Is your leadership style motivating?

I love reading and chatting about leaders and their styles. Having worked in different size companies and under different managers (or bosses, as I would call them), I frequently got myself observing and studying people and what motivates them.

Being a leader myself, I try to be true to my style without imposing; try to be flexible and open to better and innovative solutions, and watch closely on ways I can influence my team.

One of the managers who I worked for in the past, for example, was one of my best coaches: she taught me how not to be effective or brilliant, and gave me a pretty good idea on how bosses are not necessarily leaders. She showed me how not to be a consistent and effective as a leader.

Sounds sarcastic? Maybe, but she had that intimidating style that would at least inhibit any kind of creativity or initiative, and believe me, you would not want to confront her. Ever.

She thought that by micromanaging she would guarantee results, and gosh, was she wrong…

She had difficulties on understanding her team members individually, and she did not take the time to get to know us. We were simply afraid of failing so we would avoid trying, unless we knew exactly the path or means that she wanted us to use. It was her way or no way, and she would end up y doing it herself, which was frustrating and built serious insecurity.

Actually, thinking back in time, I had more than one leader whose style was just not motivating– and after talking to several peers, colleagues and even random people, I concluded that it is just pretty common.

So, how can we be leaders that motivate? Here are some thoughts:

1-     Take time to know each member of your team: they are individuals, do not necessarily think collectively or exactly like you.

2-     Listen to their ideas: I know it sounds unbelievable (a little sarcasm here), but they might actually have better ideas than you!

3-     Give them the chance to work their own path to the results you need: you know that all the roads take you to Rome, right?

4-     Do not micromanage them: unless they ask for your very close supervision, give them room to work, be innovative, make mistakes and learn- they are not perfect, but neither are you.

5-     NEVER, and I repeat NEVER do their work for them: there is nothing more frustrating and diminishing that showing you do not believe in your team members. How would you feel if your supervisor did that with you?

6-     Praise the small victories: each right step, each winning should be celebrated.

7-     Do not praise just to criticize right after: first of all, criticism does not help people grow, feedback does. People are smarter that you might assume and, after a time or two, they know what is coming after the praise, and they will not only dismiss your comments, but will be defensive to your feedback. If possible, separate the coaching moments from the praising ones.

8-     Value each one of your team members as if they were indispensable: we all know everyone is replaceable, but if they feel valued, important and special, they will want to always do their best for you.

9-     Challenge them: if you know your team as individuals, you will know how to challenge them and how strongly you can push.

10-  Ask for feedback: no one that knows them better than themselves: they can give you extremely valuable information on how they can help you be most successful!

As I said, just thoughts that I gathered after observing and being led by different managers, and after trying and changing so many times as a leader.


10 expectations employees really have regarding their leaders

One of the great things about being a leader is that you can develop talents and be proud of their professional growth. You trace a plan to take them to next level, to be top performers, to become the best professionals in their area of expertise.

As a leader you become their main resource, the example, the motivator.

One of the first things you do as a leader is to set expectations: your employees have to know why they are there, their goals, and mainly “when” they get there.

I am a big believer that setting clear expectations with our subordinates is half way to success and every leader should do it. In conversations with peers, supervisors and even random professionals, most of them seemed to agree with me.

Let’s be fair: everyone wants results and that is the ultimate expectation that we have when we hire and develop someone. It is usually a pretty easy expectation to set, since most of the times, we link results to numeric achievements: sales, revenue, traffic increase, conversion, units per transaction, number of clicks in our website.

It might be more difficult to set expectations on intangible results such as improve team morale, improve relationship building skills, keeping high levels of enthusiasm, present good judgment among so many other things, but we sure set a bunch of them to each employee.

We talk about employee expectations, how to improve results, how to achieve goals, how to make our subordinates more productive, how to motivate them – we schedule meetings all the time to discuss, we go to trainings to make sure we can motivate them and hold them accountable, we have coaching sessions, and all kinds of “HR steps” to guarantee that they are performing, that they follow the rules, that they fulfill the expectations.

But what do we do when it is the other way around: do we ask our employees to set their expectations towards us?

It was then that I got that blank expression accompanied with a speechless moment.

I asked many colleagues, subordinates, supervisors or again, random people to flip the cards and talk about what we expect from our leaders, how to make sure that they are not letting us down and how we can make them accountable to their leadership role – want it or not, we also depend on their performance to be our best, their resourcefulness to fill our blanks and their leadership to guide us through growth.

After collecting over 75 responses, here is what I concluded:

1-    Employees are not used to set their expectations with their leaders, either because they do not know they should or because they are concerned about how the leader would react (it seems that we have always learned that leaders should set their expectations, not employees…).

2-    Subordinates need and want a trustful relationship with their leaders – trust, respect and integrity were some of the most mentioned expectations.

3-    They want feedback (constructive feedback) but also want to know that their leaders will back up their actions and decisions – there is nothing worse than having a leader who would go against you in front of a customer. No, they do not think their perfect but they want the right to learn from their mistakes and yet feel confident that their leader will be behind their decisions.

4-    COMMUNICATION: for sure one of the most common mentions, if not the number one – employees want clear and objective communications, they do not want to read between the lines and run the risk of misinterpreting the message.

5-    Opportunity to grow/succession plan. Subordinates expect you to trace a path for them, to think about their career and how they can grow within the organization.

6-    They want fair leaders.

7-    Motivation is not all about monetary rewards: since motivation is inherent within us, recognition, small perks, a great work environment and other things that might make us “happy” can also be very motivating.

8-    Subordinates expect an open-minded leader (with ears even more open) who will listen to their ideas, encourage and empower them and only then hold accountable. It helps when the leader is also approachable and does not promote a fearful environment.

9-    Visionary leaders, which are effective at leading a team toward achieving a common goal, were also mentioned quite frequently (and it came many times together with the open-minded, innovative and charismatic).

10- Employees also want a leader who is open for feedback and do not think he/she is always right. Employees want to know that their leaders are willing to go through a growing process: they do not expect their leaders to be always right, but they do expect that he/she can admit the mistakes, learn with them, make the necessary changes and move on. Leaders are also human beings and it is important that they show that to their employees.

When you encourage your employees to set expectations on you and any other leaders, you are opening the door to a more trustful, authentic and strong relationship. Besides, you get to know how to involve and motivate them, coach and develop, value and empower, leading the way to a successful and productive work relationship.






Why should your customer come back?

One of the first concerns of a business owner, president, director, manager or anyone working for a company, is to find effective ways to make the customer come in.

Marketing plans, advertising, social media, PR, outreach programs, community events…name it, and I am sure you will probably try it all.

Whether you are in retail and need to set a fabulous window that will distinguish you from the store next door, while grasp your customer attention and be inviting enough to bring her/him in; or you are a writer, who need to use the absolute right title and have a very eye-catching cover, so people who never heard about you will want to buy your book; or a doctor, who will have the most friendly front desk staff and a very pleasant waiting room, you will always be looking for a way to attract customers.

We all want the prospect customer to come in, to check on our products or services, to give us the chance to explain our service or demonstrate our product, to prove how effectively, assertively and perfectly we will fulfill their needs.

No doubt this is a vital concern for the business: we need the traffic to be able to convert those prospects into customers.

But once they come in, why would they buy from you? Or even more challenging: why would they come back, buy again, become a loyal customer?

Even your very satisfied customers may by from your competition some times: an irresistible price tag, free shipping, more flexible return policies, other perks…many factors can push your satisfied customer to your competitors’ direction .

So, how do we keep them coming back?

Here are some insights of what works for me:

1-    Put your customer first: everyone likes to feel special, to feel valued. When your customers understand that you not only value their business, but value them as individuals, they will pay you back with loyalty.

2-    ALWAYS remember their names, what they like, what they care for (family, pets, events), their profession/workplace. And if you don’t have that good of a memory…that’s what clientele books are for!

3-    Be transparent: do not ever try to fool your customers – believe me, they will know. Be clear about policies, be authentic, treat them respectfully (ALWAYS!), and more than that, prompt to honor your business’ commitments – that credit that they forgot about, the coupon that they forgot at home (and you know they are eligible for!), the promo that will start tomorrow (how many times you saw this one happening…) or anything else that you can show their value and YOUR loyalty too.

4-    Be available: for your customer, there is not more upsetting than having to wait for you – it really gives them the perception that you do not care. On the phone? Call later – you have a customer right there that wants your attention. Going for lunch? Postpone it – get to your customer first.

5-    Keep a happy environment: who of us have never stepped into a store and saw associates that pretended they didn’t see you; or the ones that “make the faces” when you show up to return something; or the ones dragging their feet not to do anything? Motivate your team and make them understand that importance of having fun with your customers, smiling, creating a happy atmosphere.

6-    Offer convenience: make it easy! Keep your merchandise available and organized, set an upbeat pace for your crew and make them move (quickly!), make the checkout experience smooth and quick  (is there anything more annoying than when you want to checkout quickly and the cashier starts offering you credit cards, magazine subscriptions, ask for donations and go on and on? – make sure that your associates are trained and know to offer whatever products/services they need while on the floor, engaging the customers).

7-    Know your competition: if you cannot match their prices and discounts, you must have a true competitive edge – is the quality of your product/service genuinely better? Is there a long term perk (like points to be redeemed later) that your competition does not offer but you do? Is her overall experience more pleasant? Ask yourself ALL the time – what can you offer that your competition does not already?

8-   Ask for feedback, for suggestions and take them seriously: your customers will feel amazing if when they come back they see their suggestions implemented somehow.

So, why should your customers come back? Because you are committed to give them the best experience, you value them and their business and, because YOU ARE LOYAL TO THEM!

The most important thing is that customer loyalty does not happen with a blink of an eye: it is hard work, it is a commitment to excellence, it is company culture.

It is important that this commitment is renewed every day, that the customer experience is the ultimate goal for you, your team, your company. It is a personal decision that shall truly reflect in higher customer satisfaction, repeat business and increase in revenue.

Are You Prepared for Crisis?

All of us at some point in life go through crisis, and our businesses are no different: some times it is an identity crisis and you have to rebrand, some times a culture crisis and you have to rethink and adjust, some times it is a financial crisis, and you have to re strategize, innovate, find funds, make it profitable again.

Fact is, very few of us really prepare for crisis – we hope that they don’t happen and when they do (we are not surprised, just in denial) we are not ready, we do not have a game plan, don’t know what to do.

It is much easier to go through a crisis, or to get out of it if you prepared yourself even for the unknown.

I am not saying that you will know exactly what to do every time you face crisis – otherwise you would probably be able to avoid them – but if you have your game plan, you can adjust it according to the actual core of the crisis, with the resources you have available or can make available at the time.

Here are some insights to prepare and get to the other side of the crisis quickly and stronger:

1-    Identify the core of the crisis – some times the real reason for the crisis is not what it immediately appears. Make sure to be able to know all the whys and hows.

2-    Keep control: if you are not able to keep control when facing crisis, you might make it even stronger: good morale and balance will help all your team go through it.

3-    Communicate: your team deserves to know what is going on. When you convey the reasons for the crisis and your game plan right after, you will make your employees feel more confident and focused to work towards the solution.

4-    Brainstorm: even if you have a game plan, it is important to brainstorm with your team, first because they might have insights, see the crisis with different eyes, and second because they will feel included and valued, and again, morale will help keep their focus and balance.

5-    Don’t rush to a permanent solution: some times you need to patch the holes before rebuilding the whole wall. Also, using some quick temporary fixes, and celebrating the small achievements trigger the perception of progress, of giving a step in the right direction.

6-    Be positive: attitude is everything, or if it is not, is definitely contagious, and keeping the spirit up will only help to see the glass half full.

7-    Keep a routine: you might have to do some “emergency fixes”, to change gears, to consider different angles, but you should still keep your teams’ routine – it will give them the perception of normality and security. Everyone knows the company is in crisis, but it is still there and can snap out of it – it is amazing what a motivated, committed and loyal team can do for your company.

8-    Show your loyalty: your team needs to know that despite the crisis, you are there for them and with them – you will not be the captain abandoning the ship!

9-    Can’t find your way of the crisis (despite of all the prep plan you had)? Seek external help, bring an expert (and let your team know about your new plans).

10- Do not let your internal crisis reflect on your customers: they were the core of your business and you will need them during and after the transition.  Your customers should always be untouchable.

Crisis come and go and are basically part of the business life. Prepare for it, be positive about the process and turn crisis into opportunities.

Rahm Emanuel, the 55th Mayor of Chicago once said: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before”.

And that is so very true: adversity can create lots of opportunities, challenges can bring the best in every person and positive attitude can trigger positive results.


Rewarding Your Employees Without Breaking the Bank

In today’s economy, more than ever it is vital for the success of your company that you spot, hire, develop, motivate and keep the best people, the amazing employees. It is simply critical.

And it is sure not easy. But let’s say that after a lot of time and work, you found competent, capable, motivated, committed and passionate people.

You hired them, developed and coached them. They are just great. They are the difference between your company’s success and failure. And when everything seems perfect you get the bad news: they are leaving you. Yep, leaving. Gone. That’s it. And you do not have a clue why…

One of the points that I always like to highlight is: a great employee wants and NEEDS to be valued. Period. It is almost as important than the paycheck coming every two weeks.

They obviously want the recognition (yes, they do like the public recognition too), the “thank you”, their name on the wall as the “top performer of the month”. They want to feel and know that you are looking at their contribution and that you are loudly letting everyone in the company know too.

If you value your employee you most definitely have to show it. And listen to this: it is not all about money.

There are, however, perks that will not clean your bank account and will make them feel rewarded for their dedication, commitment and loyalty. For their efforts and mainly, for the amazing results that they brought to your company.

When talking to several direct reports during the last 3 years, here are some ideas that I gathered (coming straight from the employees):

1-    Early dismissal Friday: I know it does not seem much, but such a small thing can make them so happy! Getting home early, having the chance to pick up the kids at school, or simply do nothing at home. Yes, they really like it.

2-    Mani & Pedi: OMG, the girls really like this one. Once, because we were top of sales for the quarter, one of the companies I have worked for decided rewarding us for that, so we had a mani-pedi party. The company made a deal with a local nail place and they closed later on a Sunday, so the 12 women in my division could all have their mani-pedi (can’t forget that there was so really good wine too…)

3-    Catered breakfast or lunch: it is just 30 minutes that you are going to compromise so you can have your top performers together, and it is as simple as having a great fruit-coffee-muffins or an informal salad-sandwich-dessert time. But it is recognition: everyone wished they could be there…

4-    Just to keep a fun environment: board games in the break room! Once I have heard this idea from an executive and loved it: he put a square table in the center of his break room with a 2000 piece puzzle. Each one that would take a break, would try to fit one or two pieces. When they finished, they would mount it in a frame and hang on the wall. Everyone loved it!

5-    Weekend getaway: no, it does not need to be an expensive trip to a resort in Bora-Bora. Lots of travel companies have amazing deals for weekends. Or, work directly with a small hotel or charming cottage at the beach. And you can make it fun and engaging: make your employees vote for the “Superstar of the quarter”- they will love to receive a prize that was actually awarded by peers.

And so much more: bring a yoga instructor once a week, give movie tickets to the best performer of the week, give them the VIP parking space for a month, free soda and coffee every day, have a nap room, a craft room, a “bring your dog” day. Use your creativity and most importantly, ask them what they would like, what would matter to them.

By rewarding your great employees and also promoting a culture of personal value you will motivate, engage and build loyalty among your employees. You will cultivate a healthy and happy relationship with people to will work not only for their success, but for your company’s as well.

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