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4 Secrets to Building a High Performing Team

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I’ve not met many leaders who don’t say they want people (and an organization) to perform at consistently high levels. Yet, in virtually every company I’ve worked in, or consulted with, there are great variations (across roles, teams, regions, business units) in the actual levels of performance. Notice I said the word great. There will always be a performance curve across any population.

secretExample: I worked with a client who had a national sales team. Across the country, she had six regional managers. Two consistently met or exceeded their targets (the company most keenly measured lagging indicators, such as market share, revenue growth, net new accounts), and the other four toggled back and forth between sometimes just eeking out their targets, and frequently missing their targets (sometimes, with very significant margins). They had hired heavy hitters from industry competitors, promoted top producing sales people into leadership roles, and yet, they couldn’t crack the code for high performance across all regions.

The question is: how does an organization create a culture, systems, and processes to close the performance gap between the highest performers and the rest of the population?

Want the secret? Ok – here are the critical elements (Warning: It isn’t as easy as I’m going to make it sound. The devil is in the detail and the execution, and this is where most companies fall down. Want help? Shoot me a note via twitter, linkedin or email, and we can talk).

•  It starts and ends with culture: the company and the division/team must have a winning culture. This includes having a clear vision, aligned leadership around what is most important right now, and how the company measures success, as well as transparency in communication.

•  Talent, talent, talent: you’ve got to get the right people in the right roles. Note that there is an absolute dependency on the first element, culture. If you bring rockstars into a toxic culture, the toxic culture will win, 100% of the time, without fail. The rockstar will either leave, or bring her level of performance down to the dysfunctional level that exists in the organization. Plus, when there is a winning culture, and all the people in the firm live the organizational values, every day, you will become a magnet for great talent. Forget about your HR/recruiting team banging their heads against the wall, trying to find a needle in the haystack for great talent – they’ll be banging down your doors for a chance to work with you. Oh, and by the way, when you have winning culture, bring in top talent, and set the systems and processes in place so people can thrive in their roles, you’ll see how the people who can’t/won’t get on board will leave – most of the time on their own. People get it when they don’t fit.

•  Culture of learning: this isn’t about having a catalog of 1,000 generic online courses (only), and saying to people, “We are all about learning – go look through the content and pick what you want to learn.” This is about being very intentional about learning and development. This is about each person having clear development goals (professional and personal – and leaders who support, equip and hold their people accountable for getting better), learning from every interaction, every sales call, every win and loss, every initiative that is launched and landed, and really ingraining this mindset throughout the organization. Humans like to contribute and make progress. Remember how curious we all were as kids – many have had the curiosity shut down over time (school, bad leaders and managers in other firms). We need to re-awaken this natural curiosity to get better and achieve more.

•  Systems of management: every organization needs to have a structured approach to one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and performance reviews – and none of these should occur in an ad hoc, unintentional fashion. With meetings for example, Patrick Lencioni coined the term meeting stew . This occurs when there is no clear intent/purpose in the meeting, so leaders cram everything in one discussion. People cannot function at high levels this way, and the result is often that people miss the meetings, and the general sentiment is that the sessions are unproductive. Everything we do must be done with a purpose in mind, and discussions must link to the organizational goals, strategies and ultimate vision. Otherwise, don’t waste the time. This is a very significant topic; I’ll have a full post on this subject coming soon, so stay tuned.

Creating a high performance organization doesn’t happen by accident. Get intentional, follow this recipe, and watch how your people and organization rise to the occasion.

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Client Experiences, Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Motivation, Success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where’s Waldo?

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Waldo-image_approvedInterviewing and trying to find the top talent in today’s market reminds me of the famous “Where’s Waldo” books, always trying to find the person who stands out from the crowd. As I’m sure you remember, each book contains various scenes with random characters and you’re in search for Waldo and the tools that he needs to complete his journey. I think of Waldo’s tools as a blend of necessities and luxuries. He may not need the camera for his adventure in the mountain, but it sure would make the experience better if he could capture the memories on film. However without his map, he may not be successful in reaching his final destination.

When considering a new hire we have to understand the tools (or let’s say attributes) candidates have outside of the basic requirements. So obviously I could ask candidates what they have in their tool box, but instead, I ask them how their collection has grown? What were things they added early on in their career, do they still use them, have they been sharpening them, are any becoming rusty? Encouraging them to think about their past experiences and what they do presently can also help plan for their future.

So, what have you done in the past that you want to build upon? What haven’t you had experience with that you would like to learn?

Asking yourself these types of questions will get you to start thinking about your professional and personal goals and what it will take to get to the next level in your career.

It’s important to remember that employers can create an environment that fosters opportunities, but in the end, you are accountable for taking actions to advance your own career. If you are looking for that promotion, or maybe you’re not sure where you want to take your career, or maybe you’re just trying to add to your tool box collection, here are some things to try:

  1. Shadow someone who is currently in a position that you’re exploring within your organization or schedule time to speak with him about how he got to this point in his career. What does he enjoy, what are his challenges, what does he do to continue learning about his field?
  2. Lend a hand or offer support in a project that you find interest in. Not only does this demonstrate that you are a team player and ready and willing to roll up your sleeves to help, but this is also a great opportunity to learn a new aspect of the business.
  3. Attend a training seminar to enhance your presentation or reporting skills. There are many low cost tools that can help make your job more efficient. Sharpening your skills can also put you in a position to train others which could build on management skills if desired.
  4. Volunteer at a non-profit that could benefit from your professional experience. It’s easy to lose sight of skills we learn in our career. Can you help someone with their resume or interview skills? Maybe you can help someone create a budget or plan an event for their charity?
  5. Read a book that’s relevant to your industry and share it with your peers. What can you learn from other successful people in your industry? If you can engage your peers in something they find meaningful you will naturally develop leadership traits.
  6. Write a blog and post it on LinkedIn to provide insight and value to someone who may not know about your company or a non-profit that you are involved with. Show your clients and peers that you truly strive to be an expert in your industry.
  7. Spearhead and lead a community service project with your colleagues. What a great way to encourage teamwork and camaraderie while giving back. This is also another way to be seen as a leader within an organization.

If you make yourself valuable in an organization, you should have freedom to invent opportunities that will help grow the company and your career. Just like Waldo, you have to stand out and equip yourself with a variety of skills and tools. Waldo may not need all the objects listed in his books, but they sure do make his adventures better. Think about what you can bring to your organization or what separates you from your peers or competition, and never lose sight of finding ways to make your contributions remarkable.

 

As Talent Acquisition Manager, Jessica focuses on finding the right candidates to fit our clients’ needs. Kelly works with our clients to understand the exact skills and attributes that would fit with the cultural climate and their environment.

Posted in Success, Talent Acquisition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Intersection of Personal and Professional: 4 Steps to Mastering All of Your Goals

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shutterstock_130968047A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a former mentor of mine at my Alma Mater, Loyola University in Baltimore. She asked if I would talk to a newly enrolled graduate student about the art of balancing a full time job and graduate school. Since I’ve managed to work at least one full-time job at a time since my 16th birthday, and I’ve been a full-time student for 20 years, I consider myself about as good as one could be in the art of “making it work.” Later that day, the soon to be graduate student called me—overwhelmed and fraught with questions. “How can I accomplish everything in time? Is it possible to succeed and not just coast? Will I EVER have time for a social life?!” After a short pause and a deep breath, I informed her that the best way to succeed with a full schedule is to understand how personal and professional goals intersect. And, being that we all have work and… maybe it’s work and family, work and school, work and volunteering, we all have work and… something. I have come up with what I have found to be the best ways to understand and, dare I say, balance the work, school, and life goals.

1.  Organization is Key: I do not care if you live in a house with a sink filled with dishes and the entire Cole Hann spring collection strewn about your bedroom floor, if you want to achieve professional and educational success you’ve got to learn how to be mentally organized.

    • Invest in a Moleskine and every week (Mondays work best for me) sit down and bucket out your responsibilities – NOT YOUR TIME – into personal, professional, collegiate, etc. and make sure that you carve out some space for something that brings you peace or relaxation.
    • Once you have your buckets of responsibility, then plug these into your schedule. But, be realistic – for instance leaving work at 5PM and expecting to be home, have dinner and be ready to crack into homework at 5:30 is not a realistic expectation and will lead to frustrations. Make your schedule work for you and allow flex time for when things like traffic or broken hot water heaters (I speak from experience) get in the way.

 2.  Social Depravity Doesn’t Have to Be a Reality: Just because you have a 50+ hour a week job and you’re about to delve into a new chapter in your education (or other commitment), does not mean you will be deprived of all human connection and now must go out and adopt a cat just to interact with something.

    • Openly communicate your new endeavors with friends and family so they understand the time needed for your new commitment. Most of my friends do not have very demanding jobs and are not in school full time, so when I first started declining social invitations they became upset. However, after communicating the parameters of my work and school they better understood that I was not, in fact, blowing them off, but rather was elbow-deep in a research paper.
    • Celebrate the wins because you may not be able to make every happy hour or social gathering, throw a party or arrange a happy hour once you’ve successfully completed another big project at work or another semester of school – this will help your loved ones support you even more in your projects or endeavors and it’s a great motivator for you as well.

3.  It’s a Marathon, but it’s also a race: While I love the adage that life is a marathon, graduate school and working full-time, is not. No matter how much you plan and prepare, there will still be deadlines that will cut it close. There will always be all-nighters and there will always be times when you only have 40 minutes and you need an hour.In this instance, the best way to succeed is to realize:

    • You can only accomplish one really good project at a time, don’t try and multi-task because the end result will be far from good.
    • Clear your mind – thinking about the 15 other things you need to do before the clock strikes five will not help you accomplish anything. Odds are better than not you will have four half-finished projects and will wind up sitting at your desk in a puddle of tears. Instead, take a deep breath and tackle Priority A first.

4. Set Meaningful Goals: Last, but NOT least (in fact the MOST important one), is setting meaningful goals. While many of us operate in project-ized or to-do list type mindset, nothing is worse than a poorly planned goal. For instance, when planning out your week, it is not very helpful to schedule your calendar in vague terms like, “Do Work.” Instead, have an intentional plan of what you would like to accomplish that day based off of your current deadlines.

  • For those of you in school, most of this work is already bucketed out for you in the form of a syllabus. So, before the first day of class, sit down and break out all of the weekly assignments into chunks for each day, this will prevent you from getting overwhelmed when Sunday hits and you haven’t accomplished anything.

I can’t promise that any of these tips will make balancing personal and professional responsibilities easy, as there will always be challenges and unexpected hiccups along the way. However, if you can learn to bucket your time, be flexible, and set meaningful and realistic goals you can have a successful career and achieve whatever personal growth goals you have for yourself. And, if you’ve been putting off going back to school, learning how to be a yoga instructor, or whatever meaningful challenge you have been dreaming of – go for it! There’s no time like the present!

 

Jes Geoffroy is an Operations Manager for entreQuest. She works closely with all team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.  

Posted in Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Motivation, Success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does Greek Carry-Out have to do with Your Vision and Values?

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greekWhen an organization fails to live their values, the ripple effect varies from slight impact to massive impact (impact equals customer attrition, employee attrition, revenue and profit loss, etc.).

If, for example, the organization claims that they are customer oriented, or pride themselves on service, then every touch point must reflect this.

Recently, my wife and I were in the mood for Greek food. We are fortunate, because there are a number of good Greek restaurants near our neighborhood. We recently tried one that was new to us, but not new to the area. The food was awesome! So, as I was on my way home from work one evening, I decided to call in the food order.

I called the number, and got a recording that the call could not be completed. Thinking I may have dialed wrong, I called back—same result. Thinking maybe the circuits were down, or there was some kind of issue with the lines, I waited five minutes and called again—same result. I was already on my way to the restaurant, so I kept calling—six times in total, all with the same result. When I arrived, here was my interaction:

Me: Hi, I’d like to place an order for carry-out. By the way, are you experiencing any issues with your phones?

Shift Manager: No.

Me: Are you sure? I just tried to call six times, and got a recording that said the call couldn’t be completed.

Shift Manager: No. No problems.

Me: I can show you my phone—is this the right number I called? Did you change your number?

Shift Manager: I don’t need to see your phone. I believe you. We are not having any phone issues.

Me: Ok. If you say so.

Then, I proceeded to place my order, got the food, and left.

We’ve not gone back since, and won’t go back. The food was still good, but the lack of interest in customer feedback was atrocious. What made it worse is that I was trying to help him—alerting him that he may be unintentionally causing his customers (existing and potential new ones) PAIN, which equals not spending money, which equals not experiencing how great the food is, which equals not referring friends, and so on…

This is where the connection back to living the values and vision of an organization come into play. It may be obvious to some (especially if you read the eQ blog regularly) that leaders have to be sure to clarify the vision—throughout the organization. But more than that, leaders have to have ways to ensure the entire organization knows what it looks like when people are living the values and vision—and when they are not.

Every moment where actions are misaligned to the vision equals pain and performance degradation for the business.

How are you, personally, ensuring your customers are not experiencing their own version of this story?

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Client Experiences, Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do You Mean You’re Not On LinkedIn?!

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shutterstock_96368282In today’s competitive, fast paced, technology-driven society, not being connected on social media—especially when job seeking—is like accessing the web without wi-fi. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, are prime resources for connecting, networking, and getting professionally noticed. While 94% of recruiters are active on LinkedIn, only 36% of job seekers are. If you don’t fall into that dismally small percentage of active users, then you’re doing yourself an immense disservice. Prepping what you presume to be a stellar resume and cover letter, and networking through your college alumni association just won’t cut it these days. Jobs aren’t going to fall into your lap; you have to do the leg work. That means more than just mass printing copies of your generic resume and cover letter. It means making professional connections, sharing and seeking professional opportunities, and getting publicly posted professional referrals.

Social media provides an extensive platform for job seekers. Everything is accessible with the touch of a button or the click of a mouse. It enables you to search thousands of job postings, vet prospective employers, explore networking opportunities, stay on top of industry buzz, and actively engage professional connections. Most importantly, when used smartly, it puts you on recruiter radar! Social media can be accessed anytime from anywhere—mobile, desktop, laptop, iPad, netbooks—you get the point. So, now is the time to ask yourself: Do I want to be able to be accessed anytime from anywhere? If you didn’t answer with an astounding, “YES!” then you’re not serious about getting the job that you say you want.

But, with social media, comes the need for privacy control and self-filtering; this plays heavily into personal branding. Sure, those pictures of you shot-gunning beers and doing keg stands were so totally awesome in your college days, but now you have to post with your future in mind. Clean up your profile before going public! Get rid of all questionable pictures, profanity-ridden status updates, and inappropriate wall posts. Most importantly, be smart about what you do decide to post moving forward. Keep the settings for your more personal profiles, like Facebook, private from the public eye unless you’re confident you can keep it professional. If you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, consider this: 42% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate based on content viewed in a social profile, leading to both positive and negative re-assessments. This advice is not to be taken lightly—discretion, discretion, discretion!

Ultimately, keeping up with technological advances and trendy social media can not only place you in the candidate pool, but also help you stay relevant. When all is said and done, social media just may be the leverage you need to secure a job.

 

Tara Fox is a Project Support Specialist at entreQuest and works closely with all eQ team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

Posted in Motivation, Success, Talent Acquisition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pardon My French… The Dos and Don’ts of Recruiting

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it_photo_97252Go F*#% Yourself!

Those were the last words I heard as I hung up the phone with a disappointed candidate.

Here’s the thing, I’d like to say those words burned me, but they didn’t.  Instead, I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness for the candidate—and it only strengthened the security I have in our selection process.

Here’s the whole story: we were hiring for a position that created a lot of interest, nearly 200 applicants and we hadn’t even begun to tap into our own networks.  Through pre-screens and profiles the pool was narrowed down, this particular candidate did not make the cut.  However, he continued to reach out to my entreQuest (eQ) and Joe, ensuring he was the perfect candidate.  Well, if you know anyone at eQ, you know we all love to help others—and this situation was no different. I decided to bring him in for an interview (I still believed he wasn’t the right fit for the job), but at the very least I would be able offer some career and resume coaching.

Look, interviews aren’t easy—I would argue that no one excels in interviews, so anyone that might outwardly appear awkward or nervous doesn’t faze me one bit.  Honestly, it’s still hard for me to articulate the uneasy energy felt during this particular interview and even I made several attempts, no connection was made.  This candidate received the same questions and level of attention I give all other candidates.  I encouraged him to be more receptive to feedback, to give more strategic responses, I practically begged him to dig deeper—give me more than the surface level…

We never got there.

I informed the candidate he wasn’t a fit, but that he was welcome to reach back out if he ever needed support in his career search.

Fast forward three weeks—we received a call from the HR department of our hiring company informing us that this candidate had reached out several times to their organization and to please let the candidate know to cease contact.  I immediately followed up with the candidate and questioned why he would make contact with the company, knowing all parties had already moved in another direction.  What I received was the same defensive approach I experienced in the interview, but with, let’s just say, a lot more enthusiasm.

The candidate enthusiastically informed me that he did not respect my (or that of the hiring company’s) professional opinion, that the wrong choice was made, and that he didn’t care what bridges were burned—all while the volume and tone of his tangent escalated toward abusive.  Then the wonderful conversation, that was the start of my day, capped off with an enthusiastic, “Go f*#% yourself!”

Again, for his sake, I almost wish those words had a scarring effect on me.  Unfortunately for him, his words only gave me a sense of remorse for him, knowing he has a family to provide for and is on track to potentially repeat the same mistakes… I couldn’t help feel bad for him.  What’s even worse (for him) is that due to the lack of professionalism he showed, I can no longer consider this candidate for any opportunity in the future.

Believe me, I know rejection is never easy—whether it happens professionally or personally, it certainly doesn’t feel good.  It’s not easy for the candidate to hear he isn’t right for a job, and contrary to some people’s beliefs, it’s not easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to say it either.  But, there are ways to not only handle it, but do so gracefully in a way that sets you up for future success:

First things first, stay cool! I know it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but the most important thing you can do in these situations is remain calm, keep your head about you and then follow my tips below:

  • Take the high road—Follow-up with a thank you.  Let the hiring manager or recruiter know you would like to be considered for future opportunities.  Kind words and gestures stand out and we are more likely to reach out to these candidates as opposed to those that drop off.  A thank you serves as a great barometer of a candidate’s personality in regard to bouncing back, customer service skills, general outlook on life, and seriousness moving forward.  Remember, our grading process doesn’t stop after the interview—even if you don’t get called back for a second interview.
  • Respect the process—Clients hire us for a reason.  We are here to do the heavy lifting and serve as the filter, ensuring our clients meet only those individuals that are a fit culturally and that are truly qualified for the opportunity.  By circumventing the process and reaching out directly to the hiring company you are simply telling both the hiring company and the recruiter that you don’t respect their process or professional opinion.  That is going to get you nowhere and simply result in two, newly burned bridges.
  • Utilize your newly formed connections—I can’t speak for the entire industry, but I certainly can for myself and my teammates, if we tell you that we will keep you in mind for future opportunities or to reach out for support when you need it, believe us! We actually mean it!  At any given week we are managing more than 200 candidates, so yes—you may not receive constant communication, but we are always here.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send an email, sharing any thoughts or updates.  A candidate-recruiter relationship won’t work if it’s one-sided—to make it work, share some of the weight and be sure to stay present.
  • Send Us Referrals—So, you’re not the right fit.  Know that we feel the frustration right along with you, but an easy way to stay present and to keep the positivity flowing is to send us a candidate that could be the right fit.  You have an advantage here, you’ve already heard the needs of the role, received feedback as to why this wasn’t your right fit, and more often than not you have someone in your network that would be a rock-star at this opportunity.  By sending a strong referral you are sending the message that you were paying attention, that you care about the hiring company moving forward and want them to succeed.  This act of selflessness is HUGE.  It serves as a great character testament and will stick with your recruiter for a long time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions—You can only grow and learn from something if you have the facts.  If you receive notice that you aren’t the right fit, don’t hesitate to ask, “Why?”  Many of us enter this career because we love helping people—we want you to grow, we want you to succeed.  If you aren’t receiving the feedback you deserve, question it and be open to it.  Admittedly, I struggle in diving deeper in rejection conversations, they are simply hard to have.  In most cases you can tell when someone tunes you out after the news is delivered, so feedback might not always be welcome, but if I am asked directly, I will absolutely let you know why and give you the same level of honestly I expected from you in the interview process.

You may have already known not tell your recruiter off after a rejection, but now you know exactly what you should say and do to turn that rejection into something more positive and make a great impression with recruiters and hiring managers.

As Talent Acquisition Manager, Kelly focuses on finding the right candidates to fit our clients’ needs. Kelly works with our clients to understand the exact skills and attributes that would fit with the cultural climate and their environment. 

 

Posted in Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Motivation, Success, Talent Acquisition, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

STOP Stalling!

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Now and LaterIn the last eight months I have had the privilege of working closely with the senior leadership of a rather large organization, focused specifically on assessing and analyzing the organization as it stands today. Our work has seen us deep in document and process review, interviewing senior staff and managers, and assembling and presenting findings in order to find the path forward.

In the last few weeks our direction forward has been clarified, and we have moved to engage in a new way to address the findings we delivered to the organization thus far. Deciding that it was best to allow those who reported back on the organization through interviews to own their comments, complaints, and suggestions, we have taken steps to engage these teams to participate again—this time in developing next steps and recommendations.

Inevitably, this leads to challenges. One of the major findings we uncovered with this client was that everybody, and I mean everybody, is ridiculously over-booked. I have seen more than a few calendars with regular double, triple, and quadruple bookings throughout the day and week. Not only are there multiple grabs for each person’s time, they are frequently equally important and attendance at competing meetings can be a huge source of stress for the employees at this organization.

So, it should be no surprise that, when we pulled this team together twice in one week to review results and then break into individual strategy teams, we met resistance. Needless to say, we heard concerns, complaints, and apprehension (not just about time), from these groups, and the one comment that I found particularly interesting came from a place of scarcity—“we don’t have time for this.”

One manager put it particularly well: “If one of our findings is that we are too busy, have too many meetings, and struggle to get to the work… then what are we doing here? And during summer—our busy season?! We’re all on vacation, in and out, and this is the worst time of the year for this!”

Fair enough, I know that this is the time of year that I hope to get work wrapped up early and get outside. I know that people are frequently on vacation, and people have their core functions to attend to in addition to this transformational work. All very truthful and fair!

The question we posed to this client was this: “So when is the right time?” I will pose the same to you: when is the magical day when it makes the most sense to get to work on improving your organization?

There is an easy answer: now. I have seen this before, and often seen clients look to the future and say “it’ll be easier when ______.” That unknown is usually just that—wait for fall, instead of summer? Family responsibility pops up in a big way. Winter? All that weather, and we’re getting geared up in the New Year. Spring? Can’t have that, we are wrapping up the school year, prepping for the back half of the year, and getting excited for summer!

My point is that no matter when you think it’s the right time, there will always be obstacles. The toss-away examples above completely neglect the realities of the working world, and don’t take into consideration the ebb and flow of daily activity, and the spontaneous fires we all have to attend to.

So, I challenge you to give up the time aspect. To use a proven adage, it is always hard to work on it while you work in it. However, if you ever want to improve the in it part, you simply have to make time for the on it. Additionally, I challenge you to embrace the extra work—this stuff isn’t easy! And make time to improve your business. NOW is the right time!

Just in case you were wondering, these teams have embraced the present and are excitedly going to work to make improvements on their organization. They are finding ways to incorporate this work, and they will be better off tomorrow for it. Will you join them?

 

Alec Kisiel, Consultant, helps entreQuest’s clients to grow and develop so they are able to recognize their full potential to effectively achieve remarkable results for their organizations and make a meaningful impact in their communities.

Posted in Client Experiences, Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Motivation, Success, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PART 2: When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary

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Rivalry between two workersSo, last week some of you may have seen part 1 of this blog where I talked about how, at eQ and through my entire career, some of the best decisions I’ve seen made have come from healthy friction, discussion and conversation.

In fact, I’ve found that eQ nearly ALWAYS gets better, or offers more robust solutions to our clients by using the depth of our entire team. One of the reasons for this is that we don’t always agree one-hundred percent of the time. We all come from various backgrounds and experiences which lead us to having, sometimes, different viewpoints and opinions. We encourage conversation around these different viewpoints, but along the way we follow a few simple rules that not only ensure we get to the best solution or answer, but more importantly that we remain professional, courteous, and respectful along the way.

I briefly shared the rules last week, but I encourage you take a second look now, think about an instance where following these tenants could improve your outcome:

1. Allow enough time so that no one feels rushed: If you don’t have time for the real conversation don’t rush it—make time for the discussion. You want enough time so that everyone involved has enough, and equal time share his/her thoughts and viewpoints without feeling pressured or rushed into a decision.

2. Be polite and listen thoughtfully: Listening does not mean you stop talking, so you can get ready for the next thing you’re going to say—listening means you’re paying attention and taking notice. You’re making an effort to not just hear what the other person is saying, but understand what he or she is saying. If this sounds “difficult” and like “work,” that’s because it is!

3. Let them know you’re listening by asking thoughtful and challenging questions (think devil’s advocate): Show the other person that you’re listening—engage him/her! Summarize the other person’s perspective, and share it with him/her to show that you REALY were not just hearing them, but listening and paying attention with focus and intent. Take the other side, see if it fits… asks questions. Why do you feel that way? What lead you to that idea?

4. Make commitments, establish next steps, and follow through, completely: First step, respond. Once you understand the other person’s view point, it’s your turn! And ask the other person to do the same (steps 1 through 3). Heck, send them this blog (and the first part, too) so you are both playing by the same rules! Then, after you’ve both had a turn to share your point of view, listen, and ask thoughtful questions it’s time to set a time to revisit the decision, regardless of where you land in terms of the disagreement. Whether it’s one week, one month or one year, revisit it—not so you can say “I told you so,” but so you can both see the results or progress since the discussion and adjust if a change or tweak is needed.

5. Leave unified: The whole idea here is to be better leaders, managers, thinkers and doers… with that said, once a decision has been made you need to support it whether it was your idea/view point or not.

Now go out there, get into some disagreements, have great conversations, and leave unified. The world needs more leaders so go out there and lead!

 

Jeremy Steinberg is Partner and Managing Director for entreQuest and has worked with the C-level and executive leadership teams in more than 400 diverse organizations. His goals are to strengthen team productivity by creating customized growth strategies, managing change, reviving culture through on-site work including training and certification programs which help organizations increase their leadership and reach their goals.

Posted in Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Success, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Most Performance Reviews Suck

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90776-1474081010In a former life, I inherited a customer facing service team as part of the organization I led. One of my first orders of business was to get to know the new team—connect, listen and learn. As I met with groups and also individuals, I asked things like:

  • Tell me, how you are doing in your role?
  • How do you measure your success and impact?
  • How does your immediate supervisor measure your success and impact?
  • What feedback did you get in your last performance review?
  • What are your personal development goals for the year?

I was consistently met with quizzical looks and blank expressions. But, what I really learned, was when people got past trying to figure out what the “right answer” was, and just opened up, here was the reality:

  • People were unclear about how they were actually performing. They felt that they were working hard, and on the right things, but weren’t exactly sure they were right to feel that way.
  • They got no specific feedback regarding success metrics and role based performance goals (other than one metric – speed to answering the phone).
  • Many hadn’t received a performance review in the past 12 months. Some had never received one. They were informed of an annual merit increase, and entered information into a performance management system, but the information was very superficial—it just served as a trigger for the compensation review.

Let’s just say it like it is —in most organizations:

  • Performance reviews are annual events, only.
  • Employees don’t find the process or the feedback valuable or helpful, unless maybe if it is tied to a monetary increase of some sort.
  • The monetary increase, if it exists, isn’t tied to specific performance based criteria—and if it happens to be, it is loose, at best—and it is a “check the box” exercise of accomplished tasks completed (these tasks may or may not directly translate to business value or impact).
  • Managers and supervisors don’t really know what to say in the reviews to make it valuable for the employee or the manager.

Sound familiar? Organizations that don’t have proper performance reviews lose significant revenue and profit, create cultures where more employees are disengaged than not, and don’t know how to break the cycle.

So, what to do? Here’s the recipe—simple, but not easy:

  • Establish a clear, organizational vision, along with values and behaviors that map to the vision.
  • Create specific, actionable strategies that yield results tied to the vision—at the organizational, divisional, departmental, and individual levels. All elements need to align for this to have the desired impact.
  • Implement a system of management, including team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and performance reviews—all of which cycle throughout the year—to reinforce clarity of what is most important and how the organization measures success, for employees to get rich and consistent feedback, and so managers can make course corrections and pivots where and when needed.
  • Incorporate meaningful, personal and developmental goals—including measurements for that progress.

Most leaders will look at the recipe and think “Of course! I know all of those things.” Yes—AND—the key here isn’t in the knowing, it is in the DOING.

So, get to it, and build the high performance organization that is hidden inside your current company.

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Client Experiences, Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Motivation, Sales, Success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of “25 Reasons Why” and the 4 Things I Learned

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why_chalkboard_articleChoosing a career path, in my experience, has not been an easy task. I’m one to explore all areas of interest and dabble in anything that catches my attention and holds it long enough to earn a certification or degree. As a recent graduate, with a dual degree in elementary and special education (plus a few other licenses), business was clearly not the route I set out for, but is one that has always been of interest. That being said, when I started at entreQuest (eQ), I was excited to be joining such a remarkable team and, frankly, thrilled to have an out of teaching. Yet, without completely ruling out the possibility of a career in education, I embarked on my new position as a project support specialist at eQ.

Two weeks on-board, the calls offering interviews for teaching positions began rolling in. I began to feel the weight of the decision I was facing: join the business world—after only a small taste—or stick with the safety of what I know and what I worked towards for three years. I began talking to family members and friends, seeking support, advice and insight from those who know me well. What I found was infinite support and more of what I wanted to hear versus what I needed to hear. So, I decided to seek out the advice of an unbiased party. Misti Aaronson, Executive Vice President and Partner at eQ, provided just that.

After an open and honest conversation about my professional past, present and future, Misti described to me an exercise we implement at eQ called, 25 Reasons Why (click here to download a blank copy). It’s a decision-making tool designed to help identify and understand what matters most and decipher why you—or, in this case, I—want to do. Listing 25 reasons why something is important to you or why it holds value provides perspective and an opportunity to reflect on the things in your life and career that are most motivating and influential. Once the list is complete, it’s then time to scrutinize your responses and check off your top five reasons. Then, of your top five, circle the one that matters the most. This is the reason for doing what you do.

Misti explained that happiness comes from within and that no one, myself included, can look for happiness in a job (or anything else, for that matter). As such, she expressed that it would be both helpful and beneficial to generate two lists of 25 Reasons Why, one for business and one for teaching. She explained that, in the end, my reflection and my heart would help drive my decision. One list was significantly easier to generate than the other; even so, I took away four very important things from this decision-making tool:

1. Dig deep and don’t hold back: Really think about yourself, about your life—intellectually, emotionally, socially, financially. What makes you tick? What’s going to make you jump out of bed five days a week with a smile on your face and a light heart? What is it about what you do that makes you excited to talk about, even brag about, to friends, family and people you meet?

2. Reasons can be both superficial and analytical: You may harshly judge yourself for some of your answers—for example, #2 on my list of 25 Reasons Why: teaching, was “snow days and 2-hour delays”—but, bear in mind that the list is for your eyes and thoughts only and you must be honest with yourself. On the upside, you’ll feel really good about most of your responses; after all, this is what you do! Whatever you write down, as long as you’re being forthcoming, is going to trigger great reflection and provide some seriously impactful perspective.

3. Listen to your heart (no, I’m not intentionally quoting Roxette): This isn’t meant to be impossible or even extremely difficult, but it’s also not a walk in the park. You’re going to get to #9, stare down and scratch your head. Suddenly, you’ll have an ah-ha moment, write down two more reasons, then sit back and scratch your head, again. It’s a viscous cycle, I tell you, but well worth the time! This is not something that you should over think. The goal is to get to 25, then reflect on all the things driving your why. After the first few responses you’ll feel yourself open up and really begin to let your thoughts and your heart take over. Let it. This is not a preparative task for a job interview or a board meeting. It’s introspective.

4.  Be fearless: Make your move, don’t hesitate. After generating your 25 Reasons Why and reflecting on your responses, you’re going to feel in a certain way—maybe like you need to make a change, maybe good, hopefully great! Regardless, you’re going to be hyper aware of what it is that you need to do to ensure that you’re living-out the things that matter the most.

In the end, although my head and heart had already decided, I now had my answer written down in front of me; it was tangible. It was supported by my own reasoning and emotions. 25 Reasons Why allowed me to recognize not only what I want to do but also why I want to do it. Teaching is inarguably an admirable profession, but my heart lies in the world of business.

Tara Fox is a Project Support Specialist at entreQuest and works closely with all eQ team members to provide employees and clients with remarkable experiences.

Posted in Client Experiences, Employee Experience, Motivation, Success | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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