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Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
Posts from February 2013


4 Steps to Building a Culture of Respect
Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners – Laurence Sterne

In surveys conducted by Weber Shandwick in 2011 it revealed what many already know or experience – incivility in the workplace is on the rise and the many place the blame at the feet of workplace leadership.

The online survey was conducted among 1,000 American adults to assess attitudes toward civility online, in the workplace, in the classroom and in politics. Some notable highlights include:
 
•  Over one-half of Americans (55%) believe that civility in the in America in the next few years will get worse.
•  Over four in 10 Americans – 43% - have experienced incivility at work. A nearly equal number (38%) believe that the workplace is becoming increasingly uncivil and disrespectful.
•  Workplace leadership is blamed for this decline by approximately two-thirds (65%) of those who perceive greater incivility in the workplace.
•  After workplace leadership, Americans who perceive greater incivility in the workplace cite employees themselves (59%) for workplace incivility. Other reasons include the economy (46%) and competitiveness in the workplace (44%).

That there are issues that must be addressed by workplace leaders and by employees is an understatement. In addition to the issues of disrespect in the workplace, bullying remains a problem as well. In a recent TLNT column, Judy Lindenberger cites statistics from recent studies that she conducted that found more than 50 percent of respondents reported they witnessed or were a victim of bullying at their current workplace, and over 60 percent reported that they witnessed or were a victim of bullying at another company they worked for.

As a consequence of this alarming and growing trend in the workplace, a majority of 67% agreed that there is a critical need for civility training in the workplace.  And with workplace leadership being assigned most of the blame it is imperative that those in leadership lead the way. Here are four small steps leadership can take right away to reclaim a culture of respect and productivity.

Teach it. When your staff has selective definitions over what is or is not disrespectful behavior in the workplace it leads to subjective interpretations of bad behavior. Expectations of positive behavior need to be taught, it needs to be mandatory, and it should be annual. Clearly defined expectations and boundaries helps create a culture of respect and holds everyone accountable. It will also help you weed out those who for whatever reason cannot align themselves with company standards.

Adapt it. Any course on civility, respect, or bullying should be framed within the context of your specific organization. While certain principles are universally accepted such as treating others with respect, communication, and moral behavior, you will be well served to frame your expectations around your company’s unique culture and personality. Be mindful and deliberate about your expectations but not at the expense of destroying the good camaraderie that does exist. A good idea here would be have employees help draft the code of standards and expectations. When they have skin in the game they will be more inclined to live up to it.

Model it. Since the majority believes that workplace leadership is at fault as it relates to a culture of disrespect in the workplace, then those in leadership are going to have to personally step up and take responsibility. While changing a culture of disrespect is a system wide objective it starts at the top. What the leader expects the leader has to model. The leader must also be held to account.
Praise it. Unfortunately, many who experience incivility or bullying at work do so in silence. They feel they have no one to turn to or fear retaliation. Building a culture of respect begins when you teach it, adapt it, and model it. But going forward you must praise the work of your team. Instead of suffering in silence you can create a culture of praising in public. It’s been said what you tolerate you promote. But I also believe what you praise you perpetuate. Lift up the positives of respect, honor, civility, and diversity. These are the strengths of your company and the virtues that make it great.

Building a culture of respect begins with respect, and it begins with you. Are you ready to step up?
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3 Rules of Employee Engagement
Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention. – Jim Rohn

Dale Carnegie Training recently released new findings on employee engagement and the results proved to be quite intriguing. The first and most dramatic finding shows that if an employee is dissatisfied with their immediate supervisor, there is an 80 percent chance that they are disengaged. Similarly, having a “caring” manager is one of the key elements to a positive and successful employee engagement strategy. Employees want to feel valued and have their manager take an interest in their personal lives, health and well-being.

Other notable findings include:
* Executives (VP and higher) and medical workers are the most highly engaged group of employees; Employees in education, social work, and sales are the least engaged.

* 26% of engaged employees would leave their current job for just a 5% pay increase, 46% of partially engaged employees would leave their current job for just a 5% pay increase, 69% of disengaged employees would leave their current job for just a 5% pay increase.

* Senior leadership’s actions also have a direct impact on employee engagement; 61% of employees who have confidence in the leadership abilities and think that senior leaders are moving the organization in the right direction are fully engaged, 49% of employees who were satisfied with their direct manager were engaged, 80% of employees who were very dissatisfied with their immediate supervisor were disengaged.

From this exhaustive research we are reminded of the complexities of the 21st century workplace and the need for strong leadership. We understand that engagement is critical not just to employee productivity but to longevity as well. The challenges for managers, supervisors, and executives can be overwhelming. Here are three tips to help you engage your employees and build a strong team.

Rule 1 - Inspire their passions. As a leader, your engagement with your employees is about inspiring their passion and offering whatever assistance you can to help them achieve their goals. In the book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M. Webber writes, “Would you rather have tepid success with something that doesn’t matter or a brilliant future with something that does?” When you engage your employees you help them to discover that brilliant future they desire, and serve as a catalyst for their passions.

When they see that you are inspired by their passion it will cause them to step up and deliver. When you give team members the tools they need, the inspiration to perform, and the courage to achieve their dreams that is a level of engagement that paves the way for great accomplishment.

Rule 2 - Direct their energies. The best ideas in the world do not mean a thing without action. You become engaged and vested in your employees when you help them focus their energies in the right direction and put forth measurable goals of achievement. If you are disengaged in their work, goals and passions, they will be disengaged from you. Consequently they will not perform at levels you like, and they very well may be planning their exit strategy.

When energies are directed with purpose, clarity, and enthusiasm you set the bar high for their personal growth and their personal engagement. When this is achieved there is a greater degree of certainty they will deliver, be more engaged, and be happier employees.
Rule 3 - Reward their effort. As you demonstrate genuine engagement and support for your team members you are positioning them for success. When you do your part to equip your employees do not forget to reward them for what they deliver. This type of engagement goes a long way toward building the morale your company needs and shows that you care.

Whatever incentive or reward program you implement it is just another layer of engagement to solidify your leadership. Without question each employee must take ownership of his or her level of engagement and be responsible for it. But when you take the time to notice and reward those efforts it makes your job that much easier.

Are you engaged?
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Leverage Your Strength, Stress Less
Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one. – Hans Selye

Are you stressed at work? If you answered in the affirmative then according to a recent Gallup poll you are among 33% of workers who said they were totally dissatisfied with the amount of stress they experienced at work. In fact only 29% were completely satisfied with the amount of stress they deal with at work.

What if there was a proven way that you can be more productive at work and reduce stress at the same time by using the strengths you already have? Would you be interested? Well, good news, there is such a way. In another Gallup poll the results found that the more hours a day Americans get to use their strengths to do what they do best, the less likely they are to report experiencing worry, stress, anger, sadness, or physical pain.

The findings are based in part from more than a half-century of studying human strengths and more than 7.8 million people who have taken Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Finer assessment, which tests 34 specific, unique strengths since its inception in 1998. Gallup found that the more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.

A function of good leadership within your business or organization is found in learning how to leverage the strengths of your people for maximum benefit. The study reveals that when employees feel a more personal and meaningful connection with their work the more productive they will be. Gallup data shows that employees who simply learn their own strengths are 7.8% more productive. Developing those strengths motivates employees to learn how to apply themselves and makes them far more likely to care whether their activities are profitable.

Leaders who desire to help their employees can do so by tapping into the strengths and by making sure they are leveraging those strengths at all levels.  Here are three ways to get started.

Create leverage with the right people in the right place. It is a simple revelation of the survey. When your employees are playing to their strengths they will be happier, more energetic, and less stressed. When your team members are properly aligned with their skill sets it creates a dynamic that is effective not just for them but for the company. Square pegs don’t fit in round holes and the same applies to the skill sets of your people. If skills are not properly aligned to the right people then it will be hard for your company to succeed.

Create leverage with respect and dignity. When employees are treated with respect and dignity they performed better. It is no secret that incivility in the workplace is of increased concern for many and bullying remains problematic. Stress rises and productivity falls when workers are disrespected, and if they believe they are not contributing in a meaningful way. When a leader helps to create an environment where respect and civility abounds, trust and camaraderie follows and you can expect to have happier and more productive employees.

Create leverage by creating your workplace culture. The culture of your organization is a created by adapting a shared core of beliefs which are a combination of your vision (where you are going) and your mission (the shared values that guide you). It is up to those in leadership to create a culture where everyone has the potential to succeed, and it is the responsibility of everyone to live up to it.

The strength of your leverage is found by matching the right people to the right tasks, by treating everyone with dignity and respect, and by creating a culture in which everyone can live up to their potential.

Are you playing to your strengths?
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Words to Lead By
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. -  Proverbs 18:21

A story is told about Casey Stengel, a longtime major league baseball manager who had such a unique way with words that it became known as “Stengelese.” He once said, “I’ve always heard that it couldn’t be done, but sometimes it don’t always work that way.” That’s typical Stengelese.

Casey held a position on the board of directors for a California bank. According to the story that originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Casey described his duties this way: “There ain’t nuthin’ to it. You go into the fancy meeting room and you just sit there and never open your yap. As long as you don’t say nuthin’ they don’t know whether you’re smart or dumb.”

Brian Tracy said, “Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true.” As a leader we often speak into the lives of others through our words. But have you stopped to consider the words you are speaking about yourself? Our words tend to be indicators of our heart and our attitudes. Words have consequences. Here are four types of words to be mindful of as you lead others and yourself.

Words that engage. One of the greatest gifts that you can give to your employees or to yourself is words that engage and empower. Failure to do so can have negative consequences. In a recent survey, Gallup asked 3,000 randomly selected workers to assess their agreement with the statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors. Only 41% of employees strongly agreed with that statement while 24% disagreed or were equivocal. According to the report, “this shows that too many companies are failing to help their works understand what makes their company different and better than the rest.”  Many companies are failing to engage their employees and that is problematic.

Engaged team members are productive team members. Make sure your words engage, empower, and connect. Your success depends on it.

Words that encourage. A Wall Street Journal column last year reported on the amount of productivity that is lost by toiling alongside a chronic complainer and that exposure to nonstop negativity can disrupt learning, memory, attention, and judgment. One employer even went so far as to offer cash as a reward for those who could refrain from gossip and complaints for seven days.

You may not totally eliminate negative attitudes and talk from your business but you can remove it from your vocabulary and thereby raise the bar for others. I encourage you to be the example of your expectations. There is more than enough negativity out there to go around. Why not take it upon yourself to incorporate words into your leadership vocabulary that express confidence, faith, and hope?

Words that challenge. Words have consequences and when used correctly will drive you toward desired goals. Napoleon Hill said, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the minds of another.” It is always a good practice to use words that empower and encourage, but you must speak words that challenges your people to stretch and achieve more.

Words that challenge tend to be the ones that cause people to step up and be creative with their thinking, planning, and execution. They can also be the ones that assist you in separating achievers from slackers. Use challenging words generously.

Words that count. Harold S. Geneen said, “Leadership is not practiced so much in words as in attitude and actions.” This is why our words are so important. The words you speak are as seeds planted. What you plant you will reap.  When you sow negative words; words that are critical, demeaning, and cutting, that is what you will reap.

The culture of your workplace is created by your words which influence attitudes, actions and performance. Choose your words carefully. Make them count for something good.

© 2013 Doug Dickerson
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