BE LIKE THE BEST

Google is sharing its management tools with the world

OBSESSION

The Office

August 21, 2017

Speaking at his alma mater in January, Sundar Pichai, Google’s low-profile CEO, revealed his key to effective management: “Let others succeed.”

Enacting Pichai’s advice is easier said than done. But Google is sharing some tools that might help. Its Re:Work blog is offering a series of instructive documents used by managers at Google. They cover everything from feedback and career development to setting agendas for one-on-ones, and codify the insights Google gleaned from spending years analyzing reviews and other observable data at the company to determine essential leadership traits.

Here’s an overview of what’s available. Each section header below has the link to the corresponding documentation from Google.

Manager feedback survey

Googlers evaluate their managers on a semi-annual basis with a 13-question survey. The first 11 measure whether employees agree or disagree with statements like “My manager shows consideration for me as a person.” The final two questions (“What would you recommend your manager keep doing?” and “What would you have your manager change?”) are open-ended.

Career conversations worksheet

Google’s management analysis reveals that above all, employees value knowing that their manager is invested in their personal success and career development. To help managers effectively discuss development with their direct reports, Google uses the GROW model—which organizes the conversation into four recommended sections:

  • Goal: What do you want? Establish what the team member really wants to achieve with their career.
  • Reality: What’s happening now? Establish the team member’s understanding of their current role and skills.
  • Options: What could you do? Generate multiple options for closing the gap from goal to reality.
  • Will: What will you do? Identify achievable steps to move from reality to goal.

“One Simple Thing” worksheet

To encourage personal well-being and work-life balance, Google uses the popular goal-setting practice “One Simple Thing.” The goal should be specific enough to measure its impact on one’s well-being. “Managers can encourage team members to explain how pursuing this one thing won’t negatively affect their work,” Google explains. “That goal then becomes part of a team member’s set of goals that managers should hold them accountable for, along with whatever work-related goals they already have.”

1:1 Meeting agenda template

At Google, the highest-rated managers hold frequent one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. However, as most leaders know, individual check-ins can often feel rushed and disorganized. To squeeze the most out of each one-on-one (which Google managers are advised to hold every week or two) Googlers set up a shared meeting agenda ahead of time—which both the manager and the report should contribute to.

Some agenda items Google suggests include:

  • Check-in and catch-up questions: “What can I help you with?” and “What have you been up to?”
  • Roadblocks or issues
  • Goal updates
  • Administrative topics (e.g., upcoming vacations, expense reports)
  • Next steps to confirm actions and agreements
  • Career development and coaching

New manager training course materials

As Google explains, “These course materials were originally designed for Google managers to help them transition from individual contributor roles to manager roles.” As anyone who has done this can attest, conducting the transition gracefully requires a bit of perspective shifting, and more than a little awareness building.

The course materials include a facilitator guide (to help whoever is training the new managers), a new manager student workbook(including interactive exercises), and the presentation slides that Google trainers use internally.

Why Being a Coach and Mentor Pays Off for Leaders

  • Published on Published onOctober 2, 2017
Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman

What Makes a Leader? Emotional and Social Intelligence

Coaching is not just for the folks at the sidelines guiding players on the basketball court, or just those professionals hired to help an executive up his or her game. Smart leaders know they can be coaches in most any business situation. Every leader can be a coach and mentor, regardless of their formal role or level in an organization.

High-performing leaders know the effort they put into coaching and mentoring others pays off not only in the productivity, job satisfaction, and career growth of subordinates, but also in their own status within their organization.

What I Mean by Coach and Mentor

In the context of my model of emotional intelligence, coaching and mentoring aren’t just roles – they’re skills, a frame of mind, and an approach to working with others. And, like all skills, the Coach and Mentor Competency is an ability that leaders can develop.

It comes down to the ability to foster the long-term learning or development of others by giving feedback and support.

In this competence, you have a genuine interest in helping others develop further strengths. You give timely constructive guidance. You understand the person’s goals, and you try to find challenges for them that will provide growth opportunities.

Support That Works

Think about one of your direct reports and an area where they could stand to improve. What’s the best way to help that person move forward? To point out where they’re lacking skill? Or to talk with that person about how gaining skill in that area could help them progress toward their own goals? Keep in mind, it’s not about dictating what youthink they should do, it’s a collaborative process where both parties are open and on board with such development.

See Coach and Mentor: A Primer, by Daniel Goleman and fellow EI professionals

Research done by my friend, Richard Boyatzis of Case Western Reserve University, and his colleagues, provides some insight into the strategy that will be most effective. They looked at coaching sessions focused on a person’s hopes and aspirations versus on their deficiencies.

For some of the sessions, they asked people to describe their dreams for where they’ll be in ten years. For other sessions, they asked people about their difficulties in accomplishing their current work and assignments. Different parts of their subjects’ brains were activated depending on which type of coaching they received. Focusing on future possibilities, hope, and strengths that help us move toward a desired end activates a part of the nervous system that eases stress and is generally calming. That positive approach stimulated sections of the brain related to being open to new situations. On the other hand, focusing on problems, fear, or apparent weaknesses stimulates the part of our nervous system associated with our body’s stress reactions. The subjects in the “how is your work going” sessions had brain areas activated that are known to indicate self-consciousness and guilt.

What happens when brain areas related to stress are activated? People close down and narrow what they can perceive or the range of options they entertain. Worst of all, they become cognitively impaired, thinking with less clarity. Coaching that focuses on a person’s negatives—poor performance and weaknesses—creates stress and hampers the coachee’s ability to perform well. In contrast, a focus on a person’s strengths, dreams, and aspirations has the opposite effect, energizing and motivating that person to learn better.

It’s not that we should ignore performance lapses, but that the overall negative-to-positive feedback should pitch to the positive.

Start with Yourself

How can you develop the Coach and Mentor Competency? Start with yourself. Ask yourself or talk with a friend about these questions:

What are your goals?

How might developing the Coach and Mentor Competency help you move toward achieving those goals?

What strengths do you bring to this effort?

Who nurtured your dreams and helped you develop yourself?

What did they do to support you?

What concrete step would that supporter encourage you to take toward enhancing your skill in being a coach and mentor?

By starting with yourself, you’ll get practice providing coaching and mentoring to someone else and experience what it is like to receive this kind of support. When you’re ready to take it a step further, be open to conversations of inquiry with your subordinates. You cannot force your advice on people, but you can have genuine conversations where you ask questions and offer support in a way that fuels growth.

For more in-depth information about this topic, see Coach and Mentor: A Primer.

This Primer was written with Richard Boyatzis, George Kohlrieser, and fellow respected colleagues in the fields of Emotional Intelligence, research, and leadership development. It offers a concise overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, and goes on to define how to develop the coach and mentor competency regardless of your formal role.

It’s Not Them, It’s You. Why a Healthy Corporate Culture Needs To Be Your Priority.
SCOTT JORDAN

Happy employees

Expectations need to be set in every relationship in life and employer-employee relationships are no different. If you’re not upfront with new and old employees your turnover rates will skyrocket. And it’s not just about their responsibility or job functions. You also need to clearly explain what it’s like to work at your company and how you expect them to behave while they are an employee.

Now it’s my time to be upfront: my business had a high turnover rate. For years we struggled to figure out why. So I met with leadership coaches, other CEOs and anyone else who would listen to me and could give advice.

I learned it’s not my employees, it’s me. More specifically, it’s the corporate culture that I established when I first started my company 16 years ago. Over that amount of time, many things can change but for some reason, I never took another look at our corporate culture — that was something for HR to worry about.

Now my eyes are opened. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Words matter

Any communications or HR professional will tell you this, but your corporate culture is integral to the long-term success of your company. It’s often met with eye rolls or disinterest by executives or business owners who are interested in revenue and short-term success of the company. So, before you fall into the rabbit hole that I did, you need to figure out exactly what you expect from your employees.

Most importantly, you need to figure out how to communicate this to employees! Everyone wants an honest employee, or hard working, but the “how” is often left out when defining employee conduct.

For example, one central theme of our culture was “Figure It Out,” or FIO for short. We thought this was straightforward enough: if the information you need is readily-accessible, don’t ask others for help unless you absolutely need it. However, at times this had a negative impact on employees new and old. They would research or try and track down the answer for questions that would take 2 minutes for a colleague to answer. Or, they would truly try to FIO themselves so they wouldn’t bother a colleague, but this lead to easily-avoidable errors.

Identifying miscommunications, like this example, in your corporate culture and quickly fixing it is the difference in cultivating employees who show up 9-5 for a paycheck vs those who are truly invested and dedicated to the success of your organization as a whole.

Lead By Example

No one will buy into your mission or culture when they see you, or other higher-ups, breaking the rules that you set or not acting in-line with how they’re expected to act.

If you keep seeing employees leave for the same reasons, it’s not that you’re hiring bad employees (well, maybe a few). It’s because you’ve not done a good enough job of defining what it’s like to work at your company and what you expect out of employees.

In another example, a previously-used quote of ours when onboarding employees was, “anything worth doing is worth doing quickly.” We meant for that to emphasize efficiency and prioritization, which all of our upper-level employees are great at. But, this piece of our corporate culture had the unintended effect of making new employees feel like they had to get everything done at once.

I have a million ideas a minute, and never expect employees to work completely at my speed, and this miscommunicated portion of our corporate culture was causing new employees to drop everything they were doing to shift to a new project or idea far too often.

No one wants to be blindsided after starting a new job. Be brutally honest and clearly communicate what it’s like to work at your company. The ones that turn down your offer weren’t right to begin with.

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Part of leading by example is owning mistakes. I’m not talking about typos or improperly imported data. I’m talking company-wide failures. A perfect example is something my friend Guy Kawasaki coined “the Bozo Explosion.” It’s simple: “A players” hire other A players, and B players hire C players to make themselves look better.

Years back I hired a President to handle most of our day-to-day. Turns out, he was a B player and hired a slew of incompetent employees and contractors that inevitably cost my business just shy of $1M and took months to reverse the consequences.

Was I mad at the President? Sure I was. But at the end of the day, it was my fault for hiring him. When looking for the bozo, all I had to do was look in the mirror.

The truth is, there’s no easy way to determine who an A player is. Tons of candidates can look good on paper and appear to be a good fit for your culture. But if the culture itself is off, you’re going to keep hiring the wrong people time and time again.

So sit down and define who your ideal employee is. Everyone’s company is different, and thus everyone’s ideal employee is different. But, by working backward from that profile to define your corporate culture, you’ll prevent the downward turnover spiral.

The biggest revelation of all is that people are your most important asset. I’ve found that I spend the least time with my best employees. So, when looking to take your business to the next level, don’t look for that secret marketing initiative. Look for how you can strengthen your employees and the health of your organization, then the rest will follow.

Setting Clear Expectations for Employees
DILLON CHEN

Setting Clear Expectations for Employees

Everybody knows the importance of communication. Whether it be with family, friends, coworkers or customers, proper communication is what helps us understand and connect with others. Clear expectations lead to seamless communication and help in overcoming barriers as problems and challenges arise.

As a manager in a business setting, setting clear expectations for employees is an absolute necessity! Imagine this: during a weekly meeting, your employee presents what he’s been working on for the whole week only to find that it’s nothing at all like what you expected or wanted from his work. You can be sure that neither of you is going to feel very good when you ask him to redo everything!

If both sides don’t know what the other wants, it opens the door to feelings of resentment and frustration. There are multiple reasons why employees end up leaving a company. Setting expectations from the very start can prevent these kinds of things from happening.

Here are steps on how to set clear expectations for your employees:

Define the goal/expectation

Know what your expectation is. In order for employees to know your expectations, you must know them yourself! No broad, vague instructions like “do your job better”, be as direct and specific as you can.

Ways to be direct and specific:

  • Use simple language
  • Be straightforward, no room for confusion
  • Focus on details
  • Give examples
  • Make it measurable, completed: yes or no?
  • Set a time limit/deadline if applicable

Know the reasons behind the expectation

“Because I said so” isn’t going to cut it here! Backing up your expectations with specific reasons as to what positive effects it will have for you, your business, or your employee themselves will lead to greater acceptance.

When employees have a better understanding of the reasons behind the task, they will be more compliant and willing to meet expectations. They will see the context of how their work affects the bigger picture and be able to wholeheartedly commit to doing their work.

Document It

You know that saying ‘If you didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen?’  The Same rule applies here. Once the goal or expectation is defined, it’s time to document it. It should be so clear to you that it can easily be written on paper or notated digitally. Having it written down actually makes for a great resource to refer back to for both you and the employee to refer back to so that nobody forgets.

This is a change that you can start implementing right away. Expectations that are straightforward and leave no room for misinterpretation will greatly improve your employees’ ability to perform to your satisfaction.

Break it down

Breaking large goals into smaller, measurable pieces will help your employees from becoming discouraged. Add these checkpoints or milestones into your succession pathways so that both parties can benchmark and track long-term progress which will help the company hit deadlines.

Breaking down projects will not only assist employees to accomplish the goal, it gives them clear standards on how to move to the next level up in the company. By being transparent, companies earn the employees trust. Employees are more likely to stay with the company knowing they aren’t stuck doing the same thing with no chance of growth.

In a company, everybody has a part to play. The work you and your employees do are all pieces of a whole with some pieces being dependent on another part being completed. Some might become so overwhelmed by the big picture that they end up missing the smaller deadlines resulting in delays and setbacks. Breaking up your goals will save your business from these losses and unhappy customers.

Get feedback from your employee and engage with them. 

When you talk about expectations, don’t lecture, have a conversation! Getting employee feedback on expectations, or having them set goals themselves will increase their willingness and motivation to do it.

Instead of a top-down tone of a boss addressing a worker, adapt a more mentor-like approach. Have them tell you what they think your expectations are. Clarify, make changes or suggest improvements if necessary, and give them resources or suggestions on how they can meet your expectations.

An important part of this mentoring is to find out their expectations for you. Expectations on pay, work performance, promotion opportunities, job description etc. Being able to discuss these topics openly with your employee will go a long way towards being able to relate to them.

For example, they might be expecting a raise or even a promotion up the ranks for their good performance from the last few months. Talk it over with them to find what they hope to gain from you and do your part to meet their expectations. Better yet, set up asuccession pathway with ProSky where the whole process is clear for both parties.

Follow-up

Set routine meetings where you can follow up with employees to meet and talk about progress. During these predetermined follow-up times, give praise and reward for completion of goals, or correction and encouragement if needed. This is a great time to review and check-in with them and to give updates on the progress of the company as a whole.

If you are coaching them through achieving their own personal goals that they set, follow up on those as well. Don’t forget to answer any questions or concerns they had for you from a previous meeting. Lead by example and keep your own commitments to employees.

There you have it, all the steps to get started setting clear expectations with your employees! Though this will take practice, it will help you and your worker relationships immensely in the long run and give them a reason to stick around! You will see employees grow through your mentoring as well as increased retention and satisfaction in your company. Start setting clear expectations with employees using succession pathways today!.

Employee Performance Plans that Actually WorkI don’t know a single leader who enjoys dealing with employee performance issues. Few things are more frustrating in a business setting than an employee who is either not performing or who has behavioral issues. It is an area where experience doesn’t really make it easier.

Yet, every leader, at some point or another, has an employee they have to coach and discipline.

Progressive disciplinary policies are common among organizations of all sizes. Most employee performance issues do not warrant immediate termination so policies are put in place to give employees an opportunity to improve. These policies vary but they usually have multiple steps that could include verbal warnings, performance improvement plans, written warnings, suspension, and eventual termination.

Out of all steps I believe the performance improvement plan may be the most crucial. If done well, and early, a performance improvement plan can map out the exact performance or behavior that the employer is not happy with, outline the behavior that is expected and give the employee a clear path to improvement. Unfortunately many performance improvement plans fall short of being worth the paper they are written on.

Here are our guidelines for performance improvement plans that we think actually help improve performance.

Timing:
The biggest mistake leaders make when trying to improve performance is waiting too long. The longer poor performance or bad behavior goes on, the harder it is to fix. By the time the employee is told about the issue, the leader is so frustrated they have no patience left to try to help the employee overcome. All employee issues should be dealt with as soon as they creep up. For this reason we recommend employees receive verbal coaching as often as the opportunity allows. In weekly one on ones or regular performance meetings, employees should be cautioned about any issue that may create problems down the road if they continue.

Then, after that same issue has been coached on multiple occasions, it’s time to get serious. If regular performance discussions are happening, the time between first coaching and performance plan should be relatively short.

Complete Plan:
The second biggest mistake that leaders make when delivering performance improvement plans is only delivering half the plan – the employee portion. Leaders sit an employee down, tell them what they are doing wrong, tell them to fix it and ask them to sign the form. This leaves the employee feeling as though they are on their own and probably have one foot out the door so why bother even trying.

A complete performance improvement plan follows this outline:

Description, with recent examples, of undesired behavior.
Description of desired behavior.
Why desired behavior is important to the business.
How leader is going to help employee improve.
Milestones to improvement.
Next steps and check in dates.
Consequences for not improving.
Employee opportunity to comment.

The piece in italics is the most crucial. Hopefully all leaders want employees to improve. If so, they should be willing to do their part to help employees turn the issue around. Including this in the documentation provides accountability for the leader to ensure they are offering support and assistance as needed.

The Discussion:
Discussing performance issues with employees really is an art form. I’m not convinced there is only one right way to do it. I think it depends on the employee/leader relationship, the communication style of both and the egregiousness of the issue to be discussed. Here’s what I do think should be consistent regardless of style – preparation. Nothing is worse for an employee than feeling like they have just been the victim of a drive by where their leader vomited a bunch of bad news on them and then left.

Leaders should take time to think about the personality of the employee and how they will best receive the information. They should think about framing their words in a way that the employee will be able to hear and understand what is being communicated while, and this is key, being motivated to fix it. The discussion should take as long as is needed for the employee to walk out of the room focused on the issue at hand and understanding what they need to do to fix it.

Dealing with performance issues is a necessary task for most leaders. They are best dealt with swiftly and directly before they grow into something larger than they ever needed to be. Done correctly, they can often steer employees onto a better path, and if they don’t, at least the leader can say they tried to help and the onus for failure lies with the employee.

How To Help Employees Find Meaning In Work

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

From Dan Marlin of West Africa: I’ve got a somewhat philosophical question about the nature of work. What can leaders do to make their employees feel that their work has meaning? And why is it important for people to feel that they’re engaged with meaningful work? I’ve heard lots of perspectives on this topic… but would love to hear yours.

Daniel MarlinDaniel Marlin

Daniel Marlin is a writer and entrepreneur from West Africa.

This is a wonderful question because it provides an opportunity for me to also talk about something I believe ranks right at the top of the list of key leadership qualities. First and foremost, let’s be clear — no one can “make” anyone feel anything. However, there are ways for company leadership to facilitate a sense of meaning and purpose for their employees.

Let’s talk about what constitutes “meaning” for workers—is it contributing to the improvement of communities? Is it having a positive impact on coworkers and the company? Bottom line: there are many ways to define meaning, and it’s important for every person, working or not, to have clarity about what has meaning for them.

There are some uniform characteristics of meaning, though; a study led by Professor Catherine Bailey from University of Sussex illuminates some of the way employees identify meaning in their work. Interestingly, though probably a side note, while effective leadership was rarely pointed to in finding meaning, poor leadership was frequently connected to a loss of meaningfulness. Research has shown that meaningfulness applies across employees’ full lives, and is driven by finding a connection to the rest of the world through their work. Organizations can support this process by developing and living a culture of ethics, morals and social responsibility that their employees can connect with and support. The net answer: the chief way that employees are able to discover meaning in their work is to reflect on their work, their contribution in the company and their impact on their respective lives.

So let’s go back to the beginning: the leadership quality I mentioned. It’s communication. That’s how leaders can help their employees to find their meaning. Here are some suggestions for these conversations and communications:  

  • Make sure to frequently discuss the meaning of the organization. It’s absolutely critical that employees understand the purpose of the organization, along with its positive impact on both the business and greater communities. They need to be clear about the company’s goals, plans for the future, overall values and vision—all of the things that paint a picture of the organization’s mission. In late 2015, Deloitte conducted a survey with nearly 7,700 millennials from 29 countries, and discovered that a whopping 56% of respondents had ruled out working for a company or organization because of a lack of fit in values. Another interesting data point—70% felt that their personal values were congruent with their companies. Open and authentic discussions about these key topics help to avoid the disconnect that occurs when an organization is “talking the talk,” but not “walking the walk.”
  • Give employees clarity about their personal contribution to organizational meaning. People need to see their work as part of a bigger picture and to understand how their work contributes to that big picture. Every manager should be able to explain how every role in their organization impacts the greater organization, and how each role contributes to the overall company mission. Sometimes this means diving into the weeds to show how day-to-day tasks, many of which are repetitive, push the company mission forward. This might be a tedious process, but it is important for employees to truly understand how their work impacts the good of the company.
  • Provide vision to employees about the cultural and community meaning and value of their work. A sense of meaningfulness also is driven by the human factor; that is, understanding and connecting with people who benefit from the company’s work and by having positive and open relationships with their fellow workers. Again, communication is key—leaders need to find ways to help their employees feel connected to those who are impacted by the company’s products or services, so they understand clearly who it is that they are helping. There are many ways to make this happen—it might be through creating specific feedback forums so employees can learn about and feel connected to their company’s customers while also connecting with their fellow employees. It’s almost like creating a community in which conversation and sharing are paramount and encouraged.

Meaningfulness often is hard to pin down; there’s not much in the way of metrics to measure it. However, if leaders focus on communicating the company’s mission, and the employee’s place in the success of that mission, they can have a significant impact on the overall level of fulfillment of their employees.

What does it take for people to thrive at work? What can companies do to ensure their employees feel energized and empowered to contribute at work and maximize their productivity?

There’s no single silver bullet, but companies that score high in employee satisfactionand don’t have team members jumping ship tend to have many characteristics in common. These companies focus on inclusion, and help share insight into the value-add various departments bring to the table. They are committed to professional development and encourage staff to learn new skills that can help advance their careers. They organize mentorship programs for their senior and junior staffers, and they celebrate diversity.

These initiatives, while important, will likely get an overhaul in coming years as telecommuting becomes more normative. In fact, by 2022, 60 percent of today’s employees are expected to work remotely.

We know cultivating a thriving workforce is key to collaboration, success, and your bottom line. The following strategies, proven for building winning teams, can help you maximize production and engagement wherever your employees are based.

Embracing a Remote Workforce. While news of IBM calling back their remote workforce to the office made headlines, working remotely is gaining in popularity. Research indicates work-from-home jobs are a viable career path with increasingly more managerial and C-level positions turning into location-independent roles.

It behooves companies to give more thought to the tools and strategies they can use to help in-house and remote workers collaborate to achieve shared goals. This can include dashboards everyone on a team or in a company can view in real-time, as well as weekly check-in calls for teams, no matter their location. Incorporating expectations around collaboration in performance reviews will also send a message that working well together as a team is critical to getting ahead at your company.

Setting Plans for People Development . As routine tasks continue to be automated, it’s important to encourage your workers to identify and develop tomorrow’s in-demand skill sets. These can include design thinking, predictive analytics, and collaboration skills, such as inclusive and digital leadership capabilities. Increase retention, while also adding value to your bottom line, by providing in-house training to help employees develop the skills they will need to drive your company forward in the future. “Even such things as collaborative projects and blogs can help employees learn and gain new skills,” says Sam Liu, a consultant with Mercer.

Motivating Employees Through Opportunity, Meaning & Benefits. Help employees—particularly those working remotely—to fully understand how the company operates and the ins and outs of their roles. Explaining in detail to a new sales manager how the sales team generates leads, makes calls, and closes sales can go a long way and is worth the time investment. This “can mean the difference between a powerful and motivated sales team adding to the bottom line; or a floundering, confused sales department working ineffectively, wasting precious time and losing prime opportunities for new business,” explains business strategist Howard Lewinter on his blog, “Talk Business with Howard.”

Role of Recruiting in Cultivating Office Culture. When hiring, be as transparent about your company values and the corporate culture as possible–starting with job listings, during interviews, and for the onboarding process. In fact, you may even conduct the entire interview process without meeting the candidate face to face if they’ll be working remotely. That process has worked for seven of his recent hires, says Sten Tamkivi, the co-founder and CEO of Teleport, a company that helps workers choose which city in which to live and work.

Tamkivi stresses the importance of incorporating tasks into the interview process that potential hires can do remotely. “We ask people to set deadlines and then deliver what they promised by then—often this reliability and transparency is even more important than the contents of the trial work delivered in a short time,” he says.

Many of the same tactics that have been working for decades to increase employee engagement—such as professional development opportunities, being transparent about the office culture, and creating mentorship programs—will continue to be important. However, as the remote workforce gains more ground, these initiatives will need to shift as companies will use technology to ensure that employees exchange ideas freely and bridge the physical distance that may divide them. Succeeding in these efforts will boost morale—and your company’s bottom line.

Photo Credit: sabanabibi Flickr via Compfight cc

Workplace Wellness is critical but should it fall on the employers’ shoulders

Wellness in the workplace has again hit the ‘Workplace trends’ lists for 2017 as companies use wellness programs to reduce absenteeism and attract talent.

It’s not a surprise, as employees continue to become more health conscious and employers recognise workplace stress as the biggest health issue that employees face.

But how do SMEs create a healthier workplace that doesn’t break the bank? Not only are gym membership perks expensive, they also have minimal impact on an employees health.

My personal view is that an individuals’ health is their responsibility. As employers we are not our employees’ parents. It is not up to us to make sure they eat well, get enough rest and stay fit. Surely as adults we can make the right choices without relying on our employer to look after our health?

However, employers can certainly promote a wellbeing-focused workplace and encourage healthy living without it being an extra expense to a SMEs already stretched budget.

At wattsnext I am very committed to endorsing and leading a company that promotes a healthy approach to living in all aspects. I do this with very minimal expense and responsibility.  It all started with a challenge that we called #projectfit. We made a small investment in providing each employee with a mid-range Fitbit, implemented a 10,000 steps per day challenge, and set up a slack channel called “Wellness”. Let the competition and the banter begin!

On this slack channel we share updates on who is the ‘weekly step winner’, photos of post-workout red faces, sulk about our injuries and generally share the ups and downs of keeping healthy.

I have loved watching my team focus on their overall wellness. We don’t just do thousands of steps each week, we also have team members playing team sport, doing hot yoga together, surfing, meditating, and sharing healthy recipes.

But my most favourite post was from one of the team members just last week who shared that her boyfriend and his sister (who weren’t overly active) are now partaking in their own step challenge and loving their new exercise routine. Our internal team self-driven health challenge is having a ripple affect into our community — now that’s a win!

So before you leave ‘wellness programs’ to the big corporates, SMEs should also consider the importance of this to attract and retain quality talent and increase productivity.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you just need to be creative and let the team lead the way!

What makes an enterprise organization successful? Is it a phenomenal understanding of the market? A visionary growth strategy? A value-driven customer focus? A strategy that enables digital transformation, both from a tech standpoint and a culture standpoint? Yes, yes, and yes. So many yesses. But there’s something else, something that would fall into the “all of the above” category: Winning enterprise companies are innovative, keeping them out in front of the curve and always on the cusp of something bigger.

I’ve always been an innovation-first kind of person, and I’d like to focus here on fostering innovation from a leadership perspective. How can senior leadership ensure innovation that goes beyond the generation of a couple of new ideas and turn that into a strategic, guiding principle that touches every part of the company? Here are six ways to do just that.

  1. Embrace a multi-faceted approach to innovation, starting at the bottom. Often, we think of innovation as something that happens in brainstorming sessions about irresistible new products, developing clever marketing campaigns to launch and sell the heck out of those products, and the like. But take the product out of the equation for a moment, and consider a multi-faceted approach to innovation across your entire organization. Forbes, for example, suggests starting with the “4P’s: profit models, processes, products, and policies.” Breaking innovation down into these factions and tackling them as individual challenges will allow you to move faster and with more operational agility.
  2. Empower your employees, and they’ll provide value in new ways. Innovation as a corporate value means creating a culture so that every employee feels as though he or she has some level of autonomy—with expectations, of course—to think independently and find new ways to solve problems. Great leaders make smart decisions, but they also know they can’t—and shouldn’t—do it all. Leading is as much about listening, mentoring, trusting, and empowering your teams as it is about anything else.
  3. Understand that failing is okay. If you’re never failing, chances are you’re not innovating much. Failure is inevitable when you’re fostering a culture of innovation, and that’s part of the challenge—the reality that there’s almost always a degree of uncertainty. Fear has been called an ‘innovation crippler’ and, while no one ever sets out to fail, understanding that it will happen, and that you’ll be just fine when it does, is a mark of a great leader.
  4. Choose your approach to innovation metrics wisely. We all know data matters, but can you measure something as intangible as an idea? Even harder—an idea culture? You can, as long as you look long and hard at what it is you’re going to actually measure. Whatever your industry, you’ll undoubtedly need numbers on customer activity in relationship to your product or service—that’s a no brainer—but look elsewhere, too. What about the return on your strategic partnerships? How about getting the data on how much time your team actually has to dedicate to discovery? How many of them have been trained on what it means to innovate? Isolate what can change the game for your organization, and build your approach to innovation metrics from there.
  5. Don’t be afraid to take action—and quickly. To truly create a culture of innovation, you must be willing to encourage action on innovative ideas, not just continuous conceptual chatter. This isn’t to say that every idea is a great one or every new product proposal should directly go to prototyping. Take time to gather data and make an informed decision—but not too much time. Whether you invest more of your resources or take a different path, be agile enough to make those choices in a way that’s confident, measured, and with no more downtime than is absolutely necessary.
  6. Learn from the past and look to the future. According to Accenture’s 2015 US Innovation Survey, 60 percent of companies admitted they did not learn from past mistakes in relationship to their approach to corporate innovation. That’s a lot! Seventy-two percent of the organizations polled said they often miss opportunities to exploit under-developed areas or markets. Ironically, the same companies indicated they were highly confident in their innovation performance. This discrepancy in perception about what it means to be successful innovating on the corporate level is proof that many leaders don’t take the time to learn from their mistakes. It’s important to fix what isn’t working while moving forward. I know I said failing is okay—and it is—but complacency with failure is not.

The Burning House

The burning house scenario. We’ve all heard of that, right? Your house is on fire—what do you grab as you run out the door? It would be something special, something important, something you couldn’t bear to live without. Now, think about your business. What would you take with you if it all came crashing down? I’d grab the ability to innovate and to inspire innovation in my team—that’s the foundation for growth, the difference maker, the special sauce.

What would you take? What does innovation look like in your organization? Are you approaching it as an idea factory you only visit on occasion, or have you embraced innovation as a strategic imperative? Can you think of any additional ways leaders can create a culture of innovation other than those I’ve mentioned above? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As an aside, if this topic is of interest to you, check out Vincent Brissot’s (HP’s Head of Channel Marketing and Operations) post on this: Visible vs. Invisible Innovation. He makes some really salient points on things you may not be taking into consideration.

Additional Resources on This Topic:

How Small Companies Can Innovate Like Big Enterprises
The Role of Failure in Rapid Innovation
Can Productivity Tools Lead to Business Innovation?

This article was first published on FOW Media. 

7 Quick Ways to Boost Productivity at Work

August 28, 2017

8:30 am

When building a business from the ground up, your team is everything. They’re the people responsible for making your vision a reality. They’re the relationship managers who preserve your deals, the accountants who make sure your business remains profitable, and the producers who keep your products and services moving. More than that, your team becomes your family, and together, you all work toward one cumulative goal—success.

Obviously, you want your team to be as productive as possible, but you also don’t want to lose that tight-knit, family like dynamic that allows you all to function as a group. So rather than imposing strict rules or quotas on your team in an effort to increase productivity, try one or more of these smaller, more efficient methods:

Cut Meetings

First, get rid of the biggest time-suckers in any office—or at least cut them short. Meetings are rarely necessary, and they tie up thousands of hours of work time every year. When scheduling a meeting, it’s easy to group in everyone on the team and budget a loose hour for the discussion. At the time, it seems like no big deal, but if you have 10 members on your team, that’s 10 cumulative working hours you’re spending. Is 10 hours really necessary to go over that new policy or brainstorm about a new product? Chances are slim that this is the case. Substitute emails, memos, conference calls, and shorter meetings for these overlong behemoths, or cut them out completely (and be sure to only invite people who genuinely need to attend).

Allow Some Remote Work

Old-school entrepreneurs and businesspeople might shudder at the thought of working from home, but the early empirical evidence suggests that working from home actually makes workers more productive. They get more done because they have more flexibility to work how they want to work, fewer interruptions, and less stress because they don’t have to worry about personal responsibilities as much. If you’re still not buying the legitimacy of the strategy, roll it out in small doses and see how your workers adjust to the change.

Study: 98 Percent of Remote Workers Find It Enhances Their Productivity

Set Team Goals

You’re collectively working toward the same ultimate goal -working for a thriving business- so why shouldn’t your shorter-term and smaller goals also apply to the team? Setting goals as a team encourages everyone to work together, and helps individual team members hold each other accountable to reach those goals. Plus, when you achieve goals as a group, you get to celebrate and reward each other as a group.

Work With Individuals

The team mentality is important, but don’t lose sight of the individuals that make up that team. Everybody has different working preferences, different strengths, different weaknesses, and different perspectives, and it’s your job to help each of those individuals find their place on your team. That might mean setting individualized goals (in addition to team goals), accommodating special requests, sparking motivation on an individual level, or just showing more of a personal touch. The goal is to get each individual more involved in the company dynamics.

Learn (and Teach) to Delegate Effectively

Delegation is critical for a business’s success. Obviously, you can’t do everything yourself, but you also can’t forward your tasks randomly. As I’ve established, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll need to learn how to delegate your tasks effectively. Learn what your team members excel at and what weaknesses require compensation. Beyond that, teach your employees to delegate effectively as well, your team leaders will do well to organize their smaller teams into more efficient machines.

Encourage Breaks and Vacations

This one might seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re used to a culture that values never-ending work cycles, long nights, and weekend work. Unfortunately, that workaholic lifestyle doesn’t take you very far—you might get a short-term boost in productivity, but ultimately your workers will tire, dragging their productivity to a halt and leaving them with so much resentment that they end up leaving the company. Instead, encourage your workers to take breaks whenever they need one, and implement a flexible vacation policy.

Facilitate Team Bonding

Just as important as setting goals for the team, it’s necessary to give your team members the chance to bond with each other. Doing so helps establish the group mentality that you’ll thrive or flounder as a team, which will in turn give your team members more reason and more initiative to work hard and help each other out. You can facilitate team bonding in a number of different ways, from reducing the number of walls and obstructions in your office, to hosting team lunches as rewards for achieving goals, or even sponsoring recreational activities to get everyone working together.

These approaches are designed to capture the best of both worlds, allowing your team to be more productive without compromising the culture of your business. They won’t work for everyone, nor do you need all of them to be effective. Try them out and see which ones work best for your business and for your team.