Category Archives: Leadership & Management

Learn to Let Go

Balloons letting go

I caught myself this week doing something I really should have delegated to someone else.

Not only was this tying up my valuable time when I could be doing something only I can do; the person who should have done it would have done a better job, and quite possibly in half the time!

Do you ever find yourself falling into this trap?

I’m not just referring to doing routine administrative or mundane tasks. There’s many a time that the things we do to respond to customers’ needs and expectations could also be done just as well (or even better) by others.

When we have an excellent relationship with customers it can be difficult to let go. We often feel guilty or obliged to that customer to look after them ourselves; to give them a personal service. And we’re potentially worried they won’t feel as valued if we delegate some aspects of the customer relationship to our team.

But in doing so we could actually be diluting our efforts and giving a poorer customer experience. What happens when we’re on holiday, tied up with other projects, or when two or more customers all need us at the same time?

We can’t do everything! We need to put our trust in others and delegate some of that responsibility.

But what if we’re not confident anyone in the team is up to it?

I’m not talking here about abdication. You if you were teaching your child to swim you wouldn’t just dump them in at the deep end and let them get on with it. You’d show them, coach them, support them until they were ready to go it alone. And even then you’d be watching at the poolside until you could see they were safe.

Ah, but… I hear some say.

  • “My customer trusts me and expects to deal with me”
    They expect to always deal with you because that’s what you’ve always given them. If they are never given the chance to speak to your team that will never change. Set expectations early on with your customers so they know who is the best person to speak to when. Introduce your customers to your team so they know who they’re dealing with and build trust (and their expectations) early on.
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  • “It takes too much time to explain, I can do it quicker”
    In the short-term yes, but in the longer term if you delegate you are saving time to attend to more important things to add value for your customer. Having simple systems in place for routine queries means you might only have to invest the time once.
  • “They aren’t yet capable”
    And never will be unless you start incorporating delegation and trust into your people development plans.
  • “They won’t do it as well as me”
    Maybe, but are you being too much of a perfectionist? Does the task need such a degree of excellence?  If not, maybe someone can deal with the task adequately in less time so the customer isn’t kept waiting. 
  • “They aren’t yet qualified, authorised or licenced to do that”
    Everyone has to start somewhere so get them involved and leave time for you to approve or endorse their efforts before it gets sign off or the rubber stamp. (None of us would ever pass our driving test if we weren’t able to actually get out on the road and drive; it just needs plenty of practice and handholding along the way until ready.)
  • “If they are left to deal with someone else my customer won’t be happy and I’ll lose their respect”
    You’ll upset customers far more and lose more respect by delaying your response and by not devoting enough time to the areas of expertise they’re paying you for because you are too distracted by routine and administrative issues.

So in regard to having an obligation to that customer to look after them and give them a personal service – yes you should. But you won’t be able to if you get sucked into tasks that don’t require your level of expertise or experience.

The skill is knowing when to let go of the day to day issues, and put your trust in someone else to get on with things, leaving you to focus on the more important aspects of your relationship that only you can do and on the more strategic aspects of the businesses.



3 things to do today to get 2017 off to a flying start

Here’s  a short video with 3 things you can be doing this week to get your team engaged, enthused and energised for the year ahead and get 2017 off to a brilliant start. If you get them engaged now and show you are enthusiastic about the year ahead this will rub off on your team and in turn your customers too, and help with your whole customer experience.




Riding on the crest of a wave

Celebrate successI was hooked.

And had far too many late nights.

I simply loved the Olympics.

Can you believe it? – 67 medals.

Brilliant. Well done Team GB!

Did you notice the euphoria as people realised their success? Did you see the pride on the athletes’ faces as they stepped up onto the podium and receive their medal?

And did you notice how much of a buzz it created whenever a team or individual won a medal? Not just in that discipline, but how it sent a ripple around the entire team.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could emulate just a fraction of that pride, enthusiasm and momentum within our businesses?

The Team GB success was not a fluke. We know there was lottery funding for many of the sports, and although this obviously helped our success would not have happened without the hard work, determination and sheer commitment from our athletes, coaches and their entire supporting team. How much did our success in 2012 contribute? Riding on the wave of success of the London Olympics created a huge boost of confidence. Look how many of the athletes went on to defend their Olympic titles, and in 13 cases retained them too.

What lessons we can learn from this success to apply to business as a morale boost for our team so apply some of that energy to our businesses and pass on some of that enthusiasm to our customers.

Here are my 10 ideas to take away…

1. Having a benchmark

When Usain Bolt runs the 100 metres he knows exactly where the finishing line is. When Jessica Ennis Hill or Nick Skelton are competing in the heptathlon or show jumping they both know exactly how the scoring works in their respective events so they have a measurement of how well they’re doing at any one point in the competition.

It’s the same in your business. Unless you know what success looks like it’s going to be very difficult for you (and your team) to know when they’ve done a good job.

 

2. Awards

For those with a competitive spirit awards, competitions, even a simple league table can add an extra dimensional to that benchmark: External awards are a great way to give recognition for the whole team. Keep your eye out for awards which are relevant to your business or your market. In the same way that just making the Olympic team is a big deal, just being nominated for an award is a great booster.

League tables might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has the opportunity to be recognised for their particular skills and strengths. Just as long as it’s relevant to your definition of success.

 

3. Celebrate success

Of course Team GB was celebrating. Celebration helps to reward those who have been successful. So when your team performs well the least you should do is help them celebrate.

It’s an opportunity to demonstrate you value a job well done. However small their success, do or say something to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. Not only does it show them you care, but it sends a message to others to reinforce what best practice looks like and helps spread the message to encourage more of the same.

Be sure to recognise all departments, including back of house staff, or those in non-customer facing roles. They all have their part to play.

 

4. Feedback

None of our athletes could perfect their skills without constant feedback. One tiny adjustment can make the difference between a gold and silver. As we saw in the men’s Taekwondo just one second can be the difference between jubilation and heart break

Build confidence by providing positive feedback and recognition. But give constructive feedback too when it’s needed to develop, refine and perfect people’s performance, whilst offering support and encouragement to make the necessary adjustments.

 

5. Learn from mistakes

In some of the preliminary rounds we saw athletes making mistakes. The important thing is they learnt from them and put things right before the final event. Foster a supportive culture where people can learn from their mistakes, rather than be blamed.

Recognise when these improvements have been made even if things are not yet perfect!

Encourage everyone to come forward with their own areas of improvement and how they will achieve these. Many of your team will spot opportunities so show them you value their suggestions and ideas, and be prepared to act on them.

 

6. It’s not about the money

There’s a perception that everyone is motivated by money. Do you think it’s money that drives those athletes?

In the workplace there’s no doubt money can be a contributor, but it has very limiting and short term affects as a motivator. However, when you get it wrong by messing up their overtime or deny them the pay rise they were promised it will certainly act as a demotivator for even the most loyal and committed members of your team.

 

7. What’s their gold medal equivalent?

Of course in the Olympics we know that gold medal is always the focus, at least for those who know they are in with a chance.

Recognise though that within your team not everyone values or is interested in the same things. Whilst some love the sense of achievement, others favour doing their bit for others. Some love to have their say, whilst others are happiest when they’re learning or being stretched.

 

8. Rewards

And if you feel it has to be a tangible reward focus on something – however small – that means something to the individual. It doesn’t have to cost the earth; just a token. Something that’s been handpicked for them will always have more of an impact than the equivalent in monetary terms.

Become aware of what hobbies and interests your employees have. Then when you are out and about and see something that has to do with that particular interest, pick it up for them.

Give people the occasional treat. No need to be a lavish; look at ways to reward that create a win-win.

For some people a little free time could be the most valuable gesture you can give them as a reward.

 

9. Thank you

When interviewed most of our medal winners made a point of thanking the rest of their team.

The simplest thing you can do with your team is to say thank you. A genuine heartfelt thank you and well done to recognise and acknowledge a team member’s good performance, achievement or a job well-done might be all that is all they need for them to feel encouraged.

Not just as a routine passing comment, go out of your way to thank individuals when you spot them doing something where they’ve made an extra effort. Bring the team together at the end of a hectic day, busy shift or demanding project when everybody has pulled their weight to make sure everything went smoothly.

When you are genuine in your appreciation, and choose it for the right moment, it can work wonders. A simple but honest appreciative remark can go a very long way.

If you are going to praise an individual, don’t just leave it until you are on your own with them. Find an opportunity when they are with their colleagues, and your praise will create a buzz! Make sure it’s genuine and specific for the task carried out.

 

10. Continue to grow

Most of our Olympians will be continuing to work on their technique and keep themselves in peak condition for their next competition and some of them even looking as far ahead as Tokyo 2020 to do even better or retain their Olympic title.

Even those retiring from competition sport will be thinking of ways they can contribute and support the sport, particularly encouraging youngsters coming through the ranks.

So when any of our team members have had great success this isn’t an excuse for them to sit back on their laurels or to stagnate.

Utilise and capitalise on people’s strengths. Give some control and ownership, or let them share their expertise by coaching or supporting others.

 

So while we’re all still riding high from the success of the Olympics ask yourself what can you be doing in your business to recognise those who excel and emulate that same sense of pride we’ve been seeing over the last 2 weeks.

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Rotten Apples

Have you any rotten apples in your team?

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If your customer service training or any other efforts to get the best from your team are just not working maybe you have rotten apples in your team. It only takes one or two negative or obstructive people to get in the way and undo all your efforts. These people can have a massive impact on employee engagement, people’s performance and ultimately on your customer service levels.


Perceptual Positions

percetual positionsBy the time you read this thankfully all the campaigning will be over and we’ll know one way or the other.

There’s been a bit of a difference of opinion in the Cooper household. Hubby and I have homed in on different merits for and against remaining/exiting the EU!

Seeing things from different perspectives extends far beyond which way to vote in the EU referendum. When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

One technique uses that of perceptual positions, which helps you imagine what difficult situations look like when viewed through others’ eyes, in other words to imagine what others perceive by imagining that you are that other person.

This involves looking at it from 3 different perspectives

  • First position is your natural perspective. You are fully aware of what you think and feel regardless of those around you. This is of course the perspective we find most familiar. But as you focus on it you may only then start to realise what is important to you and what you want from this interaction. You will probably become more aware of what you believe and value, and more likely to be assertive about your own needs.
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  • Second position is about stepping away from our own position and imagining what it’s like to be the other person, experiencing the situation as they would.Some people are very good at considering others’ needs and concerns; for others imagining second position can be a completely alien view. When you are really in their shoes everything you do or say makes perfect sense to you.
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    When you do this well you start to get a sense of what the other believes and values; what is important to them, and a better understanding of what they want. And the better you get at this the more empathy and rapport you create. You might even be able to predict how they might respond in this situation. You are certainly in a better position to offer better customer service to a customer support to a team member.
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  • Third position is an independent position where you act as a detached observer noticing what’s happening between two other people. I like to think of this as the ‘fly on the wall’ or ‘The Consultant’s perspective’ What is important is that this position is an impartial insight into a situation.Imagine you are watching and listening to each of the people involved as they communicate without getting involved yourself, without having to feel their feelings and emotions.
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    From this new perspective, you more likely to get an overview of the situation, the bigger picture. You can start to notice patterns and become aware of similarities and differences between the parties involved, and you’re better able to analyse the situation logically with less emotional involvement. What’s also important is you can start to see yourself as others see you.
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    From this position what advice would you give ‘first position’?

When to use Perceptual Positions

It can be particularly useful when you are dealing with a situation where you are having strong negative feelings towards the other party, or do not understand their actions.

For example:

  • When a team member is acting in a way that you find destructive to the task in hand, or negative towards others in the team.
  • In customer service training to illustrate how to handle an angry and (to our mind) unreasonable customer

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward in for example sales situation when it will help to see things from the clients’ positions or in a consultant position to see the situation better and help the client achieve their outcomes easier.

It works best when you physically change position when moving from 1st position to 2nd position and then 3rd position; e.g. in 2nd position move round to sit or stand when the other person would normally see or stand when you meet with them, and when the ‘fly on the wall’ stand up and physically look down on the situation.

The real learning comes by stepping out of first position to explore second and third positions and see what light it sheds on a situation.

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Hit the ground running

Holiday coverYour first day in any job can be daunting. It’s all new and can feel a bit lonely. Hardly the best place to be to give your best.

So whether you’re taking on seasonal staff for the summer or full timers you want to do everything in your power so they can get off to a flying start, and have them start paying their way.

If all you do is give them a uniform and tell them to get on with it, they could be doing more harm than good.

Everyone needs a thorough induction with good support and direction.

Here are my top 10 basics to cover with any new member of staff, whether for the holiday season or at any other time of year.

  1. Teamwork is key. Introduce new staff to the whole team, defining everyone’s areas of responsibility to ensure no gaps and no duplication of effort. Avoid the frictions that occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things.
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  2. Don’t leave them floundering or too scared to ask for help. Establish a clear line of reporting, and who to go to for help and guidance when needed – ensuring, of course, that this person will be patient and supportive when asked.
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  3. Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them from day one. Clarify basic standards of dress, staff behaviour, time keeping, break allowance, staff meals, security, food safety, health and safety.
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  4. First impressions count. Specify your establishment’s standards for welcoming and greeting customers, including the booking procedures if this is part of their role. Your customers don’t care whether they’re new, temporary or a trainee; they’ll still expect a consistent level of service and care.
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  5. What is their role in up-selling, and what are the products you want them to promote, including any future events?  If your core team are incentivised, make sure you include seasonal staff in the scheme.
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  6. People can’t sell something they don’t know exists. Ensure a thorough product knowledge – what does your establishment offer – times of service, complementary products, etc.  Let your staff taste dishes, explain what accompanies what products, or anything that’s normally sold together, what it should look like, what prices include and what’s extra (especially with packages or promotions).
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  7. Establish protocol in dealing with difficult situations, customer complaints, and awkward customers.  Define the line between handling themselves and when to seek intervention from a manager or a more experienced staff member (and who that person is).
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  8. Run through the payment procedures, including any security procedures or checks needed.
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  9. Avoid being let down at the last minute – Provide out of hours contact numbers and establish procedures for sickness reporting.
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  10. Maintain your reputation as a good employer. Treat seasonal staff well, and they will be willing to come back next time you need an extra hand. Give them something to look forward to and keep them interested for the whole season.  Involve them in any after work social activities and maybe some incentive awarded at the end of the season.


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How am I doing?

Feedback no news is good newsThe giving and receiving of feedback is probably one of the most vital skills in management.

From a customer service perspective customer feedback is such a valuable source. But your team also need to know how they are doing.

According to Ken Blanchard …

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions”

People need to know how they are doing in order know what to keep doing and what needs improving, and how.  For many employees it is a case of ‘No new is good news’, as they only get to hear if things go wrong. And when they’ve been learning something new or a different way of doing things  – for example customer service training – they need feedback to help hone and develop their new skills.

Feedback is not only key for improving and perfecting performance, but – done in a supportive way – is highly motivational. Let’s face it; if you were doing something that constituted poor performance, was annoying, or let others down wouldn’t you like to know?

And equally if you were doing something really well that made a difference to others and to the business, wouldn’t you like to know it was recognised?

Feedback starts with the impromptu “thank you, well done” but that on its own doesn’t tell people enough to sustain or improve performance. To be effective feedback must let people know what specifically was good or bad, what difference it made and how it can be built upon or improved.

One way to do this is by using a very simple model: S A I D

Standard

When giving feedback, particularly on poor performance, it’s useful to know what you are bench-marking this against. If people don’t know what is expected of them, it is very easy to get defensive.  So establish the standards you expect and communicate these.

You may not always need to refer to these during the feedback process, but be mindful of these as you give the feedback.

Action

What is the action they performed?  Emphasis is on their actions, not on your interpretation of it.  So you are feeding back what you observed or heard, not on their intentions, their personality or their character.

Limit the number of actions you comment on 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).

Because this is based on fact it is less likely to be challenged. Link back to the standard if necessary to highlight where people have exceeded or fallen short.

Impact

What impact did their actions have on the result?  This can include positive or negative impact on the end result, 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 giving praise it is so easy to say to someone ‘that was really good, well done’ without saying why it was good or what made the difference this time compared with previous occasions.

Development

How can they build on this for the future?  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.  Put the emphasis on what is missing rather than what is wrong – building on strengths or positives is far more likely to engender enthusiasm.

Using open questions, ask the individual how they think things can be developed or built upon.  This will help to gain buy in and you may be surprised by the options they suggest.

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.

This model works equally well in all three.

You may recall something referred to as ‘The Praise Sandwich.’  The problems with the praise sandwich are that, in fact, it is a bad news sandwich, and usually the ‘filling’  (i.e. the bad news) is so thin and the ‘bread’ or praise element so thick and fluffy, that the key message gets completely lost.  The result? The person remembers the first and last part of the discussion – the praise – and not the part you want to change.  The end result is that nothing changes.

This is not to say you don’t give something positive at the start of the discussion. This helps to build rapport and makes the recipient of the feedback more receptive. Using the SAID model people know exactly what the issue is.

But by understanding the impact it has had, and having been given an opportunity to put forward their own ideas to avoid it in future, they will still come out of it with some dignity, and you are far more likely to see something change for the better.

Feedback is most effective when it is given as soon after the event as you can. But sometimes you may be better off delaying until the end of the shift or day. Take into account whether 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).

Consider your mood, e.g. if you are annoyed at seeing poor performance do you need time to cool off.  Do you need to wait until you can take them away from their workplace for privacy; as a general rule praise in public, reprimand in private.

Identify 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. But be direct, don’t sugar coat the message so it gets lost.

Give praise where it is due, but when it’s not, make it clear that you need to see improvements or changes Preserve the other person’s self esteem by delivering bad news in a non-critical way, and concentrate on your pitch and tone so that valuable information is not seen as a complaint, criticism, whinge or nag.

Given in a constructive way feedback can not only improve performance but can raise morale, build rapport and promote initiative.  It also opens the door for your team to provide you with some feedback too.


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Actions Speak Louder than Words

Actions speak louderWhen working with businesses on improving their
customer experience and supporting their
customer service training one of the
messages I stress is how our
actions speak louder than words.

Everything you do in your business sends out a message. Not just to your customers, but to your team too.

Being a role model

We all know the importance of being a role model to our team. How we behave towards customers naturally sets the tone for how our team behave towards customers.

It’s not just our daily interaction with customers, but how we regard them in general. Bad mouthing or criticising a customer in their absence will certainly send the message that it’s OK to be rude about customers, or even that customers are a nuisance or interruption to our job, rather than the very reason the job exists.

Putting customers first

How highly you value customers is also communicated through your systems and practices. To what extent are you prepared to put yourself out for the benefit of a customer?

This isn’t just obvious things such as being available for your customers when it’s convenient for them rather than you.  (One of my pet hates is businesses – particularly customer service desks – that only open Monday to Friday 9 till 5 yet they support customers who invariably only have time or access during nonworking hours.)

What really frustrates me is when I see businesses where the powers that be clearly see themselves as being far more important than the customer. If you play golf I’m sure you’ll know what I mean when you see all the plum parking spaces immediately outside the clubhouse being reserved for the committee. Or in corporate offices were there are 3 or 4 empty parking spaces immediately outside the front door reserved for the chief executive and his/her entourage, while visitors have to park way way down the car park (if they can find a parking space at all that is!). Just as insulting is when management park in disabled bays. Just what sort of message does that convey to a customer, and in turn what message does that convey to your team about the importance you place on customers?

It goes far beyond just parking spaces. Simple things such as interrupting a member of staff who is talking to a customer without so much as acknowledging the customer; not trusting team members by delegating authority to do what they think is best for the customer; blaming the customer or quibbling over minor customer disputes. All these send the message we put ourselves before the customer.

Behaviour breeds behaviour

We are all familiar with the mood Hoovers; you know – those days when you come into work full of the joys of spring, and someone comments dryly “what are you so flipping happy about”, sucking all that energy and enthusiasm from you like a Hoover.

Our physiology certainly influences our feelings and the feelings of people around us. In other words if we mooch around all day with shoulders dropped, hands in pockets, expressionless with our head down we’re far more likely to elicit negative emotions, than if we’re smiling, making eye contact and making gestures.

Smiling and laughing make us feel good and happy. And it’s infectious…

The platinum rule

The golden rule is treat others how you would wish to be treated. And that’s certainly a good start. But the platinum rule is treat others how they wish to be treated.

Whenever I hear of managers or business owners complaining about lack of enthusiasm or engagement from their team (which of course is critical if you’re to give customers good service) I like to look at how they are treated by management, and what if anything they are doing to dampen their enthusiasm.

When I ask managers what’s important to their team members it’s usually quite revealing when I get an all too common response of “money and a quiet life”, or “I don’t know”. The former might sometimes be the case but sadly it’s often an assumption. The only reason managers don’t understand this is because they never asked the question.

Spending time with team members and finding out what’s important to them is just as important as your team spending time with customers, finding out what’s important to them.

You are always on duty

When you leave the ‘office’ you don’t suddenly become a different person. In the eyes of your team and your customer you still represent your business. So how any of us behave in the supermarket car park when someone pinches our parking space, or on the dancefloor at the Christmas party, or what we post on social media will still reflect on us, our values and what we see as acceptable behaviour.

This doesn’t mean to say we can never let our hair down or show our personality; it just means remembering everything we do sends a message.

These actions will speak far louder than any words.

Related topics

https://www.naturallyloyal.com/2014/05/building-confidence-in-service-skills/

https://www.naturallyloyal.com/2014/11/power-to-the-people/

https://www.naturallyloyal.com/2014/03/have-you-sussed-what-makes-your-team-tick/

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Old habits die hard

Dont forgetYou know that frustration you feel when you ask someone in your team to do something differently, and although you know they know what to do for some reason they just don’t do it!

I managed to stall my car twice yesterday!

Not because I don’t know how to drive. It’s simply that I’d got out of the habit of changing gear, as I’d been driving an automatic for the past 18 months.

And it can be no different in the workplace. When you have not done something for a while people get out of the habit. So when you need them to go back to a previous way (maybe back to a standard that has recently slipped, or wasn’t such a priority for a while) you might need to build up people’s confidence again and start re-establishing the habit.

Of course when you stall the car you get instant feedback that you’re doing it wrong! But in the workplace it might be a little less obvious.

This doesn’t mean to say that you need to retrain people, but they night need a little bit of a helping hand, some feedback and maybe some coaching to get them back on track. And then keep an eye on them until the habit is firmly installed.



Give staff ownership

Here’s the 12th and final part in my 12 blog series onfreedom - empowerment

how to engage and motivate your team on their return from their Christmas break

12. Ownership

Give individual team members ownership over particular tasks. This gives a sense of pride and ownership.

And with ownership comes the desire to get things right.

When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise. This can take the pressure off you as this person then becomes the go to person instead of you.

Which invariably speeds things up for the customer too!

 

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