Business executives wear many hats. Just a few of their roles include strategist, financial manager, process improvement engineer and team leader. Many executives will agree that much of their time is devoted to people. The management guru, Peter Drucker, made the point that as one progresses up the organizational hierarchy, the more important people skills become and the less important specific functional skills are.
Executives need to be leaders and this requires articulating a vision and defining a strategy. One of the next roles, however, is to serve as a coach to help subordinates to fulfill objectives and to develop to take on bigger challenges and consequently to make more significant contributions to the company.
“The problem is that executives are educated in business functions and only acquire coaching skills on an experiential, trial-by-error basis,” says Kirk O’Hara, PsyD, vice president consulting services at Executive Career Services. “Knowing something of coaching skills, roles and procedures can provide the executive with the necessary framework for helping their subordinates develop.”
Smart Business spoke to O’Hara for more on how to improve coaching skills and empower your best employees in the process.
What is the benefit of becoming a better coach?
Let’s begin by taking a look at the benefits of coaching. In a recent study by The Work Foundation (a UK research group) the most common reason for coaching, given by 52 percent of respondents, was to motivate the employee. In a similar vein, respondents indicated that coaching was helpful in showing interest and investment in an employee and also fully leveraging a high potential’s skills and abilities. Interestingly, the study showed that coaching for poor performance was a relatively infrequent reason (garnering a ‘yes’ from only 24 percent). One of the lessons in this study is to keep in mind the two key elements of performance: motivation and skill. If motivation appears to be the issue, then coaching is in order. Skill deficiencies are better addressed through training and development initiatives.
What are the most important elements of being a good coach?
As previously mentioned, business executives typically have skills for management and leadership; they may need to complement this set with coaching skills. First and foremost is relationship building and, in particular, creating trust. Would anyone respond positively to a coach he or she doesn’t trust? Probably not. It is ill-advised to begin any sort of coaching initiative without first establishing a level of trust so that the person to be coached knows you have their best interest in mind.
A second important coaching skill is listening, which is unfortunately not often in the repertoire of many executives. Business leaders are typically verbally expressive and not often patient enough to listen to what others have to say. Unless the person being coached feels they have been heard, they are unlikely to put forth the effort to change. Remember the Covey Principle: seek first to understand before being understood. I encourage executives to actively listen — to what the underlying message is, what isn’t being said and what the person’s body language is conveying about the verbal message.
Another vital coaching skill is proper questioning. While one doesn’t need to be as artful as Socrates, questions can help the coachee to find solutions for themselves. Questions can help the individual explore options as well as understand the motivation and consequences of their behavior. Questioning can be used to put the behavior of concern ‘on the person’s radar screen,’ and as a result foster ownership and commitment to change.
Once the topic of concern has been explored, the coach/leader will want to shift into a goal setting mode. This is the positive and creative phase of coaching where both parties collaborate in identifying new behaviors to develop alternative problem-solving approaches, or enhanced communication techniques. Goal setting works when the goals are challenging, but not unrealistic.
Make your goals SMART. Smart is an acronym to help you remember that behavioral goals should be Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic and Time bound. Make sure that you gain commitment, or recommitment as the case may be at the end of each coaching meeting.
How can executives help to ensure a successful coaching initiative?
A final, capstone skill for coaching is the ability to provide feedback and support. How hard is it to change? Very! Nothing will extinguish new behavior quicker than ignoring it. The leader/coach needs to be mindful of recognizing new behavior and providing encouragement. Be specific; vague feedback is not usually very helpful developmentally. Your feedback should also be non-judgmental. Remember, the adage to praise in public and criticize in private. Behavioral psychology has demonstrated that all of us respond to positive encouragement in making a change far better than we respond to punishment.
Also consider the behavior change from a system’s perspective. Who are the other coworkers and colleagues who interact with the individual? How is their behavior influencing the person? Conducting a stakeholder analysis to understand how the environment supports or interferes with the attempted behavior change should not be underestimated.
Business executives have a lot on their plate, so adding one more concern can be treacherous. On the other hand, watching for coaching opportunities, adopting mentees and developing high potentials are all ways to leverage your own skills and free up time for more strategic pursuits. Helping others to change — to eliminate counter-productive behaviors or better utilize skills — is not usually easy, but it isn’t rocket science either. It requires basic human understanding, a caring attitude and a willingness to invest yourself in helping someone else become a better employee and a better person.
Kirk O’Hara, PsyD, is vice president consulting services at Executive Career Services. Reach him at KirkOhara@ecscpi.com.
Insights Human Capital Solutions is brought to you by Executive Career Services
As companies continue to try to do more with less, the stress of doing the work of two or more people is taking a toll on employees. And that is making them less productive, less motivated and less likely to do their best work, says Ricci Victorio, CSP, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center.
“As companies deal with lower budgets and tighten their belts, they are putting ever-greater demands on their employees,” says Victorio. “As an employer, you need to help your employees fill their cups back up, because they are being significantly drained. Whenever you have people being pushed at absolute top levels performing on all 100 cylinders all of the time, they run out of gas. And when they run out of emotional gas, negative behaviors start springing up.”
Smart Business spoke with Victorio about how one-on-one coaching with employees can improve morale and help them work better together as a team.
What is the value of executive coaching?
It can improve morale and provide an internal vision for employees as they ask: What is my value? Why am I here? What am I doing? How can I do it better?
Improved morale increases productivity and, in some cases, employers see a change in the first week, with people taking responsibility for their communication with one another, approaching their differences of opinion with less of an edge, having conversations happening in a different way and struggling less.
Why should employers be concerned about stressed, overworked employees?
It can impact their performance and, as a result, the performance of the company. Like a rubber band, we all can handle stress. We get a shot of adrenaline, we go into performance mode, we adapt and we circumvent our fears to handle the bigger cause. But also like a rubber band, if you don’t relieve that stress and the tension continues to build, people will snap. And when they snap, you see increased anxiety.
Stress robs individuals of mental energy, their problem-solving capabilities are reduced, their fuses become shorter and they snap at trivial things. They lose sight of the big picture and feel like they’re drowning, to the point that they can’t even see the path that they’re on. They’re so busy removing stones from their path that they don’t feel like they’re moving forward. They lose sight of the vision and goals that were so painstakingly created by leadership.
When the stress gets too great, people are going to do something to reduce it, whether that is quitting, blowing up, firing someone, getting sick with a stress-related illness or taking it out on their families. And all of those results are damaging to the company.
At too many businesses, what used to be a happy group is now a group of people who are frustrated, bickering and not cooperating with one another. Employers need to look at whether they are treating their employees as if they were paper cups — just using them up, throwing them away and getting a new batch.
How can employers help their employees?
In the past, employers might have hired a coach for their executives, but companies are now moving toward coaching for their managers and employees. It can be beneficial to begin work with individuals for one-on-one coaching before expanding to team training. Coaching helps each individual get a hold of what they can be responsible for in their own experience and helps them gain another perspective and a better understanding of other people’s communication styles. If you can understand why someone is communicating in a certain way, you can start to react differently. Or if people aren’t responding to you, you can look inward to identify a better way to communicate.
If you can become aware of your natural tendencies and learn to govern them better, you can expect a different outcome. And that self-awareness and the awareness of the team around you can be a significant investment in team morale.
I believe that people are naturally resourceful and creative and whole, and they don’t need to be fixed. But a coach can help them look inward to find the magnificence of who they are and the mission of what they’re doing, to gain a sense that, ‘Yes, I’m engaged in a project with my team that I really believe in,’ and forgive a lot of the trivial things that have been weighing that person down.
It helps them to get a better sense of perspective, giving them strategies for how to navigate tricky personalities and a better understanding of who they are so they are more self aware in their interaction with others.
How can that benefit a company?
It’s amazing what people can do when they feel acknowledged, excited, motivated and energized about the mission and about what their role is in it. A coach can help give people a clearer perspective on what they can control and magnify who they are and the contribution they are making, leading to a renewed sense of vision and appreciation for those they work with.
When people really get permission to be who they are and express their truth in a non-confrontational way, they can really do amazing things. You and your employees already have the answers inside of you. A coach is just a way to access those answers that you may not know how to get to on your own.
Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, is managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. Reach her at (415) 788- 1952.
Smart Business spoke to JoAnn Breedlove, Business Service Manager at The Employment Source, about an on-the-job training program that helps employers ensure that new hires are integrated in their new positions and productive as quickly as possible.
What is the On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program?
The On-the-Job Training Program is a federally funded program that helps employers hire and train laid-off workers for full time, long term employment. OJT helps workers become more proficient in needed skills more quickly, which will serve to encourage employers to hire workers sooner than perhaps initially planned, facilitating the hiring of well-qualified individuals who may need additional experience to contribute to their bottom line and spur economic recovery.
How does it benefit area employers?
Through the OJT Program, employers may receive 50 percent of the wage rate of an eligible new trainee to help compensate for the cost of training them in the specific skills they will need to help a business thrive. Employers receive affordable hands-on training tailored to their needs, electronic forms for easier access, fast turn-around and an investment in their company.
Are there any employer requirements?
To qualify, an employer must offer a wage of $10 per hour or more, a full time work schedule and have a fringe benefit package available. This is for direct hires, so no subcontracted or third-party employees are permitted, and an OJT agreement must be developed prior to the start of employment.
Are there any employee candidate requirements?
All OJT employee candidates must be assessed and found eligible and suitable by The Employment Source for each particular position.
What type of funding is available?
Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Total reimbursement to the employer cannot exceed $8,000.
How is the length of training determined?
The length of the training period will be based on the trainee’s current aptitude compared with skills needed to perform the job. Length of training cannot exceed six months.
How does it benefit job seekers?
OJT is an excellent vehicle for individuals to build their skills, to re-establish themselves in new fields and to increase employment retention and self-sufficiency. It is an opportunity for participants to earn and learn, which means they will develop applicable occupational skills while earning a paycheck.
For more information on the OJT Program, contact JoAnn Breedlove, Business Services Manager for The Employment Source, at (330) 491-2645 or email@example.com.
The Employment Source is Northeast Ohio’s premier workforce development and training center that connects job seekers with employers. The Business Services Department offers the following fee-free recruiting services to employers:
- Recruiters to pre-screen resumes to your qualifications
- Professional and confidential on-site interview and conference rooms to assist with your recruitment needs
- Mass recruiting assistance
- Free advertising
- Recruiting qualified professionals locally and nationally
We also can assist with:
- Labor market Information
- Information on federal programs
- Community resource contacts
- On-the-job training
- Incumbent Worker Training
- Job fit assessment system
- Meeting affirmative action and federal contractor requirements
To place a job order:
- Complete the Employer Profile and Job Order forms at www.eswork.com (click on Employers)
- Fax or e-mail forms to one of our two locations:
JoAnn Breedlove is the Business Service Manager at The Employment Source. Reach her at (330) 491-2645 or firstname.lastname@example.org in Stark County, or in Tuscarawas County contact Barb Ventura at (330) 364-9777 or email@example.com.
Many executives have asked me what our firm’s secret is to maintaining a long-term, high-performing staff. My response is this: the combination of finding the right cultural fit and supporting new employees through an integrated orientation process. This has proven to be an effective means for my firm to optimize our resources.
Often when we look to fill roles, we look for the outside experts, the stars that will come in with their worldly experience and solve all of our challenges. After watching a series of experts struggle, I determined that two things were major contributors to their demise, a mismatch between the employee and the corporate culture and an inability to quickly absorb corporate “tribal knowledge.”
The most common obstacle is an indifference to or a lack of understanding of the real corporate culture. Like dating, companies often present a different face during the interview process and the honeymoon, and it is several months into employment before your newcomer gets a real look at the way your company works.
The other obstacle is a lack of tribal knowledge. Whatever your company’s challenges, you have assets, practices and knowledge that have made you the success that you are. These are sometimes downplayed or entirely disregarded in the quest to bring in new competencies. New experts that are brought into your organization generally get started making changes right away, and therefore, they often completely miss cultural and knowledge content. As a result, they frequently make impractical recommendations with disastrous consequences. Alternatively, the people that are more conscious of the barriers may hang back and appear ineffective.
One takeaway from all of this is that carefully structuring the entry of new experts into the company can improve success. My firm has found that implementing a few basic methods helps management find employees that fit the corporate culture and assist them in gaining tribal knowledge quickly.
When we interview candidates, we provide ample opportunities for them to learn about our corporate culture. We spend time discussing our mission, values and corporate objectives with each candidate in an effort to ensure that they understand the culture of the firm. During each interview we explain the importance we place on growing and fostering our culture so candidates understand how critical our culture is to our business. Then, it’s important to ask several questions during the interview process to ascertain whether or not each candidate shares a similar corporate cultural mindset.
Once a candidate is hired, we address the challenge of passing on tribal knowledge. Tribal knowledge, or the learning curve, happens quickly in our firm. Employees that understand the processes, procedures and internal workings of the firm tend to be more successful than those that do not. We created an employee orientation program to help new employees acclimate to our firm. Our orientation program connects new employees with other staff while simultaneously integrating technical, cultural and management objectives. One unique aspect of the program is that all levels of new employees meet with someone in senior management during their first month of hire. The job of senior management is to reiterate our corporate vision, values and objectives as well as to check in on the employees overall orientation process. We’ve found that our orientation process helps employees immediately feel connected with the company, which helps to yield a long-term, satisfied staff.
I’ve always worked with growing companies, so effective staffing is a challenge that has always been a regular part of my management repertoire. As companies right size, I’ve found that optimizing your current staff can add enormous value to your firm.
Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management, a full-service contract research organization that offers early to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While great strategy, leadership, accountability and execution drive a company toward success, I have found other factors that contribute to a winning company. These include a variety of work, an overall understanding of the business from a number of different angles and experiences in the community.
Let me start by explaining my personal point of view when it comes to variety of work and overall understanding of the business. I started with Roberts Express, now FedEx Custom Critical, almost 25 years ago. As I rose through the ranks, I moved through many different positions. This gave me a holistic view of how our business works, the challenges that different roles in the organization face and the many job tasks that must work together for a successful business outcome.
I started my journey in operations and then moved to the safety and recruiting area. When I was working in operations, there was chatter about the recruiting team’s lack of traction on getting more contractors through the door to service our customers. Once I moved to the safety and recruiting team, it became clear what a tough job the recruiting team faced when it came to attracting contractors. On top of that, I was able to see the weaknesses in the operations team’s ability to engage the contractors and keep them on board. Without my move from one department to another, it would have been far more difficult for me to see the big picture and understand the accountabilities that both of these departments faced.
Our company takes time to contemplate succession planning, determining how we can use job transfers between departments to prepare our high achievers for their next potential roles. We look at the team members’ current skills and experiences and compare them to what they will need in the future. As positions become available or a project presents itself, we look first to the up-and-comers to see if it might be a good fit to fill in a team member’s experiential gaps. Walking a mile in a peer’s shoes is an excellent way to build understanding, promote new ideas and above all, prepare the next level for leadership opportunities.
In addition to movement within the organization, we believe getting our team members involved in the community is a key part of their development. Having our key employees working in charitable ways helps build a sense of pride in our company while also exposing team members to the ways others may run an organization or project. The networking aspect of community work is also a wonderful way for team members to benchmark with peers, discover the common challenges and hot buttons that exist across different for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and share solutions for handling very similar business dilemmas.
As an example, one of our team members on the board of a local organization quickly found himself involved in its annual fundraiser. This experience allowed him to stretch his leadership abilities and make contacts throughout the community. He was also able to learn about the power of networking to refine ideas, generate funds and bring a project across the finish line.
While moving people around internally can cause some disruption and encouraging team members to work in the community can create pressures on your work force, I truly believe that the payback for each far outweighs any perceived or real inconvenience. Team members will be more prepared for future positions and above all, they will feel valued by their company. These team members will develop ideas that will change processes, attitudes and the way in which we do business.
Virginia Albanese is president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, North America’s largest critical-shipment carrier. The company provides 24/7 service throughout the United States, Canada and internationally, delivering hundreds of thousands of critical shipments each year. She is also the chairwoman of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and serves on a number of other boards to benefit the Northeast Ohio community, including Akron Children’s Hospital and The Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve.
As a provider of industrial-grade and medical-grade wireless modules for customers, Summit Data Communications Inc. has experienced major growth over the last five years as it’s built out its niche in the global Wi-Fi marketplace. To date, the company has provided 1 million wireless modules that are in use today at companies of all sizes around the world.
Founded in 2006 by President Ron Seide and four former Cisco employees, Summit set itself apart from competitors by manufacturing its wireless modules to provide reliable connectivity in harsh environments. Today, its radios are used in all kinds of environments, from outdoors to hospitals, warehouses, retail stores and factories.
The ability to resonate with a variety of client needs in a diverse range of markets has allowed the company to create a strong and established international presence. Today, more than two-thirds of Summit’s revenues are generated from companies overseas. As a result, over the past five years, the company has grown dramatically, with job growth of nearly 300 percent.
As Summit expands its business worldwide, it remains committed to offering high-quality products and service as well as to serving the local Akron community where it has thrived. Over the past few years, the company has brought on a total of 18 students from The University of Akron for internship opportunities and it also offers a student scholarship each year.
Summit’s track record of success is apparent in the recognition and awards it has received from peers and business organizations. In 2010, Summit was named the fastest-growing computer hardware manufacturer in the Midwest by the annual Inc. 500/5000 list of the fastest-growing businesses in the United States. With its three-year annual growth rate of 516 percent, the company was also ranked 588th on the list overall. Just four years after its launch, Summit announced that it had reached the milestone of one million Wi-Fi radios shipped.
How to reach: Summit Date Communications Inc., (330) 434-7929 or www.summitdata.com
As much as President Therese Glorioso is proud of the business growth Home Instead Senior Care has achieved over the past five years, she is even more proud of the hard work put in by her employees, who have been the backbone of the company’s success.
Founded in 1994, Home Instead Senior Care has grown to become a trusted global provider of home care services for seniors. Whether that involves everyday tasks such as meal preparation and personal care, help with laundry, transportation or other services the company’s team of nurses and social workers are committed to helping aging adults with the tasks that can help them live their lives independently. Available around the clock, the company’s employees dedicate their time to make a difference as caregivers in the lives of seniors.
In the past few years, the company has met the challenge of staffing shortages for nursing assistants and caregivers in the senior care industry with a unique solution: opening up its pool of employee candidates to seniors themselves. Responding to its clients requests for more “mature” companions, it has found that hiring older employees not only makes the company’s services more marketable to customers but has allowed the business to keep its staff expanding with growth.
This is the third consecutive year the company has been recognized with Cascade Capital Corp. Growth award. From 2009 to 2010, the organization grew from 83 employees to 224, while doubling revenue. In 2011, the company has already added 50 new jobs.
To make sure that it always retains top quality employees, Home Instead has also implemented an employee retention program for its entire staff. The program includes bonus reward dollars for service excellence, a partnership with JD Power and Associates to measure employee satisfaction as well as other feedback measures such as focus groups and monthly phone calls with employees.
How to reach: QualCare LLC dba Home Instead Senior Care, (330) 995-1522 or www.homeinstead.com
Under the leadership of President and CEO Dave Moffatt, Prentke Romich Co. has grown its products and services to help thousands of people with physical and other speech disabilities in the past decade.
PRC was launched as a mission-based company to provide communication devices for people with various disabilities through a collaboration of hardware devices, software and speech-language science. The company’s devices, which have multiple language capabilities and provide training and education, serve a global base of consumers who rely on the technologies for a better quality of life.
Since PRC was founded in 1967, the company has been pioneering the field of assistive technology and augmentative communication to further its mission to “help people with disabilities achieve their potential in educational, vocational, and personal pursuits.” PRC’s philosophy for its business is in line with this belief. One of the drivers of PRC’s corporate culture is the idea that everyone deserves a voice. It’s being committed to people, whether it’s the people using the company’s products, its employees or members of the local community.
Headquartered in Wooster, PRC has consistently contributed to local job growth throughout the economic recession, despite the fact that other companies may have been reducing staff. From 2009 to 2010 the company added 22 employees, increasing its staff to 218 people. Also, as a 100 percent employee-owned company, PRC is made up of employee-owners who are dedicated to providing world-class service and delivering the best performance for clients.
Each year, PRC contributes to support numerous local charities and organizations. The company also sponsors various events and associations in and outside of its field. This year, PRC’s Relay for Life Team, which the company sponsors annually, placed first in Most Money Raised by the Team for the large company category.
How to reach: Prentke Romich Co., (800) 262-1984 or www.prentrom.com
Mike Ode had already been in the construction industry for 20 years when he recognized a niche that still wasn’t being served anywhere in the market. The issue was a lack of any specialized, effective payroll service for the construction industry, one that could help the countless contractors who struggled to process the complexities of construction payroll. The solution to the problem became Payroll4Construction.com.
As chairman and CEO of Foundation Software Inc. at the time, Fred Ode, along with the company’s president, Mike Ode, decided to adapt the company’s award-winning Foundation for Windows payroll module to power an online payroll service specifically serving the construction industry. With payroll components in construction such as multiple states, localities, jobs and pay rates, Ode knew the demand for an industry-specific payroll service was there. But they also wanted to cover their bases. The two set in place a three-year plan to test the viability of the Payroll4Construction.com service with existing Foundation clients, research any issues and get the processes in place for growth.
By 2008, the company’s revenues were growing quickly. Having seen such promising success in the first three years, Mike Ode — the company’s president — officially opened Payroll4Construction.com to the market with an aggressive marketing campaign. The construction industry was highly receptive. This year, the business is on pace to see 100 percent growth both in clients and in revenue.
But the results have not just been limited to the company’s sales and customer base. While Payroll4Construction.com has seen impressive success since its inception, the company continues to undergo improvements and innovation to maintain the aggressive growth it has achieved to date. Since 2008, the construction payroll service company has grown from four employees to 12. With continuous improvement in mind, it is building its team of skilled professionals to deliver payroll services even more effectively for the construction industry as it evolves.
How to reach: Payroll4Construction.com, (800) 949-9620 or Payroll4Construction.com