Preaching Technology

October 11, 2009

If you are a regular to my blogs you know I turn everyday experiences into lessons for leadership, honest communications and employee engagement. Opening my Sunday paper today was the following headline and story:

PRAISE FOR TECHNOLOGY
Tweeting during church services gets blessing of pastors.

Now I am not preaching to bring religion into the workplace, but there sure is a lesson here, one I have been preaching….You have got to set up “listening stations” at work.  Just like the leaders of this church, you as leaders of your congregation of employees must recognize and begin to address how you are going to hear from them.  It’s not business as usual anymore. And here is a quote from the article:

“The nondenominational church recently started a new service encouraging parishioners to tweet their thoughts, reflections and questions in 140 characters or less via Twitter, the popular micro­blogging social network.”

Wow!  How many of you would have expected that one?  Now I am not saying tell your rabbi, pastor, priest or minister to take up tweeting, or to encourage tweets during their service (but feel free to forward them this blog), but it sure is an eye-opener that life is changing everywhere, even in places of worship!

So here I go again, preaching to you about the multi-gen workforce you can’t ignore!  I said it before, and I will say it again, “How about using Twitter during a town hall meeting.”  Or better yet, use it every day as a feedback mechanism, let’s just rename the suggestion box “TOFI”—Twitter Opportunities for Improvement!  Sure, this concept might be difficult for you to grasp but I am asking you, no begging you, to at least consider it.

What’s your soap-box issue regarding your workplace? Let’s start a conversation to see what you feel needs immediate fixing!  Take a minute and write something in the “reply” section of this blog posting!

Eileen Weisman is a preacher of using technology to hear employees, a communication strategist, a dog-lover, an avid recycler, and a mother of the bride.

Contact The W Group to discuss opportunities for improving the listening environment within your company or organization.

Advertisements

Read the rest of this entry »

Listen to the Kid, and Listen!

September 24, 2009

W small only

At what age do we begin to learn from our children?  My friend was babysitting her grandson while she was trying to work from home.  The phone rang, and she took the call.  The very smart three-year old tugged at her and said, “You need to be with me, not on the phone.” grandma

It reminded me of the saying “Be here now.”  Have you heard that one? My own daughter has reminded me of the importance of having a meaningful conversation, a dialogue where each party is truly listening, tuned in, and not focusing on what the response should be, and what they want to say.  How well do you listen?  Are you ready with your response as soon as you hear a few phrases from the speaker?

Listening skills are critical in any relationship, especially in business where using both your ears can help you learn what the mood of the workplace is currently.  The expression, Management by Walking Around (MBWA) was the cornerstone of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett’s management style as they grew their company, HP.  Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard created a management style that formed the basis of HP‘s famously open corporate culture and influenced scores of other companies in the way they created trust in their organizations. MBWA is marked by personal involvement, good listening skills and the recognition that “everyone in an organization wants to do a good job.”[1]Ultimately, MBWA morphed into Management by Objective (MBO), which gives employees the flexibility to create business objectives for themselves that work towards the company’s goals.  MBO were another sign of trust in the HP workplace. 

Trust in the workplace translates into more productivity.  If you are in marketing, or perhaps a department head, before you begin any campaign, go back to the basics.  Start by collecting data; you need a baseline of opinions and attitudes. With your new knowledge you can assess the situation and create a more powerful program, a program with punch, and pizzazz that will resonate with your employees.  If you have carefully listened to your constituents, your campaign will achieve its goals and behaviors should change.

Some Quick Listening Tips

  • Be an active listener.  Be tuned in to the speaker, show interest
    • Maintain eye contact
    • Nod your head periodically
    • Concentrate on what the speaker is saying and not saying (“listening” to body language is also important)
  • Create a safe listening environment
    • Have an open door policy
    • Practice MBWA
    • Have an email address that you respond to personally and in a timely manner
    • Have town hall meetings with question cards—if time does not permit answering all at the meeting keep your promise to respond in the company newsletter, or the company intranet

And remember the old saying, “We were given two ears and one mouth because listening is twice as hard as speaking.”

Tell us about the good or bad listening environment where you work!


[1] http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/histnfacts/timeline/hist_40s.html

________________________________________________________

Eileen Weisman is a communication strategist, a good listener, a recycling expert, a dog lover, and a mother of the bride.  Contact The W Group to discuss opportunities for improving the listening environment within your company or organization.

If you do, you should take the approach that the survey is only your first step of assessing attitudes, behaviors and engagement levels.  By administering the survey you have created an expectation for those who participated in the survey that you are going to do something with their opinions and comments.  They are wondering if you are truly going to listen to them, look for trends, and announce your strategy for addressing these opportunities for improvement.

What you do with the information from an opinion survey reveals what kind of leader you are. 

I am sorry if that sounds like I am challenging you, but if there is no follow-through after you ask the questions, you have just probably created a major morale minimizer within your organization!

Unfulfilled expectations reduce satisfaction, and reduced satisfaction can result in reduced business.  With employees that means lower employee engagement.  With your board and donors it could mean less underwriting, less contributions, and less engagement as well.

And that brings us to the importance of communicating within your organization.  I have said it before, and I will say it again—tell it like it is—honesty translates into respect! Use the survey as your opportunity to show commitment to the mission of your company and your organization.  Use the survey to address what has been confirmed as important issues.  Use the survey to celebrate the positive and use the survey to challenge everyone to engage in suggesting strategies or tactics for resolving these important issues.  You have empowered participants to share their ideas; now empower them to help make your organization the benchmark of its peers!

Thinking surveys cost too much money to administer is a myth. These surveys can be done for a minimal cost.  Getting started can be done quite easily and The W Group would be pleased to assist you in launching a survey, including results analysis, and suggested strategies for incorporating your results into action!

One final comment: consider surveying twice a year.  Why? Because sometimes you get people on a bad day, sometimes people can’t participate for some reason, and by surveying twice a year you address the first two reasons, and you now have two data points to begin using metrics to confirm if your action plan is taking affect.

Remember, just asking people to complete a survey sends a good message. Creating an action plan to illustrate you actually listened to what they said is “priceless.”

 

 

The answer is quite simple: Senior management is responsible for getting the word out to everyone, no matter the size of the business or organization.

 

Maybe your business isn’t global or your business doesn’t have thousands of employees. Perhaps your organization is so small that a formal internal communications strategy isn’t necessary; I don’t agree.

 

Whether you consider yourself a big business or a small business as long as you have employees or associates you need to be certain you have a formal strategy of communicating to those who assist you in the success of your operation.  Hearing important information from the top of the organization carries much weight and is the sign of strong leadership.

 

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), the man often cited as the inventor of modern management, would tell you to ask employees what needs to be done to make the business a success.  He would say to respect everyone’s ideas, learn from them, and incorporate as many ideas that make sense. Productivity and performance will improve when each employee feels their ideas are being considered.

 

According to Intel Corporation’s co-founder Andrew S. Grove: “Like many philosophers, he [Drucker] spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions; they did mine over decades.”[1]

 

If your organization is small, speak to as many of your associates as is possible.  If you don’t have weekly staff meetings consider creating one that is interactive, action-oriented, and goal-driven.  No one wants to sit in a weekly meeting to hear information that could have been read in an email. Your personal delivery of news coupled with asking for input drives associate engagement.

 

And if you are a large company with multiple locations, even internationally dispersed, communicating successfully is possible. It begins with senior management at each location listening to those in the workplace.

 

So whether you are a big or small organization, internal communications begins with senior management listening, speaking in a way that can be understood in the lunchroom, and ensuring there is a process in place for everyone to understand the business and the business needs.

 

Be sure to create avenues for employees to be heard.  Consider an employee opinion survey to be administered at least two times a year.  Hold town hall meetings and measure their success.  Lead by example; listen to your associates and they will listen to you.  Always remember that successful communications is a two-way process.  And successful businesses have strong strategic communication plans.

 

Eileen Weisman is a communications strategist who designs successful communication environments for clients, ensuring that important messages are heard, visible, and understood. Her business philosophy is “You can improve performance by improving communications.”

 

 


We hear a lot these days about the popularity of social networking.What makes them so attractive?  I can define their success in one word: community.

A sense of community builds a sense of belonging.  Members of online communities such as Facebook, Linkedin, and mySpace define their success by their number of friends or connections.  Visiting social networks provide an outlet for people’s emotions and for sharing what’s important in their life at that moment. But will a list of friends truly define a commuity in the workplace?

You could build an online community at work, but most business leaders are still uncomfortable with that option.  Here is an easier, cost-effective solution, that your employees will support willingly, if well chosen. 

Find a project in your community that generates a sense of spirit, a sense of shared purpose, and a sense of belonging among your employees.  Being a good corporate citizen doesn’t have to cost you money.  Your employees can tutor in a local school, clean up an empty lot, participate in Habitat for Humanity, organize a food drive. The possibilities are endless.

Truly embrace the concept of being a good corporate citizen. You will begin to see behavior from your workforce that benefits your bottom line.maslow4

According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs.  His hierarchy illustrates that lower needs like safety and security must be satisfied before attending to higher needs like esteem and self actualization.

Just look at the Maslow pyramid. If you want your workforce to be creative, to solve problems, and be confident, you must meet those lower needs first.

Building a community in the workplace must be grounded in your company’s mission and core values.  Your employees will respect your company more, and respect the leadership for creating an environoment of commitment to their community.  And with that, you create a stronger community in the workplace where values are shared and productivity improves.

During these turbulent and unique economic times, leaders must create a reality that provides basics such as safety and security, and a sense of belonging.  Otherwise, workers will not focus on the job at hand, but rather on protecting their personal needs. Move your organization to the top of Maslow’s pyramid and experience the optimal results of community.