Author Archives: Caroline Cooper

33 years and counting

Fresh juicy watermelon slice on natural green background close-up with love letters word

After nearly 33 years of marriage (to the same person!) I feel we must be doing something right. I’m sure like most married couples, we don’t declare our undying love every day of the week, but we still know we’re loved and cared for.

Just like in a successful marriage, unless your team feel loved and that you care about them they are unlikely to care much about you. Or your business or your customers.

As it’s Valentine’s Day, instead of half a dozen red roses, here are half a dozen ideas to borrow from a successful marriage to apply to a team.

Something in common

It can be tricky maintaining a relationship when you’ve got nothing in common.

In the workplace the one thing you can have in common is a shared purpose; something you really care about, which energises and excites you, something your team care about too.

When you and your team have clearly defined purpose, it connects you, provides structure and shared goals.

Know what’s important

Recognise there are things which may seem insignificant to you but can mean a lot for others. Understanding what these are others means we can attend to these things, even if they’re not important to us.

Take time to talk to your team members to build relationships and show an interest in them as individuals.

What’s important to them and how do they like to be recognised.

Clarify expectations. Discuss their career goals and aspirations, and where they fit into the vision for the business as a whole.

Get people talking about an accolade or something (or someone) they’re are proud of. Just by getting them talking about these make people feel good as well as helping to get an insight into what’s really important to them.

Be nice to one another

We all have our off days, but behaviour breeds behaviour so in any relationship it’s easy to let that rub off on others.

So, however you’re feeling, a sunny smile and a cheerful good morning sets everyone up for the day.

Treat your team with the same care, courtesy and respect as you’d like them to show you, their colleagues and customers.

Keep your commitments. Do what you say you’ll do. Making a promise that’s important to someone and then not delivering on suggests a lack of respect. If you ever do let someone down, own up and apologise. It’s one thing to make a mistake, and quite another not to admit it (like this morning when hubby said he’d forgotten it’s Valentine’s Day, but offered to take me out for dinner tonight!)

Celebrate the good times

Anyone in a relationship who’s ever forgotten a special anniversary knows how much impact that can have.

It’s just as important with your team. Recognise and celebrate team members’ successes; be they workplace achievements, personal milestones, or proud moments – in, or out of work.

Pay attention

When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time it’s usually easy to sense when something is wrong.

Keep your ears and eyes open so you can spot when things are wrong amongst your team. Provide support when it’s needed and be receptive to when it’s required.

Show you value their opinion; ask their advice next time you’re stumped for an answer. Consult with your team on decisions that affect them; listen to their concerns or ideas.

Ask your team for feedback on how you are doing in their eyes. Be brave; we don’t always want to hear about the things that frustrate your team, particularly if you may be contributing to the problem! Be open to the truth and willing to listen.

Show your appreciation

One of the simplest ways of showing we care is to say thank you.

Failing to give a simple please when asking for something or a thank you when it’s delivered soon gets noted, leaving people feeling unappreciated.

Remind people of the importance and significance of what they do; everyone likes to know the contribution counts and sometimes just a heartfelt thank you at the end of a busy shift or hectic day reminds them.

Be specific; a thank you and an acknowledgement of a job well done is far more sincere if you’re specific about what you’re recognising.

A physical handwritten letter or a thank you card will have 10 times more impact than a mere email.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but they’ll go a long way to show others you care about them, so they’ll care about you. And in this context – care about your business and your customers.



The Breakfast of Champions?

way to go, good job, well done, you're the man, thumbs up, you rock - a set of isolated sticky notes with positive affirmation words

 

This week I’ve had several conversations with clients and their management teams on giving feedback.

The giving and receiving of feedback is probably one of the most vital skills in management.

According to Ken Blanchard: Feedback is the breakfast of champions

The aim of any feedback is to motivate and encourage more of what they do well, and identify areas where there’s room for improvement.

But, many managers shy away from giving feedback for fear that it won’t be accepted, that they will be challenged on it and put in an awkward situation.

Feedback can be badly received when it’s:

  • Too generalised – not specific enough for effective action to be taken
  • Too personal – based on the person, not the issue(s)
  • Based on something which is not within their power to do anything about
  • Heavily critical – without suggestions for improvement
  • Focused exclusively on the past – recent changes/improvements not taken into account
  • Based on hearsay and gossip – not enough facts to support the arguments
  • An excuse to seek blame – rather than seeking solutions

Giving Effective Feedback

The main reasons for giving feedback are: Motivational when you are giving praise for a job well done and developmental when you want to see some improvement.

An effective feedback model is A I D

Action

Impact

Development

This approach is based on fact rather than your personal interpretation, so removes any subjectivity and the potential for conflict.

Here are the three key situations for giving feedback within the workplace.

  1. When all is going well – feedback and praise.
  2. Mixed performance – feedback mixed with positive and corrective action.
  3. When all is not well – feedback to address under-performance.  *(see not below)

This model works equally well in all three.

If it can be argued with it’s poor feedback!

AID in more detail

Action

Report on your observations. What did the person do?

  • Describe as factually as possible i.e. what has been seen or heard
  • Feedback on successes as well as where improvements are needed
  • Build confidence by highlighting positive behaviours and actions
  • Focus on behaviour not personality or attitude
  • How likely is it they can do anything about it? Focus on things which are within their control to change
  • Are you the source of the problem? (e.g. mixed messages, or lack of resources)
  • Take ownership of the feedback, not relying on rumours and hearsay
  • Use pre-determined standards as the yardstick

If you’re feeding back on something that’s been reported to you through a third party (e.g. a customer complaint) focus on what the customer said rather than your interpretation, or the customer’s interpretation of what this means.

For example: instead of saying “you were rude to that customer” (which is someone else’s interpretation) you might say “I’ve had this feedback….” And then state what the customer said. You can follow this up by asking for their view of what happened.

Impact

What impact did their actions have on the result?  This is the reason you’re giving the feedback, because of the end result whether good or bad, or on the process itself e.g. the amount of effort needed on their part to achieve the result, or the impact on others, etc.

  • When it’s good performance, reinforce how positive actions have helped
  • When a change is needed ask them why actions have been ineffective. Getting their view helps get buy-in
  • Link to something that is important to them, rather than what’s important to you
  • Check they understand the implications

Do differently or Develop

  • How can good performance be built upon or emulated?
  • Ask them to suggest improvements or alternatives
  • Focus on what’s missing rather than what’s gone wrong
  • Ensure the outcome you want is clear
  • Check their understanding of what to do in future
  • Demonstrate your confidence in them and offer support

Remember, the purpose of feedback is to enhance performance and motivate.  So, this last stage is important to determine what happens next e.g. develop to make it even better next time around, to correct a mistake or to perfect a process.  Putting the emphasis on what is missing (rather than what is wrong) builds on strengths or positives so is far more likely to engender enthusiasm.

Limit the number of actions you comment on to a level they can handle – far better to give feedback on one key action that they can digest and build on to make a difference, than ten things which leaves the message diluted (and invariably leaves them demotivated).

The more you can involve the team member in the conversation the better.

Use open questions to encourage them to tell you as much as possible, rather than you telling them. For example, you might tell them what your observations have been, but ask them what led to this, what the implications might be and ask them to suggest how they could do things differently in future.

Under-performance*

When all is not well and the prime focus is on under-performance it’s easy to dilute the main message. If you need an improvement, make this clear. Starting and ending with praise (often referred to as the ‘praise sandwich’) can help keep it positive, but can detract from your main message if your intention is improvement.

Your approach

  • Be direct, don’t sugar coat the message.
  • Be sincere.
  • Give praise where it is due.
  • When it’s not, make it clear that you need to see improvements or changes.
  • Avoid being side tracked by any of the feedback blockers.
  • Preserve the other person’s self esteem.
  • Deliver bad news in a non-critical way.
  • Concentrate on your pitch and tone so that valuable information is not seen as a complaint, criticism, whinge or nag.

Timing and planning

  • Give feedback as soon after the event as you can, but ensuring privacy if appropriate (praise in public, reprimand in private).
  • When giving feedback based on a longer period e.g. in an appraisal situation, the more recent the example, the more impact it will have.
  • Ensure the timing is appropriate for the individual to take on it board (e.g. avoid times when they are under tight time pressures, or about to start something for which they need total focus).
  • What condition are you in to give feedback right now – do any of the above apply to you, or are you angry about the way they have handled something and need time to cool off.
  • Consider your motives before giving feedback i.e. what do you want the end result to be?
  • Be prepared for their reaction, and how you will respond.

Given in a constructive way feedback can not only improve performance but can raise morale, build rapport and promote initiative.


The accepted norm

The way it is jared-rice

I sometimes see managers getting very frustrated that people in their team aren’t contributing as much as they’d like.

They know, or at least suspect, they are capable of more, but for some reason some people are just not taking responsibility for making decisions or getting things done.

Ask how they see their role?  They may see things differently.  If you (or maybe your predecessor) have always done the thinking for them, maybe that’s accepted as the way it works.

Do they even recognise that you’d like more from them, and if so what?

When we find ourselves getting frustrated that people are not handling things the way we’d like, it’s time to reflect on how well we’ve explained our expectations, and the training and support we’ve given to help them realise these expectations.

Do they know what ‘great’ looks like so they have something against which to benchmark their performance?

Do they have all the tools, resources and enough time to meet your expectations?

Have we given feedback on how they’re doing and comparing it to their understanding or perception of what’s needed?

Are they kept up to date? Quite apart from the fact no one wants to look uninformed, especially in front of colleagues or customers, unless they know ‘what’s happening where’, it will always be difficult for your team members to make considered decisions.

But probably the most important question to ask is: are we giving them the freedom, confidence and autonomy to do what they’re capable of doing and to fully contribute.

Want to know what the next step is….?



Rotten Apples

Slightly rotten apple isolated on the white background

Understandably, as a business owner you’re focused on your sales and your bottom line.

Yet, you could well have profits sneaking out of the back door unnoticed; many people do.

Profits you could retain with a few simple steps.

Although some businesses have woken up to the benefits of having an engaged team, all the evidence still shows that 2/3 or more of staff are not engaged at work.

Not only is this rather sad …

it’s costing businesses £ millions.

If it makes sense to measure financial and sales performance, it also makes sense to measure engagement.

Peter Drucker said it beautifully: “If you don’t measure it, how can you manage it?

In disguise

However, this isn’t always easy because…

Unfortunately, disengaged employees look the same as everyone else.

They come to work on time, they do what’s asked of them and they say “Yes” to requests.

But…

These are also the people who only do the minimum expected. They rarely go out of their way to support their colleagues, and are liable to whinge the minute your back is turned.  They’re not consciously unhappy, but nor are they enthused, excited or energised about their job.

And the worst of it is …

they are like a rotten apple. If we don’t spot them early they bring everyone else along with them.

So why take that chance?

Why not find out exactly where you are now.

Get your company’s engagement score in under 10 minutes, FREE

https://www.engagementmultiplier.com/en-gb/partner/naturallyloyal/

And stop those profits sneaking out the back door.

After all, all progress starts with the truth.



Tapping into Potential

hide-ignore-caleb-woods-182648One of the key areas of focus for many of my clients is how to increase the retention of their key people.

They are worried about not tapping into their potential and ultimately losing them, which inevitably has a knock-on effect on customer service, productively and profit.

Sadly, some business owners stick their head in the sand because they are afraid of what they might find. As you and I know this ‘head in the sand’ approach simply doesn’t work.

I’m very excited that I’ve recently become involved with a brilliant digital business-transformation platform called Engagement Multiplier. This software provides employees with an easy (and anonymous) way of telling you what they want to tell you about your business. Which gives you some amazing insights into where to focus to increase retention – of both customers and employees, and as a result of that increases and improves profit.

Having seen what it’s been doing for other owner managed businesses I thought you’d be fascinated by this free assessment.

Who it’s for…

Brave, caring, owners of growth focused businesses, so they can improve staff retention, retain customers and increase profits, by leveraging the untapped resource of their people.

If this sounds like you I think you’ll be fascinated by this free assessment.

https://www.engagementmultiplier.com/en-gb/partner/naturallyloyal/
It only takes 10 minutes (or less) to get your company’s engagement score, and discover where to take action to make an impact right away.



How are you doing?

Listen radio12th and final post in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

12. How are you doing?

Ask your team for feedback on how you are doing in their eyes. It can feel uncomfortable to give feedback to the boss, so ask in a more conversational way such as “What could I be doing to make your job easier?”

Be brave. We don’t always want to hear about the things that frustrate your team, particularly if you may be contributing to the problem! Be open to the truth and willing to listen.

Create the opportunity for people to give anonymous feedback. People may be afraid to say what they really think if they’re concerned about being labelled a problem or complainer.

Ask for feedback regularly. Things change and problems can fester.

Accept feedback with good grace, and thank them for an honest response. Address concerns. This doesn’t mean that you have to resolve every personal whim, but it means identifying trends, recurring problems or prioritising what needs attention.

Communicate progress. If people have taken the time to let you know how they feel let them know what and how you are addressing any issues or following through on their suggestions.

Action point:

If you consider yourself to be a brave, caring owner of a growth focused business, I think you’ll be fascinated by this FREE assessment.

Get your company’s engagement score on 10 minutes or less.

https://www.engagementmultiplier.com/en-gb/partner/naturallyloyal/

It only takes 10 minutes (or less) to get your company’s engagement score, and discover where to take action to make an impact right away.



Your customers’ journey

Customer Journey Photo by mantas-hesthaven-135478Day 11 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

11. Your customers’ journey

There will always be little tweaks you can make to improve your service.

If January is a quiet month for you, now’s a perfect time to for you and your team to review your customer journey and all the various touch points your customers experience.

What feedback have you had from customers recently, either directly or via social media? What patterns or trends are there?

How well do each of your team members (both customer facing and back of house) appreciate all the customer touch points.

They will frequently pick up on opportunities to improve the customer’s overall experience, or where you can add value or make recommendations to customers.

Action point: Give each of your team a section of the customer journey to review from a customer’s perspective. What would they change if they could?



Systems and resources

system daria-nepriakhina-474036Day 10 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

10. Systems and resources

How often have we heard the phrase “I’m sorry, the system won’t allow me to do that.”?

Do you have any systems in place which make life difficult for your team members?

Poor systems can be frustrating for team members, but also impact productivity, the customer experience and ultimately your bottom line.

Here are a few to look out for:

  • No system in place for routine tasks so staff reinvent the wheel every time they carry out similar tasks.
  • Not fully understood, so not followed
  • Over complicated or cumbersome
  • Too much red tape or to-ing and fro-ing that slows everything down
  • Unworkable due to lack of time, right equipment, tools, or products

Poor systems or a lack of resources inevitably puts extra pressure on the team, particularly when there is a direct impact on customers…

Resulting in an inconsistent level of service, leaving the customers frustrated or disappointed.

It’s easy for us to become oblivious of how ineffective a system works or poor the equipment when we’re not using it every day. So, ask your team for their observations and feedback.

Very often the simplest of modifications is all that’s needed to make all the difference.

 



Learn from Mistakes

Mistake Photo by Estée Janssens on UnsplashDay 9 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

9. Learn from Mistakes

In any business there are times when things don’t go according to plan.

Review some of the things that have not gone to plan over the past year or even the past few weeks.

Rather than dwelling on the negatives, reflect on what you and the team have learnt from these events. Even if you think it was a one off and unlikely to happen again your team might be aware of other ‘near misses’ or situations that are almost an accident waiting to happen!

Your team invariably know how to prevent these. So listen to them and flush out any other potential risky situations. Then agree what steps you can take to avoid them or minimise their impact, so they are confident they will be better prepared next time!

 



New challenges

challengeDay 8 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

8. New challenges

Not everyone wants to progress, but that doesn’t mean you let them stagnate.

We often think of development as grooming people for promotion. Although this might be one intention or outcome it shouldn’t stand in the way of development. Even those who have reached the limits of their capability or have no desire for more responsibility shouldn’t be left to stagnate.

A bored employee is unlikely to shine and even less likely to wow you or your customers!

Look for opportunities to stretch team members within their current responsibilities or in areas where they’re already strong. Discuss how you can add variety, set new challenges or stretch them.

Maybe give them

– responsibility for training others,

– giving them ownership over the procedures,

– looking for ways to make efficiencies or refine a process.

By giving individual team members ownership over particular tasks we create a sense of pride and responsibility.  And with this comes the desire to get things right.

When they have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise. You’ll be amazed what people can achieve when their strengths are recognised and they’re given the authority to apply them.

This can also take the pressure off you as that person then becomes the go to person.