and started tracking.

Soon, my senior team all started wearing them. We started doing walking meetings. One-on-one sessions while we were moving became the norm. We started sharing our goals and cheering for each other.

I personally began tracking 10,000 steps a day. And, we became the fastest growing division within the company — by profits — not by waistlines.

If it seems like a big undertaking, consider an outside wellness expert to help you set up a plan, create the metrics and lead the implementation and engagement.

Yes, size counts. You want increases in your bottom-line and shrinkage at the waistline.

Sue Parks, a former top-level executive with USWest, Gateway and Kinkos, is a corporate wellness expert. She is the founder and CEO of WalkStyles Inc., www.walkstyles.com, based in Irvine, Calif., and co-author of “iCount, 10 Simple Steps to a Healthy Life.”

Donna Rae Smith: Finding equilibrium between work and life

Donna Rae Smith, Founder and CEO, Bright Side Inc.

Donna Rae Smith, Founder and CEO, Bright Side Inc.

Earlier this year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg set off a renewed debate on an old question: Why aren’t more women in executive positions? The answer you get depends on whom you ask. Some say it’s outright discrimination, while others argue that it’s an aggressive, inflexible culture that limits women’s advancement or drives them to opt out.

Who is the CEO?

For anyone who questions that there is a problem, the evidence is quite clear. While research shows a correlation between a company’s financial performance and the number of women in its governing body, women held just 14.4 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies in 2010.

More than a quarter of companies had no women in an executive officer position. And 48 percent of Fortune 1000 companies had one or no women on their boards in 2012.

As an entrepreneur and business owner for 30 years, I know firsthand many of the challenges that women face in the workplace. One of the most pervasive issues is this: a deeply entrenched belief that productivity and effectiveness are defined by the number of hours you spend at the office.

Any executive today knows that working at least 60 hours a week is standard. While technology has simplified our lives in many ways, it has also complicated it. We’re now expected to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to respond to requests at any hour of the day or night.

At most companies, the rewards go to those who are willing to put work above everything else, and to do it over the long haul. Those expectations are coupled with a complex and ever-changing global environment that make us — women and men — more fearful and stressed out than ever before.

With that kind of prevailing climate in many companies, it’s no surprise that people looking for a sense of equilibrium choose to leave.

Gender representation needs

Until productivity and effectiveness are redefined to allow and encourage contributions of varying levels, we’ll never achieve fair gender representation. Even worse yet, we’ll never get the best we can from each person. We need to redefine successful leaders not as those who work through the night, but as those who are empathic and balanced, those who cultivate productive and healthy people and work environments.

Eventually companies will have to heed the call to re-examine their work cultures, asking themselves hard questions about who is best served by maintaining the status quo. Finding a balance between work and life is gaining increasing importance and can’t be ignored.

Find the right balance

In a global study conducted this year by LinkedIn, entitled “What Women Want @Work,”  63 percent of respondents defined success at work as “finding the right balance between work and personal life.” To the question, “Would you like a more flexible work environment,” 65 percent answered that flexible working would better enable them to manage career and family.

If you’re wondering how to get started, open-mindedness and creativity are essential. You have to be willing to throw out the old to bring in the new. That means a willingness to redefine roles and responsibilities, focusing on what needs to get done rather than how it gets done.

People don’t need to work overtime or full time to be productive, and responsibilities can be divided in innumerable ways.

We must begin by deeply examining our prevailing notions of work and being willing to consider that people can be more productive and effective if we create more flexible, empathic work environments. Only then will we create truly productive, efficient, profitable businesses that add value to the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

 

Donna Rae Smith is a guest blogger and columnist for Smart Business. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc.®, a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae Smith at [email protected]

Matthew Figgie and Rick Solon: Helping your team work together

Matthew Figgie, Chairman, Clark-Reliance Corp.

Matthew Figgie, Chairman, Clark-Reliance Corp.

Whether in the workplace or in sports, teamwork can produce extraordinary results. While this seems like a relatively simple task, teamwork does not happen automatically. There are a number of factors that are required for a team to develop and work cohesively and seamlessly.

At Clark-Reliance, we attempt to always use the following rules in our interactions:

Help each other be right, not wrong.

This is the underpinning of all successful teamwork. Our employees are encouraged to try to help their colleagues make a correct decision. This helps to avoid duplication of tasks. It also helps to avoid tasks being executed which are not in the best interest of the company.

Look for ways to make ideas work, not for reasons they won’t.

Make sure that you are promoting listening skills. Never dismiss an idea from someone. Listen to what someone else has to contribute and to try to help make that idea work.

Rick Solon, President and CEO, Clark-Reliance Corp.

Rick Solon, President and CEO, Clark-Reliance Corp.

If in doubt, check it out!

Don’t make negative assumptions about each other.

Simply stated — don’t engage in water cooler banter. Instead of fostering negative communication, create an environment of positive communication. If you are uncertain about something, go to the person directly and verify the facts.

Help each other win, and take pride in each other’s victories.

Celebrate your co-worker’s accomplishments. Share compliments. You will find that your enthusiasm is contagious.

Speak positively about each other and the organization.

When you have a chance (internally or externally) speak positively about your colleagues or your company. This can be at press opportunities or charitable events. Always promote the company and your colleagues.

Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what the circumstances. 

The adage, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it,” can be applied in life and business.

There will inevitably be difficult circumstances where difficult decisions will need to be made in a decisive manner. You have to carry a positive attitude no matter the outcome of those decisions. Do everything with enthusiasm because if you have a good attitude, it will come back to you in return.

Act with initiative and courage.

This is Clark-Reliance’s “empowerment team rule.” We spend a lot of time ensuring that everyone in our organization understands that they have the right to participate and are encouraged to take the initiative to help drive positive outcomes, no matter how small they believe their idea is.

We want our employees to feel comfortable to take the initiative to do what they know is right. We want them to understand what the company is trying to accomplish.

Whatever you want, give it away.

This is troubling for some. For example if you want someone to trust you and have them respect and trust you, then you need to engender those same values in someone else.

If you want to be trusted and respected, you have to be trusted and respectful as well.  Those who trust and respect others are generally those most trusted and respected by others.

Don’t lose faith.

There are always going to be times when the rules have been stressed, strained and broken. As long as everyone keeps pushing in the same direction, it will heal itself.

Have fun.

We want everyone to have fun doing what they do. We are direct and serious about running a successful business, but we want employees to have a positive, fulfilled and enriching career, and so should you.

 

Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate co-chairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.

Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.