Jennifer secret to retaining high performers

One Obvious Secret to Retaining High Performers

Recently, I received an incredibly strong message about retaining high performers.

The message came from Jennifer, a former store manager at a national women’s clothing chain. Jennifer is outgoing, incredibly gifted at making customers feel comfortable, and was considered a “high-potential” by her district and regional managers. Within a year, however, she had quit.

A few months later, she ran into her district manager at a coffee shop. As they talked, the district manager expressed surprise that Jennifer had left. “You were one of the most talented, capable, managers we had. You had so much to offer and you left. Do you mind if I ask why?”

Jennifer told me, “It took me a few moments to recover from the shock … the district manager had never shared any of those positives with me. I got a weekly, sometimes daily, breakdown of where I wasn’t good enough – and that was it.”

Jennifer told her former district manager, “I thought I was failing. I’m shocked to hear that I was doing anything right. I wish you had told me I was talented or capable at the time.”

A “Secret” to Retaining High Performers

This shouldn’t be that much of a secret. Sadly, however, it’s not as common as it should be:

Tell them.

Tell them they’re doing well. Be specific about what they’re doing well and why it matters. Build on that foundation with a path forward. How can they continue to grow? What future roles are available for them and what skills will they need to master to thrive in those roles?

Unfortunately, we still run into managers who ask (with a completely straight face) “Why should I have to encourage people for just doing their job?”

That depends … how important is retaining high performers? How much lost talent, energy, and productivity will a lack of encouragement cost you?

Human beings need encouragement. It’s a fact of life. You get more of what you encourage or celebrate and less of what you criticize or ignore. If you want a team that doesn’t need to be encouraged, get a cat. Otherwise, if you’re working with people, they need encouragement.

If you want a team that doesn’t need to be encouraged, get a cat. Otherwise, if you’re working with people, they need encouragement. (Tweet This)

If you’re married, imagine what would happen if, after your wedding, you never said “I love you” or never held hands or kissed the other person. You couldn’t expect your relationship to last very long.

That’s the equivalent of never saying “thank you” or encouraging your team members. Yes, it’s their job in that they’ve made a commitment to your company – just like spouses make a promise to commit to one another. That doesn’t mean you should take that commitment or your team’s work for granted.

3 Keys to Effective Encouragement

Recently, when I shared Jennifer’s story, an audience member asked, “How do I encourage people? I understand the concept, but struggle to do it well.” Effective encouragement requires three things. Try these:

  1. Avoid saying “Great job!” Instead, try something like: “I really appreciate the extra effort you put in on that project last Tuesday. The client loved the work and renewed their account.”
  2. Encourage people in ways that are meaningful to them. The easiest way to find out, is to ask. When you onboard people into your team, ask them, “How do you like to receive recognition for a job well done?”
  3. Make sure your encouragement is related to the work and business outcomes. It demoralizes everyone when you encourage someone for something that actually detracts from the team.

Consistent encouragement doesn’t need to take hours of your time. I often work with managers to create ‘micro-encouragement’ with their team members – small moments where you are specific, meaningful, and relevant in a sentence or two. These consistent micro-encouragements add up to massive influence, productivity, and yes, retaining high performers.

Your Turn

Remember, when it comes to retaining higher performers, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. Start with encouragement. Everyone needs it in ways that are meaningful to them. (On that note: Thank YOU for investing in your leadership. You’re making a difference for the people you work with.)

Leave us a comment and share: How you make sure to give people the encouragement they need?

Shocking Truth About Santas Leadership

The Shocking Truth About Santa’s Leadership

Year after year, I’ve watched the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special and cringed at Santa’s leadership and the atrocious leadership displayed by nearly every adult character.

  • Donner rejects his son.
  • Santa ignores Rudolph’s obvious leaping skills because of his nose.
  • The workshop foreman ridicules Harvey (the elf who wants to be a dentist).

The workplace culture at the north pole stinks! It’s a great example of what we call “trickle down intimidation.” The leaders take their cues from how things are done at the top. Santa’s leadership leads to dysfunction at every level.

Fortunately, Santa must have found an early copy of the Winning Well Confidence-Competence model in his stocking. By the end of the show, he sees and encourages Rudolph’s true strength, competence, and talent. Christmas is saved.

Do you build on your team’s talents, strengths, and competence or do you waste time, energy, and capacity focused on irrelevant “weaknesses”? Let Santa be your guide.

SANTA THE INEPT LEADER

Santa, the inept leader
Had a special flying deer,
But if you can believe it
Santa wouldn’t let him near.
All of the black-nosed reindeer
They did all of Santa’s work
He never valued Rudolph
In fact he was quite a jerk.
Then one foggy Christmas eve,
Santa came to see.
Strengths are what you really need,
Weakness is a waste to heed.
Then how the Reindeer loved him
As they flew around and beamed.
Santa, the strength-based leader
Built a real productive team…

Happy holidays!

Your Turn

How do you avoid Santa’s leadership problem and stay focused on the strengths and talents your people bring to work, rather than obsessing about the characteristics they don’t have (that also don’t matter)?

5 Top Leadership Articles 10-30-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of October 30, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

4 Questions in 4 Days that Strengthen Teams and Elevate Performance by Dan Rockwell

Imagine little Freddy throwing a tantrum in the grocery story. Freddy’s mommy or daddy give him the candy bar he’s screaming for. What happens next time little Freddy goes to the grocery store?

You get what you honor. Freddy learns the value of throwing tantrums.

Celebrations, rewards, and honor tell people what matters

My Comment: This is the first in a series of four questions Rockwell asks. The question in this article is an important one: What small wins might you celebrate today? Celebration doesn’t require confetti every time. Micro-encouragement done specifically, quickly, and with intention is incredibly powerful in reinforcing behaviors. Remember: you get more of what you celebrate and encourage, less of what you criticize or ignore. What can you celebrate today?

Building a Collaborative Culture in Non-traditional Work Environments by Rachael Powell

Since its inception, the open-plan office has drawn its fair share of criticism. While initially conceived as a means to facilitate collaboration, some argue that the office layout style does nothing but cause distraction and dissatisfaction. Indeed, it’s fair to question whether there is such a thing as too much cross-pollination of ideas when employees are elbow-to-elbow.

But when it comes to your people, one size does not fit all. In answer to the loss of concentration many attribute to a noisy workplace, activity-based workplace design is growing in popularity among companies new and old. Organizations are establishing a variety of spaces to cater to a range of tasks, including nap pods, treadmill desks and even treehouse conference spaces. It’s possible to foster both productivity and collaboration in today’s non-traditional working environments.

My Comment: I’ve never seen a treehouse conference space, but it sounds like fun. I love the point that Powell is making: give your team what they need in order to be their best. That might be an open plan, it might be something creative, it might be energetic and full of ‘buzz’ or it might be quiet and focused. The mistake I see many leaders make is that they give their teams one of two things that don’t serve them. Either they create the environment that they personally prefer (in the erroneous belief that everyone is like them) or they follow the latest fad and copy what someone else is doing. Don’t try to be like ‘them’ – be the best version of who you and your team are.

The Hidden Barrier to Your Team’s Productivity by Jennifer V. Miller at SmartBrief

As a leader, you know that productive employees bring value to your team.

Recent findings from a white paper by consulting and training firm VitalSmarts highlight the magnitude of high performers’ productivity: they are 21 times less likely to experience tasks or responsibilities that “fall through the cracks.”

Moreover, the research found that these same employees were also 18 times less likely to feel overwhelmed than their less-productive peers. Somehow, these hard-working, productive employees have found a way to deliver results without sacrificing their mental health.

What’s their secret?

My Comment: The gist of Miller’s article is that high-performing employees are good at managing their time and they are good at navigating conversations with their colleagues. At a personal level, they have mastered achieving results and building relationships. If you want a more productive team, model the combined focus on results and relationships, train them in how to do it, and then celebrate their success and hold them accountable when it doesn’t go as well.

The Challenge of Frustration by Steve Keating

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss leadership with a group of mid-level managers. At the end of my presentation, I was approached by a significant number of the attendees who all had the same question.

The questions, while asked differently all had the same theme: What do I do when my “leader” isn’t a real leader at all?

The answer to that question is simple and complicated all at once. I’m assuming (I know that’s dangerous) that the people asking the question are truly leaders. That means they care about the people they lead, they understand that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead and that they get as much pleasure from their people’s success as they do their own.

If that is the case then the answer to the question is this: Lead Up.

My Comment: We are big believers in leading in 360 degrees – being a positive influence, building relationships, and achieving transformational results with everyone you work with. However, there are also differences leading your team vs “leading up.” One of the most common frustrations we encounter here is with supervisors who don’t follow through with their commitments and potentially prevent you from completing your work in the process.

With a direct report, you would have an INSPIRE conversation where you notice the behavior, ask them what is happening, and invite them to a solution. When having an INSPIRE conversation with someone you report to, make sure, as Keating suggests, that you’ve built a relationship where the other person can trust you and your motivations.

From there, you can still notice the behavior (eg “I noticed that you haven’t given me the data yet.”) From there, you’ll want to supply consequences. (eg: “As we discussed, I will be happy to get you what you need and it will take me three hours from when I have the data.”) You might also note other commitments you have (“I’ve promised finance that I will have their information to them by 5 tonight, so I can start on this first thing.”) That helps them understand the consequences of their actions, but in a ‘can do’ way.

Employee Engagement is the Essence of a Human Workforce by Diana Coker

The definition of workforce efficiency is very subjective in nature. This is because employees may be putting in long hours at work but there are times when this isn’t enough. With artificial intelligence taking over our lives, the sole reason why human workforce is still given importance is due to its individualistic intellect. You might think that your employee is working dedicatedly but it may so happen that the individual is doing it in a mechanical manner. If this is the case, then why hire humans when robots ensure absolutely reliable results? This makes it important for the company to encourage the practice of employee engagement.

My Comment: If you’re not going to cultivate an engaged workforce, why hire human beings in the first place? It’s a provocative question. I’m sure there are some managers out there who would prefer the robots. That frustration is a stop on the path to losing your leadership soul. People are messy and can be frustrating, but guess what – you’re a human being too. Cultivate an environment that helps people release their creativity, energy, and strength toward your mission, product, or service.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.

one easy way to encourage your team

One Easy Way to Encourage Your Team

What is one best practice you would recommend to encourage your team?

One Great Way to Encourage Your Team

I took my bike to the cycling shop for a quick repair before heading out for a beautiful Saturday afternoon ride in Breckenridge. Recognizing me from the last time, the manager asked where I’d been riding so far this summer. I shared, “Oh you know Swan Mountain Road toward Keystone? It’s gorgeous, but yikes, that’s quite a hill.”

He laughed. “Karin, it’s okay to call a mountain a mountain. And that ride is definitely a mountain. If you can do that, you can ride just about anything around here.”

I thanked him for the encouragement and headed out on my ride. About 10 minutes in I had a choice…to head straight up the steep incline or take an easier route. “Hmmm…” I thought. “This is a mountain. But I do mountains.” And up I went.

It’s Okay to Call a Mountain a Mountain

When we do keynotes for companies, we always like to talk to a few of the Senior leaders as part of the preparation. Consistently one of the insights they share is, “Our team’s job is so hard! We’re asking them to do a great deal with limited resources, in a rapidly changing environment.” Or, “They’re working so hard, this is one of the toughest times our industry has ever seen.” Or “I’m so proud of this team. What we’ve asked them to do is nearly impossible, and somehow they’re making it happen.”

So then we’ll ask, “Have you told them you know how hard it is?”

Most frequent answer, “Oh, no! I don’t want to discourage them.” Or, “If I admit it’s hard, then they may think it’s okay to not accomplish it.”

And then we’ll inquire: “Is it okay if I let them know you know? Here’s why _______.”

And then from the stage we share, “We talked with ‘John’ in preparing for our time together. And here’s what we learned. Your job is hard! You have to do ___ and ____ without ___ and ___ in the context of _____.”

And a sense of relief falls over the room. There are always big smiles and sometimes applause. Not for us, but because “John” gets it.

Don’t be afraid to call a mountain a mountain.

If your team is facing a steep climb, recognize it. And then remind them of the mountains they’ve scaled before and why you know they’ll be successful.

Scott Friedman

4 Ways to Bring More Celebration to Your Organization (Scott Friedman)

Winning Well Connection

Scott has a special place in our hearts as he’s been an incredible encourager and friend both personally and professionally–and was actually on our first date (unbeknownst to him at the time). Scott is the founder of Together We Can Change the World with whom we’re on tour with during our second half of the Asia trip. TWCCTW is also our partner for our Winning Wells initiative bringing clean water wells to Cambodia.

When doing research for Celebrate! Lessons Learned from the World’s Most Admired Organizations, we asked our survey respondents: “What is essential in making celebration work in any organization?” The top for answers were: inclusivity, gratitude, play, and surprise.

Inclusivity – Making sure that everyone feels a part of the team. Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging … it’s giving everyone a voice and the feeling that their voice matters.

Gratitude – A grateful feeling, emotion, or attitude of acknowledgment of the life we have and those that we share our life with. It’s the ability to count our blessings even when we’re feeling the pressure of daily responsibilities. It’s being thankful and showing appreciation for those that make a difference in our lives.

Play – Living in the present moment. It’s the ability to let go of anger, resentment, and emotions from the past and truly bring our best self to the task at hand. Being in this state of flow will allow humor, spontaneity, fun, and play to flourish in the present moment. How much fun is that?

Surprise – Honoring people through the element of the unexpected – surprising them with what is highest on their joy list. It’s catching people doing the right things and recognizing them on the spot. The reason celebration fails in most organizations today is that it becomes stale. There is a lack of creativity or conscious thought that is needed to make a celebration special. By learning more about what motivates employees and what brings them great joy, we can creatively add the element of surprise to their lives, and what a nice surprise that is!

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well we encourage recognition and celebration – after all, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. But what really stands out about Scott’s approach to celebration is that it is more than an isolated response to something that’s happened. For Scott, celebration is a way of life. All of us can do with more appreciation of the good in our lives, our teams, and our work. You can follow up and incorporate more celebration into your life and work because Scott is graciously providing two free e-books to our readers.

Click on the images to download the books. Thank you Scott!

 

Save

Save

One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

Have you ever had a supervisor who congratulated you for doing something that you knew wasn’t praiseworthy, or worse, something you knew actually made things worse in the long run? Or have you seen a peer recognized for their “great work” only to find yourself secretly muttering “If they only knew?”

I see this happen all the time. Managers encourage the wrong behavior, for the wrong reasons…setting off a ripple effect of well-meaning frustration. “Seriously!? He got the award, after we saved his butt for that dumb mistake?” “If you loved what I did, do you realize I had to break three stupid polices to get there? The next time I do this when your boss doesn’t have a customer breathing down their neck, I’m likely to get written up for non-compliance.”

If you want people to pick up the love you’re putting down, be sure you’re rewarding the MIT (Most Important Thing).

3 Characteristics of Encouraging Encouragement

Truly encouraging encouragement is:

Relevant

The first key to real encouragement is have a real understanding of which behaviors are driving your long-term results. For example, what behaviors lead to long-term customer retention? What leadership behaviors build employee loyalty and engagement?  Sure it’s simpler to focus only on short-term outcomes. But recognizing and rewarding short-term results will encourage win-at-all costs tactics that create long-term havoc. Your encouragement sends an important message to the employee you’re encouraging and everyone around them. Be sure you’re celebrating what matters most.

Specific

You’ve taken the time to identify your team’s relevant behaviors– your Winning Well MIT (Most Important Thing).  Be sure you’re linking your recognition back to behaviors not just outcomes. Describe what actually happened and why it is important.

Ineffective: “Hey, Bob, Great work.”

Effective: “Hey, Bob, I really appreciate the extra hours you put in on that project last week to take a deep dive into the customer’s account and uncover the root cause of the issue. The customer was delighted and renewed with us for another three years.”

If you can’t describe the actual behaviors, you’re not ready to offer encouragement because you don’t know what people did and they won’t know how to do it again. When you take the time to get specific, people know you understand their work, and you reinforce positive contributions.

Meaningful

Effective leaders know that people are different. They want encouragement in different areas, and they receive encouragement in different ways. Some people hate the spotlight, and would rather not be recognized at all than to be called on the stage and be given a plaque. Others will be annoyed if you didn’t take time to understand WHY their breakthrough formula worked on that spreadsheet. Be sure you’re providing encouragement in a way that will be most impactful to your employees. Recognition can backfire when people don’t feel “got.”  To make recognition more meaningful: customize it, personalize it, make it timely, encourage strengths, align it, and involve the team (for more detail and specific ideas see Winning Well chapter 20).

4 Ways to Provide Meaningful Encouragement

My guess is that right about now, you could use some encouragement. Not meaningless cheerleading, but some well considered, well-timed, well-meaning “You’ve got this and here’s how I know…”

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the next five people you encounter could use some meaningful encouragement too. No matter how confident people appear on the outside, chances are they could use some encouragement to bolster their insides.

The Powerful Encouragement of a “Stranger”

Shep Hyken, bestselling author, keynote speaker, and past president of the National Speakers Association (NSA), was a stranger the day he offered me some best-in-class encouragement as I stepped off the stage at the International Customer Service Association conference. Now he’s a friend.

Sure I had done a lot of speaking before, but only to internal Verizon crowds or to my outsourced call centers where I was “the client.” This was different–no built in credibility. I wondered how my message would play outside the safety of my familiar world.

Shep smiled:

“Great job. When are you leaving Verizon to do this full time?”

“OMG Did I say that from the stage,” I cringed, worried I might have inadvertently let out the secret I had yet to admit to myself.

“No. But it’s obvious this is what’s next for you. Let me know how I can help. You should join the NSA. Call me when you’re ready to go and I’ll help.”

I did and he did.

“What advice do you have for how I can improve my speech?” I asked… and braced myself for the long list.

“Next time I’ll listen with that in mind. But for now, just never end with questions. Close powerfully and exit. If the client wants questions, exit and then come back.”

Powerful, simple advice. Thank goodness he refrained from the list of 37 things I now know I could have done better in that speech.

4 Ways to Provide Meaningful Encouragement

  1. Meet them where they’re vulnerable. Timing matters. Shep grabbed me right after I stepped off the stage when I most needed a thumbs up. Great encouragement is a metaphorical hug.
  2. Help them envision a future self. Sometimes we can see more in people than they ever thought possible. Great encouragement is about possibility and potential.
  3. Offer support. Great encouragement comes with investment. “I believe in you so much, I’m willing to help.”
  4. Coach with care. Yes, offer feedback but don’t overwhelm. Great encouragement breaks down what’s next into attainable steps.

Winning Well leaders seek out opportunities to encourage.

Who in your life could use some encouraging support?

Winning Well in the News

In addition to our Winning Well speaking tour, David and I are having a blast talking with the media. Here are a few of our latest gigs.

school for startupsI was delighted to talk Winning Well on  School For Start Ups Radio.

And David had a blast in his interview with The Experience Pros.the experience pros

And for my call Center Peeps, see my ICMI video interview How to Be a Better Contact Center Manager. If  you’re considering heading to the ICMI conference in Long Beach you can use my code WinWell to receive $200 off the conference registration.

 

Cheer in the Next Gear: How to Make Your Support Count

Each time a cyclist peddled past our corner at the Ironman triathlon , the woman sitting next to me on the curb would clang her large cowbell. No words. No sign of emotion. This went on for hours. It was almost a Pavlovian response. See bike, ring bell. She was committed. She never missed an athlete. For whom was her bell tolling? Why was this helpful?

In contrast, my husband Marcus is my cheering hero. I have run several marathons by his side, and watched him as he cheers from the inside of the race; looking to encourage anyone running behind, ahead or beside him. His cheers go something like this:

“Hey cheese head!” (quick caveat here, this greeting works best when the guy you are approaching is wearing a large styrofoam 3 cornered cheese hat). How’s it going? I’ve been watching you run and you really seem like you’re feeling strong. Have you run marathons before? What time are you going for? Oh yeah, you’re right on pace. YOU’VE GOT THIS!

He cheers the same way off the asphalt.

As leaders, how we cheer for our teams matters. When cheering is too general or lacks sincerity it can do more harm than good. It’s discounted at best, and can diminish a leader’s credibility.

How to CHEER with Impact

Whether your are cheering with a microphone in a large team context, or are encouraging someone by their side, there are specific ways to ensure your cheering is helpful.

Confidence

Communicate your sincere confidence in the person or team’s ability to achieve the desired goal

Honor

Share why you know they can win. Honor specific accomplishments or characteristics that communicate your confidence and build theirs

Energy

Tap into what is energizing them about this goal, breathe your energy into that place

Emotion

Draw on your own experiences to create an emotional connection

Rejoicing

Celebrate what they’ve accomplished so far and rejoice in their wins