Do you wish you could offer a more comprehensive benefits package to your employees?
Do you know your strengths?
I recently had the opportunity to work with ten small business owners and the topic was a review of one of my favorite books, StrengthsFinder 2.0. This group of business professionals is savvy, educated and self aware, so I was really looking forward to an insightful discussion.
The conversation was fascinating. My first question to the group was this: “How are your individual strengths going to help your business achieve its goals?” The room went silent. Only crickets could be heard. I had to move the discussion in another direction, so I asked: “OK, the book identified your strengths, but what do those words mean to you? Are they correct?” The business owners began to fidget in their chairs and returned blank stares in my direction. This is when I knew, as a facilitator, I needed to strike a different chord!
I asked for a volunteer. I asked a man, an owner of a small general contracting firm, if we could discuss his specific strengths. He mentioned a few of his strengths outlined by the book and then the group chimed in and validated what they also viewed as his strong suits. We matched those strengths against what he set out as his corporate objectives for 2011. What was interesting was that only a few of his strengths were aligned to the goals he needed to achieve for his company. This realization led to interesting conversation among the group. And all of us were surprised at how many of our business goals did not align to what we were best at as business owners.
So now what? I would encourage all business owners and executives to do this exercise and do it with someone you trust, so you get an accurate view of what you are truly good at. Refer to the Marcus Buckingham book Now Discover Your Strengths. In it Marcus clearly outlines how you can find what your strengths are. And then map those strengths to your business objectives. If they aren’t aligned, do this exercise with your team and see where roles and responsibilities may be redistributed.
The Gallup organization also has tremendous resources and data on how a company will experience greater profitability when employees are in positions in which they can play to their strengths. And Marcus Buckingham also has a new book out on this topic,StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution.
Where have you used strength-based leadership before? How has it worked in your organization?
Are you running downhill?
Is it me, or does it seems like everyone is squeezed? Squeezed for time, for quality, for space and for money?
As a small business owner we are faced with challenges every day. Most of them do not even involve the core competency of why we started our own business. From banking, to IT, to HR, to insurance (just to name a few!), our days can be gobbled up by miscellaneous issues that if not addressed can hinder our credit and our ability to run our businesses effectively.
What disturbs me most is the lack of customer service that seems to exist during these interactions. The qualities of friendliness, patience and support seem to be missing. Our vendors are being squeezed by their supervisors to get money, product and service out and it seems to all run down hill. Trust and the desire to help others succeed seem like days of old.
Why? What example are we setting for our teams? How do we treat others and thus what do our employees observe in our behavior? Are we willing to help others and be patient to get the job done right the first time? I love the age old excuse, “I don’t have time to explain.” What people fail to realize is if they took just 3 extra minutes to communicate what they really wanted, they could possibly eliminate hours and hundreds of dollars of rework. Often times, we are our own worst enemies-because we will not take time to make our message clear, we are presented with a product or service that is sub par. We blame others, instead of looking at ourselves and the role we played in that interaction.
So how do you avoid this?
√ Before you ask someone to provide you with a product or service, know what you are asking for, be clear and concise, and take time to answer questions.
√ Listen to the vendors concerns about delivery.
√ Work together to solve problems. Often times, when we put our heads together we come up with a better solution anyway.
In other words, take time to communicate! Show your teams how to deal with vendors through your actions. If they see you putting on the squeeze, they will squeeze others. Think about the long term effects on your brand and reputation when this happens. We need vendors to be successful just as much as we need our clients to be.
Watch Out for a Wake
By Anita Kalin-Grantham, Executive Vice President of Business Development at Diversified Human Resources (DHR).
As we start to emerge from the haze that has covered the business landscape over the past 24 months, we reference things on the surface — politics, economics and their effects on businesses. And sometimes we hear the other stories of the people affected. I have now started to ask if there is a deeper emotional wake to these events that business owners have yet to discover.
An old friend recently called to let me know he was leaving his position. Not for a new job, but for an old job inside his current company. From an org chart point of view, and for anyone looking at the surface of the situation, this would appear to be a demotion or a step back. As I listened to my friend explain the circumstances which had led to his difficult decision, it was far more than a demotion; it was a step to save him.
Our conversation was authentic, pure and honest. He told me that since the downturn in the economy he had seen many friends lose their jobs and struggle greatly to find new ones. Many to this day have not. He talked about the growing pressure put upon him in his position to take on more responsibility, to work faster and better with fewer resources. He found himself working longer hours and, for the first time bringing work home, which in turn caused stress in his home life. Like many, he had taken a sizeable pay cut further adding to the mountain he carried on his shoulders. Then, his ability to be effective in his job started to slip; he was forgetful, tired and overwhelmed and there was a fundamental shift inside him. All of the things we had come to love about his personality seemed to slip away. Less laughter, less light; these characteristics dimmed by the weight he carried.
After reflection, prayer and discussions with his wife, he decided to approach his supervisor and ask to be demoted and moved into a different position. One he had held many years ago and at which he truly excelled. This was a huge risk to take. What if the other position was not available? What if his boss saw him as a failure?
Fortunately, he works for a great company, with a supervisor who is aware of his value. The supervisor had also noticed the changes in his employee and was going to approach him on the topic of changing roles in the near future. I am proud to report that this story has a very happy ending. I wanted to share it because it really made me stop and ask a few questions:
- As a leader, how aware are you of how your staff is doing? On all levels.
- Is your staff full of “yes” people, afraid to voice an opinion in case they might lose their jobs because of the external events of the past 24 months?
- How do we bring trust and honesty back into our workforces?
- How do we continue to make room and save great employees by moving them into roles they may be better at than the one they currently hold?
We all know that turnover is expensive, so it is worth our time to save a performer who can continue to be a great contributor to our company. I don’t know all the answers to these questions, as finish out 2011 I invite you to ponder them with me, ask your teams and bring truth back into business so we can all do our best work.
Anita is the Executive Vice President of Business Development at Diversified Human Resources. Previously Anita divided her time between two roles at Jokake Construction, Chief People Officer and Business Development for Healthcare. She has worked in the field of organizational and leadership development, business development, strategic planning, training and human resources for ten years. Anita has expertise in the construction, manufacturing, and hospitality industries and is passionate about creating great places to work.
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