How to Build Up Your Company Culture, Branding and Authenticity 

Does your company need to improve its work culture?
Is employer branding something that really matters to your business?
What is your reputation in your community, state, or nation - even worldwide? Is it overwhelmingly positive? 
Does your business's reputation need an overhaul to be seen as more authentic or as a more desirable place in which to be employed?
tall building with sun shining on it

Below you will find 8 recommendations for how you can build up your company's culture, branding and authenticity. The article is intended to make you recall, rethink, and then reshape how things are done by management in your place of business.

Beginning with entrepreneurial principles, we will then move into deeper discussions regarding a company's purpose, passion, people, possibilities, production, planning, and priorities.

1. Be a company of strong PRINCIPLES.

roots of tree in forest

Calling upon Merriam-Webster (learnersdictionary.com) for our definitions in this blog, we discover that a PRINCIPLE is a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and wrong and that influences your actions.

Go back to your roots. Consider the values and principles upon which the company was established. Create opportunities in which to retell that story to all employees. Revive the entrepreneurial spirit by having the owner(s) share the principles upon which the company was founded. There is passion in principles when it comes to entrepreneurship. Moreover, passion is contagious when presented well and reiterated time and again. That is, your founding principles of operation gain traction when success stories abound and are shared among all employees.

2. Be about a greater PURPOSE.

PURPOSE is the reason why something is done or used; the aim or intention of something; the feeling of being determined to do or achieve something.

local lead heroes - warrior holding shield

Yes, you want your business to make money. However, what is the heart of your business?

Perhaps your product or service is literally changing lives for the better. If so, let that become a primary motivating factor behind all that transpires in the office.

If not, are there local or global causes in which your employees collectively support? A few fine examples would be the children of St. Jude, the United Way, Breast Cancer Awareness, and Malaria No More. Supporting causes in which your employees and their families care a great deal about would also be excellent options. 

Give your employees both financial and humanitarian reasons to work hard inside and outside the office. Furthermore, you probably have several employees with a passion for organization and service who would love to take on these company-wide projects. Finally, remember that service outside the office is a great way to build a team chock full of genuine camaraderie.

3. Be about building your employees’ PASSION for your products and services.

enthusiastic figures jumping up and down

PASSION is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.

When it is appropriate and feasible to do so, why not create a way to offer employees perks regarding the same products or services offered to customers? Help them understand the value, benefits and the “why” behind your products and services. Don’t just tell them by way of training – show them! 

Building a passion for your products and services will help embed an appreciation of the same - resulting in deeper emotional connections, understanding, and relationships with consumers – even for seemingly distant (from the product) staff such as the accounting or technical employees.

4. Be more appreciative of your PEOPLE.

PEOPLE are the individual human beings who work for you or your company, organization, etc.

respect and handshake

Your employees are people of value with real needs, hopes, and obligations. They are working FOR you. True, you pay them, but they are working for your benefit as well as their own. 

Why not begin showing your respect and appreciation for them by taking a different approach? Utilize social media and in-house messaging. Find something of true company value to thank them for, then do a quick live video of handshaking and appreciation AND SHARE IT – on LinkedIn, the company website, Twitter, or Facebook -  your choice. It’s best if the thank you comes from the president or direct supervisor. Keep it to as little as 10 to 30 seconds of direct acknowledgement and appreciation. It may or may not include a special certificate. You can do this for a lifetime, in cycles or as a one-time project. Just be sure to include all employees. And make certain the acknowledgment is justified with legitimate company value - sincerely worthy of the respect of others.

No need to fret over what to thank them for. Use these suggestions:

excellent thumbs up

a)  During the initial interview, ask the candidate what they will bring to the table that the next person may not contribute. Use that trait as a basis for what to look for from the person if you hire them.

b)  During annual evaluations, ask the employee what they consider the most important contribution they’ve made to the company that year. Then share with them what you consider their most valuable work to have been and what you appreciate most about them in the workplace. (skill, character, project work, etc.)

c) Certainly, any business related achievements (met or exceeded goals) or educational accomplishments by your employees should be both acknowledged and congratulated.

d) Companies should always acknowledge employee loyalty at various stages: after 5, 10, 15 years, etc.

5. Be sure to honestly convey the idea of POSSIBILITIES of career and financial growth within the company.

A POSSIBILITY is simply the chance that something might exist, happen, or be true; the state or fact of being possible; an ability or quality that could make someone or something better in the future.

Do you care about your employees? Their financial stability? Their chosen career path and career development? If not, perhaps you should start genuinely caring and addressing these matters with your employees from the get-go. Ever heard it said that if it is in your power to do good, do not withhold that good? It’s a good principle to practice. And be up front with your employees. People appreciate knowing the truth, even when it’s hard to hear. 

multitasking office worker

Stress increases when there is a lack of communication regarding things that truly matter to people, but knowledge and truth are empowering. So, begin every relationship with potential employees by including career opportunities and financial possibilities in the conversation, and do not be annoyingly vague.

6. Be sure to trust an employee’s ability to PRODUCE good work.

To PRODUCE is to cause (something) to exist or happen; to cause (a particular result or effect).

Hiring managers understand the importance of building trust between managers and their employees, and each new generation entering the workforce brings its own unique set of challenges. 

One positive aspect of Generation Z (a.k.a. Millennials) is their ability to multi-task, focus and even make decisions in under 8 seconds. I’m referring to Z-ers and their smartphones, of course. You’ve heard it before: this generation has an uncanny ability to study for a test, text their friends with advice, and listen to music – all at the same time - and many of them do it quite well. 

entrepreneur, multitasker, man with gears turning

The office rule of thumb in the past has been . . . unless it’s an emergency or you are on break, please don’t use your cellphone during work hours. However, that rule may need some tweaking as Z-ers make their way into the workplace. Being without their phones is foreign to most of them and to many of their parents as well. 

set goals, hand holding sticky note

Knowing this, it is very important to set work goals both with them and for them. Establish guidelines on what is attention worthy and what is not. Keep track of what they produce. I believe Z-ers have an exceptional ability to focus and do amazing work even when multi-tasking, and I’ve witnessed it in my own 16-year old daughter. However, she is still young, inexperienced, and in need of guidance, discipline and structure.

Learn to play on Z-ers' strengths and trust them to produce great work, even when you’re not sure you could produce anything remotely great with all the distractions and multi-tasking involved when you have your smartphone in front of you. 

7. Be sure to establish a PLAN for meeting Generation Z-ers / Millennials where they are.

A PLAN is a set of actions that have been thought of as a way to do or achieve something.

plan

It is wise to create a plan for your Z-ers once they are hired. Many of them have not worked during their summers since they were 15 years old as the case once was. They’ve been too busy doing other important things. It’s truly a different world that we live in now. So, training will be necessary in many cases. Their professional communication, relationship building, and customer service skills will probably need work, but their computer skills will be spot on. Even if they need some additional technical training, most of them will learn quickly and adapt well.

What do you do? Here are a few suggestions: 

a)  Consider adjustments to your company’s career training and development opportunities.  Keep in mind that Generation Z-ers will prefer hands-on or online types of learning experiences. 

coaching - goal - options - reality - will do

b)  Consider providing mentors to your Z-ers. Advice from older generations will be invaluable to Z-ers, even if they don't realize it at first. They need guidance in the workplace though there will always be exceptions to this rule. The mentorship should involve kind words, gentle direction, correction, encouragement, creating understanding, actual skill building, and lots of Q & A. But do not assign mentors until you know a little about the employee so that you can make a good mentor match.

Be advised: promote the idea of mentorship first and ask for volunteers for this program. Do not assign individuals who tend to be stressed, angry, constantly complaining, gossiping, or demeaning as mentors . . . ever. You would also need to establish a set of mentor guidelines.

c)  Pursue face to face contact with Z-ers to build communication skills and to pull them out of their digital world. It is not remotely healthy for ANY person to sit in front of a computer or smartphone all day. 

8. Be sure to make providing quality and value a PRIORITY.

A PRIORITY is something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first. QUALITY is how good or bad something is. VALUE refers to usefulness or importance.

The point is to be a company which honestly focuses on providing and promoting products or  services which consumers both need and want. Use the quality and value-added aspects of a product or service to promote it. Authenticity -- talk about a wise and inspiring perspective! Establishing your company as one which both believes in their product and cares about their clients should be a top priority. 

According to Victor Schwab, here are some examples of what drives people to buy. 

  • People want to save time and money. 
  • They look for low risk and minimal worry. 
  • Many want to live healthy lifestyles and enjoy their leisure time. 
  • They are often focused on appearance, self-confidence, security and advancement. 
  • People want to showcase their individual personality and style. 
  • They want to be up-to-date, first, creative and efficient. 
quality talent - thumbs up

These are just a few generalizations regarding what people want to be, do, have, and save, but this angle is one for your employees to understand well. They need to see the legitimacy and benefits of your product(s) and service(s). Teach and train them how to promote the quality and value of what you do or sell. 

If you put these guiding principles into practice, it is quite likely that your business (as well as its associates) will begin to develop a greater reputation for quality, value, purpose, possibility, and passion. Become a company that cares about those both inside and outside its walls – A COMPANY CULTURE GAME-CHANGER!

To utilize Brannon Professionals' business consulting services, contact us at 662-349-9194 or 901-759-9622.

 

 

How to Hire a Good Manager

Remember this nursery rhyme? "What are little boys made of? Snips and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails; that's what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice; that's what little girls are made of."

Many of us pose a similar question: "What are good managers made of?" Yet there’s no simple response to that query. No nursery rhyme providing us with winsome "answers".

 The  makeup of a strong manager  is something we’ve discerned over time, something we’re still striving to understand, something we’ve researched time and again, and something we actively question in our effort to hire leaders who will manage our businesses well.

The makeup of a strong manager is something we’ve discerned over time, something we’re still striving to understand, something we’ve researched time and again, and something we actively question in our effort to hire leaders who will manage our businesses well.

When hiring managers, we ask questions like these: 

male manager
  • How much managerial responsibility will this person hold? 
  • What values would be most important for the manager to possess?
  • How well do the person’s values need to align with organizational values?
  • How strong do a manager’s communication and problem-solving skills need to be to achieve success?
  • Are innovation and technical skills more important for the manager to possess than organizational and leadership skills?
  • Should the manager be a leader who plays it safe or one who is willing to take a few risks in the effort to move the company forward?
  • Do we want to hire a manager who is a thinker or a producer at heart? 
  • Do we need a manager with strong work experience or one with obvious leadership potential who possesses the character and passion to learn well and make things happen?

What are good managers made of?

Whether you are a business owner needing a strong managerial candidate to oversee some major aspect of your company or a business manager simply hoping to hire someone you can trust and depend on, some personal characteristics should be regarded as standards when evaluating potential managers.

leadership qualities

Here are what men and women from both our past and present have to say about leadership and some of the qualities most needed for managerial roles.

Managers with integrity

One aspect of management I’ve most appreciated in my work experiences has been integrity. Possessing strong core values and the ability to discern what is good and right for a team based on personal integrity makes it easy to respect those in leadership roles, even when they are less than perfect, which all are.

"Six essential qualities that are the key to success include sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, and charity."  Dr. William Menninger
“Freely admitting mistakes is a sign of leadership.”  Skip Prichard
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”  Thomas Jefferson

Managers who work hard and value the hard work and dedication of others

Hard work is not necessarily about the time invested or the level of difficulty of the work being performed although these aspects certainly matter. People can work a mere 15 hours per week and still be hard workers. It has to do with the desire to do all things well and the intention never to allow a person or business feel like they are getting the short end of the stick. Hard work involves both dedication and diligence. The result? I'd like to say . . . a job well done, every time. Honestly, however, hard work doesn't always result in success; sometimes we fail, especially when we attempt more challenging tasks. The point is, a good manager will set the standard for excellence and will appreciate employees who do the same.

excellence versus mediocrity signage
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."  Martin Luther King, Jr.
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."  Colin Powell

Managers who value good ideas

Employees should feel honored when they are asked for ideas by their managers; this opportunity is even more satisfying when the manager follows up and/or follows through with the idea and then gives credit where credit is due.

man in suit with idea - light bulb above head
"A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow."  Ovid
"No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered."  Winston Churchill
"Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys."  Sam Walton

Managers who are focused

One of the things I love to hear when I am employed in a busy, stressful position is this: “Let’s not do this anymore. I don’t really see any value in that task.” It is thoughtful when management considers the workload and specific tasks of those working under his/her authority. It shows that they are aware of what is going on and focused on the main goal.

man working on many tasks
"Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, 'Is this necessary?'"              Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
"Here is the prime condition of success: Concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it."  Andrew Carnegie
  CLICK HERE  for 5 valuable lessons we can learn from our failures.

CLICK HERE for 5 valuable lessons we can learn from our failures.

Managers with courage and compassion

Sometimes a manager talks about an employee’s shortcomings with others but never addresses those directly with the individual. What a nice change when a manager has the courage, compassion and willingness to address a failure, a mistake, an on-going problem, or a shortcoming of most any type directly with an employee and discuss potential solutions. We call this Management 101, and it’s difficult not to appreciate those kinds of problem solvers.

“Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”  Stanley McChrystal

Managers who can trust others to do good work and make wise decisions too

As an employee, when you do something day after day, you get pretty good at it. When managers trust you to make your own decisions in how you choose to accomplish your goals, it can make engagement with the job more pleasurable. While it’s true that some processes need to be standardized and written in stone, this is not always the case. As manager, be sure to convey your high and lofty aims to your staff. Then, be willing to step back and watch your staff make good things happen.

trust - 2 men shaking hands
"Early on I realized that I had to hire people smarter and more qualified than I was in a number of different fields, and I had to let go of a lot of decision making. I can't tell you how hard that is. But if you've imprinted your values on the people around you, you can dare to trust them to make the right moves."  Howard Schultz

Managers who appreciate talent and passion and empower their staff to grow both personally and professionally

I know some people working in customer service who would love nothing more than to be moved into a sales position with more salary potential. Others have no desire whatsoever to be moved from their safe customer service role into a somewhat more demanding sales position.

People are made differently; there are introverts and extroverts, both with varying motivations and goals in life. However, most people want to grow and be the best they can be in whatever task they find themselves engaged. Managers should meet people where they are and not be remiss in asking good questions and providing opportunities for both professional development and career advancement.

"Too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted people never are. They have unique talents. Such people cannot be forced into roles they are not suited for, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow great people to do the work they were born to do."  Warren Bennis
"The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work."  Agha Hasan Abedi
training and development

Managers who understand, hire and lead with the bigger picture in mind

My all-time favorite boss was one who followed the advice contained in this next quote:

"The four keys of great managers: (1) When selecting someone, they select for talent ... not simply experience, intelligence, or determination. (2) When setting expectations, they define the right outcomes ... not the right steps. (3) When motivating someone, they focus on strengths ... not on weaknesses. (4) When developing someone, they help him find the right fit ... not simply the next rung on the ladder."  Marcus Buckingham
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”  Jack Welch

Managers willing to take a chance

vision - light bulb in head image

Another boss I enjoyed working for in the past was constantly trying new things and was mostly successful in all his attempts. As a leader, his vision was great, and being a part of seeing how that vision played out is something that still impresses and influences me today. Dream big!

"People will rise to meet seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges if they understand the worthiness of the personal sacrifices and effort. Supporting that understanding must be mentors who provide leadership; without both ingredients, a cause will go unrealized and a mission is likely to fail."  Glenn R. Jones
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."  Helen Keller

Managers who offer flexibility

flexibility under microscope

Some managers fret over the chaos that might ensue if flexibility in the workplace were to become the norm. However, others have pondered the possibilities relating to flexibility, tried them out and experienced surprising results, not necessarily those s/he anticipated.

Is it time for your company to consider the benefits of flex time and gig or remote workers?

“Telecommuting, one of many forms of work-life flexibility, should no longer be viewed as a nice-to-have, optional perk mostly used by working moms. These common stereotypes don’t match reality—allowing employees to work remotely is a core business strategy today… We need to de-parent, de-gender, and de-age the perception of the flexible worker.”  Cali Williams Yost, CEO/ Founder of Flex+Strategy Group & Work+Life Fit, in a recent Boston Globe op-ed

Managers who understand the ins and outs of company communications

Few people have the time, energy or interest in trying to handle everything on their own. When it comes to establishing good communication practices, a manager should take the lead, but sometimes, an assistant is also needed to organize and setup these new routines and methods of communication.

Be aware: Some people listen well; yet others recall more when information is written. And when less interested parties are involved in the process, communication is even more challenging. One may have to say it, write it, report it, email it, put it on their website and newsletter and then say it again once or twice . . . at least! Problems arise when important things do not get communicated well. When it comes to communicating and responding to critical information, develop a habit of speaking it, writing it, and acknowledging it (in writing).

communication between 2 people
“The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things.  Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris
"The less people know, the more they yell."  Seth Godin

Managers with emotional intelligence

Self-awareness can lead to self-improvement and better self-management, especially regarding one’s responses to emotionally volatile situations. It is also true that emotionally intelligent leaders are usually more effective in addressing and resolving workplace conflicts. It is amazing to see these people in action and to see the positive results of their intervention.

“We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.”  Marshall B. Rosenberg
“Emotional intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80 percent of the success in our lives.”  J. Freedman
female manager in conflict with 2 male employees

Managers who care for their staff in word and action

What you have heard is true: When people know how much you care about them and their work, they will automatically be more engaged in the work at hand, whatever it is. They will also be interested in what you have to say as their respected leader. Workplace culture will become less competitive and more collaborative; still achieving goals but with less stress, worry and fear.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  Voltaire
"As we develop a greater appreciation and affection for words that heal, bless and cheer, we will develop an even greater disdain for words that damage, disparage and disrupt."  Robert Burton
“To get the most out of their people, managers must appreciate the intricacies and depth of the human condition. A one-size-fits-all approach to managing staff just doesn't cut it anymore.”  Nicholas Nigro,The Everything Coaching and Mentoring Book: How to Increase Productivity, Foster Talent, and Encourage Success

Managers who provide sufficient feedback

feedback from manager to employee

I’ve had managers who gave feedback and others who offered none whatsoever. This lack of communication has not necessarily triggered a dislike of any job, but the absence of feedback certainly causes unanswered questions to linger indefinitely. Why not offer some degree of positive and constructive feedback to your employees? It will do them a world of good.

“To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals in their working relationships. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it.”  Ed Batista

“Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.”  Tom Rath

“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.”  Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

Managers who are problem-solvers

solution to problem

The best managers will see problems, address them and make changes. Sometimes this is difficult for long-term employees, but it is appropriate activity for a person in management. Managers making changes will enjoy fewer disgruntled employees, however, when they explain the changes as well as the rationale behind them, and then encourage the staff to share their own ideas for ways to improve other current systems of operation.

"Leaders are problem solvers by talent and temperament, and by choice. For them, the new information environment—undermining old means of control, opening up old closets of secrecy, reducing the relevance of ownership, early arrival, and location—should seem less a litany of problems than an agenda for action. Reaching for a way to describe the entrepreneurial energy of his fabled editor Harold Ross, James Thurber said: 'He was always leaning forward, pushing something invisible ahead of him.' That's the appropriate posture for a knowledge executive."  Harlan Cleveland

Managers who do not micro manage

Although some people may honestly need excessive supervision, most people are annoyed by and have no desire to work for micro managers - bosses who watch and often criticize every little thing an employee does. These managers want to be in-the-know regarding everything you are doing with your time and sometimes "how" you do it as well. If you are a manager, keep this in mind the next time you stand over someone’s shoulder or find yourself giving tedious, unnecessary instructions to a skilled and professional employee. 

Problems related to micromanagement can be traced back to several underlying issues:

   What type of manager are you?     One who abuses authority - by taking the role of harsh and demanding micro manager rather than that of upbeat and strategic manager - causing workplace morale to decline?  One who utilizes authority to lead and inspire his/her team to accomplish great things for the company - even as problems at every level are continuously being addressed and resolved?

What type of manager are you?

One who abuses authority - by taking the role of harsh and demanding micro manager rather than that of upbeat and strategic manager - causing workplace morale to decline?

One who utilizes authority to lead and inspire his/her team to accomplish great things for the company - even as problems at every level are continuously being addressed and resolved?

Maybe there is a power struggle going on. The boss wants the employee to do everything his or her way without exception. They demand control over every task and process.

Perhaps company methods haven't changed for the past 20 years. The manager knows the established process works, so change is unwelcome, even if there is a simpler way to do it now. There is a fear of losing control.

Know that interpersonal relationships can skyrocket out of control when this particular fear results in an unwillingness or even an inability to listen well to others' ideas, especially as members of the younger generations are hired.

Managers like this should be careful to hire a person who is simply trainable rather than someone who is an experienced, skilled and educated person. Otherwise, the employee may become frustrated and leave the job due to feelings of exasperation toward the manager. Worse, the employer may also become frustrated with the employee and eventually fire them.

Additionally, in striving to be "aware" of all that is going on in an office, a manager can sometimes become ridiculously demanding regarding the dissemination of information not actually needed. The real base need here is for the boss to trust his staff - not without oversight, but with minimal supervision. A lack of trust is the problem. (There may also exist a problem regarding the assignment of unnecessary tasks.)

On the flip side, when essential lines of communication have not been established within a department, things can go haywire. People may not have access to critical data reports. Ideas do not get shared much less acted upon. Time is wasted scrutinizing unnecessary details. Otherwise good managers become micro managers because they are not effectively in-the-know.

“Authority—when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.”  John Stoker, Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold Real Conversations That Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results
"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it."  Theodore Roosevelt

Managers who are willing to listen to others

Years ago I had a boss who came across as a know-it-all, and this was my impression of him from the first time we met. However, he was eventually fired because he didn’t actually know it all, didn’t ask the right questions, and did not listen to others when he should have.

“Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say.”  Andy Stanley
 “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening.”    Larry King

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  Larry King

Many aren't, but managers can be good listeners, problem-solvers, wise communicators, discerning in their appreciation of people and their valuable contributions, emotionally intelligent, risk takers, visionaries, focused, courageous, compassionate, hard-working, and full of integrity. Not only these things, but so much more could be said about the responsibilities and characteristics of quality managers. 

professional female leader holding laptop

As you move forward in your recruitment efforts, how might those responsible for talent acquisition begin doing things differently . . . better? Do you need to prioritize the traits most important to the managerial role for which you are hiring? Could some of these aspects of management be explored more effectively during the interview process? Do the behavioral interview questions you currently use need to be fine-tuned? Perhaps you need to obtain candidates' perspectives on some of these managerial traits and how they translate into action in a challenging workplace.

If you would like to partner with a professional placement firm in your search for the best managerial candidates, please contact Brannon Professionals at (901) 759-9622 or visit our website.

How to Clearly See Problems and Solutions in the Workplace

problem

Problems can consume us. We don't like them. Sometimes we run and hide in an effort to avoid the reality of them. Nonetheless, most problems are seldom resolved without intervention. They can quickly add both apprehension and agitation to our already stressful lives. These inconvenient, worrisome troubles have the power to devour our time and energy. Ongoing, unaddressed, and unresolved problems may cause us to become nervous and even fearful in regard to our work, our conversations, our meetings, our relationships, our finances, and so much more. We may find each day beginning with the dreaded thought, "What's next?" 

Yet according to Theodore Isaac Rubin, "The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."
Furthermore, we have this insight from David Augsburger: "The more we run from conflict, the more it masters us; the more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us; the less we fear conflict, the less it confuses us; the less we deny our differences, the less they divide us."
And this gem from G.K Chesterton: "It isn’t that they cannot find the solution. It is that they cannot see the problem."
 These gentlemen are correct. Getting past all the troublesome symptoms of a problem to uncover the root conflict takes effort. We must not run and hide, but face our problems and work towards finding solutions.     But how do we get there from here?

These gentlemen are correct. Getting past all the troublesome symptoms of a problem to uncover the root conflict takes effort. We must not run and hide, but face our problems and work towards finding solutions. But how do we get there from here?

  • How should we view our problems?
  • How do we discern the core problem?
  • How do we manage the problem once we realize what it is?
  • Should we establish a personal approach for dealing with routine problems?
  • What problem-solving technique should we use?
  • How do we contribute toward a solution?
  • How do we provide a successful resolution to a problem? 

Viewing Problems from a Different Perspective

Problems are hidden opportunities, and constraints can actually boost creativity. Martin Villeneuve

businesswoman thinking about problems at desk

Problems are the price of progress. Don't bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me. Charles Kettering

Consider varying angles, priorities and questions. From my experience, the best advisors help in three ways: encourage you to look at the problem or opportunity from multiple angles; help you balance the tug of the short-term with important long-term priorities; and ask the tough questions you need to know to reach the best solution. Margo Georgiadis

MY EXPERIENCE: Several years ago, my job involved writing government compliance reports. However, the bulk of content for some of these documents had to be provided by off-site engineers located all over the U.S. These individuals worked tirelessly in lonely places solving problem after problem. Reporting in to me with the details of their progress was a low priority at best, and this was the problem. Nevertheless, the monthly updates were of vital importance. Utilizing a little good advice, creativity, diligence, diplomacy, understanding and patience, I managed to solicit the information successfully and will always be grateful for the time and efforts of these engineers.

How to Discern Root Problems in the Workplace

   According to     Daniel H. Pink, Asking "Why?"   can lead to understanding.   Asking "Why not?"   can lead to breakthroughs.

According to Daniel H. Pink, Asking "Why?" can lead to understanding. Asking "Why not?" can lead to breakthroughs.

The Five Whys Strategy. "In many situations, in your immediate position or in your organization, for example, real root causes become obscured by other, "apparent" problems. Thus the goal of the "Five Why" exercise is to ensure that root causes, not merely these superficial symptoms, are identified and resolved." Peter Vajda

Why Ask Why. "All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking WHY. After all, the person who knows HOW will always have a job, but the person who knows WHY will always be the boss." Benjamin Franklin

Cause & Effect / Root Cause Analysis. According to this MindTools.com article, "Professor Kaoru Ishikawa created Cause and Effect Analysis in the 1960s. The technique uses a diagram-based approach for thinking through all of the possible causes of a problem. This helps you to carry out a thorough analysis of the situation."

Pareto Analysis. According to this article on the educba.com website, "Pareto Analysis essentially states that 80% of the defects and issues in the quality of the end product delivered to the customers and consumers is caused and brought about by just a mere 20% of the problems and process deformities encountered during the production process."

MY "WHY" STORY: Have you ever known a problem existed but couldn't seem to get to the bottom of it?

figure staring at huge red question mark
  • Perhaps like me, you wondered, "Why are these people so disrespectful and unkind to authority?"
  • Later you asked, "Why are they so critical?"
  • Then you discerned the reason for some of the angst but still pondered, "Why are their words so vicious and cruel?"
  • Even later it occurs to you to ask, "Why is there such fierce opposition against such good people?" You don't feel that way.
  • Still later, "Why does this behavior never change?"

Aha moment: "Why? Because it is a group that has always judged harshly, always been willing to cast aside, always focused on the bad rather than the good, always been loud in casting their opinions, always waiting to announce the negative to others, always, like storm clouds that never stop brewing. The root cause of the problem . . . a stronghold of personal opinion that is always right and unrelenting, unwilling to negotiate, regardless of the consequences.

While this may not be exactly how the "Five Whys" approach works, I think it is a good example of "where" the fairly simple process of asking "why" can take you. 

Managing Problems in the Workplace

Pretending and Ignoring: Don't ignore big problems, and don't try to pretend that problems are smaller than they are. Gina Raimondo

Fascinating problems: Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them. Paul Hawken

Facing the facts: Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. Colin Powell

Agreeing vs. Disagreeing: If two men on the same job agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, both are useless. Darryl F. Zanuck

conflict management - 3 figures

Establishing solutions as rules: Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems. Rene Descartes

Creating a team of problem-solvers: Empowering, cultivating, and ultimately serving those who follow you will unlock massive potential within your organization, allowing you to solve for problems in real time. Stanley A. McChrystal

Exploring the depths of your people: People are not problems to be solved. They are mysteries to be explored. Eugene H. Peterson

Discovering the power of discussion and debate: Businesses that run well are almost like marriages. Everything has to be up for discussion, or there will be real problems. Nobu Matsuhisa

MY 4TH GRADE EXPERIENCE: During the years I spent as an educator, one of the things I came to enjoy about teaching is that even the mere mention of “cool possibilities” often inspires young minds to engage and do great things. So, one day in our medieval studies, we discussed catapults. Just for fun, I presented a formula and challenged them to do the math to determine the best distance/angle from which to catapult a 10-pound stone over a 15-foot wall. After some success and per their request, they were then allowed to change the variables. You would not believe the enthusiasm created as these fourth grade students imagined numerous scenarios and attempted to find the best catapulting distance for each one. Fascinating problems 101.

What is your personal approach to dealing with problems which present themselves during the day?

Confront problems promptly. Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough. Earl Wilson

Change your way of thinking. We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

Lose the attitude! Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude. William James

   Why does a manager need integrity and emotional intelligence? Because nothing about managing conflict is simple.

Why does a manager need integrity and emotional intelligence? Because nothing about managing conflict is simple.

Work with others on a solution. Collaboration is important not just because it's a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So, learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy. Don Tapscott

Focus on solutions not self. If we live a self-directed, self-motivated, self-centered life, always needing to get our own way, then we're going to be miserable. In fact, many times we believe it's our problems that are making us unhappy when, in reality, it's because we're focused on ourselves! Joyce Meyer

Engage your curiosity regarding the problem. Encourage your own curiosity; pursue the problems based on that. James Mirrlees

MY EXPERIENCE WITH CONFLICT: For all the ways that I have successfully managed problems in the past, there are many others which I have tended to handle with much less success. I am challenged by several of the above approaches. Confrontation . . . not something I ever relish. Attitude, personal feelings, change . . . these can present many challenges for me.

However, in all my experiences, here is what I have perceived. People are often reactive and moody; machines are sometimes haphazard in their operations; and our choices have consequences. I can’t control all of these, but I can choose how I respond to personal conflicts and other challenges.

During a personal conflict, we can ask a caring and probing question rather than yelling or turning away in exasperation. In dealing with a technical difficulty, we can work with others to determine the best solution instead of getting frustrated or angry and casting blame. When we make mistakes or unfortunate decisions, we should take ownership of the problem, correct it when possible, and focus on moving forward. 

Keys to Problem-Solving

problem solving with others in a circle

Ferret out the root problem. A problem well stated is a problem half-solved. Charles Kettering

Don’t try to solve it alone! There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves. Lyndon B. Johnson

Take ownership! When a team takes ownership of its problems, the problem gets solved. It is true on the battlefield, it is true in business, and it is true in life. Jocko Willink

Learn from the disgruntled! Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. Bill Gates

Increase your EQ! Having emotional intelligence (or EQ) allows you to manage your emotions, show empathy, and prevents you from getting distracted. It also helps you solve problems and be a more likable person. John Rampton

MY PRESENT STORY: I recently realized a serious problem that exists in our community. I shared the problem with my husband and discussed strategies for resolving it. So far, none of our ideas seem like the right choice. Regardless, merely labeling a problem correctly is half the solution. We’re on our way!

Contributing to the Solution

The power of one man's or woman's vision. Don't underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems. Leroy Hood

Creativity in problem-solving - practice empathy. When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That's when you can get more creative in solving problems. Stephen Covey

Learn how to ask the right questions. You can increase your problem-solving skills by honing your question-asking ability. Michael J. Gelb

Volunteering is a great way to look outside your own problems. Giving back makes you happier by both giving you a sense of purpose and helping to put your problems in perspective. Karen Salmansohn

problem & solution

MY FUNDRAISING EXPERIENCE: This past year I led a fundraiser for the No More Malaria campaign in our church. When you act as a leader for a cause such as this, you must first understand the problem and potential solutions. Realizing the deep need for funds to fight on behalf of the thousands of children who die of this mosquito-borne disease each year motivated me and helped inspire our members to give more than we ever anticipated. Furthermore, the mere process of working through challenging situations can lend itself to the successful resolution of problems in many areas of life.

Managing Problems Successfully

Problems that hang around vs problems that are truly resolved. The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year. John Foster Dulles, Former Secretary of State

resolution - man's fist on desk

MY OFFICE MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE: In this case scenario, I was the office manager for a new facility and had slowly become overwhelmed by the increasing responsibilities of my position. Stress began to take over. My boss then gave the go-ahead for me to hire a couple of assistants, whatever I felt was needed. So, I did just that, and my world became manageable once again. I could have continued in my stressed-out state of mind, but the position was never intended to be a one-woman show. Hiring these two part-time administrative assistants enabled us to complete our duties in a timely and efficient manner.

The Resolution and Conclusion of a Problem

win win puzzle piece

Real solutions, once applied, can alleviate multiple problems. The efficient resolution of problems decreases our level of stress and causes us to feel more hopeful. Hope, in turn, makes us believe we can take on the world at large . . . and win! We find ourselves thinking, "Okay, what's next?!?!" with the most optimistic outlook imaginable.

So, if you're not already the type of manager who is good at confronting and solving problems, begin your efforts anew. According to Pearl Zhu, author of 100 Digital Rules, “We all develop reputations for being problem creators, problem definers, or problem solvers.” Which one are you? Which one will you be known as one year from now? Where to begin? Eraldo Banovac offers this advice: “Do you want to resolve a conflict successfully? Don't wait, start a conversation.” 

To speak with our business consultant regarding unresolved conflicts in your place of business, contact Brannon Professionals at your convenience.
 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Enter the Workforce With the Best Skills: What ALL Graduates Need to Know

  Below are several important skills which you should intentionally strive to develop during your high school and college years, and definitely prior to college graduation. Plan to include them on your resume with verifiable proof coming from  references  such as your professors and past employers. These are some of the enviable skills you want potential employers to notice and value in you during the interview process, even if you are in the beginning stages of developing these competencies.

Below are several important skills which you should intentionally strive to develop during your high school and college years, and definitely prior to college graduation. Plan to include them on your resume with verifiable proof coming from references such as your professors and past employers. These are some of the enviable skills you want potential employers to notice and value in you during the interview process, even if you are in the beginning stages of developing these competencies.

Time management skills

The definition of time management provided on the mindtools.com website reveals this insight: “Time management” is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that you get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. Failing to manage your time damages your effectiveness and causes stress.

How can you develop your time management skills?

time - clock - busy but prompt

We suggest learning how to manage your time well while you are still in high school and college. Learn to be accountable and punctual. Use a planner to manage your schedules for work, tests, travel, homework, social activities, appointments, and other responsibilities. The more complicated answer lies in the realization that time management is a lifetime struggle and goal. Why? Because life gets more and more complicated, plus you never know what’s going to be thrown at you, and inevitably, it will cause wrinkles in the best laid plans.

  • First, understand the actual length of a minute or two in real time. Especially if your tendency is to run late, DON'T ESTIMATE TIME! Learn how long it really takes you to make a trip to the bathroom or how much travel time you honestly need to set aside for your morning commute to class or to the office. Don’t be late; be a few minutes early, at least!
  • Next, understand what it takes to meet your deadlines. Plan ahead. Prioritize. Focus on the most challenging tasks first. Learn to ask for help and delegate when possible.
  • Understand when enough is enough. Realize it is okay to occasionally say, “No.”
  • Finally, recognize your need for exercise and relaxation to relieve stress. Remember that a good night’s sleep is very important in maintaining your good health and that it will enable you to perform better at work.

Remember this quote regarding time management:

“The essence of self-discipline is to do the important thing rather than the urgent thing.” – Barry Werner

Social Media Management Skills

For Millennials, social media is a huge aspect of life. Unfortunately, many young people do not think ahead when it comes to understanding that every tweet, Facebook post, Instagram comment, and picture you post are establishing your digital footprint (a.k.a. reputation) among those watching, reading and listening to you.

   Just as high school guidance counselors and college admission reps are interested in getting to know you by means of social media, so are hiring managers.

Just as high school guidance counselors and college admission reps are interested in getting to know you by means of social media, so are hiring managers.

How can you improve your social media management skills?

  • Start by cleaning up all your social media sites . . . before you begin the job hunt. 
  • Think like a professional. Be career-minded, and start in high school. Best way to begin? Create a LinkedIn account. Anytime you work a new job, complete a group project, or learn new skills, add those to your LinkedIn account. At the end of each school year, ask your teachers if they would connect with you on LinkedIn. This is a tremendous way to build your connections with professionals and with potential references. Encourage your friends to get on LinkedIn, then connect with them too. Just remember this is a professional site, not intended to be used anything like Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. The connections you make are your future contacts for references, jobs, friendly advice, and much more. Then repeat this process through all your job experiences, service/project work, and college years. Don't wait until you are a senior in college to "invest" in LinkedIn. Begin early.
  • Think like a hiring manager when you decide to post anything on social media. Your parents may not care "to investigate" all your social media activity, but let me assure you, college reps and HR managers are very efficient in their research of potential students and employees. 

Remember these quotes about social media management:

“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.” - Erin Bury, Sprouter Community Manager
“Social Media is about the people! Not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.” - Matt Goulart

Money Management Skills

According to quicken.com, “Money management refers to how you handle all aspects of your finances, from making a budget for where each paycheck goes to setting long-term goals to picking investments that will help you to reach those goals. Money management is not just about saying "no" to any purchase but developing a plan that allows you to say "yes" to the things that are most important to you. Any amount of money can prove to be too little if you don't have good money management skills.”

figure responsible for lots of money

How can you improve your money management skills?

Plan well. Set financial goals. Maintain the budget. Research what you buy before you buy. Seek out the best deals. Don't go into debt by way of credit cards. Always spend, save and invest wisely. Start today.

Remember this quote on money management:

"A penny here, and a dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending." - P. T. Barnum

Teamwork

Commonsensemedia.com provides this definition of teamwork: “Teamwork is working respectfully and effectively with a group and doing your share. Many basic character strengths, such as communication, self-control, and humility, support a person's ability to work on a team. Teamwork is more than getting along with people. The key to being a good team player is the ability to put a group's needs above your own.”

3 figures represent teamwork

How can you build your teamwork skills?

In the workplace, life isn’t so much about you as it is about the bigger picture and the greater goal. Engage in any situation whereby people come together and work through differences to make a decision, to build something, to accomplish a goal, or to resolve a problem.

Remember this quote about teamwork:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

Communication skills

Developing good, solid communication skills can involve one’s ability to listen well, to write well, to speak clearly and concisely, to persuade or explain, to build quick rapport, to stand confidently before an audience, or to be an engaging conversationalist.

How can you improve your communication skills?

2 professionals - face to face communication
  • Practice makes perfect, so talk. Lay your cellphone aside and engage with others face to face. Learn the best approaches to take when communicating with others, especially with those who are not like you.
  • Write. Invest in a journal and practice getting your thoughts, dreams, problems, and best days on paper.
  • Care about what others have to say and learn how to respond in an emotionally intelligent manner.
  • Seek out opportunities to lead, teach, give reports, make announcements, emcee, read aloud, tell a story, sing, or speak before small groups. All these experiences can help increase your comfort level when your are asked to stand and speak to larger groups of people in the future.
  • Strong communicators will work hard to understand and relate to those with whom they are trying to connect.

Remember this quote on communication:

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” - Tony Robbins

Attention-to-detail skills

Anyone who has ever been in class on the day the teacher wants the class to write a descriptive paragraph or on the day the math teacher reminds students to show their work understands the importance of the details. Nevertheless, once outside the classroom, details are not everyone’s priority. Sometimes in our busyness, they get tossed carelessly aside.

How can you pay more attention to the details?

Force yourself. Really. Or hire a handy assistant to do it for you for the rest of your life. And even then, you'll wish you had developed that skill earlier in life. Learn to read the instructions, the map, the entire email, and other's facial expressions. Truth, insight, direction, solutions - these things are often found by focusing on and addressing the details.

frustrated manager at laptop
  • No employer wants an employee who cannot respond promptly and correctly to an emailed question.
  • No manager wants a vague response which summarizes rather than details what s/he really needs to know.
  • No business wants an employee who can’t file correctly because that A-Z thing is such a bother. Filing may seem like busy work, but busy is what you’ll be if you do not file an important tax document in the correct file. Try finding IT among the thousands of other files recently placed in the filing cabinets. Not such a minor detail after all.
  • No business wants an employee who claims on their resume that they are “detail-oriented” when, in fact, that is far from reality. Employers will know the truth immediately when they review your application or ask you to answer a few behavioral interview questions, in detail.
  • No business owner wants a manager who cannot or will not address the details of a problem in order to discern a solution to it.

Remember this quote about the importance of details:

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” - Charles R. Swindoll

Problem-solving skills

The ability to solve problems differs greatly from person to person, and problems come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some people may have impressive technical problem-solving capabilities while others may utilize their people skills to resolve complicated employee issues. 

How can you determine your problem-solving skills?

2 figures brainstorming ideas

Determine what your strengths are when it comes to solving problems:

  • Can you easily gather and analyze data?
  • Do you get lost in the details and in the misery of problems?
  • Do unanswered questions energize or exhaust you?
  • Do you tend to treat symptoms, or do you find yourself wanting to learn the root of a problem so you can fix it once and for all?
  • Are you able to brainstorm myriad ways of meeting your goals and objectives?
  • Can you maintain focus amidst setbacks?
  • Do you automatically devise solutions to problems that arise in your own life?
  • Can you improvise when thrown a curve ball?
  • Are you successful at resolving problems by establishing plans and following them through to completion?

Remember this quote about problem-solving:

“You can increase your problem-solving skills by honing your question-asking ability.” – Michael J. Gelb

Leadership skills

In the Harvard Business Review, Daniel Goleman’s article, “Leadership That Gets Results”, explains six leadership styles in business. Are you a leader at heart? If so, what type of leader are you?

leaders and their styles of leadership

According to Mr. Goleman, there are 6 leadership styles:

  • Commanding, “Do as I say.”
  • Visionary, “Come with me.”
  • Affiliative, “People come first.”
  • Democratic, “What do you think?”
  • Coaching, “Try this.” 
  • Pacesetting, “Do at my pace.”

CLICK HERE to see a chart that summarizes the Goleman article on leadership styles.

How can you develop leadership skills?

On the studypoint.com website, several suggestions are made regarding ways to increase your leadership opportunities and skills with this underlying principle: “Actions are more important than titles.”

  • As a leader, it takes integrity to be willing to take ownership and to accept responsibility for all that happens on your watch – on the good days and the bad days.
  • It is one thing to have your name listed as a member of a club, but another matter altogether if you were an active participant who planned and organized events or led in any way.
  • Do what you love. Work will seem like less of a chore, and you will find yourself more easily engaged in the day to day tasks required of you.
  • Learn to work well with others. Communicate well. Build trust in all your relationships. Listen well. Establish a spirit of collaboration among team members.

Remember this quote on leadership:

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” - Arnold H. Glasow

Decision-making skills

Good decision makers utilize intuition and reason in the decision-making process. Both are acceptable, but we all have different gifts and talents. Some people are intuitive but do not tend to think rationally when confronted with tough decisions. Others may become so overwhelmed with all the options being presented that they are unable to choose any one of them over the others. And some individuals are so clearly confused by all the choices that they impulsively, and usually foolishly, select one without much forethought whatsoever.

decision - figure on see saw - yes or no

How can you prepare to make major decisions for a business?

Practice the art of decision-making in everyday life: in your home, among friends, at the grocery store, in choosing how and when you study, when participating on a team, in planning and scheduling the activities most important to you, when volunteering, as you care for young children, etc. There are numerous ways to practice this skill, but be intentional about it. Otherwise, those decision-making skills may be afforded to someone else.

While some people simply need to grow their decision-making capabilities, others may need to hone and mature their “bossy” decision-making tendencies. Bossy people are often impulsive. They blurt out whatever is foremost on their mind, without much rational thought backing up their decision. This style of making decisions must go! Reason and clear forethought must be applied if one wants to become a skilled decision-maker.

When making decisions in the workplace, consider questions such as these before you act:

decisions - figure with 3 arrow options
  • How will this decision affect each of the people under my authority?
  • How well does this decision align with the company’s goals?
  • What are the expected outcomes connected with this decision?
  • Are the expected outcomes overwhelmingly positive or negative?
  • Do I need to weigh alternatives to the choice I’m leaning towards?
  • Will this decision cause harm to anyone?
  • What will be the cost of an unwise decision?
  • Do I have all the facts needed to make a wise and informed decision?
  • Is the decision high or low risk?
  • In the larger scheme of things, is it a risk worth taking?

Questions like these can easily be applied to various situations in all our lives, so test them out. See what kind of decision-maker you really are. The kind a manager could trust or the one who still has a lot of lessons to learn?

Remember this quote about the decision-making process:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” - Amelia Earhart

Strategic planning

According to the Balanced Scorecard Institute’s website, strategic planning is this:

“Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. It is a disciplined effort that produces fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful.”

strategy

How can you develop strategic planning skills?

  • Learn to understand and set priorities.
  • Suggest something which will improve operations at your current job.
  • In a leadership role, ensure that you and other employees are meeting daily goals and objectives. Plan an event in which you must establish and work within spending parameters.
  • If you have your own business as a high school or college student, establish agreements around intended results and then be sure you deliver them successfully.

Remember this quote regarding strategy:

“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things” - Miyamoto Musashi, legendary Japanese swordsman

Negotiation skills

On the skillsyouneed.com website, negotiation is defined as “a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.”

The steps involved include the following: 1-Preparation, 2-Discussion, 3-Clarification of goals, 4-Negotiate towards a Win-Win outcome, 5-Agreement, and 6-Implementation of a course of action.

4 people in negotiations

How can you develop your negotiation skills?

According to Marquette University Law School professor, Andrea Kupfer Schneider, in an article for the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, the development of the 5 skills listed below should take precedence over any negotiating style. The definitions of these skills were borrowed from the Merriam-Webster.com website.

  • Assertiveness - disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior
  • Empathy - the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
  • Flexibility - characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements
  • Social skills - the personal skills needed for successful social communication and interaction or intuition - the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference
  • Ethics - the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

Remember this quote about negotiating skills:

“During a negotiation, it would be wise not to take anything personally. If you leave personalities out of it, you will be able to see opportunities more objectively.” – Brian Koslow

In Conclusion

As you graduate and enter the interviewing phase of your job search, be sure to include some of these competencies on your resume and in your discussions with potential employers.

skill set - competencies

Time & Money Management - Teamwork - Communication - Strategy Negotiating - Attention to Detail - Problem-Solving - Leadership

Hiring managers are looking for top-notch employees. Simply being aware of these skills and having an interest in developing them further can set you apart as a candidate in a world chock full of competition. And if you've been intentional about building these sought-after skills into your work experience for several years, you're ahead of the game.

We wish you all the best as you begin your career, and if you are interested in working in or near the metro Memphis area, be sure to checkout Brannon Professionals' available jobs by visiting our website.

How To Better Understand and Manage Workplace Conflicts

conflict - disagree.jpg

Why do we sometimes disagree and quarrel with our bosses or co-workers? Is it because we get offended or fail to get our way? Because someone broke the rules or made a mistake? The causes are numerous.

What prompts us to become resistant, angry, moody, and emotional towards others in the workplace? Is it conflict that triggers those reactions in us?

Conflict is one of the great opportunities in life. Yes, opportunities! According to Lou Holtz, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”

So, while life certainly brings about myriad experiences, most of life involves responding to our experiences. The point? Life may not be lived to the fullest if we do not learn how to react and respond well to our experiences, especially to those which are challenging, annoying, unfair, unexpected, or unfortunate.

emoticons showing varied emotional responses
  • Did you run into heavy traffic on your way to work this morning? Did any irritatingly slow, careless or unsafe drivers get in your way? How did you respond?
  • What happened to you in the last 30 minutes? How did you respond?
  • What major sadness or loss have you experienced this past year? How did you respond?
  • Did you experience a major failure in recent months? How did you respond?
  • Have you ever found yourself conflicting with another individual at work? With more than 1? More than 5? How did you respond?
  • Have you ever found yourself yelling at a family member, friend, or co-worker over anything? We know how you responded!

WHY THERE IS NO PEACE

People conflict with others over numerous matters. Sometimes we give voice to these conflicts, sometimes not. But one of the reasons we have quarrels and conflicts is because our personalities and preferred ways of doing life and work differ vastly. Allow me to elaborate on a few of those differences.

figures competing in race at different paces

1. Difference in Pace

  • One drives at a snail’s pace while the other is ready to put the pedal to the metal.
  • A husband methodically shops 8 long months for the perfect sofa while his wife would have been content with the third or fourth one she saw.
  • One team leader is ready to act now, but his co-leader prefers to conduct a few weeks of research first.

What to remember about the pace at which people move:

Everyone's natural "pace" can be either a disadvantage or an advantage at any given time. However, the frequency at which you get irritated with people who do not operate at the same pace as you and the less patience and tolerance you extend them, the more loudly you convey your own lack of self-control and immaturity to others. Self-control in relationship to others is a learned trait which can benefit not only your relationships but also your health and career. Make the conscious effort to exercise some self-control toward those who are not like you.

2. Difference in Personality

people and personality variety
  • A husband possesses a sharp wit and kind demeanor but doesn’t have nearly the tolerance or need for words that his wife displays daily.
  • A kind and patient supervisor has one employee who can’t stop talking long enough for the other workers to complete their work accurately; the talker, however, is quite effective in maintaining her workload.
  • An extroverted team member speaks up during a meeting with one great idea after another only to have an introverted team member speak with the team leader after the meeting, and the supervisor chooses the introvert’s idea!
  • Seven employees make up a close-knit office where everyone is a part of the team, but a new co-worker is hired who makes literally everything a competition.

What to remember about differing personalities:

In the workplace, when you find yourself despising or demeaning another’s personality or modus operandi, you are conveying to that person and others your inability to respect your co-workers appropriately. Instead, stop being so judgmental and force yourself to find one admirable trait, which, if used wisely, would be an amazing attribute in that person. Then, in the kindest, most non-demeaning manner possible, begin to compliment and encourage the person in that direction.

meeting and workplace communication

3. Difference in Communication Styles

  • Your manager is direct, forthcoming, often brash, unrelenting, and task-oriented.
  • You believe all communication should be sprinkled with kindness in the friendliest manner possible.
  • Your husband tends to be moody, and you’re never quite sure what he’s thinking.
  • Then there’s your daughter who is happy, happy, happy and never seems to stop talking.

What to remember about our habits of communication:

We learn at a young age how to “deal” with people who are different from us. That is, we create habits and methods (right or wrong) regarding how we group, judge, label and treat people based on their communication style or a thousand other perceived undesirable traits. Yet remember this: People want to feel respected and appreciated. Sometimes in our “dealings” with people not like us, we (sub)consciously but convincingly convey, “I don’t like you”, "I don't approve of you - or your disposition", “You annoy me”, or "You're a waste of my time" with every interaction we have with the person. Break this habit as soon as possible. We all need to toughen up or change in some way, but for the sake of basic human kindness and less conflict, meet people where they are and be respectful!

4. Difference in Values

values written in red
  • Your supervisor believes little white lies are acceptable, and he is ready to fire you for the relatively “unnecessary” albeit factual information you divulged to a consumer during their recent car shopping visit.
  • Your boss expects you to arrive promptly to work each day and without excuse, but you only run about 5 minutes late each day, give or take a few minutes. Morning traffic!!
  • Gossip is the status quo and basis of many working relationships at the business where you were just hired, but for years you have been intentional about not participating in any form of gossip, especially that related to your bosses and co-workers.
  • You had a great idea and presented it to your business partner, but his priorities are different than yours. You believe that the company must act immediately on an important financial matter, but your sidekick believes that people are more important than the costs the company may incur by delaying action.
  • Your boss wants you to work every day from 8 to 5 with a one-hour lunch, but you want to manage your time a bit differently. Come in 15 minutes late and take a 45-minute lunch. Or arrive 30 minutes late and work 30 minutes late. Your boss refuses to be flexible. She says it’s about work ethic and expecting the same good habits from all employees – not about her personal level of flexibility.

What to remember about expressing and responding to opposing values:

conflict - opposing values - one positive - one negative

This is a biggie in our world and workplace today. We all have drastically different values, similar sometimes, but rarely the same as another. I think it is a wise thing to try to hire employees with similar values (interests, motivations and attitudes) because it simply makes working together easier.

However, most people will find themselves in serious conflict with a co-worker, manager or client at some point in their work experience. There are so many conversations to be had here, but I’ll stick with this directive when addressing a difference in values:

Treat others with every bit of respect that is due them as one of your fellow human beings, whether they are a manager, one of your peers, an employee, or a customer. However, stand your ground and choose to do what is right so that you can sleep peacefully at night. Finally, remember that words, actions and reactions steeped in both lovingkindness and integrity outrank almost every other defense when it comes to the big picture and living life well, both personally and professionally.

5. Difference in Personal Peace

  • Your supervisor’s departmental budget has just been cut by 10%, and she had asked for an increase of 5%. Moreover, her husband just filed for divorce, so she’s not in the best of moods.
  • You’ve been a perfectly happy employee for 2 years, but now your 14-yr old daughter is 2 months into cancer treatment. You are worried about her and experiencing serious sleep deprivation.
  • You co-worker is acting abnormally moody. You don't realize it, but she's just been called out regarding her bad attitude and mistreatment of another co-worker. As a result, she's feeling depressed and ashamed of her behavior. And of course, she doesn't want to talk about it to anyone.
emotions expressed on yellow balls

What to remember about others' lack of peace:

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. No one is without trouble in this life. Everyone has issues. Everyone’s personal peace gets disrupted at times. So, be mindful of others’ struggles, even if you aren’t aware of the exact problem, much less the details. There’s always a reason why people act unpleasantly - always. So be just as non-judgmental, understanding and tolerant as possible.

6. Difference in Experience with Conflict

You grew up constantly arguing and fighting with an abusive father, but your employee had a wonderful upbringing with very little conflict. When your employee must speak with you about a problem, a mistake or any other "negative" issue, your tendency is to yell and lash out. And she falls apart emotionally, retreats to her office in silence (for 2-3 days), every single time. It’s most unpleasant, but the story hasn’t changed in 10 years.

serious conflict between 2 people not facing each other

What to remember about dealing with conflict:

To both the employer and the employee in this situation, I would say this: If you do not start doing something differently, nothing will ever change. Serious conflicts should be handled in such a way that communication and understanding will usher in change – change that breeds better days ahead.

7. Difference in Perception

  • You feel left out in your department. You only turned down your coworkers’ invitation twice, but now they never include you in their private talks or lunches away from the office. They interpreted your refusal as disinterest. In all honesty, it was a little disinterest, but mostly due to fear of rejection by people you didn’t know very well yet. Misunderstanding creates distance, confusion and all sorts of negative consequences.
sandwich or snack
  • You are a new employee doing what everyone else in your department does. You eat your morning snack (a.k.a. lunch sandwich) at your desk while you continue to work around 10:00 each day. Then you punch the clock around noon and use your lunch hour to get some sunshine and enjoy a good book. You have done the same thing at previous jobs - no problem. 

However, your desk is right in line with the new manager’s desk; one day he sees you with your lunch box and watches as you eat your sandwich without punching the clock. Apparently, he doesn't realize you are still working. Next, he sees you punch out and take an hour long lunch. He reports you, and you end up losing your job. You are accused of stealing time from the company by taking two lunches but only punching out for one. You try to explain your perspective but to no avail. There is zero tolerance for “theft.”

What to remember about quick and sometimes false perceptions:

Perception and first impressions – these are important – yet things are not always as they seem. Truly, we live and learn, but I would offer these tidbits of advice.

perception - man's head with bubbles of thought

First, let all your actions be above reproach so that you are never falsely (or justly) accused of wrongdoing. Don’t be afraid to communicate with a new boss about anything – to clarify your actions, to ask permission, etc.

Secondly, be the type of person who is willing to work at getting to know others, not just the people who are easy to know but also the ones who require a little time and good conversation before committing themselves to new acquaintances.

Finally, for those who are introverted, learn from situations like this and be prepared to take a chance on building good workplace relationships with both your supervisors and your co-workers.

sad woman facing conflict at work

THE REAL NEGATIVES OF CONFLICT

When you see unresolved conflict in the workplace, the repercussions will always be negative in nature. Disagreement becomes acutely personal and emotional. Loud arguments and fighting persist. The conflict clouds otherwise typical good judgment in your best employees. Walls are built – walls that cannot be torn down easily. The whole culture of a company can be infected with the negativity which unresolved conflicts may generate. The joy of working is fully negated, and people want to leave the company.

DEALING WITH WORKPLACE CONFLICT

It takes a leader with emotional intelligence to deal with emotional conflict. Business leaders must learn to deal effectively with conflicts which arise among their employees. We all know that where there are people, there will be conflict. It’s inevitable. But there are a few ways of thinking and responding which can benefit arbitrators of conflict.

respect - held in one's hand

1. Mutual respect goes a long way toward working through differences, so be sure you are building a positive culture where mutual respect is the norm.

“Respect your fellow human being(s), treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it. No destructive lies. No ridiculous fears. No debilitating anger.” - Bill Bradley, former pro-basketball player and U.S. Senator

2. It is unwise to ignore any conflict because smaller ones can lead to more consequential ones. Rather, a leader’s willingness to address conflict in the workplace emphatically reveals how much one cares about both the employee and the company. Conflicts which are left unaddressed will be emotionally draining on an organization and all its employees.

conflict & solution - 3 work toward resolution
“Every unaddressed conflict wastes about 8 hours of company time in gossip and other unproductive activities” which creates “an enormous drain on an organization.” - Joseph Grenny, co-founder of VitalSmarts, a training and organizational development company in Utah

3. Conflict that is handled successfully has a host of benefits:

  • Increased diversity of critical thought and opinion which leads to better decisions
  • May spark creativity which inevitably leads to innovation
  • Can help build a genuine spirit of cooperation and collaboration among employees
  • Listening and leading well during a conflict can create trust between managers and their staff
  • Addressing the specific factors which led up to a conflict may result in needed changes regarding company methods and policies
  • Helps newer employees understand the valuable contributions of longstanding employees
  • Creates opportunities to share one’s point of view with others; also builds greater appreciation for the perspectives of one’s co-workers and managers
  • Can be the one thing that creates a bond between two incompatible individuals
quote - learn to dance in the rain
“Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is not the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and of poor communication.” - Harriet B. Braiker, Who's Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life
“On great teams – the kind where people trust each other, engage in open conflict, and then commit to decisions – team members have the courage and confidence to confront one another when they see something that isn’t serving the team.” Patrick Lencioni, an American writer and author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

OTHER CONFLICT MANAGEMENT TIPS

It is critical to create a deeper respect and understanding between all conflicting parties. Encourage honest and mutual sharing opportunities plus a little humility. I have found this strategy to work quite well with my teenager when we have a serious disagreement. Through the years, I’ve also realized how much it means to me both personally and professionally when a manager is willing to share his or her point of view and reasoning with me. It is rare that conversation like this doesn’t breed greater understanding.

As to what will work best as a resolution, there must be a commitment by both parties to abide by the manager’s final decision. Additionally, there should be a sense that the resolution is being made without placing blame on either party, simply determining what is best. A leader’s decisions are rarely easy, and yes, sometimes they do not work to everyone’s advantage. Such is life.

conflict and finger pointing

When negotiating a conflict resolution, it is imperative that there be no finger pointing. The ones in disagreement should own their participation in the conflict. They must acknowledge aloud their part in escalating their opinions and emotions. The admittance of such should involve phrases such as I felt, I realized, I misinterpreted, I assumed, I regretted, I saw, I did, I thought, I tried, etc.

We as human beings can feel so wronged! With those feelings come cruel, hurtful words, bad attitudes, resistant hearts, and spiraling emotions. We sometimes feel moody, mistreated, unfairly reprimanded, or in an on-going power struggle. Jealousy, pride, and our egos can manifest themselves in the ugliest, most unprofessional ways. We differ in opinions, and sometimes those get expressed inappropriately. Employees, supervisors, team members, department heads – we all have the potential to conflict over anything we honestly care about. But in all these things, the conflict must be addressed and the root problem resolved in the most satisfactory manner possible among those in disagreement.

For additional help with resolving conflicts in the workplace, contact our Business Consultant at www.brannonprofessionals.com.