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Civil & Healthy Workplaces

Seven Sins of Communication

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Workplace bullying | No Comments

When I worked as the Director of HR for a nonprofit organization, I had an assistant by the name of Wendy.

Wendy worked hard, followed directions, asked the right questions, and we worked well together.

One day, I printed out a list of client names for Wendy. I needed her to line out certain names on the list who met certain criteria. I gave her these instructions and left her to it.

After awhile I happened to walk by her desk as I was heading out to lunch and thought I’d stop in and check on her. I distinctly remember looking down at the list on her desk and exclaiming (maybe even shrieking), “What are you doing??!! That’s not what I asked you to do!”

I was shocked that she had wasted all of that time doing this task so wrong. I’d given her such clear instructions after all.

Wendy responded by calmly saying, “Yes it is. You told me to…” and she repeated back to me, almost word for word, what I had said when I’d given her the instructions. It turned out that my instructions could be construed two ways – my way and her way – and both ways made perfect sense.

It wasn’t Wendy who was wrong, it was me. Perhaps I should have shown her one or two items so she could see what I meant. Or perhaps I should have asked her to show me one or two items so I could confirm we were on the same page.

Of course, I had to apologize for shrieking at her and for the time she’d wasted doing the project incorrectly. It was my fault she’d wasted that time, not hers.

My friend, Skip Weisman, calls this lack of specificity one of the deadly sins of workplace communication.

That’s right – I, the HR expert – committed a Deadly Sin.

It might sound dramatic, but think about it…

As a workplace communication expert for over 15 years, he hears complaints all the time from managers who say they have to ask direct reports time and again to follow through on assigned tasks, or to adjust something that was submitted because it wasn’t done properly.

That’s probably thousands, or perhaps millions, in post productivity and damaged morale.

When Skip tells these managers that it’s their own fault, sometimes they give him an angry look. Committing a deadly sin might not be easy to recognize or admit, but it’s true.

Skip actually has a total of 7 Deadly Sins… some of which are possible to commit without even realizing it.

Wonder what you or others in your organization are guilty of… and what to do about it?

Join Skip via webinar on Friday, April 28th at 10 am Pacific Time/1pm Eastern Time.

You’ll discover exactly where communication is negatively impacting your workplace most, and how to improve communication going forward.

Make sure you register for the webinar so you don’t miss your spot!

Catherine

PS. You’ll also learn some simple communication tips to apply immediately in order to improve your results! Claim your spot.

Sincerely,
Catherine

10 Easy Ways to Bring Core Values to Life

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces | No Comments

Last week I sent an email about how your organization’s vision, mission, and core values can drive employee engagement and performance. I mentioned that one thing organizations with bullying have in common is that they don’t focus on these very important concepts.

I thought I better send out some ideas on how to bring your vision, mission, and core values to life if I was going to tell you that ignoring them can create room for bullying.

Here are 10 (fairly easy) action steps:

  1. Share your vision, mission and core values in your job postings when recruiting new employees.
  2. Include questions about core values in your interviews during hiring.
  3. Include core values on your annual performance evaluation form, so that employees are measured against them.
  4. Create a peer reward system around your values. When someone exemplifies them, they should be acknowledged or even rewarded. (When someone violates them, they should be disciplined, up to and including termination.)
  5. Choose a value each month, and during that month, make that value a part of daily staff meetings, fun activities, and training programs.
  6. At the start of each staff meeting, share a story about a customer you have helped or an incident that occurred that has brought your business one step closer to solving that problem laid out in your vision.
  7. Ask employees to create a 30-second video on their phone about why the vision and mission are important to them, and/or how they live the core values every day. String them together into one video, and hold a viewing party.
  8. Ask each employee (or department as a whole) to review, or self-audit” their own practices, policies and procedures against the vision, mission and values. What changes can they make to realign themselves?
  9. Ask each department to choose a core value and create a 40-minute training around it. Provide a lunch n’ learn program for each department to deliver their training. (This is more about having fun and keeping the values top of mind than it is about really learning.)
  10. Ask employees to brainstorm how they can share the core values with new employees when they’re hired on. What steps will they take personally in order to engrain new hires in the culture?

I’d love to hear other things you are doing in your own organization to bring your vision, mission and core values to life. Shoot me an email and get them all on my blog!

Brace Yourself – The Bottom Means Bounce

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership, Workplace bullying | No Comments

I had the pleasure of being asked to share my personal story at an event here in Southern California called SUE Talks (TEDTalks’ baby sister).

If you have 15 minutes and want to know what drives my passion for creating positive workplaces, take a peek. I’ll tell you lessons learned from my experience with workplace bullying, and lessons learned from another (crazy) experience.

Thank you for watching!

5 Reasons to Start 2017 with Communication Skills Training

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

You know this already, but I’ll say it anyway-

Effective communication among employees and managers is vital to your organization’s success. If people aren’t communicating well, they aren’t producing quality work.

Yet, so many organizations don’t offer communication skills training.

So here are five reasons you should start your year off with employee and manager communication skills training.

Effective communication creates positive relationships and thus employee engagement. Read any article or book on employee engagement and it’ll tell you positive relationships are a hefty part of the engagement equation. Without effective communication, you can’t have positive relationships, and so employee engagement can’t exist. Ineffective communication creates anger and frustration, which most certainly thwarts any engagement initiatives you might be working on.

Effective communication facilitates innovation. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s highly regarded research found that when we experience positive emotions, our mind literally opens up and becomes more aware, flexible, and explorative. The positive emotions give us courage to act on those explorations, and we then build skills over time. Fredrickson calls this “broaden and build.” Negative emotions, however, narrow our thinking as we get focused on immediate solutions in the moment.

Think about this…

One of your client representatives has a positive, effective interaction with a co-worker, and then answers the phone immediately after (likely with a positive tone). The client on the other end has a problem, and due to the positive emotions your rep feels, he is innovative in his troubleshooting and solves the problem. He has added to his repertoire of problem solving and customer service, and is able to broaden and build his skills.

Now think about a rep who has a negative interaction with a co-worker, and then answers the phone immediately after (probably not with the best tone of voice). The client has a problem in need of a solution, but with his mind narrowed, he isn’t able to solve the problem as well as our first rep, and customer service has suffered. All he’s learned is not to interact with the rude co-worker.

Effective communication facilitates learning. In line with Fredrickson’s work, when people experience positive interactions their minds are open and able to learn new things. In order to learn, employees must feel safe to disagree, ask questions, and make mistakes; they must value competing ideas and feel encouraged to take risks. This can all happen with effective communication. Check out this HBR gem for more insight.

Effective communication promotes effective teamwork. When information flows easily between teammates, it increases the ability to interact and provide each other the right information to make good decisions and ultimately produce better work. Effective communication also reduces the chance for conflict, and inspires collaborative conflict resolution.

Effective communication decreases absenteeism and presenteeism. There is so much research that negative relationships cause people to get distracted and call in sick, it’s not even funny. For example, one study found that people who feel bullied take an average of 10 more sick days per year than those who don’t feel bullied (Agervold & Mikkelsen, 2004). Another study found that when employees are on the receiving end of an uncivil encounter they intentionally reduce their commitments to the organization as a result of being the target of uncivil behavior, and they waste time thinking about the incident as well as avoiding the instigator (Pearson, Anderssen & Porath; 2000).

What about accountability for implementing what was learned?

If you wrangle some budget for a training, you want it to have some lasting effects.

There are several steps needed to ensure accountability, but one important step is to get your managers involved in holding their employees accountable, and get your senior leaders involved in holding their managers accountable.

Before the training, all managers and senior leaders should review the learning objectives, and begin conversing with their employees about them. After the training, leaders should meet with managers and managers with employees, to discuss what was learned, what and how it will be implemented, and measurements of success.

Other ideas for accountability include adding effective communication to the performance management process, or training managers to coach employees who do not engage in effective communication.

All my training programs include a personal action plan, where all attendees are required to complete their plans for personal improvement. My manager training provides guidance on how to set expectations, and how to coach employees.

Check out my communication skills training program. If you’re interested in kicking the year off right, let’s talk!

Sincerely,
Catherine

A VOCABULARY LESSON IN DIVERSITY

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces | No Comments

Managing diversity is a compliance thing – it means you successfully “manage” your diversity.  It means you are an equal opportunity employer, your anti-harassment policies are up to date, you try to avoid biases in your interviews, and it may even occur to you once in a while that your leadership team is made up of men, and it might be good to get a woman in there someday.

Inclusion, however, is a choice. It means you seek to include others in everything you do. It means, for example, that you go looking for diversity in your recruitment efforts instead of hoping a diverse group responds to your job posting.

What about tolerance? Why people use this in the context of diversity is beyond me. I hate that word. I tolerate the annoying lady behind me in line at the grocery store who is yelling at her kid and keeps bumping into me with her shopping cart. This isn’t a good reference point when we’re talking about diversity.

Let’s replace tolerate with celebrate, and I believe all organizations should have Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) initiatives that provide the opportunity to do just that. When a woman has a child, instead of tolerating that she’s on leave for three months, celebrate with her and ask her what her needs are. Can you offer that she come in and leave an hour earlier to avoid traffic?

When an employee needs a day off due to a religious holiday, instead of tolerating that he’ll be absent, celebrate with him and invite him to share insight about the holiday with the rest of the office.

When you realize that one employee is celebrating Pride Week in your city, instead of tolerating his pride flag taped to his cubicle wall, celebrate with him and find out how you and the rest of the office can participate too.

Inclusion means you invite people to be themselves, and that self is celebrated.

I recently did a webinar with Ascentis on the topic of D&I. Get the FREE recording here if you’re interested!

Case Study: How a Property Management Company Rocks Their Culture

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

I talk about organizational culture A LOT. While culture can’t solve all of your problems, it can certainly make your life easier.

If you have and live a culture of respect, most people in your organization will be respectful. When they aren’t, they will stick out like a sore thumb, and their behavior can be adjusted before it gets out of hand.

Many organizations do not focus on culture because they believe there will be no tangible benefits.

Well, I recently ran into an old friend who I saw speak at a conference when she managed the culture at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, and she is now the Director of Human Resources (AKA “Employee Lifestyle”) at HG Fenton. Always fascinated by businesses actively managing culture, I asked her for a quick informative interview.

Here’s a recap of our conversation:

I know that a strong culture comes from employees finding meaning in their work. But you do property management, so how do you help employees find meaning in property management?

Our purpose is essentially to create opportunities for our employees to flourish, our residents to live well, and for businesses to succeed. So we focus on those three things all day, every day, and that’s how we find meaning in our work.

How does your organization communicate the culture?

We have a set of values and we live by them. I have never seen a company intertwine culture into the day-to-day the way we do here. We don’t need posters on all the walls, everyone knows the values and we honestly live them each and every day as they are incorporated into our conversations, decisions, and business goals.

I talk about living corporate values all of the time, but that’s an abstract statement for many. Can you provide some real examples of HG Fenton living its values?

One example is we do true pay-for-performance. A lot of companies say that but in reality they just manage “merit” increases by plugging numbers in a spreadsheet to balance out to an overall percentage increase across the board. Here, when determining annual compensation increases, the Executive Team holds a multiple day meeting, and every single manager comes in and presents how each and every one of their employees is performing.

The manager then proposes a salary increase based on the employee’s performance and the position market data provided to them. I’ve often seen the Executives say that they thought the employee deserved more than what the manager was proposing. The point is based on that employee’s performance and the market data for their role, we take this opportunity to celebrate success, make a plan for any opportunities the employee may have, and reward appropriately. It’s not a dreaded conversation like they are in most companies.

That’s awesome. What else can you tell me about managers intertwining with the culture?

We just rolled out a leadership development program that focuses on helping others flourish.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a training program focused specifically on helping people flourish. Pretty cool. So does your office environment speak to your culture? Sometimes people laugh at me when I offer redecorating the office as advice to change culture.

We realized that our culture is all about collaboration, but the way the office was set up, people weren’t colliding throughout the day so that they could collaborate. We decided to create more opportunities to collide, and we spent some serious dough to update our office. The new office creates a more transparent and collaborative workspace, and you can see people colliding informally and connecting. People develop great ideas in those casual collisions.

Wow. What is the ROI on the office remodel? I know my clients are going to ask what the ROI is on something like that.

We haven’t set out to measure the ROI on this project because it’s just common sense to us that our work environment should match our purpose and culture. We know our culture works, we know it’s why we’re successful, and we knew we needed an environment that supported this culture that drives our success.

Okay, one final question. I always recommend a culture strategic plan. Do you have something like that?

We don’t have a culture strategic plan. We have one strategic plan for the company, and half of the action items on it are focused on culture. Growing and developing leaders is all over the plan, and the strategic plan is our Bible – while we continually reassess it and update it as appropriate, we follow it to a T.

Okay, this really is my final question. Do you outperform your competitors? You said your culture works, so what does that mean for the company’s performance?

Without sharing confidential information, we’ve had 110 years of success and our goal is to have another 100 years of it.  Financially and from a service perspective (as measured in the industry customer satisfaction surveys) we outperform our competitors.  Our employee retention rate far exceeds within and outside our industry.  Each year we tell our employees that if we hit our aggressive financial plan, that we will close the office and everyone can enjoy the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I am not sure what the feeling would be around here if we did NOT get that week off…because every year we have.  Our employees are flourishing, our residents/tenants are living and working well, and our shareholders are happy.  Win-win-win all around!

So there you have it folks.

Caution: Training Is Useless

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces | No Comments

So you’ve done a training on an important workplace skill… active listening, giving feedback, professionalism, conflict management… But then what? How will you ensure people keep doing whatever it is you taught them to do?

There is a lot of research on how well we retain information, and it ain’t good. “They say” that we can only remember about 80% of material right after the training is over, and over time, that number steadily declines on down to 10%.

With the human mind already serving as an obstacle for learning retention, your organization must take extra steps to ensure information sticks… and that behavior changes.

That’s the point of training right? Behavior change?

Real behavior change only happens when the work environment makes it easy.

For example, managers must be doing things to facilitate employee use of the skills taught in the training. Having conversations with employees about what they hope to learn before the training, and discussing what they learned immediately after, are key.

Managers should also help the employees develop action plans to implement the skills gained into their daily lives.

Before training, you should also make a plan for what you will do after the training to encourage behavior change. Plan on rewarding those who exemplify the right behaviors, ask employees to find a partner to help hold them accountable, or create a Google drive folder where people can post updates on how things are going.

Also plan on gathering the training participants three months after the training to discuss what’s working well, challenges and best practices.

My goal is to ensure any training you do on ending bullying – and building a positive workplace – sticks. But, all of these rules apply to all of your training programs.

Stay tuned… next week I’m going to share one of my training tools so that you can implement a positive workplace mini-training yourself.

 

Catherine

The 5 Steps to Create the I.D.E.A.L. Work Environment

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Is the “ideal work environment” even possible?

Absolutely!

If it were, what would you want it to be like?

What are the characteristics of your “ideal work environment?”

Below are the five simple steps to make it happen in any small business workplace:

I = Identify the behaviors, communication styles and other characteristics people working in the environment would need to consistently display. Both company leaders and all employees should participate in this process. It can be done with everyone together, or can be done separately, and the two lists merged.

D = Determine the potential roadblocks to implementing these newly identified characteristics.  Get them out on the table, address them, and agree to focus on the newly identified desired future workplace characteristics. I know you’re fearful and skeptical this can work, and it will when you approach it the correct way.

E = Enroll & Engage all personnel in new behavior and performance expectations. This is done solely with an eye towards the future and defined consistent with the new culture expectations from Step 1.

A = Apply the Clean Slate Strategy. This provides everyone a fresh start. When implementing this strategy everyone agrees to let go of the past, give all co-workers and company leaders the benefit of the doubt, and focuses only on ensuring accountability to the agreed future.

L = Look & Listen to what’s occurring in the work environment. Be open to discussing individually with team members, and within teams, everyone’s accountability to the new work environment. Be open to making adjustments and course corrections where it makes sense so the work environment continues to get even closer to “ideal.”

To get the full report that takes you step-by-step through the 5 Steps to Create Your IDEAL Work Environment go here: www.YourChampionshipCompany.com/IdealWorkEnvironment

Skip Weisman, The Workplace Communication Expert, is an internationally recognized speaker, coach and consultant and former professional baseball executive, helping small business leaders transform communication in their workplaces to create a more positive, more productive and even more profitable company. Learn more about Skip at www.YourChampionshipCompany.com .