Posts in business
Tips to Meet with More Great People

I recently went to Chicago where I was able to hook up with some really great people. We talked about where each of us is professionally, how we can help each other, and I even did some basic coaching as well.

This Thursday I have some more meetings scheduled in NYC, all with folks who have appeared on my podcast.

These are not just regular sit downs. Rather, they are with awesome people that I want to get to know better and either coach, collaborate with, and/or get referrals from.

For me, every meeting has to serve a purpose. It could be a total waste of time for one or both of us to meet without an agenda or underlying goal.  

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5 Tips to Increase Workplace Engagement

The statistics about worker disengagement are staggering. We read all the time about how workplace engagement levels are low here in the U.S. and even lower around the world. Loss of productivity is estimated to cost employers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, if not billions. And it all stems from how disconnected folks feel from the people working around them, the work that they do each day, and the purpose that it serves to them and to others.

Workplace connection results in many benefits, including stronger communication, greater synergy, enhanced anticipation of others’ needs and worries / concerns, and, last but certainly not least, increased worker engagement. When we feel connected, we operate with a sense of purpose and utilize our many talents and abilities to advance that purpose, consciously as well as subconsciously.  

The need for connection at work is perhaps stronger today than ever before. It has become an expectation, especially amongst younger workers, that the workplace be a source of meaning and intention, not just a place at which to collect a paycheck.

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What to do When Your Clients Disappear

Recently, I have encountered an unexpected spate of established, solid client relationships that simply vanished in thin air. Retirements, changes in title or budget, or shifting priorities have led to a number of longstanding, strong client relationships to go up in smoke. Rather than basing my work schedule on a predictable stream that I built over time with these clients, I have been forced to act quickly to develop new relationships and rebuild my base.

Unfortunately, no one is immune to sudden, impactful changes to their clients or their clients’ needs. Despite many years of exemplary service, market, company or personal factors can force service providers and sellers to have to start again.

Here are some strategies that can help preempt such change and minimize its impact.

  1. Always be in client creation mode – Regardless of how many clients you have in the bag, it’s imperative to continually create new ones. This is true even if you’re at capacity and can’t seem to find time to make new connections, let alone serve them. Make the time to regularly connect with new people, at conferences, online, or one on one, even if it means hiring someone to do some of your own work. Then, find ways to keep them in the window of engagement, such as adding them to a waiting list and an email list. Regularly check in on them and add value to the relationship.

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Confront With Care

Few leaders can avoid confrontation. There are simply too many items and employees that require oversight and guidance. The likelihood is very high that every leader will need to address numerous areas of concern within her organization at various points.

Whether the matter is personal (a coworker's attitude or manners, for example) or performance related, confronting someone about an issue can be one of the hardest things for a leader to do. It is generally unpleasant for someone to have to bring this concern forward and demand change and improvement. In fact, many leaders will go to extreme lengths to avoid it. Some reasons for this include:

  • Fear of how your relationship will be affected moving forward;

  • Concern over being seen as overly demanding or callous;

  • Bad feelings from past confrontations that went awry;

  • Second-guessing and questioning ourselves regarding our grounds and motives for the confrontation;

  • Negative memories from times that we were confronted by others.

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When NOT to Delegate

As valuable as delegation can be, there are times where it’s simply not advisable. The following list presents when it’s better to not delegate but rather keep the project for yourself:

  1. The task has not been fully thought through – If you aren’t able to explain the task and its goals in concrete terms, then you have more work to do before handing it off to someone else to accomplish.

  2. The project must be done in a specific way – In some situations, such as an intricate project that you developed and possess intimate knowledge of, delegation may create more problems than benefits.

  3. It takes more time for explain what to do than to just do it yourself – This assumes that this is a one-off project that just needs to be done and taken off the list. A recurring project or one that will provide opportunity for meaningful subordinate development should not be included in this list.

  4. When you really enjoy doing it – There’s nothing wrong with doing some things that can be taken over by others but still provide you with a positive burst of motivation or excitement, such as greeting students and parents in carpool. But learn to limit these so that you can ensure that you’re still doing the work that you really need to be doing.

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Adding a Sense of Urgency to Your Work

Research is clear that people respond better – both qualitatively and in terms of completion time – when there is a sense of urgency to their work. While it’s important that leaders not overplay the urgency card (that can dull people’s responsiveness and induce unneeded stress) with their teams, there are many benefits to strategically adding an element of healthy pressure to the workplace.

Here are some “E.A.R.N.E.S.T.” ways to increase a sense of urgency at work:

  • Expectations – The first thing that people need to know is where things stand and what needs to change. Once you get your team clear on where they are and what needs to happen, you can reasonably expect that they will focus their efforts and energy to move things forward.   

  • Awareness – They also should be made aware of why this task is of increased importance, as in what’s going to happen if nothing changes. In my example, it would be that we need to prioritize dismantling the sukkah to ensure that it gets into the shed before the sky opens up and everything gets soaked. Your consequence may relate to losing customers, taking a loss on a faulty product or service, or an opportunity to gain market share.

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How to Decide What to Delegate

In our last post on delegation, we focused on situational leadership and how it impacts the role a leader plays in transferring work and responsibility to others. In this post the focus will shift to when one should delegate, and when one shouldn’t.

Choosing tasks to delegate can be trickier than it seems. There are some tasks, such as high-risk or crisis-related activities, that leaders should never delegate. Other responsibilities, including those that will be performed once or rarely and require much guidance and direction, should also not be included.

To determine when delegation is most appropriate, consider these key questions:

  1. Is this a task that someone else can do, or is it critical that you do it yourself?

  2. Is there someone else who has (or can be given) the necessary information or expertise to complete the task?

  3. Does the task provide an opportunity to grow and develop another person's skills?

  4. Is this a task that will recur with some frequency, in a similar form, in the future?

  5. Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively and stay on top of things? Time must be available for adequate training, for questions and answers, to check in on progress, and to re-imagine/rework when necessary.

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Educational Insights from the Business World

Without question, there are several significant differences between the roles and goals of educators and those the ply their trade in the business world. Perhaps most significant is how the two groups measure success.

Educators are focused primarily on student learning and development. To them, a healthy fiscal bottom line is a means through which they can achieve their goals, not an end to itself. Businesspeople, in contrast, are mainly interested in developing successful, profitable enterprises. Learning and development are viewed as necessary to help businesses and their people grow, but do not constitute a primary objective for most businesses.

The fundamental difference of purpose that separates schools from businesses often lends members of each camp to think that there is little to be learned from the other. This, in my view, is particularly true for educators. As a former teacher and principal, I felt a fundamental disconnect from what was occurring in the for-profit world. Many of my peers and colleagues expressed similar sentiment. Any time that I heard of some lay leader or governmental initiative to make schools more like businesses, I became suspicious. “What do they know about education anyway?”, I would ask.

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How to Build Workplace Symmetry and Win

On October 12, 2000, the USS Cole was attacked while refueling in Yemen’s Aden Harbor. 17 American sailors were killed and 39 more were injured. It was the deadliest attack against a United States naval vessel in over a decade. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.

Though the horrors of 9/11 were still 11 months away, the United States was now in an asymmetrical war. The new kind of struggle, which pits nations or groups with disparate military capabilities and strategies against each other, and features such irregular tactics as counterinsurgency and terrorism, would force the Pentagon to rewrite its rules of engagement after decades of following a WWII and Cold War driven playbook.

Though the battlefield is far from the ideal workplace metaphor, the sad truth is that many employees come to work each day feeling embattled.

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