Category Archives: Managing Employees

Are Your Habits Helping or Hurting Your Business?

a3feAre Your Habits Helping or Hurting Your Business?

By Ray Silverstein

Right now, many of us are wrestling with the personal habits we resolved to break or build back on January 1, like losing weight and giving up smoking. But what about your business habits? Have you given them any thought?

Like it or not, we are slave to our habits. According to research, a whopping 40% of our daily activities are habitual, not things we consciously choose to do. So chances are, if you put in an eight-hour workday, you’re spending three hours and twelve minutes of it on auto-pilot.

That’s 16 hours—two who eight-hour days—every single work week!

That can be good or bad, depending on your habits. If you have built good, productive habits (following up with prospects, monitoring sales activity), they’ll serve you well.

But if you’ve developed unproductive habits (checking emails continuously, tending to mundane tasks), your habits may be wasting prime work time.

Habits are extremely…well, habit-forming. Our brains are hardwired to create habits, according to Charles Duhigg, author of the fascinating book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

If you’re trying to grow your business, it’s important to understand what habits drive you, so you can either put them to work for you or change them. The first step? Identify them. Learn what they are.

According to Duhigg, a habit consists of a three-step loop:

  • The cue – the trigger that prompts your brain to begin a specific routine.
  • The routine – the activity itself, which may be physical, mental, or emotional.
  • The reward – the payoff for performing the routine, which gives your brain a reason to remember the habit.

Habits are powered by cravings. For example, I’ve developed a habit of craving a chocolate chip cookie at 2 a.m. My habit breaks down like this:

  • The cue – I wake up at 2 a.m.
  • The routine – I eat a chocolate chip cookie.
  • The reward – It tastes good. I feel good.

Most habits don’t go away by themselves. If I want to break my cookie habit, I can start by recognizing the cue for what it is when I wake up. I can change my routine, switching out a cookie for a piece of fruit. It still tastes good, though not as good, but now part of my reward is knowing that I’m eating something healthy instead of something less healthy.

It’s the same thing in business. For example, when we discussed habits in one of my PRO peer groups, one business owner—who had previously expressed concern that his close rates were dropping—had a moment of enlightenment.

He realized that he had fallen into a bad habit at sales presentations. Instead of engaging prospects in conversation, he would immediately launch into a features-and-benefits recitation.

It was driving people away.

His cue was getting in front of a prospect; his reward was sailing through the presentation. But a better reward would be closing more deals. Now, he is consciously changing his routine, engaging prospects in real conversation and making his presentations more organic.

So here’s my challenge to you: identify your good and bad business habits. Figure out what triggers them and how you can modify them to better serve your business.

In other words, make it a habit to pay attention to your habits.

 

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise

Diffuse Workplace Conflict

conflict - handsHow to Diffuse Workplace Conflict and Create Consensus

By Ray Silverstein

I recently conducted a workshop on a highly emotional topic: humans in the workplace. After all, every human being—employees and bosses—shows up for work accompanied by their unique drives, triggers, and tendencies. All things considered, it’s a wonder we get any work done at all.

My message to the attendees may be of value to you, too. As your company leader, it’s your job to boost productivity, which means it’s also your job to diffuse workplace conflicts and create consensus, keeping your teamed focused on achieving your goals.

There are many theories on how to accomplish this. Based on what I’ve learned from my small business peer groups and my own experience as a CEO, I’ve identified up four main strategies for dealing with difficult people and creating an emotionally-healthy, productive workplace. I’ve summarized these briefly below, and you can download my complete PowerPoint presentation at http://propres.com/difficult-people-ppt/.

Understand Yourself

Do you know what makes you tick? Do you know what ticks you off? The best managers are those who are aware of their emotions but not enslaved by them.

Good managers typically have a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)—that is, a high level of self-awareness regarding their emotional reactions and the emotions of others. Self-awareness is the first step toward self-management, the conscious management of one’s behavior.

To raise your EQ, check out Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Understand Others

Good managers also have good social awareness. They not only pick up on other people’s emotions but know why they act the way they do. More and more employers are using personality assessment programs to better understand how their employees think.

One program I like is the DiSC® personality assessment system. DiSC is based on a four-part model of human behavior: the Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Compliant traits. The DiSC test measures patterns of behavior, and then creates a personality profile that reflects an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and drives.

Use Your Understanding to Manage Behavior

The whole point of understanding your emotions is that it will allow you to manage your behavior consciously and positively, as opposed to reacting emotionally in the moment.

The whole point of understanding the emotions of others is that it will allow you to behave in a manner that will get the desired response from others. In the workplace, this often comes down to diffusing conflict and creating consensus among employees.

Remember the old adage about counting to 10 when you’re angry? Turns out, it’s right on target.

For more about managing behavior, read Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

Use Your Understanding to Hire Wisely

You can also apply these principals to make more successful hires. Instead of hiring new employees on the basis of a resume, look for people whose values and communication styles are harmonious with your own. Do they hold themselves accountable? Will they “get” your company culture?

If you’re seriously interested in a candidate, you can use a personality assessment to see if they’d make a good match for the position and your company. By choosing the right people, you can proactively diffuse conflict before it happens and create consensus from the get-go. Which means you’ll have to do a little less of the other three strategies further down the road.

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise

Turn Problems into Opportunities

PRO-Success-225x220“Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”

This is one of those standby expressions that small business owners frequently say to their employees. It recently came up in one of my PRO peer groups. The question was: is it a smart thing, or is it a dumb thing?

At first glance, the phrase implies that the employer has mastered the art of delegation and empowered his or her employees to take independent action. So, it’s a smart thing, right?

Actually, the conclusion we came to is: no, not when you really think about it.

  • Do you really not want to know what’s going on in your business, especially problems?
  • Do you really want to encourage your employees not to communicate with you? To not use you as a resource?

The Art of Delegation

Delegating to employees is a healthy strategy, yes. But completely removing yourself from your business and your staff is not going to help either one grow.

But delegating to the correct degree is a tricky skill for many small business owners to develop, because it goes against their entrepreneurial roots.

Many young entrepreneurs are control freaks in the early days of their business, and it serves them well.  They want to manage every aspect of their operation and jump on every little problem. It’s a good thing when you’re getting started.

But then, as the business grows beyond their capabilities, they recognize the need to hire a staff and delegate. But some can’t let anything go and become overbearing workaholics; while others let everything go and get out of touch with their own business.

The trick is to find the right balance. The right approach is to encourage employees to bring you their problems, whether they have solutions or not. Problem solving should be encouraged, but good communication should be encouraged more. That’s how you create a foundation of trust.

Seizing Teachable Moments

Every time an employee brings a problem to your attention, it’s an opportunity for a mini training session.

No, you don’t want your staff bringing you every trivial little issue. But it’s up to you to define what’s important and communicate those limits to your employee.

For example, one of my peer group members had a new service rep. The rep was having trouble resolving customer complaints, and ended up bringing everything to the boss. It was time-consuming.

His solution was to define the limits of her decision-making authority. If it was less than a $100 problem, she could make the call. If it was more than a $100 problem, they’d resolve it together.

At the end of every week, he had her provide a spreadsheet of the problems and her resolutions, so he could confirm she was on the right track. As she grew more knowledgeable and confident, he increased her decision-making dollar max.

In other words, the problems became a springboard for employee training and development. For more ways to turn business “lemons” into lemonade, check out my website, www.bestsmallbizsecrets.com.

Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise

Managing Employees: Different Generations, Different Motivations

One of the advantages of running a small business is that you can manage your employees on an individualized basis. A savvy boss identifies each worker’s hot buttons and work style, and manages accordingly. And if you’re super-savvy, you’ll factor in the cultural generation your employees belong to as well.

Like it or not, the era we’re raised in shapes our attitudes and behaviors. While stereotyping is not a good thing, several recent workplace studies indicate that employees of the same generation often share common values and traits, which set them apart from other generations.

This is information you can use to keep your employees motivated and challenged. You can also use it to create a more harmonious, collaborative culture. Because when employees clash or fail to communicate, it may be generational differences at work.

We’ve been discussing this topic in my small business peer advisory groups. After measuring some of the research against our own managerial experiences, these are the profiles we agreed on regarding different workforce generations.

Generation Y (aka Millennial) Workers (born 1978-1997) – Chances are, the youngest members of your workforce are adept with technology and most comfortable when multi-tasking. They’re fluent in social media, but may need guidance setting boundaries. Many Gen Y’ers chaff under rigid management, so if you want to keep them happy, offer a flexible work environment. They enjoy working in teams, but prefer communicating via brief emails and voicemails rather than traditional meetings.

Generation X Workers (born 1965-1977) – Many Gen X workers tend to be independent minded. They may question established work processes and challenge the status quo, which can either be a healthy thing or a source of conflict with colleagues. Gen X’s gravitate toward flexibility and informality (they also tend to look at meetings as a waste of time), but do want feedback and recognition for a job well done.

Baby Boomer Workers (born 1946-1964) – Typically, Baby Boomer employees work hard in the conventional sense, and are proud of it. Boomers tend to measure dedication in terms of putting in long hours (after all, they were the inspiration for the term ‘workaholic’). Boomers often prefer communicating face-to-face or via meetings rather than electronically, and would rather be rewarded with a bonus than comp time.

One generational group isn’t better or harder working than the other; it’s more a matter of style. However, by recognizing what makes different generations tick, you can manage and motivate more effectively and get the best from all of your people.

One key thing to remember: you belong to one of these generations, too, and it undoubtedly impacts your managerial mindset to one degree or another. The more open you can be to work styles unlike your own, the more it can benefit your business.

Employee differences enrich your workforce, and generational diversity is a good thing. It’s your job to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal, even if they’re getting there by different routes. (Speaking of goals: be a savvy boss and request my free Goal-Setting Worksheet! Email me at Ray@ProPres.com.)

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Get the new Small Business Toolbook – 25+ years of Advisory Group Expertise