The August Advantage for Year-End Success

Big sky over the flat ocean

Unlock the August advantage for year-end success during the relative pause offered by this month. Transitioning from beach to business post Labor Day may feel like a jolt, especially as the year-end’s hustle and bustle starts with September’s arrival. But though your mind may still be basking in summer’s relaxed rhythm, believe it or not, that’s the perfect state for cultivating game-changing insights! Let’s turn this laid-back mindset into a platform for innovative thinking. 

You may say you’re so not ready for that right now.  For most,  our heads are fully into summer relaxation and play mode. But that is the exact mindset for the richest, most innovative thinking to be done! To help you, I’ve made a guide of questions you can answer with coffee one morning, or ponder while biking, walking or paddling, sunning, gardening, or washing the car or dishes. You can record notes on your phone as you go, or sit down to jot down notes after reflection. Just take a look, and you’ll see what I mean. 

REFLECTIVE THINKING

Think back to January 1, when you had the entire year ahead of you. Remember the goals you laid out?  It’s essential to recognize your progress and how you’ve developed, as well as seeing what popped up that added new goals or may have taken things in an entirely different direction. 

  1. What achievements can you celebrate thus far? What were the wins, big or small, you’ve had in the last 8 months?
  2. What unforeseen events shook your world? What surprises, hurdles, or new openings altered your personal and professional path?  Did any leave an indelible mark on you? 
  3. Reflect on the episodes, exchanges, or instances that have deeply resonated with you. These can be poignant dialogues, breakthroughs, or lessons.
  4. How are you spending your time? Take stock of your current pursuits and duties. Pinpoint the assignments, ventures, or actions that have engaged most of your resources and attention recently. It’s very grounding.
  5. Where do you yearn for more clarity or knowledge? Becoming aware of this is most valuable.

FUTURE THINKING

This is where you look ahead to how you want to wisely use what will be left of the year – because by August, we are well into the 3rd quarter and Q4 can fly.

  1. What will make this year look like success to you?  What is left to do? This will function as your north star, directing your actions and choices in the future.
  2. What elements will lead to a memorable Q4? Investigate the factors that can lead you on an enriching, meaningful path in the coming months (A hint is to synchronize your pursuits with your principles and ambitions). 
  3. Who may provide the most assistance to you? Pinpoint the people in your support circles who hold the expertise, insights, or means to bolster your objectives. Nurture those impactful relationships.
  4. Flesh out #5 above, where you identified where you wanted to be clearer or gain more knowledge. What can you do in answer to those?

SUPPORT THINKING

You can go deeper with these questions by discussing them with friends, your peers in other or similar professions, or colleagues. 

  1. Who would you be interested in joining forces with? Think about potential partners, be it workmates, acquaintances, or advisors. 
  2. What do you need your colleagues to know? Consider the information, insights, or support you require from your teammates or coworkers, and name your needs to enhance collaboration and productivity (Communicating your needs actually fosters a more effective work environment).
  3. Are there any talks you need to have with your principle or partners to make them aware of what you may have come up with as you thought this through?

After reaping August’s potential yourself, this is a great exercise to do in September with your team or staff to help them transition productively. They’ll get a fresh focus on goals and priorities both personally and aligned with yours or the company’s to bring in a strong and fulfilling year-end succcess across the board! 

However, this moment is your secret weapon to jumpstart your journey towards year-end success, taking advantage of August’s serene ambiance to reflect and prepare. If you’d like help expanding on these questions and insights, setting clear intentions, and laying out a solid path for the rest of the year, contact me and let’s have a conversation. 

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Understanding the Role of Boundaries and Leadership in the Workplace

The last 3 years changed almost everything in most industries. Leaders and staff alike have been trying to ground themselves and stay afloat through the transition.  Understanding the role of boundaries and leadership in the workplace – and how positive they can be – is a key to successfully navigating the rapid changes caused by the pandemic in businesses of every size. 

Boundaries create essential frameworks for people to understand each other, get along better, learn about themselves and grow! They are incredibly useful limits that define what’s ok and what’s not for each of us. A world without guidelines would be a little like the earth having less gravity to hold us all down!  And the workplace is no different. 

We come into a company culture and learn the ropes – what’s expected of us ,and the standards by which we are to make decisions and take action. Without those in place, any organization would be chaotic at best, and eventually fail. As a leader, staff will look to you for what and where those boundaries are. So your own clarity around boundaries, your ability to communicate them and help others meet them is a necessary skill bordering on an art! 

UNDERSTANDING BOUNDARIES 

Boundaries should actually be welcomed by your staff. They do so much better knowing what works and what doesn’t, and how the company – and you – need things to be done.

Realizing this removes a lot of the discomfort that can go with the idea of setting and maintaining boundaries. The art of it comes in how you communicate boundaries with each person and their unique of skills, motivational level and personality.  And that means you need to know your people. 

UNDERSTANDING YOUR PEOPLE

Boundaries are not one size fits all. It helps to remember that our own internal sense of what feels right to us and what doesn’t isn’t one size fits all. Those are shaped by many sources: our family, the neighborhood, our schools, country and culture. You will have to invest a little time to understand what will motivate your people.

You’ll need to take into account how your people think, and the nature of the business they were attracted to. If they are creative, more flexible parameters and work spaces may make them most productive. Whereas if you have engineers or accountants, more defined frameworks with specific goals and timelines can bring out your team’s best. If you can fashion boundaries around who you have working for you, you’ll be on the path to greater harmony and success.

Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant, who teaches on adaptive leadership at New York University, told the New York Times, “I’m very attuned to the unspoken needs that people play out in the workplace. You can’t change that. You can acknowledge it. You can give it space. In the end, it can’t rule the day, either, because in the workplace there are higher things and rules that are going to guide what we need to do here. It’s helpful to know that, and be aware of it as a boss. It’s even better if employees are aware of it and feel that you’re not trying to change who they are.” 

EVERYONE BENEFITS

Communication is key – how you convey what is expected, and uphold it, on a case by case basis. If you are able to take employees as individuals and work within what you know about them, it can help them see boundaries as a positive. And if they do, they communicate better with you and each other. Understanding the role of boundaries is a golden ticket!

Everyone can feel more comfortable and will likely perform better in a clearly structured work environment with clearly defined boundaries. Your staff will also have a better work life- balance if you encourage it, especially if you mirror it yourself. This promotes good mental and physical health – the basis for everything good.  And well-balanced people are more able to be present in the time they’re at work, with a higher level of performance with those around them as well as in the goals they achieve. 

This is where it gets interesting! So much so that I’m going to write a series on this. Next month, I will introduce you to an extremely helpful analysis tool with which a leader or your managers can assess each individual to determine both their level of motivation and the level of their skills. It allows you to see each person very clearly and develop a kind of roadmap for their participation in their position and towards your objectives and their own goals!

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How To Free Yourself By Empowering Your Staff

Did you realize you can free yourself by empowering your staff to achieve more, creating a successful situation for you, them and the company?

As you wrap up year-end projects and quarterly goals, I’d like to encourage you to pat yourself on the back for all you did to come through this year! It has taken courage to navigate this new frontier in the work world, courage to adjust to new paradigms, often with new staff and practices, and some days (weeks?), courage just to show up.

Bravo!

I advocate self care as a professional skill, not just a personal one. As you take time this month to look at what’s ahead, here’s the next level of self care to ponder: How can you guide your staff to rise to a fuller potential? Besides all the obvious service to individual achievement, team morale, and company goals, it will also have the benefit of freeing you up to do more of what you want to do!

This is a win/win scenario. If you have some capable people, they certainly want to grow and take pride in their contributions positively affecting the team and company goals. The good that can happen is almost limitless if they feel recognized and trusted. So how do you level up your own professional aims by empowering your staff?

For some of you, that may involve looking with new eyes at how talented and capable your staff may be – or identifying individuals with potential that you hadn’t considered before. For others, it might be working to let go of the established top-down control in exchange for freeing up your time to use toward where you want to go. This change really can shift the culture and benefit everyone in unexpected ways.

Revisit Your Own Path

Many have been so busy handling changes in personnel, procedure and policies, it’s been hard to be innovative, let alone resume goals for your own path. Those may now  look very different than they did pre-pandemic. Use any quiet time you can get during the holidays or early January to come up for air on this topic. Regain your sense of your own objectives. This is critical to have in mind, even if not fully formed, because it will be what motivates you to make way for your team to step up, and successfully add to their roles.

Assess Your People

Next, book a meeting with yourself to assess your staff, one by one. Your aim should be  to understand where each is on their developmental path. Ask yourself: Have the few who have always stood out gotten the lions’ share of opportunity? Who else could take on more? Who has been eager? Who may need more training to do well? What kind would they need, and how could you help them get it?

You will have some people who are content being right where they are, doing what they’re doing. If they are producing, that’s a solid asset as is.

If some have potential, but are not highly skilled, you can develop their capacity. Inevitably there may be some who are just not right for the task, who have to be let go. It’s hard to do, but because it is, we often do them a disservice  (and the company too) to keep them on too long. And if it’s causing the employee angst because they know they are not doing well and it is taxing the productivity of co-workers, you have to have the courage to let them go, perhaps helping them to see that their talents and fulfillment could be be waiting elsewhere.

The more you become sensitive to who is in front of you, what they are capable of, and how they can be developed, the more you can support them… which supports you. 

Empower Your Staff

Here are some fairly simple ways you can offer opportunities to take leadership roles:

  • Include them in discussions so higher ups or clients can see your staff understands the issues
  • Defer to them in meetings to contribute rather than managing it all yourself
  • Put someone in charge when you step away

If someone is high on the motivation/skills matrix, you don’t need a lot of oversight. Instead, ask them coaching questions about a project ie: who have you talked to, what do you think will be most impactful and why. This develops their problem solving skills and you access what they know.  If there’s room for people to think out of the box, you may achieve more goals in creative ways or see solutions that hadn’t been there. All of this creates a culture where others can step up for you.

You can free yourself by empowering your staff, so you can do what you aspire to do. You can work to create a culture where goals can be met in an environment where people can innovate. Examine who is on your team, how motivated they are, and how you can set them up for success. Know they will need time to ramp up.  Let them know that there is room for their learning curve. That will give them courage to take the leap. As a leader, this can be a courageous act in businesses where productivity and outcomes are very important.

If you’d like to talk through ideas or concerns about how this could happen, please contact me

Save Time with More Effective Meetings

Art-Colorful-Paper-collage

Meetings. Most of us think they take too much time, but we do have to have them.  Let’s look at how you can save time by making meetings more effective.

In a month that’s the gateway to a string of holidays (and the cooking, relatives, parties, travel, relatives, parties, fundraisers, shopping, wrapping, and gifting that comes with it), there’s no better time than now to prioritize what really needs to get done and what can be cut away, then communicate that clearly to your staff.

Whether you have attended or run them, meeting formats can become like driving – so second nature sometimes you may not even remember how you got from point A to B!

Time is money but time is also precious to YOU… and staff morale. If you waste employees time on less significant matters, unclear purpose or action items, or allowing the discussion to meander off-topic, you can incur a triple loss, affecting their motivation which affects productivity, which then affects the results!

With fresh eyes, let’s review  meeting building blocks for ways you may be able to make your meetings more productive:

  • Only invite people that need to be included
  • Show up on time
  • Eliminate distractions: ie: Don’t put food out or play music hoping to make people happy at the start.
  • Minimize time lost to tech glitches by setting visual presentations or conference calls in advance. Test if you can beforehand. And know who to call in if you need tech help
  • Have not only a short agenda, but jot down down points you want to make and any people you want to recognize- then stick to that focus
  • Open with the objective of the meeting.
  • Whomever leads the meeting, set up another person to steer it back if you tend to get off track
  • When something of value warrants further discussion, suggest the key people  continue offline (and report back if needed).
  • Make sure your people know you are listening. Be present, rather than thinking of the next point. Make and hold eye contact with those contributing.  Online look right into the camera, use body language to show you’re with them.
  • Ask: “What will you need to accomplish that?” or “Who can help with this?”
  • Close with a clear summary of what’s action steps or what was achieved
  • Have good notes taken to share right after with all attendees, or in less than 24 hours. Make sure they are streamlined: key items, bulleted with clean font – anything to encourage review, and ask for feedback where relevant

Bottom line, the best tip for how to save time with more effective meetings, is about how YOU prepare! Not only will they take less time – including follow up, repeating info, minimizing glitches caused by misunderstanding (because someone fell asleep in the meeting), your staff will be happier, and more productive, and all of that will save time and money in the long run!

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How to Support Your Staff in Challenging Times

If you are like many of my clients, you are looking for how to support your staff in these challenging times. While the times have changed, what motivates and fulfills people is the same. Let’s take a look at what you can do.

We’re living in an era where we can’t escape headlines – the economy, the climate, war, political divisiveness – or that the pandemic radically changed our way of life. All of it has had an impact on our psyches. People are drained and are having a hard time to keep up in all areas of their lives.  Employers, managers, and team leaders need to recognize that this is absolutely being brought into the workplace.

Last month we talked about how you can lead through anxiety in ways that can reflect positively with your team, because your staff (and clients) likely are struggling with it too.

The most effective leaders are those who acknowledge the challenges they face – and invite their employees to do the same. 

When times are difficult, the success of any organization comes from how motivated and productive its employees are. And if they’re not, they will likely become minimally engaged, and a business literally can’t survive without it.

Employees need more encouragement, attention and appreciation, to feel valued and like they can make a contribution. How do you get a happy team with increased morale?

Money is not an issue when it’s enough. The real key is in making people feel they have some authority to make decisions, giving them proper training and time frames for the work they are expected to achieve, being clear on the goals and objectives, and are harmoniously connected to those they are working with.

Here’s some tips on how to help your employees rethink how they work and come to feel, engaged, acknowledged and more satisfied in their roles.

Talk Openly

Explain exactly what you need, by when, and why. Clarifying the context goes a long way to help them see how their contributions matter. This will hone and direct their decision making toward the shared goal.

Involve Them

Each person will be motivated by something different. Discuss what captures their interest and effort. It will be good for you both to know. This will help you assign tasks to match their abilities, with just enough stretch of their comfort zone to keep them alert and learning. Expecting too much or assigning mismatched goals may have filled them with dread and led to under performance.

And, make sure they hear that what they contributed did matter to the ultimate outcome, especially if they were not involved all the way through.

Inspire

This is my favorite. Sit them down to tell them how their skills, track record, ease with the team, etc made you choose them for a particular task. Tell them you have every confidence that they will succeed.

Instill Trust

Within reason, which you need to present clearly, allow them to decide how to run the task or project. Make it theirs. And, let them know you are there if needed.

Show Appreciation 

Thank them sincerely. Find an opportunity to publicly appreciate them. When there is positive feedback, be sure their managers or teammates know. And make this an equal habit with everyone, so no one gets left out. And when there is team success, be sure to recognize what each person contributed.

Rewards

Praise, especially in front of others is golden, but it can also be appropriate to do something more tangible. Small things, like being entered into an office pool for gift cards, a MVP tee shirt or plaque, being employee of the week or month go a long way. So does a handwritten note of appreciation or recognition from you. Giving them a sought after project next, or greater duties can be a great motivator.

As you work on new ways to support your staff by creating engagement, positive challenges and encouragement, and showing your appreciation and gratitude, remember that using your heart and gut as well as your head will prove invaluable.

This unparalleled time of change will continue, and creating the new can be exciting if you have the right tools and plan. When you’ve worked courageously with what’s coming up for you and apply what you learn in the workplace, your leadership is better set up to focus, inspire and reward your staff.

If you’d like support around to how to listen to your staff, appreciate, challenge and reward them, encourage their goals, and show how much you value them, let’s talk We’re all in this together.

Building Bonds Between Your Team – and You

Never underestimate how much value comes from building bonds between your team members – and between them and you. Having an engaged team makes for a much improved company atmosphere which in turn draws in more quality clients and future employees. Those who like their work stay longer and produce better results toward the organization’s goals.

A Gallup study of how employee engagement drives growth “confirmed that employee engagement continues to be an important predictor of company performance even in a tough economy.” What better reason than to start thinking about this and lay the groundwork for what would work well for your group! Here’s how: 

ASSESS YOUR TEAM:

First look at the big picture: Your group, time and budget. Try to pinpoint which individuals or departments may need to come together more, and for what reasons, which can help you choose what activities would be the best. 

Consider the group size. If you have a dozen or less people, see if the budget permits an outing or rewards as part of the team building, while leaving enough to do collaboration and communication activities. If you have a lot of people, then you can alter the choice of activity and locations accordingly. 

Then ask what your people need to work on. Better communication? More personal harmony? Conflict resolution? Problem solving? Or just plain bonding? This will all lay the groundwork for choosing events or activities (covered below). 

TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES 

With the goal of enhanced camaraderie, collaboration and communication in mind, pick activities your group will relate to and feel comfortable with. One thing is paramount: Fun should be the key ingredient! 

 

 

We can forget how important sharing joy and having people laugh together is!

 

Google to find fresh ideas so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Speaking of fun, have some of it yourself while picking what fits for your people! This article from Workamajig not only lists activities, it tells you how many people are right for each and what skills it works to build. Wrike wrote up ideas for a mostly under 40 crowd, and also has ideas to team build with remote workers, which is great! Lastly, SurfOffice has a practical list of 50 activities, categorized by small teams, larger ones, and remote workers. 

TEAM BUILDING EVENTS 

If you determine your staff just needs to be rewarded or make merry to bond, you can always pick a great place for a fun-and-food-filled outing. Maybe pair people from departments that never interact, or focus on the teams that need to work better together and pick things to do that will open everyone up. One easy outing that can be enriching for all is to take everyone to hear an inspiring talk – or invite that speaker into the company – followed by a meal for all to talk about it. It could be anything from a local hero, to a Ted Talk in your area, or the author of a book on a relevant topic.

The Zoo often has unforgettable behind the scene tours. You can get special access to a lawn jazz concert, a gallery, or a museum that offers Virtual Reality exhibits. There are cooking classes with a pro chef, indoor sky diving experiences, or giving back together by doing a community project. The list of experiences really is endless.

CONNECT YOURSELF TOO

It’s also very important for you to strengthen bonds with your group too. 

You can start with organizing the team building activities as a way to bond with your employees too. Get one or two involved in helping you pick, plan and make the arrangements. Make sure to give them kudos at the event itself for their role in co-creating it. Then, join in where you can, play along, laugh together, eat, take pics to post somewhere with praise for your great team. 

Utilize any gap time in these activities to chat one on one with as many individuals as you can to learn more about each employee. But prepare a little. Because it may not be possible to connect with each, think about who might be most important to seek out. Keep it strictly social – no business. This will create a bridge you can reach across. In the next few weeks, maximize that connection by following up with a sit down for learning their goals and how you can help them reach them. Ask what they need to feel good at work, and invite suggestions on how things could work better. Then be sure to address them. This will create trust and a sense that each employee is valued and able to contribute. 

 

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

 

DON’T FORGET SWAG 

While tee shirts might seem unoriginal, it’s actually an instant bonding tool, not to be underestimated. They have a team uniform in sports, so why not in business? You can use brand colors, vary the theme by department, or, to shake it up a little, make a polo or vintage style bowling shirt instead. If you have the budget, you might spring for each to have their name on the sleeve or the breast pocket area, in a tasteful font. Or, give something everyone will remember the time by… perhaps a positive message about teamwork framed to keep on their desk. Thermal mugs or water bottles with carabiners , with a sought after name brand like Yeti, would be a huge hit. Visit Yeti to check out customization. A tangible memento adds value and makes everyone feel special. 

Forming bonds between team members will not only make them happier as individuals, but help them work better together, and give your company a competitive edge. And for you to make similar strides with individuals will go a long way to making a good team great! 

If you’d like some assistance with figuring how you could best improve your personal bonds with your staff, let’s talk