Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Building Confidence

building confidenceBuilding confidence with team members

One of the things I’ll be covering on my Managing for Peak Performance workshop today is building confidence.

When team members lack confidence in a task it will stop them getting on with tasks off their own bat, which can be both frustrating and draining for you, and have a knock on effect for colleagues and customers alike.

That lack of confidence might simply be due to a new task, or something they’ve not done for a while and think they’ve forgotten how.

It might be because you’ve introduced a new way of doing something, and it simply feels a bit clunky. Human nature says we’ll always take the path of least resistance, so the slightest obstacle will send people back to their old comfortable way of doing it.

Or they’re resisting the new way of doing things because in their mind it involves a degree of risk or difficulty.

And then there are the times when it’s a task they’ve done successfully in the past but something hasn’t worked as it should, so they start to doubt themselves.

Whatever the reason, here are 8 ways you can build confidence in your team members, and prevent this happening in your team:

1. Play to people’s strengths.

It’s a lot easier for you to allocate responsibility for tasks where people already excel, and the likelihood is when they are good at that task they’ll be confident and probably enjoy it.

You might need to look for the capabilities in others that they themselves may not see and help them to see these for themselves. Focusing on strengths not only boosts confidence, it enables people to shine and excel. It means complementing potential shortcomings of others in the team, contributing unique value in the eyes of colleagues and customers.

That doesn’t mean to say you don’t develop people in other areas, but avoid the temptation to make everyone mediocre at everything.

2. Establish expectations

People hate not fully understanding what’s expected of them; it can leave them hesitant and fearful of making mistakes.

It’s inevitable that some ways of working and duties will have changed. If there are duties that used to be part of their role that are now less of a priority, explain why this is. If these were tasks they did well or took a particular pride in doing, be sensitive to how you handle this, so they don’t get the impression that their previous efforts were not appreciated.

If it’s a new task ensure they understand the significance of the task, and set a clear and simple objective, and what controls such as budget, deadline, when and how any review will take place. Bear in mind, it may take them longer to begin with as people get into the task.

3. Empower

People soon pick it up if you don’t trust them or are reluctant to allocate any responsibility to them, leaving them doubting their own abilities.

Demonstrate trust by letting go. No one wants their boss breathing down their neck the whole time, and it’s frustrating for everyone when team members have to get sign off for everything.

Cut the red tape and give your team the freedom to do what they think is in the best interests of the customer.

Set clear boundaries so they understand the exceptions and when you really do need to be involved.

4. Give flexibility

Allow each of your team to adapt and adopt their own style and let them bring their own personality to the role, particularly when dealing with customers.

If they know the end result you’re looking for they often come up with better ways to get the same result.

5. Develop ‘experts’

Give ownership for areas that require specialist knowledge, so this team member becomes the go to person for this. When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise, and encourages continuous improvement. This in turn can have an impact on your customer experience, when specific knowledge is required to gain the customer’s confidence.

This is not only good for people’s development it also helps the team respect other’s roles and share the burden.

6. Reassure

Let them know you are there to support them, and to come to you with later question, concerns or suggestions. Reassure them of your commitment to their safety and ongoing support.

Encourage your team by assuring them that they have the skills and knowledge. If you really are unsure of somebody’s ability to deliver what’s needed reflect on what help and support they would need in order to achieve this and focus on that instead.

Build confidence by providing positive feedback and recognition. Offer plenty of support and encouragement.

7. Learn from mistakes

When things go wrong this can knock people’s confidence. Foster a supportive culture where people can learn from their mistakes, rather than be blamed.

Encourage everyone to come forward when things haven’t gone to plan, or when there’s been a near miss. Then focus on how to avoid this happening again, not just for that team member, but for anyone else in the team.

Ask your team member(s) for their suggestions. Nine times out of ten they’ll work out for themselves the best way to avoid a repercussion.

Recognise when any improvements are made, even if things are not yet perfect!

8. Celebrate and reward success

Celebrate success so you encourage more of the same.

Establish regular opportunities and events to enable others to share their successes and achievements. This could be as simple as daily briefings where individuals talk about their successes and what others can learn from these, but add more weight to this by publicly recognising their success e.g. sharing achievements with your guests or entering them for awards.

Highlight how individual contributions have had a positive impact on the business as a whole. Recognise and reward individuals, departments or the team as a whole to demonstrate how you value their successes.

In summary

Building confidence in your team starts by demonstrating your trust. Empower individuals and the team by giving them authority to make decisions and take action. Generate a climate of confidence by drawing attention to the strengths of the team and individuals and where they complement one another rather than dwelling on shortcomings.

Related content

Blog: Learn from mistakes 

Video: How people learn

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

Innovation iceburg

Icebergs and Innovation

Involving your team in innovation and improvements.

I’ve talked many a time about the importance of listening and tuning in to your team. However, today’s article is also about listening, but this time with a view to involving them, making continuous improvement & creating a culture of innovation.

Sparked by a webinar I attended recently on the topic, here I share my own perspective on this.

Where does the iceberg come in?

The ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’ is a term Sidney Yoshida used, based on an earlier study in the 1980s which stated that “only four per cent of a company’s problems are known to top managers”. This is represented by the part of the iceberg which is visible.

The theory is that only 9% of problems are known to middle management

74% of problems are known to supervisors

100% of an organisation’s problems are known to front-line employees, i.e. collectively, employees know about all of the problems.)

Now, although the study was based on mid-sized organisations, and within your business the gap between front line employees and senior management may be much smaller, the message is still the same. If you don’t consult with your front line you are probably missing a wealth of information that impacts the success of your business.

My own experience of this was back in the late 1990s when I was still in the corporate world, and our then CEO took part in the popular TV show “Back to the Floor”. Because he was working ‘under cover’ he got to hear of a multitude of issues, bottle necks in the system and some brilliant ideas that could be brought back to the business.

As a trainer and facilitator, I also get to hear of all sorts of issues that stand in the way of team members being as effective as they might be – sometimes through irritating glitches which are often (admittedly not always) really easy to fix. The sad thing is, very often these issues could have so easily been rectified if only they’d been asked for their feedback.

Quite apart from the obvious benefit of being made aware of problems, let’s consider why else it’s a good thing to involve your team, and what can you do to apply these principles in your business, or within your own department.

5 reasons why Creating a culture of Innovation is a good thing

  1. Involving your team in making continuous incremental improvements, helps you evolve and stay fresh, on an ongoing basis. Whether it’s a cost saving, something to improve the customer experience or simply making their lives a little easier – shaving a few minutes off a task in one area, may free up a few extra minutes to devote to customers. Those incremental improvements all add up over time. **
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  2. One of the questions I am frequently asked is how to engage your team; involving them in innovation can drive employee engagement; if employees are involved with creating new ideas they are emotionally connected to the ideas, so will want to see them succeed.
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  3. The more opportunities and encouragement they get to be involved with generating or sharing new ideas, the more they feel a connection to the business which helps drive engagement & performance.
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  4. Your team are often closer to your customers than you are so will often spot potential problems before you do, and see potential solutions to those problems.
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  5. When you ask them for their ideas, and encourage them to think outside the box to solve existing problems they will and come up with ways you’d probably have never thought of to move the business forward or improve your customers’ experience.

7 principles to make Innovation work

  1. Your team need to understand your purpose and what you are aiming to deliver to your customers. It’s difficult to recognise opportunities for improvement or come up with ideas if they don’t know what you – as a business – are trying to achieve.
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  2. Create a safe and conducive environment for people to come forward with ideas; where they are not seen as a criticism of the business or systems, but as a positive contribution.
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  3. Involve your team in the development and deployment of possible solutions to problems not just come to you with the problem.
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  4. Many new managers are afraid of asking for ideas in case they fail. Failure and risk are part of the process. If something doesn’t work ask for ideas on how to improve.
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  5. Be open to quirky or off the wall ideas – they may not be the ideal solution, but may be a starting point to asking, “what can we do the build on that idea?” Even if you’ve tried something before, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. If you quash suggestions people will be reluctant to come forward with ideas in future; instead ask “how can we make that work this time?”
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  6. Don’t go in search of radical revelations, all those small incremental changes add up over time.
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  7. If your team haven’t been actively involved in putting forward ideas or if those ideas have fallen on deaf ears in the past, recognise it takes time for employees to feel comfortable or willing to do this. It takes time to create a culture of innovation.

Take action

If you only do one thing: Next time you want to make a saving or find a better way of doing something, don’t sit in an ‘ivory tower’ and try to solve it alone – ask your team.

p.s. a starting point for flushing out issues and ideas is through anonymous surveys such as Engagement Multiplier. If you’d like a test drive to see what it could do for your business, request it here directly with Engagement Multiplier who will be happy to arrange this.

** Waitrose are reported to have saved £460,000 in till roll paper as a result of one small change following a suggestion from a staff member’s idea.



Making your team feel valued

How to help your team feel valued

How to make your team feel valued

Recruitment and staff retention is a hot topic currently.

Like me, I know you know how important it is to have an engaged team, and the impact this can have on productivity, staff retention and customer experience. 

I recently gave a short presentation on just one way to help keep your team engaged, and that was to show we value them. 

There are many ways of you can make your team feel valued, but the one I’d like to home in on today is that of tuning in to team members.

Failing to spot disengaged employees isn’t always easy. But if we don’t, we run the risk of these people being a drain on others in your team, being less productive and negatively impacting your customers’ experience. And ultimately resulting in higher staff turnover and all the knock on effects this can have.

So here are 10 ideas to help tune in to your team and individuals within the team so you can not only demonstrate to your team you value them, but you can also nip in the bud any problems brewing before they fester and impact everyone else.

  1. Know what’s important. Making your team feel valued starts with understanding what drives each of your team members and what’s important to them. Although something might seem trivial to you, it may be highly significant to someone else. When you know what these are you take account of these with this person.
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  2. Be available for people to talk to you on a one to one basis or in private. Not everyone will feel comfortable raising concerns or questions in front of colleagues, and some situations may not lend themselves to be aired in public.
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  3. Be approachable. Make it easy for people to come to you when they have question or concern, and create a no blame culture and let people know there should be no embarrassment in making a mistake, so long as they learn from it.
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  4. Keep your ears and eyes open to spot when things aren’t as they should be, and you can pick up on concerns quickly. Not everyone has the confidence to ask for help when it’s needed or let you know when they’ve a problem. Listen and observe so you can spot any staff concerns quickly. Left to fester these can snowball into bigger problems.
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  5. Regular one to ones. Never under estimate the value of sitting down in private with each of your team on a one-to-one basis. Schedule these in advance and stick to your schedule. Nothing smacks more of I’m not valued than constantly cancelling these meetings.
  6. Show you value their opinion. Ask their advice in areas where they have more involvement than you, e.g. many of them will spend more time with customers than you and often spot things you might miss.
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  7. Ask for feedback regularly. Things change and problems can fester. Use briefings to get feedback on any customers’ comments, discuss any questions or suggestions that arise about operational issues which could affect them in any way.
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  8. Provide support when needed and be receptive to when this is required; not everyone will be confident enough to ask for this.
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  9. Be brave. 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?” 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. Accept feedback with good grace and thank them for an honest response.
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  10. Create the opportunity for people to give anonymous feedback (using a tool such as Engagement Multiplier). People may be afraid to say what they really think if they’re concerned about being labelled a problem or complainer. 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.

Action point:

Help your team feel valued by asking for their feedback. If you consider yourself to be a brave, caring owner (or senior decision maker) of a growth focused business, and you’d like to find a simple way to get direct and honest feedback from your team, take a trial assessment. Register your interest here:

to get your company’s engagement score, and discover where to take action to make an impact right away.



Attitude problems?

attitude problems

A is for Attitude

I often hear managers criticising a team member’s attitude, “they have an attitude problem!” But what do they actually mean? What behaviours convey someone’s attitude? Often it’s their enthusiasm for the job, the way they support their colleagues, how they talk to customers.

But, before considering your team’s attitude, let’s consider yours!

How much of your team’s attitude stems from the example you set?

Let me ask you…

When you get home from work can you normally sense what sort of mood everyone else is in? Even when no words are spoken it’s usually pretty easy to tell. Your moods and emotions are normally evident to others from your behaviours, facial expressions and tone.

But, like it or not, your mood has a profound impact on the mood of all those around you. Not just your team, but suppliers and customers.

It influences your team’s attitude, their enthusiasm, their willingness to take responsibility, their confidence in you and the business and their loyalty towards you.

In turn, this certainly influences your customers’ perception of you and your team, their level of engagement and ultimately their loyalty to your business.

Rather than wasting energy on those things completely out of your control, focus on what you can control.

Being positive, enthusiastic and energetic might not always rub off on everyone else, but it’s a better bet to energise, engage and motivate your team than if you’re down and focusing on things you can’t control.

Lead by example and be a role model. If you display negativity this inevitably rubs off on your team and in turn, your customers too.

As Zig Zigler said “A positive attitude won’t help you do anything, but it will help you do everything better than a bad attitude will.

Take action

A little exercise I like to do and have shared with many of my clients to help stay focused on the positives, is to write down at the end of each day what you’re GLAD of:

G something you’re grateful for, however small

L something you’ve learnt today

A something you’ve achieved today

D something that’s delighted you, or you’ve done to delight others

p.s. If you want to follow the whole A-Z series subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing:

related article: Attitude over aptitude



Keeping Commitments

keeping commitments

I’m involved in two training programmes this week where I’m making reference to the emotional bank account, and in particular the importance of keeping commitments.

When everyone is so busy (and probably quite hot and bothered at the moment to boot) it can be easy for little things to get missed.

Whether this is with a member of your team, a customer or even a loved one, it can certainly have a negative impact.

I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about the Emotional Bank Account before. When I’m training it’s one of the topics that frequently gets picked out as one of the key learning points.

And it’s no surprise really, as it’s such a powerful metaphor. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s what Stephen R Covey describes in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”; it’s a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship.

One of the key ‘deposits’ is keeping commitments.

Telling someone you’ll do something and then not delivering on that promise can leave people feeling let down, or that they’re not valued. When what you’ve promised is important to that person it can compromise your relationship and the level of trust between you.

Such as?

  • Saying you’ll get back to someone by the end of the day, but don’t.
  • Telling them you’ll review their pay in 3 months, but 3, 4, 5 months goes by and they hear nothing.
  • Having a scheduled one to one meeting in the diary, that you then cancel at the last minute.
  • Telling them you’ll involve them in a specific activity as part of their development, but you carry on without them (or worse, involve someone else!)
  • Promising to raise an issue with your boss or the management team, but then don’t report back (even if there was no good news to report back)
  • Saying you’ll try to rearrange the roster so they can change their day off for something important to them, but when the roster gets posted they see they are working that day.

Sometimes these are things that may seem minor or insignificant to you, but if they’re important to the other person, you need to place the same degree of importance if that person is important to you.

We all know stuff happens and often it’s a genuine oversight, but that doesn’t usually make the other person feel much better!

Or maybe you simply have nothing to report back. But they don’t know that unless you update them. If you’ve promised an update by a certain date, make sure you deliver this, even if it’s to say there’s no news yet.

But with the best will in the world there’ll be times when you’re unable to keep a commitment, even if only in their eyes.

And when this happens it sometimes requires courage to say you’re sorry. Apologising with the sincere words – “I was wrong”, “I showed you no respect”, “I’m sorry”.

It is one thing to make a mistake or let someone down by not keeping commitments, and quite another not to admit it.

Related video: A culture of Trust



The employee journey

employee journey

Mapping your employee journey

Tomorrow I’m delivering a workshop for a small hotel group on delivering excellent events. Inevitably we will be spending a fair proportion of the workshop discussing and reviewing the customer journey.

And in my book, the employee journey is just as important.

Getting this wrong can have a massive negative impact on your team, their levels of engagement and how they come across to customers. I’m a firm believer that if you look after your team they will look after your customers, and their experience will be reflected in your customers’ experience.

Like the customer journey, the employee journey considers all the touch points from the moment a potential candidate applies to your business, to what happens after they leave.

We all know with the customer journey that first impressions count, and the same is certainly true when potential employees apply for a vacancy and how their application is dealt with (whether they are successful or not).

The whole recruitment and on boarding process, right the way through their employment with you makes up the employee journey.

The employee journey will have an impact on employee engagement, productivity, staff retention, your customer’s experience, so it’s important to understand the experience an employee goes through from the very first contact with you.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through gathering first-hand feedback from your team on how they feel about their experience, and involving them in your employee journey mapping.

Some points to consider are what happens before and after they work for you, such as

  • How applications (and unsuccessful candidates) are handled
  • How much thought goes into their welcome on the 1st day of their induction  programme. (see below for my onboarding guide)
  • How you care for team members who are absent for any reason or work in isolation
  • How you respond when people leave your business

But you’ll never see it as they do, so to know what it’s like…

Ask them.

If you only do one thing towards your employee journey:

Ask for feedback from your most recent recruits on what you can do to improve their experience to date.

Employee Journey video https://youtu.be/p4TJFpL3XVc

Onboarding guide  https://www.naturallyloyal.com/resources/onboarding/


Measuring Employee Engagement

measuring employee engagement

Measuring employee engagement. Poor engagement is costing businesses millions, but if you don’t measure it how can you manage it?

As a business owner understandably you’re focused on sales and growth.

Most business owners I work with are too.

But I also see many letting money slip through their fingers unnoticed. Profits they could retain with a few simple steps.

We’ve finally woken up to the benefits of having an engaged team yet evidence still shows that 80% or more of staff are not engaged at work.

That’s shocking and frankly quite sad.

Particularly as according to a study by Gallup, having a highly engaged workforce leads to 20% higher sales, and 21% higher profitability.

The high cost of disengagement

So, if engaged employees improve revenue and profit, how much are disengaged employees costing you? The numbers can be staggering. When Gallup collected data on this, they found disengaged employees have a 37% higher rate of absenteeism, 18% lower productivity, and 15% lower profitability.

So it’s costing businesses millions.

It’s crazy that business owners measure their financial and sales performance, yet so few measure how engaged their employees are.

And, as the management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Unfortunately disengaged employees aren’t necessarily that easy to spot.

They come to work on time, they do what’s asked of them and they say yes to your requests.

But…

These are also the people who only do the minimum expected and seldom more, 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.

But 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.

Look here to take the first step in measuring your engagement levels right now.

Are you measuring employee engagement?

If you only do one thing towards measuring employee engagement:

If you have 20 or more employees and you’d like to check out how they feel to get a better understanding of employee engagement in your business…

Complete a free engagement assessment to get honest feedback, so that you truly know where your business stands and where to focus to make an impact right away.

And stop those profits sneaking out the back door.

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Creating a Learning Culture

Creating a learning culture

Can we really learn from mistakes?

Creating a learning culture starts with accepting people will make mistakes.

Providing we’re able to spot the mistake, make the effort to understand the mistake and be open to learning from it.

And the same applies with your team.

Let me explain…

I was at a conference recently where one of the talks was on creating a learning culture. To my mind there was one aspect of this which was completely overlooked. And that was to create a learning culture you have to be prepared for people to make mistakes and to help them learn from these. Unless you do, people will not be prepared to try new things or take a chance on taking action for fear of messing up and being blamed – even when they think it’s the right thing to do.

Here are 10 ideas to help in creating a learning culture, one where it’s ok to take a chance and make the odd mistake, so long as you learn from it.

  1. Set the example. Admit when you’ve made a mistake – when you’re open about making mistakes your team will be recognise that everyone makes mistakes. But, make sure you also focus on what’s been learnt as a result of that mistake (see The Emotional Bank Account)
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  2. Demonstrate your trust in team members by giving them responsibility and authority to do what they believe is right. E.g. to respond to customers’ expectations and requests in the way that they see fit. If they truly understand your values and what’s of most importance generally they’ll work out the best route to get there.
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  3. Define what levels of authority your team members have in any given situation, and give them examples of when they need to refer to a manager or get sign off, and when it’s OK for them to make the decision. But when you do have to get involved use this as an opportunity for others to learn from the situation, by explaining your approach and why you approached it in the way you did.
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  4. Build confidence; often people know what they should be doing, but just lack that certainty and confidence to do this really well, so give time and an opportunity for them to practise in a safe environment.
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  5. Listen out for hesitation. When you hear a team member saying  “I can’t…” that might be an indication they are fearful of making a mistake. Talk this through with them to identify any obstacles. Do they have the necessary resources, time, authority, peer support?  Let them know you are still there to support them.
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  6. Don’t expect perfection straight away. People need time to find their own way of doing things, and they shouldn’t feel afraid to make the odd mistake when they initially put principles into practice. Recognise and reward as they improve, even if things are not yet perfect.
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  7. Foster a supportive culture. It should be okay to ask questions and admit they don’t know all the answers, where they’re encouraged to seek out new activities and it’s accepted that people won’t always get things right. Recognise even marginal gains in performance are a step forward.
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  8. Give supportive feedback, and help people see their own mistakes, as well as encouraging them by pointing out what’s gone well. https://www.naturallyloyal.com/giving-effective-feedback/
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  9. Reframing. Get people into the habit of looking for solutions rather than trying to blame others. Asking “what can I do to improve the situation?” “What’s in my control?” Rather than focusing on what’s gone wrong, or seeing it as a failure.
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  10. Think about your emotional states. When you, your team – any of us – are in an unresourceful state (such as anger, exhaustion, boredom) if faced with challenges the tiniest problem can lead us to frustration or aggression; the slightest failure can lead to disappointment, blame or self-doubt; a hint of rejection can lead to defensiveness.

Take action

If you only do one thing towards creating a learning culture…

The next time you or any of your team make a mistake use it as an opportunity to learn from it and move on.

Book recommendation:

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed.

An inspiring book about how we cannot grow unless we are prepared to learn from our mistakes, by understanding and overcoming failures and demonstrates how even marginal gains all contribute to success.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Box-Thinking-Surprising-Success/dp/1473613779

Building Confidence Video



I can’t do that

I can't do thatWhat does it mean when they say “I can’t do that”?

Here’s a scenario I’m sure you’re familiar with – when you ask someone to do something and they tell you “I can’t do that!”

But, what do they really mean?

Let’s imagine it’s a member of your team. You ask them if they can do a particular task and they respond “I can’t do that”. It may not be quite as direct as that; “Erm, I don’t think so” or a simple “no”.

But the result is the same – a barrier.

Of course, the words alone might miss some of the meaning. What does their tone suggest? Is it one of hesitation, or of indignation? What does their body language imply? Fear, frustration, disgust?

Find out what’s prompted their reaction.

Is it merely an excuse due to a lack of willingness because they’re not convinced it’s worth the effort?

Or do they genuinely mean that they’re not capable, due to a lack of skill or knowledge, or some other underlying reason?

I can’t…” might simply mean a lack of confidence, and they’re in need of some reassurance, coaching or practice. Perhaps there are other skills that are a prerequisite, which they don’t yet have. Or, worse they fear it will expose other weaknesses they feel they have.

I can’t…” could mean they haven’t got all the resources they need. Maybe there’s special equipment needed, or a budget they don’t have. Perhaps they don’t think they have the time, or know what they can leave out instead to make time.

I can’t…” may be because they’ve simply not been allowed to do this before. Old systems, processes or procedures have prevented them, and despite the fact you’ve moved on nobody as yet has set out the new ‘rules’, or demonstrated their faith in them to do it.

We mustn’t dismiss the reason might be because they don’t feel it’s right; they don’t believe it’s the right solution for the situation, they might feel is not their place to do it, or they might be concerned it’s not ethical or just.

Why?

Whatever is behind it unless you understand why it can be difficult to move forward.

Simply asking directly “Why can’t you?” could be seen as a criticism or confrontational, so may not be well received or give you the real reason.

A simple, but concerned “… Because?”  might elicit the real reason, but check this isn’t just a stalling device or excuse. So, if example they tell you they can’t do it because they don’t have enough time due to another project or task, you might respond with something along the lines of “if we could re-gig your priorities and free up some time, what then?” This will help to flush out if this is the real reason or just an excuse and if there is another underlying reason which they may be more reluctant to tell you.

So, when you hear comments such as “I can’t do that”, or “we can’t do that” look out for and listen for hesitation and find out what’s behind their response.

Related video: The power of questions

Related article: Old habits die hard


When you stop noticing the cracks

improvements

Making Improvements

The longer you leave things the more likely they become the accepted norm, and the less likely improvements happen.

It’s just over 30 years since we moved into our house. There aren’t many things we haven’t changed; the whole layout of the rooms, we’ve added an extension and we’ve extended into the roof space.

But there are some things we’ve been meaning to do almost since we moved here; for example it took us 25 years to get round to putting a sign outside with the house name! And it took us three years to fix a broken tile in our kitchen doorway.

You see, the thing is, the longer you live with something the more you become accustomed to it being that way. We simply stop noticing the cracks. And in the case of the kitchen tile we just automatically stepped over it.

And this can happen in a business too. There can be a gradual decline: the fabric of your building, the morale of your team, the speed of response for a customer. When it’s gradual we don’t notice it.

And once it’s been a certain way for any length of time unless it causes us a major inconvenience we simply get used to things that way, and ignore the improvements needed.

So what are the cracks in your business which could be impacting your teams well-being, their productivity, or levels of engagement. Or impacting your customers’ experience?

Even when you stop noticing these things if they have an impact on your team or your customers you can be sure that they won’t have stopped noticing.

Ask the question

Ask your team where there are ‘cracks’ in your business: in your systems, with your equipment, in your customers’ journey. Listen to their views to flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a great job or impacts the customer in some way.

This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.

Ask them to suggest better ways of doing things. Not only can this flag up things you may have been unaware of, if anything needs to change or it needs some effort on their part to make improvements they’ll be far more bought in to doing something well if they have initiated it.

The customer experience

Listen to what your team tell you about shortfalls in the customer journey; they’ll invariably spot where improvements can be made.

Many of your team are much closer to your customers than you are and will see opportunities to enhance the customer experience. So ask for their ideas and be prepared to act on them.

Ask your team to make an honest assessment and reflect on how they think customers currently feel at each of these key touch points.

If they aren’t sure ask them to reflect back on some of the conversations they’ve had with customers.

Arrange for each team member to take the customer journey themselves and see how it feels being on the receiving end.

If you’ve done this exercise with your team before, this time allocate team members to different departments to get a different perspective.  When it’s your own department it’s easy to become protective, oblivious to some of the challenges or frustrations customers may encounter. Reviewing another department can help flush out potential ‘blind spots’.

Ask your team to make a note of everything that isn’t quite perfect yet. It doesn’t mean to say you have to fix everything, but you can make a conscious decision as to which aspects you might put to one side for now and which need to be addressed as a priority.

It can be quite revealing what your team pick up; they’ll often spot things you don’t.

Keeping on top of maintenance

Have a system in place for maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. Encourage team members to report problems promptly when the equipment doesn’t appear to be functioning on all four cylinders, or gets damaged, rather than apportioning blame on them for causing the problem.

Have a process which makes this quick and easy. Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.

Listen to what they have to say

Take action before they become the accepted norm.

Unless followed though promptly your team won’t bother telling you next time.

The longer problems are left unresolved, the less emphasis it places on the importance of their welfare or the customer experience in their eyes and the less importance they will place on their contribution to your business.

Old habits die hard

If my kitchen floor is anything to judge by, the longer it takes to fix the problem the longer it takes for people to adjust to the new way. Be patient with your team whilst they get get used to the improvement.

I was still stepping over that broken tile, even after it was no longer there!

Video: Listening to employees

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