Are You A Master Problem Solver? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself

No matter your job title or executive level, problem solving comes included. It might be the part of the job that no one ever trained you on and isn’t exactly written in your role description, but you need to be on your game for the sake of the company, the customers and your career.

I’ve compiled a list of six questions to ask yourself as a means to reflect on your past attempts at problem solving and to keep you on track in your future ones.

  1. Have you clearly identified the issue?

A problem can’t be solved if you haven’t been honest about the details, as difficult as it may be. Don’t sidestep the tricky parts; put it all right out there on the table.

  1. Do you consider all parties?

Different people in different roles in different departments have different stakes in the various operations of your company. Before you begin to solve any given problem, ensure you understand the interests of all parties involved.

  1. Have you brainstormed solutions alone or with external input?

Once you have all of your considerations in order, it’s time to start thinking more positively. Forget about the “problem” and start gearing your thinking towards the solution. Think in terms of possibility and include others’ trusted input if you think it might expand the chances of success.

  1. Did you evaluate the solutions?

This is an important step because brainstorming can be chaotic, so evaluation is when you begin narrowing down the most reasonable ideas. Remember your considerations from earlier and factor them in when necessary but this step is your chance to choose the best solution given your options.

  1. Have you taken timely action?

Talking about ideas is great, but next comes taking action. Are you careful about your implementation, watching for effects and consequences? Depending on the type of problem you’re solving, you may need to be sensitive to a few factors. Do so, but don’t let that slow you down or trip you up from successful implementation.

  1. Once you’ve taken action, do you grant yourself a vacation?

If you’ve walked away from your problem solving opportunity like a hero and are now sitting at your desk relaxed and proud, you might want to stiffen up again. It’s great that you’ve taken the proper steps to ensure success but you must follow up on the changes you’ve made, offer assistance where necessary and be ready to problem solve again in the event your solution creates smaller, transitional issues.

Problem solving is a key factor to any job, whether you like it, know it or not. So be on the lookout for these certain things and always remember to ask yourself the six questions when facing any opportunity for solution.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Dan Marks –  Personal Training and Kettlebell Instruction

How to Create Win/Wins by Losing A Round

How to Create Win/Wins by Losing A Round

Win/Lose to Win/Win

Whether you’re at the executive level or strive to be someday, what I’m about to say might shock you. If you find yourself winning most workplace arguments, you might be setting yourself and your entire team back a bit.

We’ve all had a hand in starting or finishing an office argument, but what we may have missed in the heat of the moment was the importance of letting the “win” go in exchange for some new thoughts, perspectives and possibilities. Simply rejecting an idea because you think you know the answer isn’t forward progress.

Win/win arguments are where conflicting ideas are used with each other in a constructive manner as opposed to against each other in competition. These win/win arguments may be difficult to maintain, and certainly require a bit more time and focus than regular ol’ win/lose arguments, but their value far exceeds their burden.

Monkey See, Monkey Do
As a leader, it falls on you to create a positive, constructive argument environment. It’s important you head by example and show others that even with your authority and busy schedule, you can still take the time to be wrong and listen.
But to be a truly effective leader, you must not only engage in constructive arguments yourself but nurture a work environment where others are doing the same. This will pave the way for innovation and productive brainstorming all around the office.

Reward the Losing Side
Offering rewards to employees who exhibit a productive approach to workplace debate may sound a bit strange but let’s put some perspective on it. An employee who encourages constructive arguments and is willing to learn, even at the risk of being “wrong,” is a dynamic team player. This employee understands the importance of innovation and collaborative effort while respecting the ideas and opinions of others. So their reward doesn’t have to come in the form of an “employee of the month” acknowledgement, per se, but their respect for teamwork and knowledge are crucial factors to consider when you’re looking to promote within or select someone to spearhead a project.

Win/Lose to Win/Win
It’s easy to get caught up in a great debate in the workplace; with so many personalities, ideas and previous experience floating around in one space, there are sure to be steadfast opinions on any and all topics. But to turn the debate into an intelligent exchange where ideas can be shared and there’s no winner or loser is how companies and employees alike grow exponentially.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

5 Things Every Successful Leader Does

To be a great leader takes a lot of focus and consistency in your approach to workplace successes, problems and people. Many leadership talents are natural and instinctual. But many can also be learned behaviors and attitudes; experienced approaches when facing certain circumstances.

Across the board, here are 5 things most great workplace leaders do every day:

1. Challenge The Team

Whether encouraging employees to speak their mind, contribute to the team or put forth a stronger performance, a great leader doesn’t let things slide. They observe and acknowledge the hidden potential of those working around them and motivate them to success.

2. Avoid Ambiguity

Leaders need to make sure intentions and expectations are understood across the board. Job ambiguity is one of the more stressful workplace problems employees might face, so it’s important that they know where they stand and what’s expected of them. Discuss your vision and share actionable approaches to achieving that vision as a group or on behalf of the individual’s work. Also be clear about deadlines when necessary.

3. Be Held Accountable

Apart from just challenging their team or individuals to rise to the occasion, a leader must be held responsible for the performance of their employees. This means offering support, guidance and mentoring when necessary. Teaching and inspiring is as important as challenging.

4. Make Decisions

This is something people struggle with often, especially in business settings. But leaders have to step up and make the hard calls, sometimes. Because if they don’t, no one will. Making things happen is a skill, one that indicates the one in charge is informed and experienced in knowing how to give the company what it needs.

5. Offer and Accept Feedback

Listening is such an important component of communication and being open to what others have to say can make or break your relationship with your employees. A leader must make others feel safe to speak their mind and being respectful and receptive is how to do that. But communication works both ways so be sure to provide fair and balanced feedback in return. The more transparent each member of the team can be, the stronger the team will be collectively.

Being in a position of leadership should mean you got there through talent and hard work but there are different types of leaders and it’s important for the success of the team or company that you be a good one. We’ve all worked for someone we felt was uninspiring and perhaps counterproductive to our work ethic. But to be successful, it’s important to have a certain respect for your employees and workplace complications. Approach those situations positively and with trust and confidence in your team, you’ll find success too.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

How to Spot Winning Talent

Allow yourself as much time as possible to fill the role because finding the right fit isn’t going to happen overnight.

Allow yourself as much time as possible to fill the role.

As the boss, you’re responsible for hiring and promoting the best. Whether it’s gauging a candidate’s qualifications on an interview, or determining an existing employee’s ability to move up within the company, you need to be sure the job is in the right hands.

But spotting that winning talent can be challenging. When throwing their hat into the ring, everyone has on their best game face. How can you see beyond that and truly tell if the person is the best for the job?

Go Slow – When you’re in a rush to fill a position, you’ll look for reasons to hire or promote people that may not really deserve it. Allow yourself as much time as possible to fill the role because finding the right fit isn’t going to happen overnight.

Get Input – You have your own perspective of the company and what needs to be improved, but your colleagues and employees may have a beneficial perspective as well. When possible, get input from others; just those few you already know and trust.

Pay Attention – Everyone says if you want a position that doesn’t exist, create it. Guts and glory are the most common ways to get ahead. But what if you have a hidden diamond in the rough standing before you; someone quiet and not necessarily confident but nonetheless perfect for the job? Be sure you know enough about your employees’ strengths and talents, both the things they boast about and the things they’re modest about.

Push the Limits – If you think you’re facing someone with hidden potential, challenge them. Give them a task that falls outside of their comfort zone and see how they respond. Once you find out what someone is made of, you can figure out what they need to be motivated to move up to the next level.

Sometimes the talent is right under your nose, sometimes you have to wait for it to walk in the door. Whatever package it comes in, when you see a glimmer of talent, be patient and challenge it to reveal its true potential.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

5 Steps to Ease Difficult Conversations with Your Staff

1.Be Clear and Consistent

1. Be Clear and Consistent

Managing a team of varying personalities and characteristics can be challenging but communication is one of the most important ways to keep your employees happy and motivated. It can be difficult to ease tension with your staff sometimes but if you follow these steps, it should be a whole lot easier.

  1. Be Clear and Consistent

When you offer advice, explain the rules or provide instructions, be clear. Ambiguity is one of the most stressful things to occur in the workplace. Be consistent, also. If you’re always changing your story, you’ll add unneeded pressure to your employees because they’ll never know what it is you actually need from them.

  1. Be Fair

When there are conflicts among employees and you need to step in, handle with care and diplomacy. Sometimes conflict can be a matter of small misunderstandings and it might just be your job to stop it before it gets more serious than that.

  1. Listen

From an employee’s perspective, one of the most frustrating and de-motivating things that can happen at work is the boss just doesn’t listen. When someone’s trying to tell you something, hear them out and consider with genuine interest what it is they’re trying to express. They work in the trenches and might have important things to say about things you’re out of touch with.

  1. Ask Questions

Not only does asking questions show you care, it will also help you gain a new perspective. Sometimes reconnecting with the group is a necessary thing for the boss to do. Asking questions to make sure you know how things are going also opens the door for comfortable two-way communication in the future.

  1. Avoid Getting Too Personal

Having a friendly relationship with your employees is a good thing. But you want to avoid getting too personal, which includes disclosing too much information, asking for too much information and showing too much emotion. These things have the potential to cause a loss of respect and boundaries between you and them and thus all authority will cease to exist.

Open communication with your team is a key factor to overall business success but it can be difficult sometimes. You’re busy and up against your own deadlines, taking the necessary time for proper communication just doesn’t fit into your schedule. But spending some time to implement these 5 steps can turn it all around for both you and your employees.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Leadership Growth: Overcome Your Obstacles

Be Willing to Make the Tough Decisions

Be Willing to Make the Tough Decisions

Previously I offered suggestions on how to overcome the things that might be standing in the way of your effectiveness as a leader. Now I’ll share with you some tips on how to turn it all around.

Be Willing to Make the Tough Decisions

One surefire way to let the obstacles overrun your business is to be unwilling to make the scary changes. Identifying what doesn’t work and being able to abandon it for something else it is a necessary ability. This is especially important when it comes to your staff. It’s important to cultivate a work environment where people are collaborating and putting their greatest efforts toward a common goal. If someone is consistently disrupting that, it’s time for a change.

Be Open to Product or Service Innovations

People aren’t the only thing in your organization that requires examining. Maybe your products or services aren’t generating the necessary results but you’re having a hard time letting go. Be sure to evaluate the effort being put into such things and whether or not the outcome favors the cost. Knowing when to walk away from something is an invaluable skill to learn. It might just be time to create something new.

Update Your Strategies

Knowing when to walk away from a product or service you’re proud to offer but is proving ineffective is difficult. It might be even more difficult to walk away from an embedded marketing strategy or a long-held managerial approach yielding a similar lack of results. Again, take a look at the efforts versus outcomes and look for direct correlations that may outline exactly how or why something isn’t working. You don’t have to abandon your ideas altogether, but finding ways to improve them can trigger a worthy turnaround.

Connect to Every Business Function

Stay involved with all aspects of the business, whether or not you’ve grown out of it. If you developed the product and were there from the start, you’ve passed the torch of sales down to a sales team while you went on to bigger and better things. But how much do you know about the current workings of the sales function in your business? If your answer is “not much,” it’s time to fix that.

Obstacles are part of the job, so how are you going to use them to improve your business output, office morale and customer relationships?

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Leadership Growth: Identify Your Obstacles

1.Set Parameters

1. Set Parameters

Last week we discussed leadership failures and how to overcome them, but those big defeats only come once in a while; the daily challenges that you my face can be equally daunting if you don’t go in with the right game plan.

Your day at the office is a busy one and you probably haven’t ever taken the time to single out your biggest obstacles; the things that slow you down or lessen your morale without you even realizing it. It’s important to identify your challenges so you can learn how to work with them instead of working for them.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We need to start with identifying; overcoming comes later. Here are some things to try.

  1. Set Parameters

An obstacle is a detriment to your success; a roadblock in the way of your effectiveness as a leader. We aren’t talking about your employee coming in late this morning, but if he or she is late every morning and you have to waste a part of every day disciplining them to no avail, that might be an obstacle. Their lateness is a detriment to your success a leader, and your consistent attempts to right the wrong is blocking your effectiveness with wasted time and worn-down morale. Before you start identifying problems, set the parameters of what you’re looking for in defining an obstacle versus what is simply an annoyance.

  1. Look Around

This part of the plan will focus mostly on nouns. Scan the room, browse your meeting calendar, shuffle though old emails; are you thinking of any people, places or things that fill you with doubt or hesitation? Are too many department meetings taking up your time for no real reason? Or maybe the amount of meetings are fine but they’re always held in inconvenient places. Are any members of your team behaving in a way that is less than helpful to the overall goals of the company? You may think you would already know the answers to these questions, but once you take the time to examine your working environment, you might learn something new.

  1. Compare and Contrast

Once you have an idea of the factors that might be holding you back, imagine a world where those things didn’t exist. When you compare the current situation to the ideal situation, do you see vast improvement? It’s important to note that by saying vast improvement, I don’t mean you get to have time to grab a doughnut on the way to your meetings now or that you now have an excuse to fire your least favorite person. I mean do you see an overall spike in team morale, a better balanced schedule or the potential for more productivity? If so, you’ve done a good job identifying your obstacles.

  1. Ask Why

This may sound existential but it’s important. If what you’ve identified as an obstacle is as bad as it seems, why does it exist? If it’s a system or process that’s ineffective to the company’s production, consider why it was used in the first place or why it’s still used, despite its lack of efficacy. There might be good reasons for seemingly unhelpful things to exist, so see if you can think of any.

  1. Develop a Solution

This is the ultimate checks and balances system of identifying your obstacles; figuring out how to eliminate them. If what you’ve identified as an obstacle is truly in the company’s favor to avoid, now is your chance to suggest how to do that. Does an employee need to be redistributed within the team? Can you propose one longer weekly meeting to replace several shorter daily meetings? Think outside the box but within reason and be prepared to offer plenty of support for your suggestions.

So you’ve identified your workplace obstacles and maybe you realized things weren’t so bad. Going though these 5 steps can help you gain a greater perspective on your work situation. It will give you a clear picture of what might be tripping you up and how you can fix it, but it might also silence some ongoing concerns of yours with a little more insight and consideration. Perhaps you realized something wasn’t so bad and there’s already a work-around in existence, you just have to use it. Otherwise, now’s your chance to speak up.

Next time we’ll discuss ways you can overcome the obstacles you’ve identified if the answers aren’t as obvious as you may want them to be.

 

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Why Are Your Smart Employees Underperforming?

fighting+workplace+stress_16000193_800468525_0_0_9206_300

Are you putting too much pressure on the “smart one”?

It can be frustrating to sit by and watch someone with great potential let it fall by the wayside. As a boss, it can be downright troubling. But if you’ve asked yourself why this is happening in your office, you’ve already admitted to being part of the problem, whether you realize it or not.

If this employee really is your “smart employee,” it should be obvious that the work performance issue isn’t because they can’t perform, it’s because they don’t want to. Therefore, it’s time to take a good hard look at your organization and your leadership approach to find out why they don’t want to and how you can improve the work environment for success.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

Are you putting too much pressure on the “smart one”?

When we see potential in people, whether in a business setting or otherwise, we up the ante on what we expect from them. That’s not necessarily a bad approach to take, but it can’t work alone. If you’re counting on one employee to outshine the rest because you know they can, consider   balancing out the pressure you’re putting on them with an ample showing of support. If you let someone know why you expect more from them, they may be more inclined to rise to the challenge.

Is this employee your “go-to”?

It’s hard to avoid in a busy work environment but it’s possible that by earning your trust and respect, this employee also earned a lot of extra work and stress. By seeking them out for extra tasks, responsibilities and even personal help, they might not have adequate time to dedicate to their actual job. If a workload of any combination becomes too large to manage, any employee, even your best, will become discouraged.

Are you valuing their contributions?

This is an important question to look at from two perspectives; the direct manager level (that might be you) and the company level. Everyone who works hard deserves a pat on the back from time to time. To create a positive and effective work environment, a leader needs to encourage and support the people they manage. If you are already a supportive manager, that’s a great start. But if the organization isn’t doing enough to support your employees, you need to advocate for them. Get them noticed, get them encouraged. Nothing stifles creativity and productivity more than underappreciated work.

There are several factors that can contribute to a disappointing work output from an employee you’re confident is capable of more. These questions are a good place to start and will get you thinking in the right direction.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.

Why Dress Codes Work and How To Establish The Rules

office dress code

Create an Environment of Professionalism

Dress codes in the office are not uncommon.  Establishing wardrobe guidelines is a simple and effective way to shape your company’s image which projects onto you, your business partners and your customers.

While the definition of “appropriate dress” may depend on the nature of your industry, the fact remains that what you wear sends a message about your commitment and professionalism. Here are some ways you can begin to construct and implement guidelines.

Establish Clear Expectations

A known and easily identifiable cause of career stress is job ambiguity, and yes, that trickles down to wardrobe. If your office tends to lean casually on the day-to-day but you prefer employees spruce it up for business meetings, it’s important that you establish that guideline outright. Make clear what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Sharing a written policy will eliminate guessing games about what it will take for employees fit in around the office.

Create an Environment of Professionalism

Appropriate dress is most commonly associated with first impressions and overall perception of professionalism.  You want your company to stand out as distinct and trustworthy and the way your employees are presented carries that message.

Beyond first impressions, studies have shown inappropriate dress can dampen productivity as well as create an office distraction. Don’t let these minor intrusions negatively impact your company’s performance.

Lead By Example

To support the clear boundaries and expectations you’ve outlined, it’s important you act the part. As an employer, you may face pushback from employees who will argue their right to dress and groom as they deem appropriate. That’s one reason it’s important for you to set the tone. Lead by example and dress by your own standards. If you raise the bar with your own actions, it will be difficult for your reports to ignore.

Here are some other items to consider while developing your company’s dress code:

  • Seek employee input to ensure the general consensus is that your rules are fair. This might also decrease the policy pushback you receive once enforced.
  • Keep restraints reasonable and in line with industry standards, not your own personal preferences.
  • Keep the policy simple and to the point. Anything overly complicated will make it difficult to understand and comply.
  • Ensure you’re not treating one gender, religion, race or individual less favorably than the rest.
  • Allow a reasonable frame of time for employees to execute final changes.

A dress code doesn’t have to be complex or strict, but setting guidelines for appropriate appearances in the office will help everyone. Giving your employees an opportunity to clearly understand your expectations while leading by example will positively mold your company’s image in the eyes of current and future customers.

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Do you need to set policy around dress codes or other initiatives? My executive coaching services can help you hone your message and set clear guidelines to achieve your goals and objectives. Also offering Corporate Coaching for Organizations

How To Keep Your Employees Motivated

Don’t Hog the Credit

Don’t Hog the Credit

If you’re running a business or managing a team, you undoubtedly have plenty to keep you busy. Competition, consumer needs and P&L’s are all important, but so is employee retention. Guiding office morale directly impacts your bottom line and company productivity. Here are a few ways to keep your employees motivated, loyal and productive.

  1. It’s Simple: Be Kind

They say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and being in a position of power doesn’t make that any less true. People need respect, whether they work above you, with you or below you. Use polite language and be respectful of their time to cultivate a welcoming and positive environment.

  1. Don’t Hog the Credit

Positive reinforcement is great encouragement. Never let a job well done slip by without a pat on the back or even public recognition every now and again. Team work is important and encouraging individual contributions can enhance the overall process and, even better, the output.

  1. Offer Job-Retention Incentives

This includes everything from bonuses to amenities, perks and benefits. Sure, not every company can afford Google-level amenities; opening a gym or daycare center in your office might be a stretch. But financial incentives, casual Fridays, extra-curricular social events and midday complimentary snacks to keep office energy high are small steps that can improve morale.

  1. Keep Communication Flowing 

Communication is a key foundation to any relationship; business relationships are no exception. Engaging with each employee to keep the lines of communication open both ways is vital to successful interaction. It is your job to be consistently transparent about performance expectations so that everyone knows what is expected. Another important step is making sure your employees feel comfortable coming to you to discuss their career goals and concerns.

  1. Encourage Fun

What’s that saying about all work and no play? While it’s necessary to establish boundaries, making work fun can get the creative juices flowing. Productivity is known to spike when people are enjoying themselves.

Motivating your employees keeps them happy and less inclined to leave. Happy employees stay busy. Give your team gifts of acknowledgment, appreciation and freedom and you’ll get that back tenfold in productivity. And don’t forget: never under estimate the power of a 3pm snack cart rolling past your desk.

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Do you want to motivate and lead your staff more effectively? My executive coaching services can help you hone your leadership skills and clearly define your goals and objectives.