Tag Archives: human resources

Did You Know?

Are you ready to learn something today? You may already know this. Allow me to refresh your memory if you do. I am forwarding you a link to a rather startling YouTube video. (It was supposedly a presentation made at this year’s Sony Executive Conference). I found it to be very informative, thought-provoking, and, frankly, hair-raising.

There is something to be learned here. So, please click the following link and take a look. It’s just a few minutes long. (Don’t finish reading my email until after you’ve watched it.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY

Did you watch it? In that case, to quote a line from the video…so what does it all mean?

To me, it means that the world is changing far faster than it did in any of my experiences of the past…and even faster than the life I am experiencing now. As the video says, “These are Exponential Times.” Business and life will never be the same.

In general, most people do not welcome change, but nevertheless, Change Is Here. The way we communicate, conduct business, socialize and even think will be radically impacted. It’s already happening. For example, five years ago, would you have ever believed that your daily newspaper could possibly become a thing of the past?

What does this teach us? For one thing, that we can’t take our industry or business for granted. I once attended a seminar where the speaker—a Boeing executive—made a remarkable statement. He said that, in a competitive society, if a company wants to stay in business, it must essentially destroy its own product. If it didn’t create its next-generation replacement, the competition would.

Metaphorically, businesses are often compared to ships. Small businesses are small, zippy PTs; large corporations are looming, ponderous aircraft carriers. Which one has the ability to change course rapidly? Yes, the PT boat. That’s good news for us. With the right attitude and people, small businesses have the ability to feel the waves, grab the wheel, and change course.

Today, it’s imperative that organizations have the right people, ones who can “feel the waves” and are willing to make changes. Technology has increased our communication capabilities, but at the expense of personal relationships. It is so much easier to email or text than to call someone on your cell phone or—Heaven forbid!—pay them a visit.

But, can you really achieve a vibrant exchange of ideas through texts and emails? (For example, my fingers are already tired from keying this in, and they can’t begin to keep pace with my brain.) Isn’t it more productive to have an actual, real-time dialogue, where questions are raised and answers are offered, and in the process, all kinds of thought-provoking ideas are explored?

So, did you know…
•     You can learn more by getting out of the office?
•     You can learn more by talking with other business owners?
•     You really can change, when you have support from your peers?
•     An exchange of ideas can create an epiphany?

I know, I know…I am hardly unbiased on this subject.  After all, I facilitate peer groups. But it is because of that experience that I can say with absolute certainty: Peer power is powerful enough to help you change with the times, even if you’re inherently resistant to it. It can give you insight and the initiative you need to actually make those changes necessary to your firm’s survival.

For more information about this concept, visit http://propres.com/. If you are interested in learning more of my thoughts, you can read excerpts from my book—or even buy it–at http://www.bestsmallbizsecrets.com/.

The Power of Habit – Part 3

Starbucks And The Habit Of Success—When Willpower Becomes Automatic:

Starbucks has succeeded in teaching life skills to its employees,  All new employees spent at least fifty hours in Starbucks classrooms, and dozens more at home with Starbucks’ workbooks and taking to the Starbucks mentors assigned to them.

At the core of that education is an intense focus on an all-important habit:  willpower.  Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important Keystone habit for individual success.  Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.  And the best way to strengthen willpower and give students a let up, studies indicate, is to make it into a habit.

Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks told the author, “We’re in the people business serving coffee.  We’re not in the coffee business serving people.  The solution Starbucks discovered, was turning self-discipline into an organization habit.

This enabled Starbucks to effectively successfully achieve its rapid expansion.

Willpower isn’t just a skill.  It’s a muscle, like muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.

What employees really needed were clear instructions about how to deal with inflection points.  So the company developed new training materials that spelled out routines for employees to use when they hit rough patches.  The manuals taught workers how to respond to specific cues, such as a screaming customer or a long line at a cash register.  Mangers drilled employees, role playing with them until the responses became automatic.  The company identified specific rewards—grateful customers, praise from a manager—that employees could look to as evidence of a job well done.

Starbucks taught their employees how to handle moments of adversity by giving them willpower habit loops.  This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.  In essence, they decided ahead of time how to react to a cue.  When the cue arrived, the routine occurred.

Studies have shown some people were able to create willpower habits relatively easily.  Others, however, struggled no matter how much training and support they received.  What was causing the difference?

When people are asked to do something that takes self-control, if they think they are doing it for personal reason—if they feel like it’s a choice or something they enjoy because it helps someone else—it’s much less taxing.  If they feel like they have no autonomy, if they are just following order, their willpower muscles get tired much faster.

For companies and organizations, this insight has enormous implication.  Simply giving employees a sense of agency—a feeling that they are in control, that they have genuine decision-making authority—can radically increase how much energy and focus they bring to their jobs.  Giving employees a sense of control improved how much self-discipline they brought to their jobs.  People want to be in control of their lives.

The Power Of A Crisis:

Crises are so valuable, in fact, that sometimes it’s worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down.  Good leaders seize crises to remake organization habits.  In fact, crisis are such valuable opportunities that a wise leader often prolongs a sense of emergency on purpose.

A company with dysfunctional habits can’t turn around simply because a leader orders it.  Rather, wise executives seek out moments of crisis—or create the perception of crisis—and cultivate the sense that something must change, until everyone is finally ready to overhaul the patterns they live with each day.  Rahm Emanuel stated,” You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

The Power of Habits – Part 2

The Golden Rule of Habit Change:  Use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit.  Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and the reward stay the same.  But to change an old habit, you must address an old craving.  You have to keep the same cues and rewards as before, and feed the craving by inserting a new routine.

Asking patients to describe what triggers their habitual behavior is called awareness training and it’s the first step in habit reversal training.  It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it.  The brain can be reprogrammed.  You just have to be deliberate about it.

If you identify the cues and rewards you can change the routine,  at least, most of the time.  For some habits, however, there’s one other ingredient that’s necessary.  Belief.

The precise mechanisms of belief are still little understood.  But we do know that for habits to permanently change, people must believe that change is feasible. This process makes AA so effective.  Belief is also easier when it occurs within a community.  A community can be as few as two people.

The Habits of Successful Organizations—Keystone Habits:

Paul O’Neil—1987 became CEO of Aluminum Company of American, Alcoa. His  opening address to Wall Street, “I want to talk to you about worker safety.”

So how did O’Neill make one of the largest, stodgiest and most potentially dangerous companies into a profit machine and a bastion of safety?  By attacking one habit and then watching the changes ripple through the organization.

O’Neil figured his top priority would have to be something that everybody—unions and executives—could agree was important.  He needed a focus that would bring people together that would give him leverage to change how people worked and communicated.

O’Neil believed that some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization.  Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives.  These are “Keystone Habits,” and they can influence how people work, eat, play. Live, spend, and communicate.  Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.  Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers.  The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.

If you focus on changing or cultivating Keystone habits, you can cause widespread shifts.  However, identifying Keystone habits is tricky.  To find the, you have to know where to look.  Detecting Keystone habits means searching out certain characteristics.  Keystone habits offer what is know within academic literature as small wins.  They help other habits to flourish by creating new structures, and they establish cultures where change becomes contagious.  On an individual basis, exercise can be a Keystone habit.

Small Wins are a steady application of a small advantage.  Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favors another small win.  Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging advantages into patters that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

Small wins do not combine in a neat, linear, serial form, with each step being demonstrable step closer to some predetermined goal.  More common is the circumstance where small wins are scattered.

 

The Power of Habits – Part 1

All of life, is but a mass of habits.  Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not.  They’re habits.  And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.  One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the action people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.  Only in the past two decades have scientists and marketers really begun understanding how habits work—more important, how they change.  Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.

When you woke up this morning, what did you do first?  Which route did you drive to work?  When you got to your desk, did you deal with e-mail, chat with a colleague, or jump into writing a memo?  When you got home what did you do first?  Your actions were habits.

The Habits of Individuals:  The habit Loop—How Habits Work: 

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.  Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.

“An efficient brain also allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and eventually airplanes and video games.

But conserving mental effort is tricky, because if our brains power down at the wrong moment, we might fail to notice something important, such as a predator.  So our basal ganglia have devised a lever system to determine when to let habits take over.  It’s something that happens whenever a chunk of behavior starts or ends.”

The process in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine is known as chunking and it is the root of how habits are formed.  This process within our brains is a three-step loop.  First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.  Then, there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.  Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.  The discovery of the habit loop is so important is that it reveals a basic truth:  When habit emerges, the brain

stops fully participating in decision making.  It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.  So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.  Habits never really disappear.  They’re encoded into the structures of our brain.  The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.

This explains why it’s so hard to create exercise habits, for instance, or change what we eat.  By the same rule, though, if we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors—if we take control of the habit loop—we can force those bad tendencies into the background.  And once someone creates a new pattern, studies have demonstrated, going for a jog or ignoring the doughnuts becomes as automatic as any other habit.

Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life.  People whose basal ganglia are damaged by injury or disease often become mentally paralyzed.  Without our basal ganglia, we lose access to the hundreds of habits we rely on every day.  As long as your basal ganglia is intact and the cues remain constant, the behavior will occur unthinkingly.

Researchers have learned that cues can be almost anything, from a visual trigger such as a candy bar or a television commercial.  Routines can be incredibly complex or fantastically simple.  Rewards can range from food or drugs that cause physical sensations, to emotional payoffs such as the feelings of pride that accompany praise or self-congratulations.

Habits are powerful, but delicate.  They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed.  They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts.  They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.  By learning to observe the cues and rewards we can change the routines.

The Craving Brain—How To Create New Habits:

Claude Hopkins, a famous marketer in the early 1900’s, was best known for a series of rules he coined explaining how to create new habits among consumers.  These rules would transform industries and eventually became conventional wisdom among marketers.  Throughout his career one of his signature tactics was to find simple triggers to convince consumers to use his products every day.  Craving, it turns out, is what makes cues and rewards work.  That craving is what powers the habit loop.

His most famous product was Pepsodent toothpaste.  This was at a time people did not use toothpaste.  The cue he related to was film on teeth and the reward was a

bright smile and the routine was to use Pepsodent toothpaste everyday.  Hopkins first rule was to find a simple and obvious cue and secondly, clearly define the rewards, and lastly to generate a craving.

Habits are so powerful because they create neurological cravings.   Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence.  But as we associate cues with certain reward, a subconscious craving emerges in our brain starts the habit loop spinning.

Craving example—email.  When a computer chimes or a smartphone vibrates with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the momentary distraction that opening an email provides.  That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until a meeting is filled with antsy executives checking their buzzing smartphones under the table, even if they know it’s probably only their latest fantasy football results.  (On the other hand, if someone disables the buzzing—and thus, removes the cue—people can work for hours without thinking to check their in-boxes.)

Countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last.  Only when your brain starts expecting the reward—craving the endorphins or sense of accomplish.  The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.  Craving is an essential part of the formula for creating new habits.  And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.

The Golden Rule Of Habit Change:

Tony Dungy’s coaching philosophy and belief “the key to winning was changing players’ habits.  He wanted to get players to stop making so many decision during a game.  He wanted them to react automatically, habitually.  If he could instill the right habits his team would win.  Champions don’t do extraordinary things, they do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react.  They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

So rather than creating new habits, Dungy was going to change players old ones.  And the secret to changing old habits was using what was already inside players’ heads.  Habits are a three-step loop—the cue, the routine, and the reward—but Dungy wanted to only to attack the middle step, the routine.  He knew from experience that it was easier to convince someone to adopt a new behavior if there was something familiar at the beginning and the end.

How to Diffuse Workplace Conflict

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.

Generations in the Workforce

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.)

How to Recruit Top Talent

recruitingThe Smart, Easy Way to Recruit Top Talent

By Ray Silverstein

Recently, we discussed how the key to making successful hires is to target applicants who share your core values.

Today, we ask: why wait for those hires to come to you?

The smartest, easiest way to identify great potential employees is ‘24/7/365 recruiting.’ It’s simple: even when you’re not actively hiring, keep your eyes open for people who impress you, and get their contact information as you go.

It’s like you’re building your own major league baseball team. You’re always scouting at some level, and you keep a running roster of possibilities. So when it’s time to trade-up, you have a leg up.

24/7/365 recruiting comes down to being observant and building a few good habits, which include:

• Always carry business cards. When you meet an exceptional worker, give him a card and request his. Tell him upfront that he impressed you, and while you don’t have openings now, you’d like to explore future possibilities. At the very least, you’ll make someone’s day.

• Keep your eyes open at trade shows, chamber of commerce meetings, not-for-profit gatherings, etc. At these events, you have a golden opportunity to observe a potential candidate’s skills, work ethic, and communication style, without a formal interview or aptitude test.

• When calling on customers, take a peek at the sign-in book. It’s a goldmine. You just may find an experienced sales pro or two who already know your client or target market.

• Review your company website. Does it do a good job of reflecting your goals, culture, and core values? Make sure it does, because it will draw the kinds of candidates you seek to you.

• Research your market. Visit the websites of competitors or firms that resemble yours in terms of distribution or skill sets. Some companies list key employees on their sites. Use the wonders of LinkedIn to learn more about them.

• When you come across finished work that impresses you—say, a highly-effective website or print marketing piece—find out who did the work and take note. When you’re ready to start a project like that, you already have someone in mind for it.

I have a great example of the benefits of 24/7/365 recruiting. One of my peer group members, Joe, often grabs lunch at a sandwich shop near his company.

Over time, Joe became impressed by one of the shop clerks, Adam. Adam was very careful, and cordial, and took his job very seriously.

At the time, Joe was dissatisfied with the performance and attitude of one of his employees. He found himself wishing he could find more employees like Adam.

Then Joe realized that, instead of finding someone like Adam, he could hire the young man himself.

Out of courtesy, Joe asked the sandwich shop owner if he would mind if he approached Adam about a potential job. As it happened, the owner was all for it. The young man’s wife was pregnant and he knew Adam was ready and eager for a bigger job and paycheck.

So Joe was able to let his non-performer go and hire Adam without missing a beat. Thanks to his proactive recruiting, what could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

And that’s how 24/7/365 recruiting puts you ahead of the curve.

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. 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.