A Call to Leaders: What You Didn’t Know You Owe Your Team

When you think about your role as a leader, what do you feel responsible for? Your growth as a company? Your employees’ wellness? Your company culture? Your customer’s satisfaction?  

 

For most, the list could go on and on. But in every case, there are a few things that employers have a duty to provide to their employees: 

  • A safe working environment 
  • Sufficient training 
  • Fair compensation 
  • Equal opportunity for growth 

 

You probably agree. This stuff is pretty basic. But providing these things to your employees doesn’t necessarily ensure their success at your company.  

 

How you and your leadership team engage with your employees is what makes the difference.  

 

Your personality and vision determine your leadership style  – you may favor coaching or a fast-paced, high-intensity environment. Regardless of the approach, one simple trait is necessary for strong employee engagement: clarity.  

 

Yes, really.  

 

Many leaders who bemoan their frustratingly slow company culture, or their low employee engagement will look to solutions like employee benefits, PTO, and the general concept of “employee experience” to help them solve their problem.  

 

Leaders rarely look to their own style of leading when they respond to flaws in their company. But that’s a mistake. As a leader, you set the pace and tone of your company. You are the key to ensuring your employees are successful. So, it’s only reasonable you should evaluate your impact on the issues your company is facing.  

 

This can be a touchy subject. You care deeply about your employees, and you’ve worked extremely hard to provide them with what you believe they deserve. You’re nice. You’re encouraging. You’re patient.  

 

But if you’re not able to be direct about expectations and feedback, all that niceness you value flies out the window.  

 

Most people are afraid of confrontation, including leaders. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make them angry or upset them in any way. And we don’t want to be uncomfortable.  

 

But here’s the reality: your comfort matters much less than your duty to provide your employees with clarity.  

 

Yes, you owe it to them. 


It may feel harsh to set clear and specific expectations of your employees. But put it in perspective. Remember that teacher in school who everyone loved, but was known for being strict? They let their students know homework was due at the beginning of class and no later. If you turned it in late? No credit. But their classes were terrific. Why
 

 

Because every student knew precisely what to do to be successful. 

 

They were given clear boundaries that worked as markers on the road, steering them in the right direction and keeping them on track. They would know when they didn’t meet expectations because those markers were plainly and directly pointed out from the start.  

 

No one called that teacher mean. No one resented them for their rules. In fact, those rules provide a modicum of relief to students. When the path to success is laid out before you, you don’t have to spend time worrying about whether or not you’re doing okay. You can see when you’re off the road and when you’re on.  

 

It’s the same for employers and employees. Are you able to tell your employee where they need to improve their work? Do your employees know when they aren’t meeting your expectations? Or do they have to go by sense? Do they know the expectations you have of them? Or do they have to assume?  

 

Uncomfortable? Do it anyway. 

 

If you’re squirming in your seat at the thought of sitting down with your employees and getting honest, then this is for you. The most influential leaders will have conversations explaining precisely what they want from their employees, set clear boundaries around expectations for them, and let them know when they’re off track.   

 

Discomfort around these conversations will go away with practice – for both of you. You may see uneasiness from your employees when you begin this honest approach, but that is to be expected from an adjustment like this. With a bit of time, you’ll see individual employees begin to thrive beyond your expectations. You’ll see your employees relax into the new expectations you’ve set. And you’ll see a new bond of trust form between you and your employees.  

 

Transparency works like street-lamps on a dark road. No one likes to drive in the dark. Given light, they can relax, sit back, and drive without fear of crashing. You owe it to your employees to provide that light. You’ll thank yourself in the end. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by scyther5

 

Nurturing Employee Wellness in Uncertain Times

Two years ago, a report by Gallup found that nearly a quarter of the 7,500 full-time employees they surveyed felt burned out “very often or always” with another 44% who reported feeling burned out some of the time. You’re probably aware of the massive costs, increased risk, and decreased health of both individuals and organizations that suffer from burnout. It’s not something you want in your business in the best of times.

But what about when your company, community, and economy is under immense pressure from an external source you can’t control? Do you double down on what you believe most critically demands your attention and put things like employee wellness aside?

Although you may be feeling pressure to cut down on extraneous programs to conserve effort, time, and money, it’s critical to remember that your employees are going to make or break your success during this trying time.

The ability of your employees to successfully navigate particularly stressful situations is deeply influenced by the ability of your company to support them. It wouldn’t be a reach to suggest the interaction and experience employees have within their role in your company has a significant impact on their quality of life. Especially now, when employees are struggling to find a new balance of working from home, often with children, and isolated from their communities.

Assess the tools available

As a leader during a challenging time, it’s crucial to take stock of what resources are available. Now is not the time to get tunnel vision. Keep your mind open to new and different solutions than you may be used to. Employee wellness isn’t just built from having enough time off or fair compensation. Wellness is a multifaceted thing, with many different aspects your business can focus its influence on.  

Outsourcing employee wellbeing programs

There are several organizations whose sole focus is to help businesses develop and nurture their employees’ wellbeing. Here are a few examples:

  • Thrive Global offers a multi-pronged approach to improving employee wellbeing and productivity through behavior change programs, educational content and resources, and digital solutions designed to help individuals make positive changes.
  • Whil is a platform that provides goal-based resilience training for individuals through targeted courses focusing on twelve aspects of employee wellbeing.
  • RestoreResilience provides stress-reduction and lifestyle improvement programs targeted to specific groups of employees. Their programs use a combination of smart technology and individualized coaching outreach to help employees make small meaningful adjustments and improvements in their lifestyle.

Getting creative

If your company isn’t set up to incorporate larger programs, there are numerous ways you can make smaller, yet still impactful changes to your employee experience. To help, let’s break down employee wellness into a few categories with examples for each.

Nutrition

  • Consider helping your employees boost their nutritional health by working with meal delivery services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket to offer food at a discounted price.
  • Offer discounts to online cooking classes and resources from services like the NYTimes Cooking subscription and ChefSteps.
  • Purchase gift cards from local restaurants (a great way to support your local community) to give to your employees. If you’re a local business, promote this idea to employers in your area and provide incentives. (i.e., purchase $1,000 of gift cards and receive $100 free!)

Mental Health

  • Remote counseling services have skyrocketed recently. Consider working with companies like Talkspace and BetterHelp to provide your employees with mental health services that will help them navigate this challenging time.

Fitness

  • Consider reaching out to local fitness instructors and yoga teachers to offer virtual training sessions and classes to your employees every week.

Financial

  • Consider implementing a program like Compt to provide your employees with a monthly stipend they can use towards their wellness. This is a great way to find something that fits your specific budget while providing employees with the freedom to choose what they will spend it on. This increases the chance they will actually use what they purchased. A win-win!

Their wellness is your wellness

However you choose to help your employees maintain their wellness during this challenging time, be sure that you are doing something. Even the smallest acts make a difference. Remember, how you treat your employees now will influence their relationship with you for the rest of their employment. By giving them what they need now, you’re ensuring their long-term loyalty, engagement, and productivity. Think healthy employees = healthy business. It’s good for everyone.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by racorn

Transitioning to Supporting Remote Workers in a Hurry? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Right now, schools and offices around the country are sending people home to try and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Fortunately, modern technology gives us the capability to work remotely fairly successfully. However, the task of transitioning entire workforces to working from home poses some serious challenges for business owners. 

Aside from the basic challenges that come from managing and leading a remote workforce, it becomes exponentially harder to do so without having a lot of time to prepare. While it would be impossible to transition a previously on-site workforce without setbacks and challenges, by doing their research, business owners can decrease the potential for costly mistakes.  

Start by asking the right questions 

If you’ve never lead a remote workforce before, you probably have a vague idea of the challenges that come with working remotely. To properly prepare your employees, you need to answer several questions:  

  • Do you have communication channels available for your employees to use? If so, how robust are they? 
  • Do you have a way to track and collaborate on team projects, specific tasks, and weekly/monthly goals and progress?
  • How do you deal with storing and sharing documents and files? Do you have a way to access files remotely? 
  • How do you plan to promote employee wellness, community, and culture among your remote workforce? 

While these questions may be obvious, they’re also essential to ensuring your workforce stays on task and productive. Making remote work work for your business doesn’t just require employees who can manage themselves to a certain extent, but an infrastructure—provided by you—that promotes and supports their ability to do so effectively.  

Communication 

First and foremost, your employees need to have the capability to communicate with their team efficiently. If you’re thinking that you’re covered by just using email, you’re gravely mistaken. Email is not robust enough to support your employees’ needs. Think about it. How many emails get lost in your inbox every week? How difficult is it to sort through piles of messages in your inbox coming in from your team, clients, and service requests? And how much time does it take to find the discussion you’re looking for?   

Take the time to ask yourself what your company needs specifically.  

  • If you want to give your employees the ability to chat with each other directly in a fairly casual way, you may want to provide instant messaging options. Apps such as Slack or Teams allow your employees to talk directly with each other or in curated groups and teams.  
  • Are there teams in your company that need to meet with each consistently? Conference calls can be confusing and hard to direct. Consider using video messaging apps like Zoom, where your employees can meet face-to-face, share screens, and provide presentations with visual aids.  

You may decide you want to go with more than one communication channel. To ensure they are used efficiently, train your employees to use them properly and set up systems and expectations around how and when they should be used. 

Organization 

There are many tools your teams can use to stay on track with projects, and access and share files and documents. Online project management tools like Asana and Monday.com are great ways to organize your teams online, provide assistance, accountability, and coordinate team efforts.   

Saving and sharing documents online is also a necessity to minimize the risk of losing important documents due to a malfunction on someone’s computer or human error. You also want to ensure that certain materials are always available to your employees, like their employee handbook, or other important resources. Online file storing options like DropBoxOneDriveand Templafy are useful tools your company can use to manage files.   

Again, you must create a system-wide infrastructure that is accessible to your employees. 

  • Clarify how and where files should be stored 
  • Create a company-wide nomenclature system 
  • Organize your communications, projects, and documents systematically

Culture 

Maintaining a healthy company culture during a time of transition is especially important. Take extra care to ensure your teams are provided the support they need to comfortably and efficiently move to a different format than they’re used to. Understand there will be a learning curve, and give your employees the encouragement and patience they need to adjust without the added pressure of fear of failure.  

Coach your managers in how to effectively support their teams from a distance. Adjust your meeting and communication policies to fit the changing needs of your workforce. This may mean additional one-on-one check-ins between managers and their teams or increased daily communications.  

However it is you end up moving forward, make sure you’ve done your research. You must understand the needs of your company and find the best solutions to meet those needs. Be patient, give your employees the grace they need to adjust, and always be willing to adjust your methods. With the right effort and preparation, you’ll do just fine.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

 

 

Five Signs It’s Time to Re-Train Your Managers

Employee engagement and satisfaction can make or break a business. Everything from company culture to benefits to schedule flexibility can affect the employee experience. Companies to go great lengths to maintain a happy population of employees, but what is the one thing with the most power to influence the employee experience? Managers.   

Frustratingly, many managers are placed in their position without being trained. Often high performing employees are selected to become managers because they’re great at their job. However, just because someone is excellent at organizing and executing their own work doesn’t mean they’re ready to manage a whole team of people  

When you have a manager who needs training, your employees are going to know it. But will you?  

How to know your managers need some help

1. Employee frustration at seemingly small internal hiccups  

If you’re finding that group morale dips when relatively small issues need to be addressed, you might be seeing a symptom of poor leadership. Employees that are already at the end of their rope dealing with poor communication or direction, due to lack of leadership, are going to get easily frustrated when issues arise, even if they’re relatively small.  

There is a threshold for the amount of juggling and direction change a group can take, and if their manager is adding to it, they’re going to have a much lower bar for what frustrates them. Are you familiar with the term “the straw that broke the camel’s back?” Then you get the gist. 

2. Confusion about role clarity 

As a team is organizing a project, do you see confusion around responsibilities? Do things slip through the cracks?   

If employees are unclear about their responsibilities, it could mean they aren’t getting enough direction from leadership. Or it could mean their manager isn’t following a consistent plan when delegating projects. If you have a manager assigning projects and tasks based on whom they prefer, and bypassing employees’ job roles, it’s going to create confusion at bestand downright resentment at worst. 

3. You don’t hear new ideas from your employees
 

If you’re wondering why your employees aren’t offering up new ideas and solutions to streamline processes, fix issues, and strengthen your company, you’ve probably got a problem with management. The fact is, everyone working at your company is going to have opinions and ideas. They just won’t share them if they’ve been shut down in the past, or if they’re afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes.  

Your employees are your best resource because they’re on the line doing the work. Your managers should be doing everything in their power to engage them and get them thinking about how to improve the company. If your managers are critical, dismissive, or even uninterested in their team’s ideas, all you’re going to get is a lot of silence and wasted opportunity.  

4. You get pushback when things change
 

Company culture comes from the top down, and if you have a manager or leader who is resistant to change, you’re going to see that translate to the way employees handle change. Lets face it, you can’t run a successful business without continually looking for ways to improve and grow, which means you have to be open to change.   

Managers who resist change are working against the natural flow of any company and ultimately end up stifling innovation and growth. Train your managers to expect change as part of the job, so they take it in stride and see it as an opportunity for growth. By doing so, you’ll develop a more agile and robust company.  

5. You only hear about the same few people on their team
 

If a manager only ever reports on the same people, this could mean one of two things. Your manager has favorites among their team who get special attention and recognition. Or your manager is failing to properly coach and lead their entire team, leaving people to become isolated and lose support.   

Either way, your manager likely isn’t looking at their team holistically but is picking out (either subconsciously or consciously) people they more readily connect with. This favoritism is detrimental to promoting diversity, which has proven to be an excellent resource for building teams. Plus, you never know what Shy Sam from tech might have to offer if he isn’t coached into being more comfortable sharing his thoughts.  

If any of these are hitting home for you, don’t lose hope! There are countless ways to train your managers and help them learn the skills they need to become great leaders. Chances are, you just need to give them the opportunity. When you provide your leadership team with development and learning opportunities to help them grow as leaders, you’re investing in them, in everyone they manage, and in your company 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Rachata Teyparsit

Building A Foundation for Communication

Internal communication is at the very heart of making sure your company is running smoothly. Not just within each department, but between departments, leadership, and HR. You’re probably nodding your head (or rolling your eyes) because this is basic, like really basic, for every company ever. So why are we writing about it? Because lack of communication is something many businesses struggle with and it can cause big problems. 

When a company suffers from a lack of communication, there’s always fallout: 

  • Accountability drops 
  • Resentment builds 
  • Important information gets lost  
  • Initiatives fail 
  • Employees start looking for other employment 

The list can go on and on and on. Lack of communication can leave employees feeling directionless and disengaged at the very least, and at worst, cost the business serious money in wasted initiatives, botched sales, and confused and frustrated customers.   

So how do you ensure your company is communicating effectively? Start by pick your channels. 

In-person meetings 

Setting up a reliable schedule for meetings is a key part of maintaining consistent communication. There’s a lot of talk about how meetings can be a waste of time if executed improperly and without an agenda, but that’s not a reason to stop having them. Instead, make them better.  

  • Set up weekly or monthly meetings between team leaders to review overall company goalsupdate each other on current projects and challenges, and stay uptodate on interdepartmental projects. Come into the meeting with an agenda and stick to it. If new topics come up during the meeting, make a note and address them at another time. 
  • Set up 5minute startofday meetings within departments for managers to highlight daily goals and agenda. 
  • Set up endofday (or week) meetings covering what has been accomplished and/or what needs to get done next.  

Digital communication 

Inperson (or video) meetings are critically important to developing relationshipsbut they shouldn’t be the only way of communicating. Supplement regular meetings with a digital communication channel to keep the communication flowing and document what’s been discussed.  

Thankfully, there are countless apps and programs companies can use for internal communication channels. While email is a standardit’s also so overused that it’s not always the most efficient way for companies to communicate internally. Think about your inbox—there are probably emails waiting to be sorted, emails you haven’t had time respond to, and emails you’ve forgotten entirely. Add in the back-and-forth messiness that comes with email conversations and you’ve got a recipe for poor communication.  

While email can be a good option for some communications, it shouldn’t be the only one you use. There are plenty of apps such as Slack or Microsoft Teams that are great for more efficient and effective communication.  

With digital apps, you can have direct conversations between individuals. And you can also have conversations in a group format where everyone in the group can see what’s being discussed. Keep this really focused by setting up multiple discussion groups, and have each be for a specific topic. This lets people choose the topics relevant to themselves and their roles. 

Whether it’s a direct or group conversation, the digital apps provide a great way to have a string of conversation that is saved and easily searchable.  

Keep it consistent  

Consistency is at the core of good communication. Once you choose your channels, stick with them. Create an expectation that everyone from the top down consistently participates in the meetings and uses the technology. Make it clear how and when the different channels of communication will be used. The more they’re used effectively, the more people will depend on them, and the more efficient everyone will become. 

Leadership must set the example and take the lead in adopting any new technology. If your leaders are still stuck using email or the whiteboard in the common area, the time you spend training your employees to use the program will be wasted.  

If your company is struggling with a lack of clarity and communication, ask yourself if everyone has a reliable way to contact one another and discuss internal topics in a timely manner. Then ask if your leaders are committed to using those channelsPeople will do as you do far more than they’ll do what you say.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Bonzami Emmanuelle