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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Presenting Ideas To A Difficult Manager?

It is frustrating to have creative, marketable and potentially lucrative ideas that go nowhere because you can’t seem to communicate with your manager. Maybe she doesn’t listen well. Maybe she is a micromanager and likes her own ideas better. Whatever the reason, I would not suggest giving up easily. Here are three suggestions.
First, keep your emotions in check. Yes it is possible to be honest and polite at the same time. Focus on your end goal for the conversation and don’t give up. If you start throwing in comments like “I can’t ever get you to listen” or “your plan makes absolutely no sense” then be prepared for defenses to go up and the conversation to end poorly. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Emotions will flare if you attack personality traits in any way. Stick to the facts as much as possible.
Second, take a few moments to consider your manager’s communication style. Does she prefer facts and figures or does she make decisions on gut reactions and an emotional pull? Does she prefer when people get right to the point, or does she like to hear all the details? Perhaps your natural communication style just doesn’t mix well with hers. Adapt. Provide the type of information that you know is important to her. Is she all about the bottom line? Do your research and have estimated bottom line projections. Adapting to your audience is always critical with persuasion.
Third, remember the dynamics of what goes on in people’s minds during potentially confrontational situations. If your manager begins to feel threatened or annoyed by your idea, her defenses will quickly go up. Don’t ignore this. Stop pushing your ideas and focus on her. Why is she feeling defensive? Ask questions, clarify, and bring the conversation back into the safety zone. Once things are back under control, continue delivering your plan.
Developing your great idea is the easy part. Gaining buy-in for the idea and then making it happen are the challenges. Learning to effectively present those great ideas will have a huge and positive influence on your career. It is worth the effort.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Entrepreneur's Rise!

Are you getting nowhere in corporate America? Do you have dreams of starting your own business? Whether this is a distant dream for you or you’ve already started down the path of self employment, I’d like to offer some brief advice that I’ve learned the hard way.

First, find your strongest talents. It is so easy to begin a business and try to be a jack of all trades. In order to clearly define your strongest talents, talk to people who know you well. Also think about the types of projects that get you excited to head off to work. Fine tune what you do well and focus on that aspect for your business. It might mean turning down work that doesn’t fit your talents, but you will be more believable to your clients and more successful in the end.

Second, have a plan! Take the time to complete a business plan. Every successful business owner will tell you that a plan is essential, yet the lack of a creative plan is why so many businesses fail. Without the clear directions that a plan defines, you may not be happy where you end up. Remember that the world is changing fast and you must also take time to continuously fine tune long term plans. Do your goals still make sense given the changes that may have occurred in the past six months? If you do not set aside regular time to evaluate, you risk getting tunnel vision and missing great opportunities.

Third, network, network, network. Join associations and attend conferences. You will meet people who have successfully accomplished what you are trying to accomplish. You will get fresh ideas and meet people who could help you down the road AND who you can also help. Just like with so many things, running a business is all about relationships. Build them, everywhere. I have found that sometimes the most valuable aspect of attending a conference is the people that I meet. We share ideas and experiences and it has helped tremendously.

I often hear that “small is the new big” these days. In other words, small companies are taking over business in many ways. Small companies can adapt quicker and maintain lower overhead. There are also so many ways to market a business now at low or no cost that small companies are able to compete with large business. Expensive print and TV advertising is no longer a must.

One thing I know for sure. Everyone I talk to who is successfully self-employed, would never go back into the corporate world. That says a lot. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Got Anger?

I was out doing errands a couple of days ago and encountered two VERY ANGRY drivers; both of whom seemed to be angry at ME! First, I had the nerve to stop at a yellow light. Often I do view yellow lights as a signal to speed up. But this time, I decided to do the safe thing and slow to a stop as the light turned red. As I did this, the man behind me leaned on his horn, swung around me, opened his window, shook his fist and screamed some obscenity as he ran the red light.

A few minutes later I was driving through a parking lot searching for a parking space. I saw a space ahead on my right. I drive a big van so I have to swing a bit to the left in order to pull into the right hand space. I swung to the left and some car comes barreling around the corner and nearly hit me head on. I guess I was on her side of the road. She actually got out of her car with arms flailing around in order to scream and tell me what an x%$j*@ I was. Nevermind that she was driving 40 MPH through a parking lot.

It would be nice to think that I’ve never been as ridiculously angry as these two people. But, we’ve all had those days. May as well take our aggression out on strangers!

Here’s some advice. SOLVE THE REAL PROBLEM! Stop yelling at the wrong people! In any conflict situation you have three choices; you can ignore it, you can handle it poorly, or you can handle it well. You DO have a choice. Perhaps you are choosing to ignore too many problems. This often leads to resentment and increased anger. Handling a problem poorly will also escalate conflict. You get mad, scream and insult the other person, and then realize that the problem is now larger. Problems just seem to crop up all over the place. Then you get in your car, run red lights, and scream uncontrollably at innocent people on the road.
Here are three tips for controlling anger.

• First, remember that it IS a choice. You can choose to walk away and calm down first.
• Second, always remember your goal. Why are you having the conversation? What do you want? Is the relationship important to you? Focus on your goal in order to control emotion and allow logic to come back into focus.
• Third, remember that when you allow anger to take over, all brain power is lost. You WILL regret it. Choose to handle the situation well.
When you ignore too many problems, or handle problems poorly, you’ll find more and more reasons to be angry. That anger then destroys relationships, creates more problems, and even makes complete strangers want to hit you!! Remember that you do have a choice.

Friday, October 2, 2009


In your organization, how many of the rules and policies are in place because of problem employees? For example, let’s say you are allowed to send personal Emails from work. You don’t take advantage of this, but you do occasionally send a personal message to a friend or relative. You also get your job done. This all works really well until Mr. Problem is hired. He takes advantage of this use of Email. Every time the boss walks by his desk, Mr. Problem is sending personal Emails. What happens next? The boss writes a strict policy controlling the use of Email for the entire company.
Do you remember the freedom you felt when you went to college? You went from having MANY rules to follow from both parents and teachers. Be home by 11:00. Clean your room every Friday. No cell phones in class. If you’re late for class, you get detention. THEN, you go off to college. If you don’t want to clean your room, you don’t. If you want to carry a cell phone, you do. If you don’t want to go to class, you don’t. HOWEVER, you ARE held accountable in that if you flunk out, you’re out. No two ways about it. That freedom college students feel, yet also being held accountable, may be one of the reasons so many people think that college was one of the best times of their lives. The students with good habits and judgment rise to the top and the students with the worst habits and judgment flunk out.

Nordstrom, the famous upscale department store, used to hand ONE rule to new employees. It was given to them on an index card. The rule was:
Rule #1: Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
In recent years Nordstrom has added to those rules, most likely because problem employees took advantage of the “no rule” policy.

In most organizations, especially big business, rules are definitely needed. But the lesson here is to examine those unnecessary rules and policies. Which ones are in place because SOMEONE didn’t handle an employee problem well? Often, effective performance management practices can eliminate the need for a controlling rule or policy that zaps the joy out of work for the employees who DO have good habits and who DO use good judgment.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Employee Engagement?

What’s all this talk about employee engagement? Why is it important? Employee engagement is the extent to which employees are fully involved and committed to their work, care about their organization and colleagues, and are willing to go the extra mile for their company to ensure its success. Managers with an engaged workforce understand that commitment outranks control.

In our last blog we discussed those employees with the “can do” attitudes. These are your engaged employees. Although some employees are naturally more motivated than others, there ARE some things you can do as a manger to improve engagement.

Remember a common sentiment most of us share; if I don’t matter, you don’t matter. If employees don’t feel that they are noticed and important in their company they are not likely to be “engaged.” We all want basically the same things. We want to be included, respected, and involved. Employees must feel that their jobs matter AND their opinions matter. Great leaders make everyone feel that they matter. You make them FEEL as if they matter by making them matter! There is no room for pretending here. Take time to listen to their opinions and ideas. Sometimes your way may not be the best way if it results in unmotivated and disengaged employees.

Managers should also offer challenge and, where possible, freedom. A challenge makes life interesting. Challenging work assignments have been directly linked to positive employee engagement. Without an occasional challenge, boredom and complacency set in. Studies have also proven that engagement increases when employees are given freedom to learn and choose how to best accomplish their assigned goals. Offer this wherever possible. Engagement pays off in the end!

Learn more about motivation in our course “Clocked In But Checked Out” at www.workforceechoes.com.