Are you the kind of business-person who sometimes keeps your word and sometimes doesn’t? What difference does it make to your company? A few years ago, a client advised me that he had a policy of not paying for weekend work. Unfortunately, I had ...

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  1. How to eradicate the pain of broken promises from your company
  2. How to Get your Employees Over Their Boredom
  3. Holding on to Long-Distance Relationships
  4. Why managerial restraint is so important in protecting employee productivity
  5. Why developing personal habits is more important than intelligence or force
  6. More Recent Articles

How to eradicate the pain of broken promises from your company

Are you the kind of business-person who sometimes keeps your word and sometimes doesn’t? What difference does it make to your company?

 

A few years ago, a client advised me that he had a policy of not paying for weekend work. Unfortunately, I had already worked on Saturday and Sunday at his last-minute request. To make matters worse, he conveyed this news over the phone when I called to ask “Why is this cheque less than I expect?”

While it’s easy to paint him as a villain in this story, the fact is that there are many business-people who have a loose relationship with their word. To some extent, we all do. When push comes to shove, and things become inconvenient or awkward, we abandon our original intentions. In that moment, we justify our actions to ourselves: they make perfect sense. Unfortunately, they create problems for others.

Most of the time, we cannot see this impact. But we should take note. Every organization depends on a network of employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders who are tied to each other by an invisible web of promises.

In great companies, there is a strong relationship between making and keeping promises. Employees see the interaction as one which is sacred, engaging the honour of both parties. Fulfilling promises is critical to the firm’s success, so everyone treats them as important, existing only in black and white terms.

By contrast, weak companies operate like the client I mentioned. Promises are wholly contingent on circumstances; only a poor signal of intent, which often changes. Often, no one is sure when a reliable promise has actually been made.

How can you use these two extremes as an inspiration and a warning to move your company in the right direction?

— Teach Everyone a New Discipline

Recently my firm undertook a study of Jamaicans moving to live and work in Trinidad. One of the surprises our subjects discovered is that promises aren’t viewed as seriously as they expected in the twin-island republic.

This is a practical difference which has everyday implications. For example, when we lead transformation programs, one principle people remember is that of “integrity” which can be taken to mean “doing what you said you would do.” As you may imagine, teaching this principle effectively means varying the way we deliver it from one country to the next, and between companies.

For example, in Jamaica, we want our colleagues to act more like Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, but for ourselves, we still crave the freedom to get away with Bredda Anansi tricks. While this point of view is inherited, it reflects a failure to see the big picture: companies thrive when people make a supreme effort to stick to their word, regardless of the situation. matters. When they stick to their word when no-one is watching, with others who are powerless, on even small issues, it’s no minor matter.

It’s important because anyone who makes a promise puts herself in a battle against life’s circumstances. The random nature of our world resists this person’s commitment. It also militates against organizations who dare articulate a clear vision.

This is why a certain resilience around promises must be taught in companies – it cannot be taken for granted, and it doesn’t come for free.

— Learn techniques to prevent promises from disappearing

But making an effort to keep one’s promises isn’t enough. In this technology-driven time with lots of distractions, it’s also become more difficult to remember all the promises you make. Now, you need far more than your memory – you must use external devices if you hope to avoid falling behind. Furthermore, the more you progress up the corporate ladder, the more promises you are expected to be able to make and keep. Mastering promise management is a requirement.

Fortunately, the tools required to become skillful are to be found on the average smartphone or laptop. (Paper can also be used, but it has its shortcomings.)

Most companies leave employees to develop these skills and learn to use these tools in an ad hoc manner, leading to haphazard results. Then, promises aren’t kept because the skills to do so aren’t taught. This can be corrected via training or coaching.

— Open up and reveal hidden promises

The few companies who master the above steps soon realize they are not enough. Hidden in the culture of each company are unwritten, unspoken expectations which are every bit as powerful as explicit promises.

For example, every organization has invisible expectations around the speed of email replies. Making these standards transparent would save employees from the trial and error process they usually have to navigate.

Companies who get people to forge a strong relationship to their word can thrive when others fail. Sometimes it’s a direct way to produce a breakthrough in performance that meets everyone’s aspirations.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170409/francis-wade-erasing-pain-broken-company-promises

    

How to Get your Employees Over Their Boredom

To managers and older colleagues, new, Millennial employees seem to be permanently stuck in a state of disinterest. Afflicted with short attention spans they appear to be unable to summon the drive and motivation of prior generations. If this observation is in any way accurate, what should managers do to engage their hearts and minds?

One solution I explored in prior articles is the ways managers can gamify the work experience, challenging staff to use their best skills. In this article, let’s look at the flip side – what does the employee need to do even if their environment remains unchanged?

As a modern manager, you may start by acknowledging a fact: for most young employees, their nine to five job is the most boring, restrictive part of their lives. While it occupies the most hours of the week, it’s seen by many as a tax they are forced to pay in order to meet their financial obligations. Instead, the time to come alive is on weekends and other days off, when they can be creative and foster key relationships.

In other words, they leave their best selves at the door each weekday morning and reclaim it when they leave the office in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, this state of affairs is not unusual. I have worked with senior executives who quietly admit they hate their jobs. It’s merely a sacrifice they make to cling on to other things they value in their lives. When this attitude can be found everywhere in a company from top to bottom, a real problem exists few are equipped to solve. Here are some ways to deal with it.

  1. Commit to Drive Out Fear

Dr. W.E. Deming, the quality guru who espoused this mantra, is probably turning in his grave. Today, most workplaces use fear as a weapon to keep people in line. The worst use overt actions. Periodically, they fire someone without warning, ensuring it happens in plain view of others, preferably using armed escorts.

Most firms just ignore the topic of fear altogether, more intent on creating wage-slaves they can easily control. As a result, people at all levels walk around afraid of the unknown, sometimes creating their own “evidence” especially when none can be actually observed. Over time, they dullen their senses just to cope, converting acute anxiety into chronic dis-ease. Before too long, the halls are filled with the walking dead.

The irony is that the best employees have no fear. They are either independently wealthy, actively keep other options open or have achieved a state of inner enlightenment which makes them immune. They are not afraid to take risks, but willingly and regularly challenge the status-quo, acting as if they have nothing to lose.

The very best companies develop an enlightened courage: the power to act in the face of fears. Either by demonstration, instruction or coaching, they provide the means for employees at all levels to be strong.

 

  1. Teach Attention Management

One way to develop this strength is to make a game of it. Employees can be taught how to play with highly productive flow-like states. Even when there’s little fun to be experienced, these moments can enable employees to produce their best work.

However, most don’t know how to gamify their work on their own. They simply respond to the daily arrival of email messages from other people. Without an agenda for themselves or their function, they reserve their brains for simple problem-solving. Not even a promotion interests them.

It’s a mode of work which offers little satisfaction, and an endless supply of boredom.

However, these new skills can be taught. An employee can be shown how to enter an ultra-productive, gamified state and also how to schedule time to achieve it regularly. He can plan his day so that high productivity sprints become a regular feature rather than a matter of chance. In this scenario, everyone wins.

  1. Bolster Mood Management

However, winning means more than being proactive. It also requires the kind of transformation in which employees manage their inner state. Over time, their unwanted feelings are not a show-stopper, just something important to notice. By expanding their ability to respond, they can make more enlightened choices.

In other words, rather than surrender to boredom they learn how to see it in the moment and actively bypass it in healthy ways.

Ultimately, companies which take engagement seriously won’t waste time trying to make employees happy, or prevent dissatisfaction. Instead, they teach employees to manage themselves and their boredom; to use it as an internal indicator of inappropriate engagement. Instead of letting them wallow, they provide the means for employees to develop themselves so they can be enlightened and therefore have a choice.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free document with links to his articles from 2010-2016, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170326/francis-wade-managing-employee-boredom

 

 

 

    

Holding on to Long-Distance Relationships

As a person who has lived and worked overseas, it’s hard for me not to compare: there is a big difference between the way local and foreign professionals maintain business relationships. My conclusion? To keep up with modern demands we Jamaicans must change our practices. Here’s how.

A colleague from overseas once led a few courses in Kingston. She received a few complaints—it appeared as if she were in a rush, trying to push people to act immediately. She agreed with the criticism—”The way I see it,” she said, “my time is limited.” We discovered that this view was at odds with that of her participants who expected her to be in their lives forever. In their minds, the interaction was the first of many. Not the last.

This clash of worldviews gets repeated every day. When we pay attention to each one we can illuminate the ways in which we under-perform the rest of the world, and why.

One reason begins with the fact that we live on a small island with no visible neighbours. Furthermore, the citizens of the closest countries are culturally distant, speaking languages we don’t understand. We only notice them when their boats float up on our shores in a navigational error.

The overall effect is that we are relatively isolated, under little pressure to communicate with others who are different. In our relationships both domestic and foreign, we relax, taking things easy. It’s an attitude beloved by our tourists, but it in business it holds us back.

One way we limit ourselves lies in our tendency to treat Jamaicans who are “off the island” as if they are on Mars—so far away they cannot possibly be reached for anything but life-or-death emergencies. This contrasts with the wider world, where forming and maintaining business relationships isn’t a casual affair. Instead, it’s a deliberate, conscious strategy executed in three parts.

Step 1—Make yourself available

The obvious first step in the internet age is to ensure you are visible online with an updated profile on Linkedin. A few years ago, this was optional. Today, it’s a requirement, yet I find that out of ten local business-people I interact with, two have active accounts and only one bothers to keep it timely, relevant, and interesting

Those who claim to be modern professionals but don’t have an account are fooling themselves. Instead of looking to an international standard they are probably busy following their friends. That’s hardly a proper comparison: collectively, it leaves us far outside the mainstream, islanders who couldn’t care less how the world sees us.

Step 2—Reach out

Many professionals who are serious do much more than create a profile; they use it as a showcase for their best work.

No idea where to start? Write an article with the following title: “The Top 3 Secrets People Who Want to Do My Job Well Need to Know Before Starting.” Once the draft is done, customise the heading to suit your profession.

Then, share it with your friends after doing the necessary grammar and spell checks. When they give it a green light, post the article on Linkedin. I’m not making this up… it’s very close to the process I followed for about five years before becoming a paid columnist for the Gleaner.

You may not aspire to that level, but it doesn’t matter. Creating content is a professional obligation if you have any commitment to your career’s future. It’s the modern way to gain the notice of the best people in your field, anywhere in the world. After all, it’s how you got to know them… via their content. As thought-leaders, they actually may enjoy hearing your perspective and so might many others.

Step 3—Invest time to stay in touch

I regret not following this advice earlier—foolishly, I lost track of colleagues from my early business years. Today, you simply shouldn’t allow this to happen. The resources you need to maintain career-long relationships are all at your fingertips and you must spend time learning how to use them.

Once you do so, use our geographical advantage. Jamaica’s stature in the world is strong. When someone tries to link with you from the other side of the globe, appreciate the asymmetry: you may never have heard of their country, but yours has a positive reputation.

Use it to your benefit. Be bold in reaching out to persons whose work you admire, no matter how “big” they seem to be.

Someone who is planning to migrate may immediately see the value of these three steps, but don’t wait until then. To thrive in the larger world of business now, build a global reputation plus a network that will last your entire career. They could be essential elements to your future success.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free document with links to his articles from 2010-2015, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170312/francis-wade-holding-long-distance-business-relationships

 

 

    

Why managerial restraint is so important in protecting employee productivity

Why managerial restraint is so important in protecting employee productivity

When should managers restrain themselves from taking advantage of employee fears? Since the days of slavery, those in power have faced the temptation to use workers’ anxiety as a way to get work done. These recessionary times are no exception, but today this behaviour comes at a cost: a possible drop in employee productivity.

While our economy is showing some welcome signs of life, few believe that employment will improve in the short-term. As a result, over several hard years, employees have become pliable: more likely to follow orders.

Unfortunately, this situation also hurts managers. Robbed of critical feedback needed to do their jobs effectively, they make simple mistakes that add up, reducing the company’s productivity. Here are three everyday examples.

  1. Grabbing personal time from employees via smartphone.

A growing number of managers have figured out a tricky shortcut. Giving you, their employee, the gift of a smartphone is seen as an investment with a hefty ROI. The logic is simple. As a senior HR manager explained to me: “When the company gives you a smartphone the ‘obvious’ expectation is that you must make yourself available at all times to answer it.”

While the policy she described wasn’t written anywhere, as its unlikely victim you would quickly come to realize that your new gift comes with strings. Now, you are expected to carry the device with you, answering it on weekends, vacations, sick days and overtime hours… at home, in church, during parties and even while you are lying in bed. Like many behaviours of this kind, you may not be able to see the problem by yourself. In extreme cases, it may take a spouse or friend to point out the obvious: “You have become a modern-day slave to a 24-7 obligation.”

When I make this observation to executives, it’s usually impossible to find someone who is willing to take responsibility for the problem even though it’s not irreversible. Managers have a powerful weapon in their arsenal—restraint. With mindful behaviour, they can turn the tide. When they go further and advocate proper policies, they can make a difference for everyone, preventing the worst from happening… such as a bitter war waged by email which breaks out one Sunday morning at 5:00am.

 

  1. Forcing employees to respond to email quickly.

This particular problem starts slowly. A manager expresses annoyance because you, her employee, has not responded to a message in her Inbox in a timely manner. She demands better performance. Unfortunately, your answer is to develop the new habit of checking email up to 15 times per hour, just in case.

This has an immediate effect – your manager is happier, especially when other employees follow suit in  order to avoid her wrath. But it’s a pyrrhic victory. After a while, you and your colleagues develop a worst-practice that’s hard to shake: multi-tasking.

The manager who is aware of these repercussions learns to restrain her annoyance. She adopts a best practice: refusing to use email for urgent communications. Instead, she reserves time-sensitive conversations for two-way channels, such as in-person meetings, phone conversations or Whatsapp.

The best managers understand that without this practice, it’s easy for one annoyed manager to set off a contagion of time-wasting. Once again, the only way to turn back the tide on this dangerous expectation is to implement explicit written policies that protect everyone.

 

  1. Insisting on lowering walls to watch employees and cut costs.

A top executive once told me that she ensures that staff has low cubicle walls so that she can “keep an eye on them.” It’s a popular technique used by managers in environments of low trust, even when workers have multiple university degrees. The root causes are never truly explored. Instead, they are justified by comparing the out-of-pocket expense of low versus high walls. When a recession is raging, any reason to cut a cost becomes a good one.

Unfortunately, there’s a high price to pay. Recent research shows that open office plans destroy productivity by offering up a slew of visual and audible distractions. They prevent employees from entering the flow state where their best work is done. Instead they are forced into “Continuous Partial Attention” where one distraction interrupts the other, leading to a host of unfinished tasks.

Frustrated employees learn that the only way to do good work is to come in early and leave late, or give up weekends, holidays and even sick days to work from home. Ultimately, low cubicle walls represent a “shortcut which draws blood”—a long-term obstacle to high productivity and engagement.

It’s all too easy for the clueless manager to operate in the dark, inflicting these three behaviours on a fearful staff. Fortunately, neither restraint nor explicit policies are expensive remedies, but they do require a level of enlightenment that is far too rare in the 21st century Jamaican workplace.

 

 

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free document with links to his articles from 2010-2015, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

 

 

 

 

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170226/francis-wade-managerial-restraint-important-protect-employee-productivity

    

Why developing personal habits is more important than intelligence or force

Why developing personal habits is more important than intelligence or force

Why is there such a gap between average and high performing employees? While there’s no simple solution, recent research suggests that your company may be looking in some of the wrong places for answers.

The difference between the best and worst companies is huge, according to The Economist: the top 25% of companies are a full 40% more productive than their counterparts. It’s not luck – they have learned how to inculcate repetitive behaviours.

Most of us don’t relate to habits this way. We are surprised by their power and unaware of their origin. Generally, we refer to them as negative practices we want to get rid of, but cannot.

This popular but limited understanding blocks us from a higher realm. For high performers, habits are actually a creative enabler.

Unfortunately, habit-building is not a part of our schools’ curriculum. Instead, we are encouraged to get results by being smart, or forceful.

The Limits of Being Smart

As Jamaicans, we have a propensity to “big up” intelligent people who establish a track record of academic success in GSAT, CAPE and university exams. Typically, we encourage them to enter established professions such as law, medicine, accounting or engineering.

However, if you have ever sat waiting in a doctor’s, dentist’s or lawyer’s office wondering how they manage to keep any of their customers, you may know why intelligence is not enough. It’s necessary, but not sufficient to run these tiny, one-person business ventures.

As a tool, being smart doesn’t scale very well. A small company which fails to develop the habits required for good customer service or time management is one which needs more than book smarts. It requires a very different approach.

The Limits of Using Force

We Jamaicans have a love-hate affair with the use of force. Strongman leaders ranging from Bustamante to Dons gain our admiration when they intimidate others into action. We want more.

However, when we are on the receiving end of forceful treatment, we complain about injustice and resist. This makes force a double-edged sword. Even though a few bosses bully their way to success, it’s always short lived. Over time, they develop a well-earned reputation for abuse which repels good people.

The fact is, force only works with those who are fearful so like smart-ness, it’s only effective in a few narrow situations – it just doesn’t scale.

What Works – Habit Creation

A habit is defined as an action which is performed without conscious effort. It’s a cognitive freebie which is triggered by something in our physical environment or by a specific event.

Unfortunately, the skill of developing positive habits and practices so that they drive business processes isn’t taught. We certainly are never shown how to develop them consciously. The lack of this knowledge hamstrings your company in several ways.

  1. Underestimating the slow, steady approach to learning and training

When you don’t understand the power of habits, you rely too much on smarts and force, believing that a sudden flash of brilliance or a single decisive action are remedies to complex business problems. They are just “shortcuts which draw blood.”

Even most training has the same fault. We are impatient, putting faith in a solitary day of instruction, while studies show that a behaviour change which starts in the classroom is just the beginning. A full 60% is driven by what happens after the class, rather than during it.

  1. Not uncovering key behaviours

In my work with companies I am often surprised to learn how little effort is spent to decode the keys to their success. As a result, managers are blind to places where their idiosyncratic actions lead to unique, positive results.

By not deciphering their hidden code, they dishonour it; the first step towards losing it altogether. Over time, unexplained, preventable failure sets in.

  1. Not showing employees how to teach themselves new habits

Perhaps the biggest failing of all is that companies don’t instruct employees how to pick up and learn new behaviours, then turn them into habits. Instead, this skill, which benefits every single area of corporate life, is left to chance.

When you teach employees the mechanics of habit-creation, they learn how to baseline their current behaviours. This baseline becomes a starting point for developing higher-level skills. Then, habit development is far more than a matter of luck – it’s a conscious act which, when repeated, sets employees up for success.

Over time, an organisation filled with such people outperforms its peers who are looking for short-term improvements. There’s no need to outmuscle or outsmart the also-rans. Instead, focus your attention on specific behaviours which can be turned into habits. Collectively, they represent a unique source of sustainable competitive advantage.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free document with links to his articles from 2010-2015, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

    

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