You Don’t Demand Employee Trust. You Earn It.

ThinkstockPhotos-515603630.jpgCorporate culture is pretty much the key to everything in the world of business. According to a series of studies reported on by Forbes, nearly 90% of people who responded said that company culture was incredibly important for their firms. In fact, 92% said that they firmly believed that improving corporate culture would enhance the value of their business, while more than half of respondents said that corporate culture influences everything from productivity to creativity to profitability, value, growth and beyond.

At the same time, only 15% said that their company’s culture was where it needed to be.

It Begins at the Top

At first glance, these numbers may appear to be somewhat at odds with one another – but they really aren’t. Corporate culture begins at the top and, if anything, that 15% statistic can be attributed to one essential little word: trust. Leaders set the tone that affects the entire organization, and if employees don’t trust their leaders, they ultimately don’t trust the direction of the business that they’re devoting so much of their lives to.

Make no mistake: trust is not something that you can demand from your employees. It’s something that you have to earn – all day, every day. It’s also something that requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Trust is a Privilege, Not a Right

Yes, you worked incredibly hard to become the leader that you are today. You put in long hours. You worked weekends. You devoted the majority of your life to your career and a constant push to achieve bigger and better things for yourself. Now you’re in charge of the proverbial ship, and everyone should just trust that you know what you’re doing by default, right?

There’s an old rule of storytelling that says that whenever possible, “show, don’t tell.” That essentially means that instead of having a character talk about some important development in the plot, SHOW the development instead by having them do something active. It’s why in “Star Wars,” instead of just having people stand around and talk about how bad the Death Star is, we see it blow up a planet to convey the same information in a much more active way.

This is the same mentality you need to adopt if you want to start earning the trust of your employees. If you make a mistake, don’t shift the blame – accept responsibility. Don’t ask any employee to do anything that you would be unwilling to do yourself. If you want people to come in on the weekend, you should also come in on the weekend. If you need your team to work long hours, guess what – you need to work them, too.

Show You Care

Every day, look for new opportunities to show your employees that you not only value what they do but that you’re all in this together. Remember that their productivity, hard work, and excellent performance needs to benefit more than just you and your career – it needs to positively impact them, too. They’re not going to follow you into battle because you tell them to. They have to want to do so.

The only way you can get to that point is if they trust you, and the only way you can get to THAT point is if you’re someone worth trusting. This simple distinction is often what separates a good leader from a great one.

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What Google’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Leadership

ThinkstockPhotos-616237916.jpgOne of the things that Google is famous for is data-based decision making. When they want to find the most effective way to do something, they look at the numbers and work from there. However, even a company as married to analytics as Google is vulnerable to lapses and oversights. Recently, their data showed that their process for hiring and promoting the best managers for the job was all wrong.

When you look at where Google made their mistake and what they did to correct it, you could save your company some money and heartache and also create a more effective workplace.

Google’s Error and Assumption

Besides a dedication to data, Google’s other key characteristic is a high regard for technical expertise. Tech savviness was so prized that, historically, it was one of the top factors in whether someone would get promoted to management.

When Google set out to learn whether their hiring and promoting strategy was working, they discovered something interesting: the best managers were not necessarily the ones who were technical experts at all.

After gathering and analyzing data from 10,000 manager observations, they learned that the quality they valued most had almost no bearing on whether someone was a good manager. Instead, soft skills were what made all the difference.

What the Data Says Makes a Good Manager

Google used their large pool of data to identify eight qualities and habits that make great managers. While technical skill was on the list, it was the least important of all the qualities on it. In order of importance, the qualities that make great managers include:

  • Good coaching.
  • Empowering your team to work without micromanaging. A good manager hires good people, then gets out of their way.
  • Interest in employees’ well-being and success. People are more motivated and show greater job satisfaction when they know that the people they work under care about them.
  • A results-oriented and productive outlook.
  • Excellent communication skills, especially good listening.
  • An interest in employees’ career development. Good managers understand that we all do better when we all do better.
  • A clear vision and strategy.
  • Key technical skills. These aren’t important because your manager will be doing hands-on work, by the way. They are important because it allows the manager to advise the team that they’ve assembled for the job.

In addition to the revelations above, Google discovered a lot about the types of managers who make employees happy. The most important quality is a calm demeanor and an even keel. In a high-stress environment, someone who keeps things steady is key. They also discovered that the best leaders puzzled through problems with employees instead of just telling them what to do.

By looking at the real data about good managers, Google was able to improve their hiring practices, improve worker satisfaction, and increase productivity.

The biggest takeaway? Always challenge your assumptions. You may learn that what you thought was effective may be harming your company more than it helps. By taking an honest look at your analytics, you can seize startling revelations. Use them to make your company a better place and to rise above the competition.

The Path

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One day long ago, a calf decided to cross a thick forest to return to its pasture. Not knowing where it was going, it forged a twisted, confusing path full of turns that went up and down hills. The next day, a dog came by and used the same path to cross the forest. Then, a sheep took the same path, which was followed by its fellow flock, and various other animals.

Later, a group of travelers came along and decided to take the path that was well worn. They went left, right, around deviating obstacles, and complained about the terrible path the entire way, but did nothing to create an alternate route. After many years, travelers continued along that same, well-worn path, each time taking three hours to cover a distance that would normally take 30 minutes had they forged a smarter path.

Here’s the way I see it: Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.”

The Story of a Chicken

kirkOne day, a meat counter clerk who had an amazing day clearing out his inventory proudly flipped his last chicken on a scale and weighed it. “That will be $7,” he told the customer. “Hmmm…” the customer hesitated. “That really is a little too small. Do you have anything larger?” the customer asked. Hesitating, but thinking fast, the clerk returned the chicken to the refrigerator, paused a moment, then took the same one out again. “This one,” he said faintly, “will be $8.” The woman paused for a moment, then said with a big smile, “I’ll take both of them!”

Here’s the way I see it: As Bo Bennett once said, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” If you’re looking for a printer who will give it to you straight every time, give us a call today.

4 Ways to Incorporate Humor at Work

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Nothing is more embarrassing than telling a joke and having it fall flat at work, but don’t let that stop you from adding appropriate humor to the workplace, as it can be a great way to reduce tension and improve overall relations.

Having fun with the people you spend at least 40 hours per week with can raise your mood and boost camaraderie throughout your office. Here are some of the top ways you can incorporate humor at work:

1. Hire for Personality and Cultural Fit

When you’re the hiring manager or simply someone able to have input into hiring processes, try to look for someone to join the team who approaches work seriously, and themselves lightly. This could come in the form of an easy smile, a little self-deprecating humor, or the ability to find the amusing side in everyday situations that others may consider stressful. When you have someone on your team who can inject some fun into the workplace, it gives others permission to crack a smile as well.

2. Encourage Silliness

Sure, you don’t want to be silly all the time as you’d get nothing done, but a little wackiness once in a while can break up an otherwise boring or tedious day. Send a cute animal meme or 30-second video to a small group of work friends and enjoy the smile on their face when they view it. If it’s not against your rules, post a humorous cartoon that has a positive message. It is important to be careful, however, as longer videos beyond two minutes or so sent to a large list of people can effectively kill productivity (which won’t make your boss happy at all!)

3. Keep it Professional

A great rule of thumb is that if you would be embarrassed having whatever you want to say plastered on a billboard — don’t say it! Same goes for the grandmother test. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear what you’ve been saying, you probably should abstain. Don’t make fun of others even when it’s “just for fun,” and keep teasing to a minimum. This especially holds true if you’re a supervisor or in another position of power. You may not realize that your good-natured poking fun at others can be taken much more seriously when there’s an imbalance of power.

4. Inspiring Others

You’re more approachable to others when you’re smiling, which may be one of the reasons that many leaders work hard on keeping a pleasant look on their face. When you work hard to uplift others with a pleasant word, even sharing amusing inspirational videos can provide you with some personal collateral to be used at a later time. It’s important to note that individuals who appropriately use humor at work are likely to be promoted more quickly and make more money, so there are definite reasons to putting some fun-loving vibes into the air!

Using humor appropriately at work can tighten the bond between co-workers, keep those creative juices flowing, and make the days fly by! However, you always have to balance the good times with ensuring you’re being as productive as possible on the job. Jokes and effective banter can improve your standing within the organization specifically because it is assumed that you are mature enough to understand the proper use of humor and that you’re relaxed and confident enough to call attention to yourself.

Why Does Elon Musk Want Dissenters in his Company?

ThinkstockPhotos-615829998.jpgIn many companies and organizations, there is a position that most employees learn to avoid. It’s the position that stands out from the crowd and represents the minority voice on the team. Instead, folks learn to see which way the water is flowing and the music is playing, and they align their interests and concerns accordingly. It’s often couched in phrasing as “being a team player” and being a “proactive player instead of a negative burden” or similar.

Elon Musk, the well known chief executive of SpaceX which just recently solved how to create a space rocket that can land itself and be reused again, follows a different path with his employees. He actually wants people to tell him when they think he’s going down the wrong path. As Musk puts it, the lone dissenter or minority voice often points out issues and facts that if ignored can turn into costly problems later on. However, if a company team only follows the majority path, it can quickly turn into the fatal path of groupthink and “yes” men, ignoring major warning signs a big disaster is about to occur.

The Reward Dissenters Bring

Elon Musk and SpaceX are no strangers to risk. They operate in the high stakes game of off-Earth space transport and travel. A mistake in this environment has almost always meant total loss and millions of dollars wasted. So from Musk’s perspective, a dissenting voice provides multiple benefits. It forces the supported path to be defended better by showing why the concern raised is not an issue, a form of vetting before moving forward. Second, the minority opinion frequently brings up risks or concerns that may be glossed over otherwise because they are inconvenient to the supported path. Again, the biggest business mistakes often start with small, ignored issues, like a small leak in a levee.

The idea of rewarding the person who raises potential problems goes against the trend of American business. For decades business managers have been taught that the team is all-powerful and that many minds in synergy produce more than the individual alone. However, this also assumes a lot of mistakes are made along the way to develop that experience. In rocket-building, however, mistakes can’t be tolerated, so Musk believes in asking every question and giving a chance for dissent, an antithesis to traditional corporate culture.

Think This Doesn’t Apply to You? Think Again

Some might argue that the same situation of a rocket company doesn’t apply to a business creating software or coffee-makers. Businesses can afford to have mistakes and still make sales. However, in practice, this logic fails when the company gets sued and loses a major product warranty or personal injury case. Litigation has killed more than one small or medium business with a great product or service but no defense to a mistake that harms someone.

Musk doesn’t believe every dissenting opinion should be followed. In fact, he notes in his advice they can be incorrect. However, listening causes the path chosen to be analyzed just a bit further to identify weaknesses missed. And in Musk’s business, if it exists, avoiding that weakness can mean his multi-million dollar rocket landing again in one piece. What does it potentially mean for your company?

Triumph over Adversity

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Many of the most successful leaders in the world have been people who have triumphed over adversity. This list of individuals includes celebrities, world leaders, and business people. Notable figures include Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison before finally becoming President in South Africa and Steve Jobs who was fired from his own company. Many people fail in their lifetimes, and then go on to become successful. Failure in itself is not the end. Instead, it is a lesson that can be applied to future endeavors.

What Can Failure Teach Us?

Without learning how to fail and pick yourself up again, most people would never learn anything new or complete any task. It is an accomplishment to fail, and then go on to make something of yourself by admitting that you have failed and refusing to be deterred from your final goal. While this concept can apply to any endeavor in life, it is certainly a concept that can be easily applied to business.

Living with Failure in Business

The business world is full of failures. Companies often have products that do not do well in the marketplace among the mix of products that they sell. In fact, most sales teams figure failure into their daily routine since they know that they will have to approach a lot of leads before they can turn some of them into buying customers. Many successful salespeople use rejections to tally how well they are doing. For instance, they may decide to make enough cold calls over the phone each day to tally up to a hundred “no, thank you’s.” The reason they count those no’s is that they realize that if they receive a hundred no’s, they will also have enough yes’s in that group of phone calls to make the quota of appointments they need to have.

Failure is a Requirement for Success

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Greatness can only be achieved by someone who understands what it takes to become great. Therefore, failure is a requirement for success because it takes failure to appreciate success. While not every one of us needs to spend 27 years in prison to finally achieve our goals, the truth remains that unless we persevere towards our goals, we will not be able to achieve success in our careers or life.

Dealing with Failure in Business

As a business owner, it is very likely that you will make mistakes, disappoint staff and customers, and lose business from time to time. However, each time failure occurs, it is best to admit the failure, and then examine why it happened. By learning from our mistakes, we become better business owners and better people. Failure helps us relate to others who have experienced hard times and gives us the opportunity to connect with them as customers.

Dealing with Future Adversity

The next time you or one of your employees fails at a task, take the time to use the failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. Maybe the failure of one person can become a lesson for everyone, and it will lead to the next big success for your entire company.