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Does Your Company Need a Style Guide?

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Typewriter with handsChances are you’ve never even thought about it, right? You’re probably asking yourself, “Why would I need one of those? I’m not a newspaper or a publisher.” Or you may even be asking, “What’s a style guide?” Simply put, a style guide is a defined set of standards, or rules, put in place to create a uniform system for writing and designing documents.

Yes, chances are a style guide might seem like a strange thing to have for a business. Particularly since you’re not the New York Times, the Post (Washington or NY)…the Onion, or any other reputable industry of media publication. So, again it begs the question, “Does your company need a style guide?”

Answer: Probably…

Unless your business is done entirely face-to-face, taking the time to create a style guide is anything but a waste of time. No matter what industry you’re in, reputation and quality of work are extremely important for you, and for your customers. Removing some of the sloppiness of formatting, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes can, and will, make a big difference when it comes to showing your customers what you’re all about. A style guide is about creating consistency. Maintaining a top-level of consistency throughout your work will demonstrate to your customers, and potential customers, that you’re offering them the same level of care, consideration, and attention that you offer all of your partners. Not only that, but consistency shows control. It is a subtle message to viewers of your content that you’re in control and know what you’re doing.

“Mistakes were made”

Even Nixon knew this one. Mistakes happen whether you intend for them to happen or not. It’s human nature; we all make mistakes. But these mistakes can be costly, just ask our quotable Mr. Nixon how that all turned out. The intent of a style guide is to cut down (hopefully, cut out) the errors and mistakes in your written content. Yes, everyone has their own style when writing, but I’m sure your business has its own style too. The intention of a style guide is to allow for a blending of these two voices, not to cancel out your own voice. Style guides provide a means to create uniformity throughout your content. Whether spoke, visual, or written; your presentation is incredibly important to get your vision and mission across.

That’s why a style guide.

 

As eQ’s Writing Specialist, Eric Stewart works his creative magic by putting our Team’s concepts, ideas, and methodologies into words!

Posted in Best Practices, Client Experiences, Culture, Employee Experience | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

4 Ways to be a March Madness Winner: No Brackets, No Dunking, No Kidding

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Basketball SwishIt’s estimated that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will cost American businesses nearly $2 billion in lost productivity during its 3-week run. Because I’m a generous person, I’m going to give a little bit of that back right now. Whether you believe Division I college athletes truly are students themselves, we should be students of what can be learned through the observation of competing teams trying to be the last one standing … and you only get one strike and you’re out!

Reader Alert: You’re about to enter a zone where sports serve as an analogy for organizational success – an overused construct that has merit in this instance – according to me.

In case you don’t know, this year’s 68-team tournament has a prohibitive favorite: the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who enter the draw 34-0 on a quest to be the first men’s champion without a loss since Indiana accomplished this feat in 1976. Kentucky, under coach John Calipari, has mastered recruiting in this era of the so-called “one and done” player – supremely talented high schoolers who play one year in college (due to a pro basketball prohibition on players entering the NBA directly from high school) and then enter the pro game. Under this scenario, coaches recruit players they’ll only have for one season; meaning they need to rapidly develop in hopes of winning it all before starting over the next season.

After winning the title in 2012 and falling just short last year, the 2014-15 Kentucky squad is actually a mix of freshmen and some returning sophomores. Coach Calipari retained some of his talent from last year and created the unexpected need to persuade an entire roster of players, who believed they would and should start and play the majority of games, to share the spotlight with one another. To Calipari’s great credit, his team has not only shared time, but shared the ball. They appear to be unselfish. And, despite the fact they are obviously far superior in terms of talent and play than the vast majority of their opponents, the coach kept them interested enough over several months that they were not beaten and only seriously challenged a handful of times. Let me say that again: a 50-something year-old man kept a dozen 18-20 year-olds focused enough from October to March such that they did not lose a game.

Now, here’s when it gets really good (and I’m writing this on the eve of the tournament, so we don’t know how this turns out…), Coach “Cal” said in an interview the other day when asked about his team’s chances the following:

•  We’re the best team

•  We have the best players

•  To win this [the tournament], you have to play your game the best you can play it

•  If we play our game the best we can play it, we’ll win

•  If – at this moment – you try to go away from what you do best, you’ll lose

•  I’m so proud of our players…

Wow! That’s why some people hate the guy, but what’s not to love? And look at his record: he’s taken three different teams to the Final Four (college basketball’s Holy Grail), gotten to the final game three times, and won a championship. Overall, he’s won the lion’s share of his games. His players love him. He stays in touch with them, and he genuinely seems to care. His record is not without blemish – from some questionable recruiting ethics along the way (that frankly pale in comparison to recent scandals under coaching legends Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Roy Williams (North Carolina)), and a coaching meltdown in the 2008 finals that cost his team a championship.

Okay – thanks for staying with me here – what does this have to do with business? Everything … I mean, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!!!! Here are my Final Four connections between what John Calipari knows about basketball, and what you need to leverage to win for, and with, your organization. This is NOT a bracket. We’re not going to eliminate anything; rather we need to build on and blend these components together to come out on top. The major difference is that we get to define what winning looks like.

1.  Find opportunity where others see challenge – when “one and done” became prevalent others chose to swim against the current while Calipari embraced it, and turned Kentucky into the perennial talent winner. You might call it a (Kentucky) Blue Ocean Strategy.

2.  Create a seductive brand – by embracing “one and done.” Capilari celebrates that he has five or more players from his roster drafted into the NBA in a single draft year after year. Coach Capilari showcases his ability to get his “students” exactly the jobs they want.

3.  Win the war for talent – leaders can only be great when the people who follow them have the individual talent and the blend of talents needed to compete at the highest level. Decide what kind of players you need, what they value, offer it to them, AND deliver on that promise.

4.  Paint a vivid picture – Cameron Herold challenges leaders in his book, Double Double, to own the responsibility for their people “getting it” when it comes to the mission of the organization, and what success looks like. They have to create a vivid picture of success in the minds of others to enable them to join in the pursuit of perfection (40-0 or however else we choose to define success).

With those pieces in place, you’re ready to facilitate, inspire, and protect. One manifestation of facilitation, inspiration, and protection is your creation of space to collaborate, and provide opportunities for teammates to benefit from working together. This might require taking on roles that contribute to the overall goal/higher-purpose of the team. Even if what you’re asking individuals to do isn’t what they fully desire at the moment. When they play their part well AND the team succeeds, reward them through recognition, with some fun. Something that helps ingrain that habit as something they want to do again. Should they fail – individually or collectively – help them find the value of that experience and actively plan to apply the lessons learned to what they do next. In Kentucky’s case, last year’s championship game loss may become the biggest reason they retained some top talent, added more, ran the table, and held up the trophy. If that’s not hitting on all cylinders and winning in every way, I don’t know what is. And, if they don’t win, somehow I think Coach Cal will find a way to make it work for him and his team (again).

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Business Strategy, Coaching, Consulting, Success, Team Members | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Little Lies

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Marathon Runner“You are almost there!” I said. “Just a bit further….you’ve got this!”

At the time, I didn’t realize the impact of that little lie.

I was serving as a race volunteer for a 10k run (a bit in excess of 6.2miles), and was handing out water with 1.5 miles left. Some of the runners were on cruise control, clearly having completed runs like this, and longer, in the past. But, there were also many runners who had never completed a run of this distance before. Some of them came out for the cause. Some came out for the personal achievement and milestone.

It didn’t dawn on my how much of an impact my lie had on the runners in the latter groups until I ran my first half marathon.

For many, running 13.1 miles is a breeze. For me, it was a really big deal. I had never officially run more than 3.2 miles (5k). This run was rather hilly, and I clearly remember a point when my calves were cramping and I just wanted to give up – and then, I heard those four magical words, “You are almost there!” I had a surge of energy and hope – I could do this. Then, reality struck. I saw the sign for mile marker 10. Wait. What? I had 3.1 miles to go? That almost equaled my longest official run before this half marathon! I was so angry. (I probably should have been angry at myself for not preparing more properly, but that is another story.) How dare that race volunteer lie to me! Didn’t he know the mental and physical strain and strife I was experiencing? Didn’t he understand the impact of that false hope? Oh, man. I had done the same thing, just a few years before. The acknowledgement hit me right in the face. I really thought I was helping those runners, just as this man thought he was helping me. The reality was that each of us did more damage than good.

See, a healthy dose of honesty, authenticity and straight talk would have served us better. Isn’t this always the truth?

We can try to convince ourselves otherwise, postulating how it is helpful, when the reality is many people are just uncomfortable with honesty that may sting a little. Heck, it may have the impact of the falling piano from the Road Runner cartoons. Guess what though, straight talk let’s people know exactly where they are at the moment and what they need to do to reach and exceed their goals; to WIN.

Why tell it any other way than how it is? Why not say – “I know it hurts; I know you are struggling, but you want this. You’ve trained for this, you CAN do this…you WILL do this.” There’s nothing wrong with positive affirmation, but get real, damn it.

Think about your business. We talk about this all the time at eQ. We pride ourselves on honesty, authenticity, and giving it to people straight. Anything less doesn’t serve them, or us, very well.

If a client has a tough road ahead, we let them know what we believe it’ll take to win. Some, when they get that dose of reality, confess they don’t know if they can see it through. Some opt out immediately. Some immediately relish the challenge and are ready to meet the effort head on. Here’s the thing – when we tell it like it is we can have a great dialogue, and regardless of the outcome everyone feels whole, having made the best decision possible given all the information at hand. We are aligned, collaborative, thoughtful, and powerful together. When we have misaligned expectations, that “race” ends in undue pain and strife, and is typically accompanied by blame. You can imagine how great that is for our personal and professional relationships.

So, the next time you are about to tell someone they’re “almost there” check your story and your gut: are you really setting that person, and yourself, up for success?

 

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 Business Strategy, Client Experiences, Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, growth, Success | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why You Should Have Paid Attention in English 101

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Spelling errorThink back to your freshman year of college. (Understandably this might be a long ways back for some, so I’ll give you a few minutes to dust off those memories and reminisce a bit.) Freshman year probably conjures up flashbacks of cramped dorm rooms, crappy food from the dining hall, and going to your first college game day. These are all great memories, but I’m going to pull you away from those halcyon days and remind you of your dreaded 8:00am – English 101.

For some, just the thought of English Comp. makes you quiver. I promise there’s no pop-quiz, and I definitely won’t make you diagram any sentences, but pull yourself together for a few moments and let me explain why I’m bringing up these horrid memories. The elements of composition and style you learned in English 101 were not meant to be forgotten after you passed the final. (For some people they may have never been learned in the first place to be forgotten.) These principles, believe it or not, can help grow sales, increase and retain your clientele, and affects the public image of your company.

This sounds crazy right? I assure you it’s true. Charles Duncombe, an online data analyst, explains that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half – IN HALF. Spelling mistakes and blatant grammar errors severely damage your credibility. These blunders will definitely put off customers and potential clients who will automatically question how thorough you are, and the quality of the work you perform. This is incredibly important in the eyes of William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute who argues, “When a consumer might be wary of spam or phishing efforts, a misspelt word could be a killer issue.” Your website and your business’s social media pages are often someone’s first impression of your company. Having a page riddled with errors is like giving the limpest handshake in the world. It doesn’t send a good message, and they probably won’t shake hands with you anymore.

What then, is the best way to stop yourself from falling victim to perilous grammar mistakes? I’m not suggesting you go back to college and retake English 101…although some of you may love the idea of going back to college. My suggestion is to familiarize yourself with some very important tips and rules to avoid making any grammatical gaffes.

A few to consider:

•  Reread – I feel like an SAT-prep teacher saying this, but it’s very important to reread your work. That means all of your work, including emails. You may be thinking: “I’m way too busy to take the time to reread everything I write.” But, like I mentioned before, the dangers of spelling mistakes can ruin your sales; and I’m sure you have time to save yourself some money. Simply reread it when you’re finished writing. For some people saying it out loud can be helpful. If it’s a very important document, have someone else read it too. It can often be difficult to catch your own mistakes, especially when you think you’re never wrong and everything you write is perfect.

•  Commas – Some writers have begun calling for a war against the comma. While wars have been fought over stranger and more insignificant things, I’m a strong advocate of the comma, and would gladly go to war to defend it. The comma is tremendously useful in writing and has a great ability to convey tone and capture the pace of your message. All it really takes is a quick internet search of “funny comma mistakes” to get the gist of how important they really are. For example, let’s take the common street sign that’s written: “Slow children at play.” I’m sure you’ve all heard the jokes about this one, but for anyone unfamiliar consider this – is the sign telling you that the children at play are moving slow? Or for you to drive slow because there are children playing? Pretty simple right? None of us actually believe the children are playing in slow motion. We all know the sign should read: “Slow, children at play.” Commas really define context. Don’t get taken out of context.

•  They’re, There, Their – You’d be surprised how many times I’ve witnessed someone make these mistakes. Smart, bright people with important positions in their company. Knowing the difference between these words and when to use them can save you quite a lot of embarrassment. It’s really important that you don’t get caught making these simple mistakes. Nothing says “I didn’t put in the effort” like these homophone errors. The same thing goes for – where, were, and we’re, and your and you’re. Know the difference; I promise it will prevent a lot of laughing and finger pointing in your direction.

•  Short and Concise – It can be really easy to get carried away when you’re writing. Especially when you’re really passionate about your business and your brand. Just because your thoughts formulate a mile-a-minute, doesn’t mean your sentences should. Let’s go back to English class for just a second. You may, or may not, remember the rule about using quotations in your writing, but I’ll remind you. The rule is: if you’re using a quote, and it takes up more than three lines on your page, it needs to be a block quote and stand alone, separated from the paragraph it’s in. Follow a similar rule if you’re a long winded writer. If your sentence is longer than three lines, it’s time to cut it down to size a bit. You don’t want to confuse your audience, and nothing throws a reader off balance like forcing them to reread a sentence because it was too long for them to remember what it was about.

These are just a few easy tips to produce better written content and help maintain a respectable image of your company. Even if you’re not a fantastic writer, and even if you had to retake English 101 (possibly several times, who’s judging?), these are simple to follow aids that can really make a noticeable difference in your written content. By following them, it doesn’t mean you get an A+ in English 101, but you’re off to a good start. Once you feel like you’ve mastered these four practices, I urge you to try and learn more. People will associate strong well written material with an intelligent and competent leader. Writing really shouldn’t be an overlooked tedium in the business world anymore. It can, as we’ve discussed, make or break sales for companies. You don’t need to re-enroll in college, you really don’t need a master’s degree in English, and you definitely don’t need to invest in a library of dictionaries, thesauruses, and writing manuals to make your writing more professional and more business friendly. Trust me, I’m a writer.

 

As eQ’s Writing Specialist, Eric Stewart works his creative magic by putting our Team’s concepts, ideas, and methodologies into words!

Posted in Grow Regardless, Success | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is…the Fear of False Controversy

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Time for CoachingAccording to our news media, it seems that any topic or circumstance about which at least two people have different points of view is a CONTROVERSY! Unfortunately, framing legitimate questions and alternative points of view as controversial is having a chilling effect on our willingness to ask good and important questions. It’s gotten to the point where we don’t express differing opinions for fear of getting caught in the crossfire of what might be an ugly, if not defamatory, altercation. In organizations, we too often choose to defer to others, fail to ask clarifying questions, and otherwise let things pass to avoid making waves. The outcomes we enable through our silence can be – at best – less effective or efficient than they could be; and – at worst – they can be calamitous. Organizational leaders need to step up to the opportunity to move beyond climates of false agreement and create environments in which constructive questioning and testing is not only acceptable, but encouraged. Failure to do so will lead to truly bad outcomes.

The good news is: the gap that exists between a closed and an open organization (the willingness of your colleagues to collaborate toward better outcomes) is far from insurmountable and probably not even that great. Based on a lot of client experience and organizational research, here are some primary points of reference and suggested actions you can take to get on a more productive path:

•  Tell ‘em what you want—If you want a more open organization or team, let your people know. Given them permission to ask questions and to critically assess ideas to ensure the best or intended outcomes.

•  Practice what you preach—When presenting an idea of your own, encourage the behavior you want by inviting questions. (How effectively does this approach drive the result that we want?) Ask people to critically assess your thoughts. (What might be a better way to do this?) When facilitating a conversation about someone else’s ideas, model the behavior by doing these things yourself – respectfully and in moderation. Reinforce this behavior in others by noting it and, as appropriate, pointing out how questions have confirmed a direction, or helped discover a better one. Establish ground rules about whether silence equals agreement, or if active agreement is required to move on. Either way, ensure that everyone participates.

•  Clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose—As we learned from Coach Taylor in the TV version of Friday Night Lights, commitment coupled with passion can take us to great places when we “play” as a team. By setting the expectation of internal constructive-analysis and critique; we open the door to the possibility of unleashing the power of many. We need to build and support the discipline through modeling behavior and encouraging and better enabling others to practice it. Our process should allow for discussion and adjustment, and it needs to define when that period ends and we stand in agreement that we outwardly share with conviction to the world.

Your selection process should be mapped out and ready to roll – including: those scripted questions, an assessment instrument aligned with our required profile, a timeline, templates for job-related tests or scenarios, realistic job previews, emails, offer letters, and onboarding. All this and more prepares you to move quickly and well. This preparation also removes ignorance as a pitfall or excuse.

We might understand the imperative of thoughtful debate through the lens of more formal models like Groupthink or the Abilene Paradox, even through metaphors like being called Lemmings. It doesn’t matter, as long as we do it. More importantly, we need to be aware that understanding must lead us to action. We need to move to counteract negative group and decision dynamics through approaches like the one outlined above. Sanction it, bring it into practice, and reinforce it through praise and then through examples of its impact. Controversial? Smart!

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Business Strategy, Coaching, Consulting | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Year Ahead: What to Expect When You’re Expecting…to Have a Great Year

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Green Tree VectorIn search of insight into the year ahead for job seekers and workers alike, and what you can expect to encounter this year? Well, we have good news for you…

This year is shaping up to be a pretty good year. We;re well aware you’ve been hearing those words rattled off by countless optimistic business leaders since the downturn in 2008, but things really are different this year. Industries are growing again. The past several years have been a struggle for a lot of people, particularly those who have been tirelessly searching for a new job. Many people have had to tighten a few belt loops, pinch a few pennies, and been forced to tolerate a position they’re unhappy in because the thought of looking for a new job is downright frightening.

The good news is, the jobs are finally there. There’s no need to feel like you’re a prisoner to the poor job market any more. While it may be a tad depressing to do so, a quick Google search of “hopeless job market” may surprise you a little. The most recent article you’ll find discussing the hopeless conditions of the economy and the job market is date stamped for 2013. Not a single one dated this year, or all of last year. If this isn’t encouraging to you, we don’t know what is. There’s real hope for job seekers, and not a fabricated hope to make you feel better about a dire situation; real, legitimate hope. Hearing people say, “things are looking up” should not be addressed with disbelief and the person branded as an optimistic loony. There is real concrete evidence to support this, and this is the topic of our discussion over the course of the week.

Stay tuned for more on this topic in the very near future to discover what’s in store for you if you’re looking to take on a new challenge and a new job.

 

Joe Mechlinski is CEO and Co-Founder of entreQuest, where he’s helped hundreds of companies prosper through some of the worst economic times in history. Joe’s debut book, Grow Regardless, an instant New York Times bestseller, defines strategic growth, change management, and organizational development.

 

Posted in Hiring Best Practices | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

He Ain’t Pulling the Smoke Over the Eyes of Anyone Except, Maybe, His Own!

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SmokeAs some of you may recall, I have an appreciation for creative misuse and abuse of language, especially the modification of idioms into utter nonsense. My son knows I’m a fan, so he was kind enough to share the quote that serves as the title of this blog with me. He was watching television and heard a former NFL player talking about the Super Bowl, when he said, “He ain’t pulling the smoke over the eyes of anyone!” Of course, the intended idiom likely (hopefully) was about pulling the wool over someone’s eyes; fooling them, in other words. But, you have to love this variation. It made me think of how often we pull the wool, smoke, or whatever over our own eyes and not someone else’s. This phenomenon of self-delusion could not be more evident than when we, as organized leaders, seek to talk ourselves into hiring the wrong people. What is the cause of this mistake? Does it really matter? And how can we maintain a clearer vision when it comes to choosing our next colleague?

A significant part of the human condition is our ability to rationalize. For those unfamiliar with the term, rationalize can mean two interestingly different things:

  1. To attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate; or
  2. To make (a company, process, or industry) more efficient by reorganizing it in such a way as to dispense with unnecessary personnel or equipment

In my experience, when it comes to the selection of our teammates – from leaders to rank-and-file employees – these two meanings are often fused in such a manner where we attempt to explain making the organization better by hiring people in spite of the evidence that we have suggesting not to. I’m a strong believer in the power of potential, and I think all candidates need some integration and development to achieve greatness in our organizations. However, there’s a “but” here; there are people who just straight up don’t fit, and should not be hired by us – EVER.

Yet, we inflict the injury of hiring mistakes on ourselves over and over because we avoid collecting and accepting the information we need to make better decisions. And we still DEFEND the fact we ignore the information!

  • What causes this “blindness”?—Urgency, expedience, ignorance, laziness. Ouch – I went there. Urgency: We need someone, FAST. Expedience: They’re the “best” person we can find. Ignorance: We don’t assess personality or skills effectively through testing or our interviews. Laziness: I don’t have the time; this is good enough.
  • What our lack of vision costs us—Many of you are familiar with the Saratoga Institute’s 1.5x first year compensation as being the direct costs of a bad hire. Most of us have experienced the pain associated with working for and with the wrong people. Too few of us take into account the damage to our brands – our customer brand and our talent brand. The damage to either or both of these can be so significant and long-term, it’s no wonder we want to run and hide from the harm we’ve done. Bottom line – the cost is HUGE; and none of us can afford to risk as much as making avoidable bad hires causes us to put at risk.
  • How we open and clear our eyes—We need to allow our urgency to drive better, rather than lesser, processes. There’s no reason for us not to have a set of core values that are defined and on which selection questions are based and scripted. Those questions need to be job-related, open-ended questions about specific times that the skill required for your job has been demonstrated. The number of folks who – even after having been trained and coached not to ask general or hypothetical questions – do just that. If the need arises before you script effective questions, please keep this guidance in mind: when you hear yourself asking something like “How would you ____ if…?” be aware that you are asking a hypothetical question that allows the person to tell you what they SHOULD do rather than what they ACTUALLY have done.

Your selection process should be mapped out and ready to roll; including: those scripted questions, an assessment instrument aligned with our required profile, a timeline, templates for job-related tests or scenarios, realistic job previews, emails, offer letters, and onboarding. All this and more prepares you to move quickly and well. This preparation also removes ignorance as a pitfall or excuse.

As with any bad habit, recognition of the issue is a good first step. Stop lying to yourself, and to others, about the efficacy of your approach when you continue to make poor hiring decisions as measured by performance and fit. If it’s producing poor results, your process is lacking and so is your execution. The good news is that you have control over the process and its execution. In the words of the late, great advice columnist, Ann Landers; to raise your selection acumen and effectiveness, I suggest you seek professional counseling. If you’re balking at what you perceive as too high of a price on building a sound system or getting help in executing it, you need to go back and ring up the costs you’ve already incurred by your challenges and failures up to now. If you kept your receipts, you’ll discover quickly you likely need to run, not walk, to someone who can help you make sense of it and put all the good about your organization to work for you, your colleague, your clients, and your community. Push the wool away, wave that smoke away, and see the bright future that you needn’t be separated from any longer.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Hiring Best Practices, Success, Talent Acquisition | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Break Ups are a Cause for Celebration!

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Balloons and confettiOne of the reasons I love teaching business strategy at a couple of local universities is because my class is the last stop before students graduate. There is something so fulfilling about knowing those students are about to begin a new chapter of their lives – better equipped to be more, do more, and give more. Over the years, I’ve seen students accomplish so much after graduation – I’m so proud of every one of them.

At entreQuest, we have similar experiences, and I’m pretty sure in your line of work, you do, as well. We are on a never ending mission to help our clients Grow Regardless – and what’s inherent is the reality that at some point, our clients will need to take the mindset, frameworks, processes, and foundation that we build together, and go CRUSH IT on their own. (Of course, we re-engage when they need us, and this does happen quite regularly – kind of like a personal trainer who comes back periodically to push/pull a client to new levels of fitness.)

I remember when I first started in this business, and when I “lost” my first client. They felt like they had what they needed to progress on their own. I got a bit defensive. I took it personally. To my internal team, I said things like: “they are so messed up. They’ll never be able to grow without us. What are they thinking?” It went on and on. Guess what? The company was fine. They are still in business. They have performed pretty well, as a matter of fact.

What’s the point? There will come a time when a phase of a given business relationship (or personal relationship, for that matter) will end. Check your mindset – are your lenses oriented to view this from a place of abundance? (The client will go on to do such amazing things! I so appreciate the opportunity to have worked with them, and what we’ve been able to accomplish! We learned so much from each other!) Or, are you orientated from a place of scarcity? (They won’t survive without me. Losing this client is so painful – I don’t have enough clients or revenue now. I’m not going to stay connected to them – if they don’t want to work with me/us, it is their loss; let’s see how they do without me.)

Check your head! When clients progress to a place of self-sustainment, we should celebrate. When we lift others up, it makes us collectively stronger; it improves the local, regional, and national economy better. You know this as well; when you do the right thing, it does come back to you: maybe in re-engaging in the future; maybe through direct referrals; maybe through indirect referrals; maybe just in the personal pride and satisfaction that you had massive impact – and that, in and of itself has massive power.

So, when it comes time for the next break up, watch this video from an amazing client of ours. They have accomplished incredible things, and it has been an honor working with them. They are doing such great things on the Delmarva Peninsula, and if you don’t know them, you should: http://vimeo.com/117853688

And think of this quote, from Guilliame Apollinaire:

“Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They came. It pushed them…
And they flew.”

 

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 Business Strategy, Client Experiences, Grow Regardless, growth, Success | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Ghost of Surveys Past

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Ghost of Surveys PastThere are just some things you shouldn’t attempt to do on your own. No matter how ‘good’ you think you might be. Let’s consider this… as a business owner; would you ever do the taxes for your business? How about handle all of your legal needs?

Absolutely not! And if you’re shaking your head, ‘yeah, maybe,’ then perhaps a sports analogy will change your mind. Would you attempt to dunk the basketball when you have Lebron James on your team? Didn’t think so. And this is EXACTLY why you should hire someone else to do your company survey. There is an undeniable value in leveraging employee surveys to an outside party versus building and executing in-house. These include:

•  Increased Participation: Employees are more likely to participate if they feel as though their leaders took the process seriously enough to hire an outside party to execute the task efficiently and correctly. And believe me; you want your employees to participate. According to Gallup, engaged employees have a 3.9 times higher earnings per share rate than employees who aren’t engaged. Keep them engaged, and give them the confidence that the survey will be done properly; especially if they were conducted poorly in the past.

•  Increased Confidentiality: You can tell your people that your in-house survey is ‘anonymous’ all you want, but I think you’d have an easier time convincing them that they’re all getting raises. Employees are usually hesitant to be honest for fear that anonymity will be compromised. By allowing a third party to conduct your survey, confidentiality and anonymity are secured. This allows employees to open up and provide that candid feedback you crave.

•  The Ability to Benchmark: Utilizing a third party offers the opportunity to understand how you stack up to other companies. Particularly in terms of employee engagement. And don’t forget, this cannot be done if the survey is built and executed in-house.

•  Leverage Expertise: There are many ways that a poorly written survey questionnaire can lead to insufficient or false data. Question miswording is a common trap that those who are untrained in survey research fall into. eQ is an expert in creating surveys that are customized for our clients that incorporate best practices (in terms of survey design) and deployment.

•  Make the Survey and Data Collection Matter: Many companies that do their own surveys are unsure how to leverage the data collected to create sustainable change. The best way to create this change is through a third-party system. A third party can help develop post-survey communication, ensure the survey was meaningful, and build an action plan to create organizational change around the areas that need attention.

Perhaps now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the many positives of third party surveys you’ll consider one next time you contemplate dusting off the old, antiquated survey you’ve been Xeroxing and reusing for years. Trust me; these surveys are ghosts of the past. They’re floppy disks in a flash drive world. If you’re tired of the status quo, if you’re done distributing in-house surveys with poor feedback, it’s time to take a step forward and experience real results when someone else does your survey.

 

Misti Aaronson is the COO of entreQuest. She utilizes her talents and expertise from working with countless organizations to help businesses grow through expert talent acquisition, growth methodology and development of their teams.

Posted in Business Strategy, Employee Experience, Grow Regardless, Leadership, Success | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bad Dieting

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Donut“Thank-yous” and Praise, Empty Verbal Calories Without the Nutritional Value of Specifics

People who know me well know that many of my favorite analogies involve food. So, it’s not surprising when my first thoughts about empty compliments and encouragements go right to thoughts of junk food. eQ’s COO, Misti Aaronson (one of Baltimore’s top female executives because of her commitment to excellence – her own and developing the abilities of those around her to deliver the same), is way more food conscious and disciplined than I. Excluding our banter about our differing views on the merits of so-called “participation trophies,” I think we’re going to agree when it comes to this topic; and the analogy to illustrate it. As I’ve said before, when used in the right way, with the right audience, the token of these participation trophies can positively impact the individuals you’re seeking to draw further into your community. I said then, and I’ll repeat here: they’re good to attract and lower defenses; they do not replace hard work, achievement, and the esteem that comes with it. The fact that self-esteem has to follow achievement has been studied and written about for years. Recently, while flying across the US, I read an article reminding me of this. It made me think of Misti and others like her who want to have a real and lasting impact on the people around them. I was inspired to cull out a few simple things to know and use for all of us to be more effective when it comes to supporting others in meaningful ways through what we say. To paraphrase the great children’s lesson, you can give a colleague a … doughnut of hollow praise, or you can provide a well-balanced diet that will help them reach and sustain a higher level of contribution. Sure, the doughnut tastes good, but it’s what happens as a result of a steady diet of “doughnuts” that matters.

The inspiring article I’m reading on the place is called “In Criticism of Praise” by Heidi Stevens, a Chicago Tribune columnist, author and parent. The article appears in the January 2015 issue of Southwest Airlines in flight magazine. Ms. Stevens’ focus is on her relationship with her son and parent/child relationships overall, but the lessons transcend age and connection. She cites liberally from the research of Stanford psychology professor, Carol Dweck, who studied the affect of praise, success, and failure on children, and their willingness to take on challenges and the attitude with which they do so. One way of summarizing her work is to say that too much praise for too little achievement (that fails to include a reference to the effort) leads to a resistance to take on greater challenges for fear of losing one’s status. More specifically, calling someone a genius for performing simple addition, or the next great runner for making it all the way around the block, doesn’t produce the results you intend. In fact, it can lead to anxiety and create the equivalent of a “proving” versus a “learning” mindset in which failure is not an option.

Fittingly, in the same magazine, there was an article discussing the true story of a team of high school students from a tough neighborhood in Phoenix who bested a team from MIT in an underwater robotics competition. (Keep an eye out for the upcoming movie version of Spare Parts, which tells the story of the Carl Hayden High School robotics team.) One of the assertions by the author is that these kids performed so well because they figured they had no chance to win. Another factor was that their lack of access to expensive technology and other resources led them to be far more innovative…and, ultimately, incredibly successful.

So, what does all this mean? Should we reserve praise and support? Maybe practice verbal tough love? There’s no research that suggests withholding praise or employing negative reinforcement is the preferred method of creating, or furthering, behaviors that you desire. What about participation trophies? Read my earlier blog. Damning with faint praise? Well…sort of. You do run the risk of missing an opportunity to get more of what you want if you don’t make what you value and appreciate perfectly clear. The message from these articles serves as a healthy reminder that we can be most effective with our compliments when we are:

•  Genuine—Pick something to praise or reinforce that merits attention. For some, even modest achievement or progress is appropriate; for others, it may need to be more substantial or noteworthy. You have to believe it for them too – this isn’t just a mantra, it’s neuroscience.

•  Timely—To borrow from the NYC safety initiative: if you see something, say something. The most effective time to share feedback of any sort is as close to the time the behavior occurs as possible. If it’s a subordinate, act at will. If it’s a peer, ask the person if s/he is interested in feedback. Share your thoughts in person (if you can); notes and trinkets can be effective too – as long as you attend to the most important element of specificity (noted below).

•  Specific—Be sure to say what it is that merits the “good job” or “thanks” you pass along. It sounds like a simple thing; but, too often, the details are overlooked or it’s assumed the person knows what you’re thanking them for. Adding the precise reasons for your assessment capitalizes on your ability to create confidence and increase the likelihood of getting more what you value.

One last thing: all feedback should be constructive. The number of times I hear people say they share “positive or constructive” feedback is telling. It communicates exactly the issue discussed above: we aren’t constructive when we praise. Not to mention, that construction is reserved for outlining areas in need of address or development. By applying the guidance that all feedback is constructive, you’ll be more effective on at least two levels:

1.  You’ll praise more often, and

2.  Your praise will have significantly more meaning and impact

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Leadership, Motivation, Success, System of Management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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