An Open Letter to All Bosses Who Don’t Listen

Open Letter to Your Boss

This article was inspired by an email I received from a reader last week:

Dear Karl,

I truly want to work happier, but I feel stuck. I received your email last week about being a great leader. I’m sad to say that my boss is a true jerk. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he is always too busy or when I try to speak up he just cuts me off. There is no way he would ever ask for my feedback. I feel lost. I have a young child and I really don’t want to look for another job. I like my work, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand working for my boss.

Thanks for whatever advice you can give,

Struggling at Work

Here is a nice supplement to this article – 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement

Here is my reply (An open reply to all the bosses who fail to listen to their employees problems and ideas).

Dear Struggling at Work,

I’ve been in your position before.

My first boss out of college who wouldn’t listen to me and also kept putting me down. After researching a company shirt for him he wanted an update, so I went into his office.

After one minute of explaining the different local print shops we could use, he held up his hand for me to stop talking.

He asked me if the sizes come in Double XL. I wasn’t sure. I told him I could go and find out.

He shook his head, looked down into his lap, then at me and said I could have a monkey do a better job on this project.

He killed my confidence with that one sentence.

I share this with you because I’m a proud man, but as a young man I was afraid to stick up for myself. No one deserves to be treated that way and I didn’t have the confidence to be strong.

Every time I would try to present an idea he would brush me off. He didn’t even try to pretend like he listened to me. He just ignored most of my ideas.

I wish I could share with you that eventually I stuck up for myself and my boss respected me. This never happened.

I worked there for two years and hated working for him the whole time I was there.

I was lucky to have a great manager, in another department, that helped guide me. He hated to see me leave the company, but he supported me.

That was over fifteen years ago.

Now I’m much more confident and willing to speak up. It’s taken a lot of practice, but so worth my energy.

My hope is that you have or can find someone who can help guide you a work, someone in a different department, HR, a mentor, or a coach.

I realize that many bosses aren’t very good listeners, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements in the working world. Bosses and managers should seek training to improve their listening skills and be better coaches to their employees.

They need people like you to lead the way.  They need someone to say you aren’t very good at this right now, but I know you have the talent to be a great leader.

I know it’s hard to step up and say something difficult and maybe feels impossible, but it’s not. Boss by boss and manager by manager we can encourage them to be better listeners so they create a happier work culture. When they understand that with improving their listening and communication skills they will help build a stronger team.

Real improvements in the workplace cultures through America and other top down managed cultures need a wake up call. They must know that these bad habits can’t continue.

REMEMBER:

You don’t need to do this one your own. You have a lot of power if you are willing to ask for help.

For example you could ask for help within your company. You could seek help and advice from someone outside the company as well, to see if they’ve been through something similar and how they improved their situation.

Guess what?

They probably have.

When we are willing to go find help and be a little vulnerable that’s when we can work on improving ourselves and our career.

Your turn…

How do you find the strength to ask for help when you need it the most?

Would you like to improve your leadership skills? Then take a look at how I help people with my leadership coaching program. I’m taking applications for next month.

Why Great Leaders Have a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset quote

It’s 10am.

Mark knew it was time for the team meeting, but he really didn’t want to go.

It was always the same thing. People would joke around for 10 minutes. Then Cindy and John would dominate the conversation to see who could one up the other. Alex would try to chime in with calm and reason and Cindy and John would talk over him.

Same.

Thing.

Every.

Week.

Mark would look over at his manager and he would be rolling his eyes or looking down at his iPad. Mark liked his boss, but at some point he stopped caring.

Old Patterns

Many of the old patterns exist because that’s what people do. They get into habits. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but habits are at your work.

It’s the bad habits that hold us back.

I came across a popular talk from Carol Dweck.

She talks about the growth mindset. I clumsily wrote the growth mindset back in 2008. I believed I could be a good writer someday. Almost there. Just a few more years. :)

Read what she has to say about her research:

“We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset).” Carol Dweck

Do you believe you are still learning and growing?

Every leader must be able to believe that s/he can learn and grow. If they are stuck in old habits and can’t break free you get the typical scenario that I described above.

Breaking Old Patterns

Habits are not easy to break, but it’s possible, if you believe it’s possible.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

A man after my own heart. He had the growth mindset back in 1901. He was also an Environmental Activist. The dude was amazing.

Enough about my man Theo.

You can break these bad habits by creating an employee feedback loop. This is where leadership separates the average from the really good. Listening to tough feedback and using it as an opportunity for growth.

Now imagine if Mark’s boss had a growth mindset.

He would see the meetings weren’t productive and he would take action. He would probably start the meeting by stating the obvious then begin by asking each person, what we should do to improve the meetings.

He would list each idea on the meeting room white board. Then ask people to vote on the ones they think would work the best.

Then he would implement the top 3 ideas by asking the group who would like to make sure we follow these ideas in every meeting. If no one steps up then he would do it. If someone stepped up he knew he had an ally to help him.

Either way it would happen.

Be a Great Leader

A great leader knows when to make the tough choice. Even the best leaders can lose sight of what is working well and what needs to be improved. So that’s why you have to create a feedback loop to help keep you in check.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

I truly believe that everyone should consider themselves a leader at work. So you should be asking your co-workers and your boss how you can improve.

It can be a hard conversation to have, but one that will help you grow your career.

If you consider yourself a leader at work then you should get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagementto help you at work. I’m also offering a new type of coaching that I haven’t offered before. I want to help more business leaders improve their employees happiness and productivity. If you are on my email list I’ll send you a special offer to help you create happier and more engaged employees. Just click the button below:

7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement
Below is a cool infographic from Carol Dweck that helps you understand how to bring more of a growth mindset to your work. It’s focus is on students, but you can apply these mindset techniques to your work as well.

comm5_dweck_pg20

What is an Employee Feedback Loop?

listening-cans

To the boardroom.

At least that is where I thought she was taking me.

I entered a room with a big desk and a large man to match.

“Have a seat,” he said.

He gestured to the seat in front of his desk.

“Ok, so tell me why is it important for my employees to be happy?”

He got right to the point.

I was told he was a straight shooter.

Just a little more straight than I was expecting. It stunned me for a moment.

He got right to it.

I paused and smiled.

His eyes creased curiosity.

I told him the most important tool 99% of businesses aren’t utilizing well are feedback loops.

He asked me to explain.

A feedback loop is an ongoing conversation with your employees about what is going well and what could be improved.

I asked him if he heard of the example that we only use 10% of our brains, which helped demonstrate my point. He had heard that percentage before.

I explained that most companies are only using 40% of their employees potential. I created a resource guide to improve your leadership skills. Click the link to get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement.

He leaned forward.

A super small company of less than 10 employees can usually create a natural feedback loop by talking to individuals throughout the month. The busier and larger a company becomes the more layers that are created. The harder it becomes to listen.

Listening is a key skill that most companies don’t teach. They want great results, but don’t make it easy for their people.

A small to large size company should have some sort of system in place.

I told him about Domino Feedback based off of Net Promoter Score. I explained how each employee is a domino tipping out into the world and they usually fit 3 categories.

  1. Promoters – They love working for the company and tell their friends about their experience.
  2. Passives – This group is just ho-hum about working for the company. Not saying anything good or bad.
  3. Detractors – They talk bad about you behind your back every chance they get. They bring other people down and hurt the company culture that you are trying to improve.

The more promoters you have the more you can gauge the health of your company culture. The more detractors you have the more likely they are creating a toxic culture.

He was hooked.

The hard part was making sure that people could be honest. You don’t want them to fear giving honest feedback. You also don’t want them to be afraid to make you mad.

That’s why I suggest most companies create a feedback loop that is anonymous. You get to gather as honest feedback as possible.

The next part is to be consistent about getting this feedback. Asking for feedback once a year isn’t good enough. How much change happens in your industry can be astounding, almost hard to keep up. The same goes for issues your employees have to deal with on a regular basis.

The change is rapid and the only way to keep up is to have every employee onboard, listening to customer’s needs, each other’s needs, and supplier’s needs.

Once you have a system in place to capture these problems and ideas then it’s time to put on your listening hat.

I knew a CEO who actually had a listening hat. He would put on a cowboy hat every time he would review his company survey with his team.

Then it’s using this information to help you get a birds eye view of your company. You can learn what is going well and what needs to be improved.

It’s very important that you or your team don’t take any of the feedback personally. Employees will use the forum to vent their frustration. This is a good thing. They get to vent, feel heard, and find ways to move on.

I’m curious about your company.

How well do they listen to you?

Do you have a feedback loop in place that allows you to give your boss and/or company feedback? If so how to they gather it? Do you use software, in person, meetings, etc.?

If you have any questions about creating an employee feedback loop to create more engagement at work, just reach out to me (contact page) and we’ll set-up a quick consultation.

How to Improve Your Work Culture in an Office

open office

When I first started work at my current job, I was bowled over by the overwhelming sense of fun that permeated the office. There were video games, BBQs, raffles, and frisbee tournaments on the patio. Free food and schwag was so prevalent, you couldn’t walk 500 feet without encountering a giant plate of cookies or a comfy new t-shirt.

We were all about that hip ‘tech company culture’ — that is, until it backfired.

Does your organization need help improving communication, feeling grateful, or creating a happiness plan? Then let’s chat! Then fill out the short form at the bottom and we’ll see how more happiness tools can improve communication at your company.

When Internal Culture Goes Wrong

While the effort to keep company morale sky high 24/7 was appreciated, it was also abused. The abundance of distractions competed for the attention span of the employees — and eventually, some of my colleagues just quit working all together.

We had no system in place to make sure employees were meeting their production goals, and no real threat to anyone’s job if poor performance was noticed. Once that became apparent, quite a few people took advantage of the system.

Upper management was confused and unsure of where things had gone wrong. With so many fun happenings around the office, why weren’t the employees happy and productive?

The problem really boiled down to one thing — engagement. Did our employees like the company? Of course, they were paid to sit around and play all day, what’s not to like? Were our employees engaged? No — not even a little bit.

Engagement & Culture

Engagement is more than employee attraction or retention. Employees who are engaged are emotionally connected to and passionate about their work. They’re proud of their company and look forward to coming to work each day. They’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure the organization is successful.

Furthermore, engagement and culture go hand in hand. Company culture impacts how an employee experiences and perceives the organization they work for. Engagement is how an employee feels about themselves and their work.

If the company culture is toxic or apathetic, and employee won’t have positive feelings about the organization and their role in it then they’ll end up just coasting along instead.

My coworkers and I weren’t emotionally connected to our work at all. Hell, half of us had never even heard of our product before we started working here. And as for being proud of our company — well, that’s hard to do when the only way you know what the company stands for is a values poster in the lobby. Without strong leadership, clear communication, and solid expectations, our employees were set up to fail from the very start.

Management eventually identified the problem with both our internal culture and lack of engagement and began to take steps to set things right.

Our leadership made three main changes:

  • We all created agreed upon goals with our team leader.
  • Communication channels were opened up.
  • We began to hear more about what our company really stood for.

And you’ll never guess what happened.

Productivity soared.

Distraction’s Impact on Engagement

It’s hard for an employee to be fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work if they can’t actually get any work done.

Employee distraction is one of the biggest hurdles companies face, and my company is no exception. While the X-Box and popcorn machine no longer pull focus like they used to, the open office environment is another story entirely.

Open offices are incredibly popular in many tech companies as they’re considered a boon to communication and camaraderie. In truth, lack of privacy, uncontrolled social interactions, and constant noise pollution have left workers more dissatisfied and unproductive than ever. Not to mention, open offices make it far easier for illness to spread.

I loathe open offices. I am quite easily distracted and the uninterrupted stream of noise from my coworkers keeps me from reaching my potential. I don’t think I could be more productive in a private office or cubicle, I know I could.

But one major upside to the open office is cost — they’re incredibly cheap to set up. Expecting my employer to pony up the dough to set us all up with our own private space is, frankly, ridiculous.

The trick is to find a middle ground.

There are a couple of easy to apply solutions companies can employ:

  1. Within the open space itself, they can create different zones for different types of work (collaborative, individual, etc) using architectural elements like alcove sofas, low walls, or sheer paneling.
  2. They can give their employees the freedom to move around campus by supplying tablets or versatile 2-in-1 laptops. Individual rooms can be set aside for quiet, independent work.

In order for an organization to see its workers reach the highest level of engagement and productivity, it will need to cultivate an environment that supports optimal performance — both physically and psychologically.

My company is young. We’re learning a lot as we go, and playing many things by ear, but I have high hopes that one day we’ll be considered on of the top places to work in Idaho.

What does your company do to limit distractions so people can be productive and get in the zone?

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

Why American Leaders Don’t Care about Happiness at Work

emotions matter

My son just starred as the credits rolled. It wasn’t the reaction that I was hoping for. I wiped away a tear and whispered in his ear.

What did you think?

Nothing. He just sat there, staring straight ahead.

He’s five and got up on my lap in the beginning of the movie. He barely twitched for an hour and forty minutes.

The movie definitely interested him, but he just wasn’t sure what to make of it.

We watched Inside Out. A movie about a young girls emotions as she dealt with moving from Minnesota to San Fransisco.

It was a look at the emotions inside this girl’s head and the struggles that all eleven year olds go through. The main character (emotion) inside her, Joy, struggle with letting sadness be a part of her emotional spectrum.

It was a cool visualization of how many of us deal with our emotions.

We’re afraid of them.

Their messy.

Especially at work.

This was very true as I talked with my Aunt who is a small business owner. She took me out to lunch and asked me about my businesses.

I explained how my UX (User Experience) company, Domino Connection, was growing very fast for only being me. I told her how I branched out into A/B testing website, so I could help my clients create base markers to measure from so they could increase leads and sales. She was fascinated.

I then shared how I used a lot of the stuff from Work Happy Now to help my clients like helping them create feedback loops, developing core values to use in the workplace, and measuring people’s happiness (satisfaction) at work.

I started to lose her.

I tried to bring her back, but I felt the push back about measuring happiness.

I’ve seen this again and again from American leaders at work.

Don’t get me wrong. My aunt has a lot of happiness ideas in place for her employees. She tries very hard to make employees feel listened to and appreciated. She buys them lunch when they work weekends. She pays 100% for their healthcare.

There are a lot of perks, but she also makes a lot of mistakes. Which she’ll also admit. There are no perfect leaders.

As I tried to bring her back to the idea of measuring happiness and improving her feedback loop she explained how she already did a lot of this and didn’t really need to improve it.

I paused and thought about a conversation that I had with a potential client around creating happiness measurement markers in their company.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure.

I created the Work Happy Now Emergency Kit – Break in case of stress overload. Leaders, like my aunt, can bring a more positive experiences into the workplace and improve engagement if they have help.

It was the same conversation all over again.

Americans don’t like dealing with emotions in the workplace. We don’t want to deal with sadness, anger, and even happiness.

We have a hard enough time accepting our own thoughts and emotions, dealing with other people’s emotions just gets harder.

Does it mean we should ignore emotions in the workplace because it’s hard?

NO!

Let me ask you:

How often do you celebrate at work?

Not just closing a big client or someone’s birthday. Which of course is good to do, but celebrating a team’s hard work.

Just sharing a proud moment even if it didn’t work out. Taking a moment to celebrate someone’s hard work shows them that you are listening. That you notice how hard they are working. It’s this appreciation that can make an employee’s week.

It’s not just Americans that struggle with emotions in the workplace. Germans, Brits, and Japanese people struggle with emotions too.

We are afraid to admit we are tired, stressed, frustrated. We push these emotions down and take it out on our families, which isn’t fair.

That’s why measuring people’s emotional states is important. We can see patterns in the joy and the struggle. We can use these patterns to help make better choices for the company to retain people who are thinking about leaving the company or improve how people view their experience at work.

Is it perfect? Nope. Science isn’t perfect. It gets even messier with trying to measure feelings. It’s about doing our best to improve upon our experiences so we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed out, and cause more damage to ourselves or other people. It’s also about being happier because if we aren’t happy at work we don’t have good results.

The point of life is happiness. – The Dalai Lama

Asking for feedback from employees on a regular basis is just one listening tool that you can use to help increase happiness.

This is where it gets tough for many leaders…They first have to admit that they aren’t perfect and they need help. That they don’t always listen as well as they should or believe that they are.

Are American leaders afraid of the answers that they will get if they ask how happy their employees are at work? Maybe they’re afraid of getting too much feedback or not enough.

So I ask you…

Why do you think Americans so afraid of emotions at work? Do you see it similar to me or from a different perspective?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section in the article.

If you need help retaining your best employees and improving your listening tools, so they feel heard. Just let me know and we’ll set up a consultation.

10 Big Mistakes That Kill Employee Morale

tired-polar-bear-595

A few months in at my last job the greatness started to wear off. I wish it could have been different. The main issue was my relationship with my boss.

He never complimented me or thanked me for my hard work. Every idea that I presented was ignored. My boss, while a good manager on his good days, was a bit of a grump on bad days. Don’t get me wrong, we got along most of the time. But our work relationship suffered. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to psych myself up. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted out.

Here’s the thing: everyone wants a team of employees who are dedicated to their jobs and are excited to come to work every day. The best way to achieve this, of course, is by maintaining a high level of morale in the workplace. You probably know the phrase “a happy wife makes a happy life?” Well, a happy employee makes employers more money.

The problem? This is easier said than done.

Achieving a happy office is largely dependent upon the professional health of the leadership. As even executives are human, it’s all too easy for leaders to get lost in the shuffle of everyday business needs rather than actively searching out how they can address the needs of the employees. Who can set the environment of an organization but the leader?

Leaders who want to be effective, respected and well liked should avoid some of the most common mistakes that directly impact the morale of their employees:

Mistake #1: Trying Too Hard to Be Everywhere

Have you ever seen the portraits where the eyes of the subject seem to follow the viewer wherever they go? It’s creepy, right? Don’t be like that.

As a leader, you’re held responsible for the quality of all projects. It can be hard to trust employees to get it done how you want, especially when they’re new to the team. It’s easy to want to check-in frequently to see how things are going and give them a hand to get the project moving in the right direction. Doing so can inhibit the productivity and creativity of your team, though.

Next time you feel yourself checking in too often, remember why you handed the project off: you’re too busy to do everything yourself and you have a team of capable, knowledgeable employees.

Give employees the space and authority they need to make educated decisions, and trust them to do it. They’ll feel much more confident, and you’ll feel much more relaxed not having to be everywhere at once.

Mistake #2: Being too Proud to Admit a Mistake

The best example of how to behave is by looking at the behavior patterns set by the leadership.  With that being said, however, leaders are prone to making mistakes just like everyone else. What sets a good leader apart from others is their willingness to honestly admit when they are wrong, which, according to Steve Blank at Entrepreneur, is “one more step toward a more effective and cohesive company.”

Even if it’s a small and unintentional mistake, fess up to it. Employees will appreciate the forthrightness and honesty. And, they’ll be more likely to own up to their own mistakes in the future.

Mistake #3: Being Too Busy to Listen to Your Employees

Your phone is ringing off the hook, your inbox is full, and you have a report due to a client in a few hours. It’s easy to neglect your own needs, let alone the needs of your employees.

Be sure to make time to listen to your employees. Foster an environment that welcomes and embraces ingenuity and innovation, and is considerate of your employees’ concerns. After all, giving employees the opportunity to come up with new and better ways of performing their tasks can save the company time, resources and money.

Mistake #4: Thinking You Know What Someone Wants Without Asking Them.

No one wants to be a puppet or the scapegoat of why a project didn’t get completed.

Encourage employees to speak up for themselves so that everyone can understand how the pieces of the group fit together. This ability to converse and be honest and open with one another means that problems will be addressed more quickly and respectfully, as that is the expectation being set. 

Mistake #5: Not Taking the Time to Say Thank You When You are Busy

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and needed. Forgetting to acknowledge the accomplishments of workers can make them feel just the opposite, and chances are, it won’t be long until they go work for someone else who will see – and acknowledge – their value.

Lindsey Lavine, from Fast Company, wrote an excellent article on the power of showing appreciation. Her article discusses the psychological impact gratitude has on getting people to help out, which is incredibly beneficial when trying to motivate employees to work hard.

Mistake #6: Not Emphasizing that Your Employees Ideas Are Important

Leaders who are doing their job well know that every skillset is important. Whether or not the job requires a lot of education or experience doesn’t matter.

Making employees feel as though their opinion matters and they aren’t being lorded over does, so try not to pull rank and make them feel stupid. Instead, appreciate any comments or feedback they offer.

Mistake #7: Not Giving Off the Proper Signals that You are Approachable

Think for a second about the waiting area of the doctor’s office. It’s full of potential issues and problems waiting to be solved by the doctor. The problem is that the doctor is incredibly busy with a long list of patients who arrived earlier. This means a long wait that seems like an eternity.

Often times, leaders also let their employees sit in the waiting room. Their employees’ questions go unanswered and no one gets a proper diagnosis or treatment.

Become more accessible with open communication lines and an open-door policy with specific visiting hours. Be sure to also show that you’re approachable by being transparent and starting the conversation.

Mistake #8: Losing Track of What You Promised To Do

Everyone struggles with this, but follow-through is incredibly important in establishing and maintaining respect with employees. If leadership decides that raises will happen in the spring but doesn’t actually deliver on that promise when the time comes, how is that going to make the employees feel? Like maybe they weren’t worth the money or their boss wasn’t totally honest?

Follow through. Be accountable. Say it and then deliver on it.

Mistake #9: Coasting at Work for Long Periods of Time

Time is always moving, trends are always changing and there are always new developments. Leaders should strive to keep up as best as possible.

There is nothing wrong with taking breaks throughout the day and vacations to recharge. In fact it’s a healthy aspect of work, but coasting for long periods of time is detrimental to you and your staff.

This means taking classes, attending trainings, pushing to be better at the jobs they’re performing. This continual education and professional development shows employees that even leaders need to change or improve habits. After all, that’s what this article is for, right?

Mistake #10: Remaining Rigid and Unforgiving

Let’s face it: Life happens. Traffic gets heavy, commutes are long and sometimes, people just oversleep. There are a million reasons why an employee may be late or why they may need to take a longer lunch or use up their sick time on a Monday morning.

Give employees the flexibility they need to stay sane in both their personal lives and at work. Be compassionate to their needs but expect the work to get done in a timely fashion.

Being a leader comes with lots of opportunities for making these common blunders. However, leaders who make their employees’ happiness a priority are more likely to retain staff and foster a work environment that is friendly and powerful. That sounds like a great leader to work for, doesn’t it?

Now it’s your turn to share a story. What is one small example that you remember from a great boss that you would like to share with us? (Just let us know in the comment section.)

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

What Can Your Boss Can Learn from a Goose?

Flying V

Have you ever looked up in the sky and noticed one of the most amazing skills any animal possesses?

You’ve probably seen it at least a few times. Geese flying in a V formation is beautiful thing to watch.

It’s teamwork at it’s best.

You remember fifth grade science or probably looked up in the sky and asking one of your parents why do geese fly in a V?

You probably know the answer, but let me explain something first.

Happiness is an ever allusive feeling. You can’t always be happy, but there are ways to make it happen more often. I’m not talking about just popping in a smooth piece of chocolate. Letting it just melt all over your tongue.

I got a little carried away there.

I’m talking about tools that are proven to bring longer lasting happiness to your company. You might be thinking. There is no way my company would create a happiness plan to make us happier.

I get it. I’ve been there.

This might be true, but if you just give up then are you just throwing in the white towel. Are you resigned to an unhappy workplace? If so then you can click away. You shouldn’t waste your time here any longer.

You should be planning your weekends.

Let’s talk about what tools you have to help you bring more happiness back to your work.

I’m not sure if you noticed a trend in the younger workforce. They are buying less things and spending more money on experiences?

Why is this?

Because experiences make us happier, not new things. Experiences build friendships. It’s these friendships that matter to you, not an extra $2,000 in your paycheck. Very rarely will you look back on your life and appreciate the couch that you bought.

So I’m going to ask you a tough question.

What is your company doing to create more positive experiences for you?

They probably know that if they create positive and even stressful experiences for you it creates memories that endear you and your co-workers to the company. Yes, that means employees stay longer and work harder because of the attachment they feel for the company. It’s up to you if you want to share that information with your boss.

Ok, so they probably should buy you and your team a trip to Bali for a team building getaway, it would be nice, but probably won’t happen. What they might do is thank you for wanting to make the team happier and more productive.

That’s where my new “Work Happy Now Emergency Kit – Break in case of stress overload” comes in handy. Every company deals with stress, but it’s how you deal with it that makes the biggest difference for your employees. It’s in Beta right now, but the feedback so far has been wonderful.

I need a few more leaders who want to bring more fun and happiness to their teams. Are you interested? Click here to get the first 6 modules that can help your manager improve the culture at work and help you to become more engaged.

Managing employees used to be hard. Then I tried this…

leadership coaching

When I left the corporate world I thought managing people was impossible. When I was asked to take a lead on projects many employees didn’t want to do what I asked. I was lucky if they did half of what I asked.

I remember when my father coached my soccer team when I was in 6th grade. I yelled at another player because he was out of position and the other team scored. He called me over and asked me if I thought that helped my teammate. I shook my head no. It took a long time for that lesson to sink in.

I wasn’t wise enough to see my mistakes. I didn’t understand how to lead.

I now look back and wished I would have allowed people the flexibility to do great work, encouraged them to find new ways to improve and had more fun leading them.

There is no way for me to go back and change anything, but I can at least help you be a better leader.

It starts with thinking of yourself as a coach instead of a manager. Most people don’t want to be managed. They want someone to help guide them to be their best.

When I started my own business I thought my managing days were over. I could do what I wanted when I wanted without worrying about what other people thought of me.

As my time grew more crunched I had to be more efficient. I couldn’t do everything myself. In the past year I’ve hired a…

  • Web designer
  • Ebook designer
  • Copywriter
  • Editor
  • Nanny

I hired these people to take work off my plate. I did my due diligence before I hired someone, but I made a huge mistake.

The people I hired were smart, talented and passionate. All the right ingredients.

But my first hire failed.

Now instead of blaming them and just hiring someone else right away. I took a step back and took a hard look at my hiring process. I looked back through my emails, notes, and thought about our conversations, I realized my mistake.

I wasn’t giving them any guidance. People don’t want to be managed. They want to be coached to be their best self. People want the freedom to do great work.

“Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness.” – Monique Valcour of the Harvard Business Review

Employees want to understand and appreciate the vision and help build upon it. Not be micromanaged or feel confused by their choices. They want to create something and see progress toward it every single day.

So if you are a manager who wants more productivity out of your employees I suggest focusing on these questions:

Special notice: Does your business need more effective and loyal employees? Then signup for the first 6 modules of the Work Happy Now Emergency Kit – Break in case of stress overload. It will explain the importance of creating a great culture and how to encourage more engagement as a leader at work.

Ask your employees:

  1. What can I do to make your happier?

Wouldn’t you’ve loved to hear this question from your boss? I know I would have.

The more barriers you remove from people’s work day the less stress they have. For example if you have a meeting every Thursday at 10am, right when everyone starts to get in the zone, and you ask them to stop what they are doing to attend, then you are making it difficult for them to do great work.

Then ask yourself:

  1. How can I help them see their progress?

Career progress is maybe the most important aspect of happiness at work. Employees want to understand that their hard work is making a positive impact.

  1. How can I create positive experiences?

Young people don’t want new cars. They want experiences that help them feel connected to the people they work with. People stay at a job when the have a deeper connection with one person. How can you build upon these connections?

  1. Does my team have core values in place?

Core values are vital to growing together as a team. If people don’t have similar values then it’s harder to get along. By writing down core values with your team they will use these core values to make smarter decisions.

  1. Do I have a feedback loop in place?

It’s great that you asked them how you can make them happier. I bet they love hearing that question. If you only do this every 12 months then you are missing out on a lot of coaching opportunities and chances to learn from your employees. The best managers allow everyone to have input and allow the best ideas to rise to the top.

Being a better coach isn’t easy. There will be times you won’t listen as well as you should, but if you practice I promise you will be rewarded with more loyal employees who go the extra mile.

If you want to learn how to be a better coach to your employees then look into websites like the one I linked. I’m helping Tim grow his course because I believe coaching at work is a vital tool all great managers need.

5 Steps to Creating an Inspiring Workplace

inspiring business quotes

She killed off our company’s monthly meeting.

It was how she killed it that was her big mistake.

And it was this mistake that eventually ousted her as the company’s CEO.

The monthly meeting was a time for people to bond that either normally wouldn’t see each other. It was at best a tolerable experience, but one that was necessary to keeping our company together.

She killed the meeting by just letting it fade away. People whispered about why it stopped happening, but there was no explanation.

Every person/organization is guided by a set of core values that helped them make quality decisions. The company never had any core values. We had a generic vision and mission statement, but no core values.

I now realize that if this company I worked for had core values in place there would have been more people watching for the company’s health. They would have been more likely to say something when the company began to decline.

The core values of a company is the foundation that can support a great company. If they aren’t created, shared, talked about, and used then a company can easily lose its way.

These core values should also be created by department/team in the organization. An IT department will have different core values than the marketing department.

So let’s look at what you can do to create your own core values so when the company needs help there will be people there to step up.

Here is the 5 step process to create core values at your company:

  1. Ask Your Employees What They Think the Company/Team Believes In

Your employees have a very solid idea of what the company stands for. You need to capture these ideas and incorporate them into your core values. When you incorporate your employees’ ideas into what the company believes in you get a stronger document that employees can use to guide their choices.

As you think about putting your core values all in one place you must ask yourself what you believe the company believes in. The creator of the document needs to take the task very seriously. That’s why founders and CEO’s should be a major influencer in how the document reads. They created and run the company because they believed in the vision and impact the company can and does have on the world.

  1. Compile all the Best Values into One Document

Now that you have everyone’s input, put all the ideas into one document. See how they look and feel. Don’t feel you need to create this document in one week. This should be a process that happens over time so you can capture the true soul of the company.

  1. Combine Similar Values Together

Many of the ideas will be similar. Look at how you can combine them into one value. Is there a theme that two or more values can fit into one?

  1. Be Efficient with Your Values (5 – 10 work best for most companies)

I encourage companies to create no more than 10 values because too many values and they lose their impact. You want a concise, economical and memorable list that really gets to the heart of the company’s beliefs.

  1. Publish Your Core Values Internally and Externally

When you have your core values list. I always suggest that people publish them for employees and customers to see. Zappos puts their core values all over their building. They are a constant reminder of how employees should act and grow.

Honest Company does the same thing. They call them “Our Principles”.

When your company puts out its core values into the world, your people will challenge themselves to live up to the values that everyone created.

Bonus tip: Review Your Core Values Once a Year

As your company grows you should talk about your company’s core values should be discussed. Talking about why they exist and how they helped guide choices can reinforce the importance of having everyone live by the core values of the company.

Does your company have a set of values that helps guide employees’ choices as they navigate their work?

You can learn more about how to incorporate core values into your company improving happiness and engagement. Just click here and we can set up a consultation to see what happiness tools you can use at your company.

P.S. This is not meant to be a quick fix. Core values should be the start of building a company that believes in it’s mission to make people’s lives better by improving what they create.

10 Habits of Brilliant Leaders

Zuckerberg quote
I recently shared a drink with a friend who runs a small company. He told me a secret that I’ve never heard him discuss before.

He talked with me about his employees’ moods and how they can fluctuate in such a broad way, which really affects the quality of their work.

“A few years ago I caught one of my employees sleeping at his desk. He wasn’t a bad employee, but he wasn’t great either. He was never late, but there were times he didn’t seem interested in his work at all. Then there were other times he was fantastic. It would fluctuate like this all the time. I didn’t know what to do.”

Shortly after finding his employee asleep he decided he had to make some changes. He told me he took my advice from a conversation over a couple beers last year. He began to explain his vision and why he made certain decisions. He opened up his thought process to all his employees every month. He explained the companies income and costs, what direction the company was trying to go in and why. This also opened up a dialog with his employees that he never knew was possible.

His employees responded better than he thought they would. He even got ideas from his employees of how the company could save money and how to improve the customer experience.

“It was like someone flipped a little switch on in our company. I wished I had done it sooner. Almost everyone was happier and much more engaged. It’s funny though. I never got through to the guy that sparked it all. I eventually had to let him go. Hope he’s at a job he enjoys. I still think about him and feel grateful for the idea he sparked.”

People often stop looking at the larger picture because they get comfortable. This comfortable feeling reduces their desire to go above and beyond. They coast along, slowly disengaging and disliking their work.

A study at the University of Alberta showed that people need a sense of purpose in order to feel engaged with their work. A ‘Spirit at Work’ intervention program for a group of long-term health-care workers boosted morale and job retention. This program urged employees to rethink their job, which reduced absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75%.

“We discovered that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees,” said Val Kinjerski, a University of Alberta PhD graduate who co-authored the study in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

By helping your people understand why they do what they do – you can increase happiness and productivity.

I’m going to give you a few ideas that should help your employees feel more engaged with their work.

Are you interested in bringing more fun and happiness to your team? I’m creating a beta program to help you improve employee engagement. I would like to help a small group of leaders grow a happier culture and improve communication at work. If you are a team leader, manager, HR, or CEO then reach out to me. The program will be extremely affordable (big discount) in exchange for your help in making the program better. If you are interested please fill out this short form and I’ll get back to you right away.

1. Empower employees to improve the company

When a leader listens and empowers his employees to fix the small things, there are more people responsible for creating a great customer experience. Each small improvement quickly adds up, improving innovation and helping keep customers happy.

“We try to have as many channels for expression as we can, recognizing that different people, and different ideas, will percolate up in different ways,” Laszlo Bock, VP of Google

When employees believe that their voices matter, they are more likely to feel appreciated by the company. This feeling then encourages each employee to do better work.

Your organization employs smart people, otherwise they probably wouldn’t hold the positions that they do. They just need a chance to unleash that creativity and wow their co-workers and customers.

2. Share positive stories

Your organization has many stories of how employees solved problems, helped others in need, and other ways in which they went above and beyond to make someone happy. However, a lot of companies like to play the modesty card. They hesitate to flaunt their achievements.

Great leaders understand the power of positive stories when they show the value that they bring to the customer.

A client recently told me about how I helped her feel happier. She explained that medication that she took to keep her emotionally balanced didn’t help, but I did. She thanked me profusely. (I put her quote on my Happy Employees page.) I sent the email to my editor. I think she got a better understanding of who I’m trying to help and why I work so hard to create great content. Since she edits many of my articles, I need her to feel engaged with the work, so we keep putting out the best content to help the readers of this blog.

You need to flaunt your greatness!

You have to share similar stories with each other. Talk about how a customer gushed over your attention to detail. It shows the rest of your co-workers why you do what you do. Most of you aren’t working just for the paycheck. You are also working because you make a difference in people’s lives.

The more stories an organization can compile the more powerful it becomes. If your organization is huge, then break it down into departments. Even departments such as marketing and accounting need to compile stories. Many of these stories may be more internal, but it’s still important to document what is happening so you can share with your people why you do what you do.

3. Focus on great culture

Great results are the bottom line of every company. The only way to get great results is to have support at every level. If one domino falls short the customer experience weakens. You can’t have great marketing and bad customer service. That’s why empowering employees to create their own happiness systems, we’ll discuss more in #5, is vital to improving every aspect of your company culture.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Simon Sinek

When a leader makes the company’s culture a top priority it ripples throughout the whole organization. They want create as many avenues for employee happiness that their resources will allow. It’s this habit that helps an employee feel engaged with their work and deliver great results.

4. Explain the vision again and again

A great leader has vision that guides everyone in the organization. They are able to plan for next year like it’s next month. They know how they want to get there and help explain what he wants done to make it happen.

It’s this vision that helps put into focus every action an employee makes within the company. Without explaining this vision many employees become lost, unable to see what is truly important.

“If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.” – Larry Page, CEO of Google

Every company helps someone. It’s up to the leaders in your company to bring clarity to who you serve and how you will make it happen. The more ways you can explain your visions the clearer it becomes.

5. Allow employees to design their work systems

Your employees know their strengths. They know whether they enjoy certain projects and which ones drive them crazy. Utilizing this information is vital to getting great results out of your employees.

Allow your employees the freedom to design how they would get the task done. They will own the project and work harder to make sure it succeeds.

6. Listen to Feedback

In order to stay engaged in our work, we have to recognize our mistakes and understand how to fix them. By listening to employee, customer, and vendor feedback, an organization is taking the time to understand their mistakes and correct them.

I have known many people who like to solve problems. They get an energy boost from making a solution happen. I worked at K-Mart in my teenage years and I’ll never forget a look on one customer’s face because of what one of my co-workers was able to do for her.

A woman came into the store asking for a patio umbrella that wasn’t in stock. The salesperson called 4 different stores before she found the lady’s umbrella. He asked the store to transfer it and he would call the lady as soon as it came in.

I remember when the lady came into the store to pick up the umbrella. She was gushing because it was the only one that fit her patio furniture.

You could see the manager of the employee beaming with pride.

I’ve seen and been on the receiving end of an employee just not caring. They can hear and/or see that I’m upset and they choose not to help.

You need to give your people a chance to create solutions so they can feel like they are a superhero.

7. Encourage employees to fix mistakes

Yaro Starak wrote a blog post about his experience at Starbucks. It made great advertising for Starbucks. Starbucks empowers their employees to make good decisions, which leads to the best type of advertising in the world: word of mouth.

Yaro ordered a tea and an oat brownie. He waited for it to arrive on the counter. After a few minutes he told the barista that he was still waiting for his tea. The Starbucks employee had forgotten about his order. He quickly made the tea, apologized and handed him a piece of cardboard that said…

We apologize if your Starbucks experience was anything but wonderful. We want to know how we can make things better and always invite you to share your thoughts with us. The next time we see you, please enjoy a beverage, on us. We hope your next visit is better.

Yaro might bring a friend in with him the next time he goes to Starbucks. Now that extra expenditure almost balanced itself out.

Yaro explained how he felt…

I waited about an extra minute longer for my tea than I should have. That is definitely not long enough for me to get angry and I was served very quickly once I notified them that my tea was missing.

Yet, despite this, the Starbucks policy is to offer a complimentary beverage even if their system is slightly out of whack. I walked away impressed that I scored a free beverage voucher, but not really because of the beverage itself, I was impressed with the customer service policy I just witnessed (hence I’m writing a blog post about it!).

Starbucks did not diminish in my eyes as a result of this incident. In fact they impressed me, so much so that I’m now writing a blog post that will be read by thousands of people proclaiming good things about Starbucks service (that’s some good word of mouth). Of course not every Starbucks customer has a blog they can rave to when something happens, but every person has friends and people they talk to, and this one policy of Starbucks will encourage word of mouth through normal social interaction too.

It all started because Starbucks empowers their employees to make the customer feel good. That’s the benefit to happiness at work. The employee corrects a mistake, and the customer is happy after receiving a free voucher for something of such little inconvenience. Everyone feels good. The drinks that Starbucks make don’t cost them that much, so in reality they are probably losing less than a dollar on the whole transaction.

Gaining a loyal customer.

8. Recharge internal battery every single day

When you run a company you can’t go 9 hours straight without stopping. You probably can’t even go 4 hours without recharging. That’s why smart leaders take the time to recharge their mind and body.

Listening to your body instead of powering through, it’s vital to making quality decisions.

“Manage your energy, not your time.” – Tony Schwartz

Next time you feel sluggish try going for a walk or taking 10 deep breaths. The idea is to do something that gets you away from thinking about work and allows you to let go of your tension loop. You’ll feel refreshed, happier, and make better decisions.

9. Celebrate hard work and great results

The number one reason people leave their job is because they don’t feel appreciated. If you are ho hum about showing your appreciation then your people may stop trying.

You can do something simple like walk up to them and just thank them for their hard work.

People want to know that what they do matters. That means celebrating all the good things.

This should be done in large and small groups. The larger gatherings can occur about 1-4 times a year, while the smaller groups (celebrations within a department) should be done more often.

Making your celebration a regular routine is the key, because you want to make a habit out of celebrating your successes. Try celebrating once a quarter to start. If you overload people and celebrate too often, they will get bored and also be unable to find reasons to rejoice in their hard work.

To avoid allowing this practice to fall away, it’s important to make the celebration fun. That might mean bringing food, let people play a game, and finding other ideas that get people excited about attending your party.

10. Develop company core values 

Making the values visible for the employees to read and hear every day helps each employee connect to a larger vision. We all need to believe that our work means more than just completing our tasks.

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”
― Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

I suggest to my clients that they encourage their teams to come up with core values as well. What truly matters to the company is important, but team values are just as important. They will help guide daily decisions.

Help your people connect to a larger purpose. Ask them what they believe are the core values of the organization. You may be surprised by the responses.

Good Habits Build a Better Company

After implementing just one of these habits, assess how these changes affect your organization. You will probably notice that people are more engaged and willing to try a little harder.

“I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

I know one of these ideas will help make a big impact in your company. The companies that succeed are the ones that make these ideas a regular habit. It needs to become part of the culture, so when something difficult happens there are good habits to fall back on. And when something great happens everyone can celebrate together.

* Do you want your employees be happier and encourage them to become more engaged? Then check out our Happy Employees Beta program and see how the Work Happy Now 10 step process can help your company retain it’s great people, improve their focus, and deliver a great customer experience.