A Simple Philosophy to Create a Great Workplace Environment

As I have mentioned before we live in the “Yelp generation.”  This means that people are always rating the entities that they have had an experience with.  This includes employers that people have worked for.  With the uptick of websites like Glassdoor, it is easy to see what previous and current people thought about their time with the company.

Besides that, you want to create a positive workplace experience for your team.  You want to give your productive employees every incentive to stay on board.  There are ways to go about creating a positive workplace environment.  There are also ways to do this that don’t include a hefty raise.

I have found that it was not all that difficult to create this kind’ve of workplace by doing a couple simple things.  Create opportunities to offer recognition, and accept feedback. This was as simple as extending the weekly or daily meeting by a couple minutes.  With this new way of thinking we are able to improve our workplace condition, and in doing so improve our employee retention.

How did we go about recognizing positive performance? Obviously, the best answer would be to give out raises, but we all know that isn’t always an option.  The easiest, yet quite effective way is some simple verbal praise.  You could immediately tell that this went a long way.  Make it a practice of offering words of encouragement when your employees are doing the right thing. Employees are used to hearing criticism when things go wrong, but you will boost morale if you make a habit of offering some kind words. An extension of this idea was actually creating a board of top achievers.  We would place this board in a prominent place that all the employees could see.  The public recognition will go a long way in displaying what a great job they are doing.

The second half of this approach was, as I mentioned, to encourage feedback.  This one could be a little tricky because people are probably a little scared, to be honest with you.  A simple way to address this was to create a suggestion box.  People can feel free to sign their name to it or not, that can be their prerogative.  Some of the ideas might be useful, some might not be, but at least we can get a better insight on what are employees want.  You can then be fair, objective, and transparent, on what suggestions you will employ and why.

The ultimate way to help create a positive workplace boils down to one word. Trust. The two things I talked about have a base of trust. Trust that your employees will do the right thing, I mean there is a reason you hired them. Trust that your employees know that you are actually looking out for their best interest. You will spend more time with these people that you do with your own family.  Try to create an even better environment to go to, by creating a culture of positive feedback, and some positive recognition. If you do, you will find that your efforts will be rewarded with improved performance and better retention.  Thanks for reading

Project Management Software: A Wise Investment

I don’t trust myself to remember things that are important on a day to day basis. When I first started working I had a terrible and outdated system for staying on top of those things.  That ineffective system was me always have a pad of post-it notes with me throughout the day.  As I was assigned tasks, or thought of things I needed to get done, I would simply write down the action on a post-it note, shove it into my pocket, and let them pile up until then end of the day, when I could them type them up. Not a very organized system at all.  Lucky for people like me, there are programs out there designed to keep us organized. 

I have always been a huge fan of the written to-do list. I love the process of looking at the things you need to get done, and that gratifying feeling that comes along with crossing something off after completing a task. I never imagined that there were systems out there that would accomplish this for me, in a much more efficient way. You can manage your business, and manage your employees through a software that will keep things from slipping through the cracks.

I found one in particular that worked out great for me and my team. We were each able to add daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks.  Every day the first thing we did was log into this system, and then we could quickly get to cranking on our day. This was a great way for our enterprise to stay organized.

We are all human, We forget things. We schedule meetings and calls at wrong times, we forget to check our voicemails, these things just happen.  I think all companies should take advantage of the systems and tools out there to help organize our hectic day. There are hundreds of companies that have products designed to do just that. I would suggest any company, no matter the size to look into one of these products. I think you’ll find that it is a smart investment that will quickly pay off. Thanks for reading.

A Few Tips on Public Speaking

Glossophobia- the fear of public speaking. I’ve heard a lot of crazy stats about this topic. In my research, for this article, I came across a statistics that claimed that up to 75% of Americans have some sort of anxiety over speaking in public to an audience. While I ultimately believe that number might be stretching it a bit, it is definitely a popular fear. There are a couple ways to get around this fear. A combination of practice, being prepared, and keeping a couple hints in mind will help you get over this anxiety.

I must admit, a couple years ago, I wasn’t crazy about giving presentations to any group more than two people.  You get in your head and psych yourself out. It is an important step in professional development.  A step that you will have to inevitably face.

As I mentioned the first thing key to public speaking is being prepared.  I am so much more confident about a presentation if I know that I have put in the work, there is no such thing as over-preparation. However, if you don’t do your homework, it gives you one more reason not be confident about speaking in front of others.  This also relates to practicing your speech beforehand. You will feel more comfortable after a couple of dry runs.  I can’t tell you how many times my poor dog had to listen to me fumble through one of my dry runs. 

There are also a couple of hints that you could probably google, that always helped me to keep in mind during a presentation. First to speak with your hands.  If you do this I think it helps divert some of your nervous energy into something productive. Second talk slow and breathe.  This is something I still struggle with. Especially early on in my presentation, I tend to speak quicker, and less eloquently. I think it is important to take a deep breath before you begin, and if you feel yourself start to speed up.

My most important piece of advice is to actively seek out opportunities in which you can practice your public speaking.  Personally, I took on some speaking responsibilities at my church. While I take my religion very seriously, I am probably nowhere qualified as some sort of theologian. However, I took this as an opportunity to improve my public speaking. I’m not leading the sermons every week mind you, but I do play all small somewhat regular role in the services.  It quickly made me more comfortable with the public speaking and giving presentations.

These are just a few of the things I keep in mind before I give a presentation.  Be prepared, take your time, take deep breathes, and look for every opportunity to improve this skill. If you do this, I think you will quickly find that you are much comfortable about the idea of public speaking. Thanks for reading.

Impress at Your Next Interview

I have already written an article on the questions I liked to ask when I was involved in the hiring process. I thought I would share a couple answers that I really liked. First of all, I should probably say it again, don’t be fake.  It is easy to tell, even for an inexperienced hiring manager, to tell when you are being phony and just reading off rehearsed answers. Be yourself, have some fun with the interview process, let your personality shine through.

The first one is related to your knowledge of the company, and their industry. Obviously, it is important to be prepared for your interview and learn as much about the company, role, and the industry they are in.  Although, you aren’t expected to become an expert in the field over night. If you are super familiar with the industry, this will give you great bonus points, but be honest about your knowledge gaps.  They will inevitably ask you what you know about their field. Don’t be afraid to start off your answer like “pardon my partial ignorance….” or “sorry to offend you with a super simplified answer, but…”  Then go on to dazzle them with all your knowledge that came from your research you have done in the past week. It’s a good way to set the bar low, and then overly impress the interviewer.

The other answer I liked, is more of a mentality that I think would be great to emulate.  I’m sure that 99.99% of interviews start off with “So tell me about yourself?”  I know I still dread this question more than any other.  I was lucky enough to hear what I thought was a great answer, that I would like to share with you.  This woman was open and honest.  She said something along the lines of “I’m an open book… what you see is what you get… Not everybody likes that, but if you ask me to do something, or if I say I’m going to do something, you never have to wonder if I will accomplish that deed.

I’m not suggesting that you copy this answer, in fact, I might even discourage it.  The important thing is that you are honest and open.  The sincerity will shine through.  Too many times and I know I am guilty of this as well, this question gets answered with a summary of the applicant’s resume. Use this as an opportunity to sell yourself and your strengths.  Maybe talk about your most recent role and why you enjoyed it, and how you were successful in that role.  But, don’t list every role you have been in since high school.

I hope the next time you are in an interview process, these tips will help you out. Above all else though, just be genuine and honest.  That is something that is easy to pick up on when you are hiring somebody. Thanks for reading.

Interview Question’s I Liked to Ask

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the hiring process for two different companies. I took the fact that my company trusted and wanted my insight very seriously. I actually enjoyed being on the other side of the table. While I must say my experience it pretty limited in this instance, I thought I would share a couple of question’s I always made sure to ask. I will also go into the reason’s why I asked those questions and some of the answers that I liked to hear.

Before I go into which three questions I always asked, I do want to say one thing. Don’t sound like a robot in the interview process. It is easy to tell when somebody had memorized answers or regurgitated the “about us” page on the company website. Always treat it with the sense of professionalism it deserves, but add some of your personality to the process.

Question 1. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This question was probably asked of me in every interview I have been, and there is a reason for it.  This is very much so a loaded question. While I do like to get to know about your hopes and dreams, I am really curious about how ambitious you are. I didn’t like it when people identically described the role they were interviewing back to me. Ideally, I wanted to you to describe the position that was one level above the job they were interviewing for. If given the choice between a mediocre employee that will stay at the job for 50 years, or an exceptional employee that will only stay for 5 years, the choice was easy. Give me the candidate that I might have to replace because they have been promoted or left for a better opportunity. I want the candidate that demonstrated ambition because that candidate will go above and beyond when it comes to their potential role.

Question 2. “Why do you want this job?” This question, I tend to think isn’t asked enough by interviewers. The reality is, it’s not enough to have a qualified candidate. I also wanted a passionate candidate. Somebody who cares about the position. I don’t need somebody that is just looking for a different paycheck. If I could find a candidate that was going to take a lot of pride in the job, I would be very pleased.

Question3. “Tell me about a time that you failed?” I assume this is a pretty common question. The important thing to demonstrate from this question is that the candidate has thought about their shortcoming, and why it happened.  The best answers to this question include, “and let me tell you what I learned from that.”  I want an individual that isn’t afraid of failure. I also want a person that isn’t too proud to analyze a failure and grow from it. Was this particular instance a fluke, or was it a common occasion that you have had to face multiple times since then? These are all things that I would hope the candidate mentioned in this question.

These are just 3 of the questions I made sure to always ask when I was entrusted to interview potential clients. I know every job has different responsibilities and primary traits you are looking for when qualifying a candidate. I also know that every company has a different culture, and you will be looking for somebody that will most likely fit into your team. I hope that if you don’t already ask these questions, you will consider adding them to the repertoire. Thanks for reading.

Effectively Communicate to Extroverts and Introverts

In a previous position I was being groomed to take over in a management role. One of the things my mentor was stressing to me was the importance of motivation and communication, I greatly underestimated how detailed the latter would be. Communication is something I always felt came easy to me. I like to think I have good people skills and could pass a message along in an effective way that could translate to any sort of person. To better myself in a wide array I signed up for a professional development/networking group to polish up on and learn new office ethics. With little to no experience in a real professional workplace setting, I was learning on the fly, and wanted to diminish my learning curve. Maybe the most interesting seminar I attended as a result of this group, was a workshop on communication to introverts, and extroverts.

Introverts are shy, and extroverts are outgoing. This was my naive attitude on the subject going into the seminar. I quickly learned that my attitude on the subject was both ignorant and short-sighted. This isn’t as black and white as I once though. I even was surprised to find out that I didn’t necessarily belong to the category I thought I did. In addition, it changed forever the way I communicate with large groups of people. I am going to tackle some of the characteristics or preferences of both class of people, and address what is really the biggest difference between these groups. I will then tackle the ways to effectively communicate to both parties.

First of all let’s identify Extrovert’s. It is true these people are the more verbally social, they are more comfortable communicating about themselves to anyone. Extroverts actually get energized by being with a crowd, they get charged by being around people. If at all possible, extroverts prefer to communicate either in person, or over the phone. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest difference between these groups is the way they think, and process information. The classic extrovert has a higher rate or arousal to new ideas. They want to talk out loud with other people as a way to bounce off ideas and organize their thoughts.

As an example I had a boss that was a textbook extrovert. An incredible person and a phenomenal salesmen. I wasn’t able to get in contact with him while I was writing this post, so I won’t use his real name. For the purposes of this article we will call him Luke. Luke was a classic extrovert, meetings with him might pop up out of nowhere and lasted for extended periods of times. When Luke was sent an email with new information, read a big with some interesting idea’s, or even just had an idea on his own he thought was worth exploring, he reacted in a similar fashion.  He would knock on somebody’s door in the office, many times mine, sometimes I thought the first door he could find. He would come in like a whirlwind, talking about what had inspired him. He would list his thoughts, what he liked and what he didn’t like. He be would halfway through a sentence on certain idea, and on why an idea he had just praised, actually wouldn’t work. at times it was comical. To his credit he knew he was like this, often he would say “If I were to be diagnosed, I’m sure I am A.D.H.D.” That’s the way his mind worked, he couldn’t help bouncing from different ideas, and sharing them with people. That is how he organized his thoughts, by talking them out loud with people immediately.

Now let’s look at introvert’s.  It is true introverts are more reserved around people. Especially to people they don’t know very well, they don’t like to share personal information. Introverts are more comfortable in the background as opposed to their gregarious counterparts. I will dive into this deeper later, but they also feel more comfortable in one-on-one meetings. They are also more comfortable in communicating in written form like email, as opposed to an in person conversation.

The most fascinating part for me, is the way introverts chose to process information. They want to think out new information by themselves. Introverts wish to play out every scenario before discussing it with other. They like to plan out how the future conversations might go with their associates. They might even practice talking through the conversation by themselves, but they always wish to digest new information on their own.

Now that I have hopefully broaden your thinking on these two classes I wish to give a little insight I found helpful on how to effectively communicate to everyone.  I will break this down with two simple techniques.

First of all create office hours, with a catch.  It is important to have office hours and be available for your people, but what I found to be effective was to make my office hours after lunch. I found this strategy gave extraverts a time to bounce ideas of others, ensure that I wouldn’t waste any time, as well as knowing that I could listen to their ideas, concerns, etc. On the flip side of this coin I felt it gave the introverts plenty of time to organize their thoughts, as well as giving them the one-on-one environment they were most comfortable in.

The second and most effective strategy I learned from this session is how important memo’s and subject lines in email are. Something I was guilty of in the past was scheduling a meeting for the next day with little to no information at all. What I quickly noticed is that in these group meeting, the lion share of the talking would be done by a few people- you guessed it the extroverts. The introverts in the room rarely spoke their mind, which led to more meeting request the following day. What I found, is that if I scheduled a meeting for the next day, it was absolutely imperative that I go into great detail what the topic would be about.  I quickly found these meeting were much more productive and efficient. The introverts were able to organize their thoughts plans, and ideas.  The extroverts were given time to bounce ideas off each other. The office was soon humming with a new productivity.

I encourage anybody that manages a large group of people to study the differences between introverts and extroverts. Even categorize and test yourself, you might be surprised what you find out. I assumed I was an extrovert because I was somewhat outgoing, but after doing research and testing myself was amazed to find out I am actually very much so an introvert.  I prefer to organize and analytical think about ideas before I am ready to make them public to anybody.  I hope you take the time to learn your people, and as importantly I hope you learn how to effectively communicate to everyone.