“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
~ Robert Frost ~
Dana’s staff is constantly asking her what they need to do to get promoted. Her four direct reports are especially anxious to move ahead in the company. Neither the company nor Dana herself has a definitive mentoring program. She realizes that she needs to make some drastic changes in mentoring her staff in order to help them grow and be offered the opportunities they deserve.
In the absence of a formal corporate mentoring program, Dana takes steps to develop a mentoring program of her own. She meets with her direct reports and together they develop a simple two-part strategy. First, Dana will make new, high profile projects available to all who want them and encourage them to volunteer. Second, she will raise awareness of staff members’ accomplishments by proactively messaging not only her boss and peers but those C-level employees above them.
The four staff members left the meeting with their own personal action steps, and they also knew exactly what Dana planned to do to help them. She coached them on self-promotion techniques, such as copying the boss’s boss on project-related emails and planning appropriate times to speak up in meetings when projects they worked on were being discussed.
The group agreed on a one-month, three-month, and six-month review of the program. By the end of the first month, new projects were put on the table and Dana’s direct reports enthusiastically volunteered for their own projects. In addition, they took on some related lower level projects so they could begin to coach and mentor their own subordinates.
Dana scheduled regular one-on-ones with each of her direct reports and also put together a schedule of informal communications with her boss and other C-level managers to keep them informed about what her staff was doing.
At the three-month milestone, Dana noticed that a high level of enthusiasm had developed among her entire staff. Not only was the day-to-day work being accomplished more efficiently, they were excited about the opportunity to work on new initiatives, and some had even volunteered for cross-training in other departments.
After six months, Dana made a list of the tangible benefits that had resulted from the mentoring program, not only for her staff, but also for herself and the company as a whole. This is what she told her boss:
Benefits to the mentees:
- Opportunity to take control of their own learning and career advancement.
- A chance to develop valuable contacts in other parts of the company.
- Significant improvement in their productivity and enthusiasm.
Benefits to herself as the mentor:
- She had greatly enhanced her coaching and listening skills by working more closely with her direct reports.
- She had gained notice and respect of higher-ups in the organization.
- She felt validated and rewarded by passing on the value of her experience to those coming along behind her.
Benefits to the company:
- Productivity had greatly improved across the entire work group.
- Employees who were previously perceived as being “stuck” at their current level were re-energized.
- Cross-functional teams were developed as Dana’s people spent time in other departments.
Many companies have formal mentoring programs that are of great benefit to their employees. In the absence of such a program, a single individual such as Dana can develop their own, providing significant benefits to the employees involved, the manager, and the company.
Do your people need a mentor? This week list five different ways you could start a mentoring program in your own department.
Talkback: Have you been a successful mentor? Or have you been mentored by someone who made a difference in your career? Share your story here.
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“The real art of communication is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
~ Unknown ~
Josh is a sales executive at a medium-size software company. He’s always made his numbers and hit his quotas. As he advanced in the organization, his responsibility and the number of people he manages have increased. Josh’s career goal is to become VP of sales within the next year.
He’s always known how to get results, but his fatal flaw is that he has no idea how to manage his people. The bigger his team grew, the more his abrasive and combative style got in his way. Word got back to HR that he was a bully, a hard-ass, blunt, and intimidating. Ultimately, this information was documented and he was laid off.
However, his boss’s boss saw potential in Josh. He liked the work he did and could see he really wanted to learn and grow, to get past his weakness in managing people. The boss knew that, if given the right tools and support, Josh could be extremely valuable to the organization.
When a position opened up, Josh was hired back. This time he was provided with employee training in the form of an executive coach, management training, mentoring and sponsorship. Here are the initial actions his coach took as he helped Josh design a game plan for success.
- He appealed to Josh’s self-interest. The coach asked Josh one critical question: “Given how your co-workers perceive you, what do think will happen to your goal of becoming sales VP if you don’t do anything?’ Following Josh’s answer the coach replied, “So persuade me that there are advantages for you to make some changes in your attitude and behavior, if sales VP is what you really want?”
- He helped Josh see reality. Using his last 360 before he was terminated, his coach painted a clear picture of how he was perceived by others during his employee training. Abrasive people are prone to blame others for their bad behavior, since they often see themselves as superior and all-knowing. Josh soon understood that, in order for the situation to change, he must change. He started by planning his communication in meetings and one-on-ones in advance, which helped him avoid the sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks that had alienated his co-workers in the past.
- He played to Josh’s competitive nature. The final question was, “So do you really think you can do this? Can you really change to the point where others perceive you differently?” Josh took that as a challenge. “Of course I can,” he replied.
It’s now been over seven years since Josh was hired back and he’s received performance reviews and thorough 360s. This sales executive is now a VP with a highly motivated and loyal team and he’s never been accused of being abrasive or combative during the whole seven years.
Do you need to change the way people perceive you at work? Write down three relationship issues that you think might be getting in the way of your career goals and start developing your plan to change.
Talkback: Have you turned around a difficult situation or relationship at work? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”
~ Earl Wilson ~
Rob’s world seems to be spinning out of control. His desk is piled high with stacks of project data. His email inbox keeps sending him overload messages. He’s often talking on his mobile phone and his office phone at the same time. He’s exhausted during the day but he can’t sleep at night. Why? Rob hasn’t taken a real vacation in more than three years.
Rob oversees a team of 25 people, with four direct reports. He consistently works 60-65 hour weeks. He’s very hesitant to even cut back on his hours because he doesn’t know how he’ll get it all done and still meet his bottom line numbers. A vacation seems like a distant dream. Besides, if he is gone even for a few days, his boss might figure out he’s not indispensable.
One day, over coffee, Rob’s co-worker, Janene, shares an article about how vacations from work improve productivity. The article says:
If you don’t use your vacation days
- Relationships suffer
- Health deteriorates
- Enthusiasm disappears
- Productivity goes down
- Burnout and depression result
- Life balance ceases to exist
Rob realizes that every one of those factors is true for him. The article goes on to discuss the true value of vacations:
A vacation benefits you because
- It improves job satisfaction by minimizing burnout
- Relationships with co-workers and family improve
- Your morale turns positive
- Productivity and creativity increase
Rob is still floundering in his mountain of paperwork when he realizes it’s time for his monthly call with his business coach. He hasn’t met any of his coaching benchmarks for the month so he decides to throw the whole vacation issue in his coach’s lap and ask for advice. If you see yourself in this picture, here are four of the coach’s tips to help you get off the treadmill and reclaim your life and your sanity.
1. Ask for time off when there aren’t any major projects or deadlines.
Yes, it would be great if you could hop on a plane tomorrow, but that’s not meeting either the company’s needs or your best interests. Instead, start your own mental vacation by planning. Where would you like to go? Are you an active vacationer—hiking, whitewater rafting, sailing? Or would you rather spend time at a spa or a retreat? Start to collect brochures and trip information. Pick three or four dates that might be possible.
2. Look at your current workload and choose a time off after a major project is complete.
You don’t want to just drop everything and go, leaving pieces behind for your co-workers or your boss to pick up. Determine a completion date for your most critical project and develop a plan to delegate other responsibilities to your direct reports. As a negotiating point when talking to your boss (see below) offer to work ahead on your part of a project so others can fill in around you while you’re away.
3. Give plenty of notice
The more lead time you provide, the more prepared your boss can be. What’s realistic depends a lot on your own workload, your team situation, and your company’s culture and guidelines about taking time off. Have three or four possible dates in mind so your boss can have some alternatives to think about.
4. Request the time off in-person
Never request vacation time in an email. Talk to your boss in person and do it when he or she is in a good mood and less likely to be stressed or overwhelmed. This could be on a Friday afternoon, but definitely not first thing Monday morning!
Need more ammunition? There’s plenty of research, old and new, to support the time-off concept. A study done over 100 years ago by Dr. Ernst Abbe, a German researcher, evaluated work schedules at Zeiss Optical Works and found that reducing hours by more than 10 percent actually increased worker output. In 1914, Henry Ford appalled his peers by moving production from a six-day to a five-day week. Output increased, while production costs decreased.
There’s a lesson here. Time off is an important part of your work life. You’ve earned it—now take it.
This week, make a list of five dream vacations. Research online, get brochures from a travel agent, and write down some potential dates. Write down a target date to talk to your boss.
Talkback: When was your last vacation? How did you discuss your plans with your boss and ask for time off? Share your story here.
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“It’s having no foresight that makes the temporary unbearable.”
~ A. Lynn ~
Client Renee Asks: I’m currently temping for a company that I absolutely love. I’d really like to work for them full time. How can I get them to consider me for a permanent position?
Client Joel Answers: Sounds like you are on a test drive. Test driving employees is what many companies do to get to know you before they make the investment in bringing you on board permanently. If you are currently temping, the company may be checking you out. Obviously, what each employer looks for during this test drive phase is different. However, if you think you’re on a test drive right now, here are two important questions your prospective employer is trying to answer.
- Can you walk the walk?
A lot of people can give a dynamite interview. They tell the hiring manager exactly what he or she wants to hear, and their resume looks like they have the right skill set. However, as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” If you’re on a test drive, the employer is giving that pudding a taste. If you’re as great as you say you are, chances are you’ll have a good shot at joining the team permanently.
- Do you fit the culture?
Your employer is also test driving some of your more qualitative aspects. How are your personal skills? Do you fit well with the other team members? Do you communicate effectively? Do people like working with you? An interviewer will try to get a feel for these qualities, but really can’t know for sure until you are in place and interacting with your potential co-workers.
Ready to make your mark? There are two questions you need to answer:
- How do I stand out?
- What mistakes should I avoid?
How do I stand out? Standing out as a temp starts with doing the job you were originally hired do to while looking for opportunities to go above and beyond. Don’t just wait to be handed extra projectsor given additional responsibilities. Ask for them! Share with your supervisor and the hiring manager your other areas of expertise.
Also, don’t be afraid to let the company know that you’d love to be brought on full-time. Even if the position you’re currently temping for is truly temporary (filling in for someone who is out on medical leave, for example), look for other open positions where you’d fit well, and talk to the hiring manager about transitioning after your temp assignment is over. Point out the advantages you offer: they know your skills, you know the company, and you’ll save them the time and money of conducting another search.
Most important, be happy to be there. Make your co-workers look forward to seeing you every morning. Socialize if that’s part of the culture—go out for coffee or lunch when you’re invited. Bring a batch of cookies or a box of donuts for the team. There is nothing worse than a temp who comes in and just goes through the motions, ignoring co-workers and acting like they’d rather be anyplace but there. A positive, can-do attitude can make an employer want to keep you around.
What mistakes should I avoid? Obviously, if you come in late, don’t get along with other employees, and complain about the work, the company or being a temp in general, chances are you’re not going to seem like a desirable addition to the team.
And although you may have great ideas about how to do things or improve certain processes, be very careful how and when you share your thoughts. The phrase, “At my old company, we used to. . .” can become like nails on a chalkboard.
Being a temp can provide you with terrific opportunities for full time employment, if that’s what you want. When you start a temp job and you know that permanent employment is your goal, have your strategy in mind from Day One. Look upon every meeting, work assignment, or interaction with other employees as an opportunity to polish your image in the company’s eyes. Visualize yourself as a permanent employee, act like one, and before long—you will be one.
If you are on a test drive of your own right now, make a list of five things you can do in the next week to make yourself a standout to your employer. Start by implementing #1 tomorrow.
Talkback: Have you made a successful transition from temporary to permanent employment? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”
~ Alexander the Great ~
During the past few decades, corporations have changed the environments of their workplace; they have switched from a very competitive environment to a cooperative one. Why would they want to do this? Competition sparks motivation, which means more productivity, right?
This may very well be true; however, the benefits of having a cooperative work environment outshine those of a competitive one any day.
A cooperative work environment leaves room for team building activities and personal effectiveness. In return, team building activities lead to many amazing changes at the office.
1. Increases Creativity
Often times, employees are stuck in a groove where they perform the same type of tasks in the same manner from week to week. These actions allow for little to no creativity because they create a cycle where the employee feels stuck.
Team building activities have the ability to change this because they remove employees from their regular day-to-day tasks by giving them a not-so-ordinary project, which gives them the ability to use their imagination to find a solution.
In the end, team building activities show employees that creativity is welcome at the office. Letting employees know that creativity is not only welcomed but also encouraged at work should be a goal for employers because creativity can lead to innovation, which leads to higher productivity.
2. Team Building Activities Will Boost Employee Engagement
Communicate is key to success. If you want to have a successful relationship with your family, significant other, or friends, you need to foster communication with them and the same goes for a successful workplace.
Moreover, team building activities lead to employee engagement, which leads to increased productivity. Employee engagement and effective communication go hand-in-hand. Those who feel like they can communicate effectively with their co-workers will be more likely to promote employee engagement.
Often times, firms experience the opposite of this and the result is catastrophic; co-workers end up working against each other, which puts the company in jeopardy. However, when paired into teams, co-workers work together to reach the same goals.
3. Increase Profits
The end goal for a company is to make profits, right? Most likely the answer to that question is yes; however, if a company solely focuses on that aspect, they will be destined to fall apart. Instead, firms can focus on employee satisfaction and their happiness.
When firms focus on activities that promote employee satisfaction and engagement, they are more likely to have a smaller employee turnover. Having a high employee turnover is bad news for a company; it means that they are losing thousands of dollars in recruiting and training and it also means that their employees are unhappy.
Employees are more focused on productivity when they are satisfied with their work environment. Therefore, it is key to ensure a creative and healthy company culture that promotes effective communication through team building activities.
What Are Your Thoughts?
There are tons of other reasons why team building activities benefit companies. Can you name a few? Leave your suggestions and questions in the comment section below!
Jeffrey Fermin is Officevibe’s cofounder and is in charge of all marketing efforts and business development for the company.
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