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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Employees

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and managing them well is one of your most critical business challenges. While effective employee management is an essential part of the work environment that all managers strive to achieve but few actually reach.

Many managers have unrealistic expectations about how they can get results from the employees they will manage. Sometimes people who haven't ever been managers imagine that being a manager is somewhat like sitting in a big leather chair and issuing proclamations.

The reality is there might be a leather chair involved, but proclamations are few and far between. Managers need to learn quickly how to get results from their employees—proclamations won't cut it.

Here are seven tips for getting the best work and results from your employees.

Foster Good Communication

Open and honest communication is at the heart of a happy and productive workplace. Start by explaining to your employees your company’s vision, goals and plans for achieving them. Focus especially on clear communication in times of change or uncertainty.

Be clear about your expectations of them. Wherever possible, keep people informed about the whole business. They'll want to know about both the good and bad—and particularly about anything that impacts their jobs. Walk the talk. If you expect honesty and openness from them, model that in the way you communicate with them first.


For the love of Pete, please listen to your employees. Listen to their ideas. Remember that you worked hard to hire the best people you could hire. There's no point in hiring good people if you are going to treat them like robots. They aren't robots. Listen to their ideas. Talk to them. Get their feedback.

Recognize and Reward Excellence

As much as you strive to sets high expectations of productivity, you also need to let individuals know when they have done a great job. Take time at monthly meetings or annual events to spotlight and reward staff members who have demonstrated excellence, going beyond individual awards to recognized entire groups when they have met and exceeded goals. Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement, where a simple pat on the back or thank you for all the hard work can go a long way toward building relationships and developing loyal, dedicated employees.

Train and Develop Your Team

Training and developing your employees makes them more productive and engaged. It also helps attract and retain skilled workers—a growing issue as the population ages.

Offer opportunities at work for your people to grow. There are many ways you can tap their potential: coaching, skills workshops, courses, shadowing, mentoring, increasing responsibility. Beyond just professional growth, offer them opportunities to learn new hobbies, pick up exciting skills, and give them time to focus on their passion projects. Encourage them to step up in their personal and professional lives.

Provide Feedback

Give your employees feedback and they'll know how to improve and what works best. Positive feedback strengthens employee engagement. You should give meaningful feedback through the year, not just at year-end performance reviews.

Negative feedback should be fair, carefully expressed and focused on specific behaviors (not vague complaints). Also ask the employee to tell their side of the story.

And remember that feedback should be a two-way street. Encourage input from your employees, including ideas for improving operations.

Trust Employees and Give Them the Ability to Do Their Jobs

When you micromanage, you may get exact results, but you won't get great performances. Learn to empower your employees by entrusting them with important responsibilities, and then stand back and let them do their job. your employees will appreciate being able to contribute to the company’s success.

Encourage Employees to Think Outside the Box

When faced with a problem, the typical thing to do is to pick the first answer that pops up. In many cases, the first answer is not always the best.

To encouraging your team to think outside the box, you need to make them understand that there are always multiple answers to any problem and train them how to find these multiple answers.

When you are trying something new and untested, there is always the possibility of failure. The problem is that people who are afraid of failing will avoid experimentation and risk taking as much as they can and instead opt for tried and tested methods that are sure to work every single time.

If you want your team to embrace experimentation and risk taking, you need to show them that failing is normal when attempting something new.

At the end of the day, if your team members love their job and look forward to coming into work, they're going to be intrinsically motivated to become more productive employees for your business.

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Monday, January 17, 2022

Four Leadership Lessons From Martin Luther King Jr.

In times of challenge and controversy, it is the leaders in our lives that we look to for guidance. It is the voices that motivate and inspire us that we turn to for help. And during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, there was one particularly important man whom people and activists alike aspired to. A man whose determination and vision made him one of the greatest leaders and orators in American history.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on today, here are four leadership lessons we can learn from MLK.

1. Know Your Cause.

One of the most important lessons to be learned from Dr. King is to always know the why behind what you’re doing. Part of what made the “I Have a Dream” speech so inspirational was that it painted a picture of what Dr. King saw for the future. Everything he was doing was in the name of achieving that vision.

2. Embrace Fear.

A good leader doesn’t have to be fearless – they only have to be willing to face their fear. Journalist Robert Ellis Smith revealed that King often felt scared or worried before a speech that he would be misunderstood or met with violent protests, but he always carried on. He told Smith, “If you are not anxious, you are not engaged.”

3. Get People Involved.

Making a difference is a team effort. Without the communities and audiences he inspired, Dr. King’s words would never have had the impact they did. He did more than just be heard – he asked people to join him. People want to be a part of something special and he inspired them to be involved in something bigger than themselves.

4. Persevere.

Achieving Dr. King’s dream was not an instant success. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, King faced countless setbacks and moments of failure. He was arrested over 20 times, his house was bombed and set aflame, and he was even stabbed. But King never let these obstacles stand in his way. He had a dream and he was determined to see it through.

Great leaders set out to achieve what others deem impossible. Dr. King worked toward a better, more free and equal world, in part because he could imagine it. The struggle for racial, gender, and other forms of equality is not over, but to continue down this path, we must believe there is a destination.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Lean Quote: Where Do You Stand In Those Moments

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.  —  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

Leaders may make bold and often unpopular decisions. Effective leaders require courage - to stand up for what is right, for what they believe in, and to take the necessary risks to be innovative and creative.

You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, challenge employees to grow. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Moving beyond our comfort zones is how we can best learn and grow. The challenge is to resist our normal human instinct to seek comfort rather that discomfort. The key is to continually push beyond the comfort zone and drive continuous improvement to develop and strengthen your Lean thinking.

It takes courage to be a change agent, to rise up and lead the way when others are filled with fear. It takes courage to walk in a different direction when others walk along a contrasting path. Most important, it takes courage to drive persistence to overcome resistance…to find comfort outside your comfort zone when the promise of reward is ambiguous.

When things are difficult, unknown, and perhaps unattainable we may turn the other direction. We must find the inner strength to overcome these perceived barriers. History has proven time after time that the power of a thought is the beginning for actions that will alter the future positively. Understanding this, and having the courage to keep going even in the face of all obstacles, allows us to accomplish anything we want.

The courage of true leadership is revealed while still standing in the midst of controversy and challenging circumstances. It is relatively easy and requires little effort to stay in your comfort zone or to do what is convenient. Courage is not required to stay comfortable. Leaders need essential people skills to get people to work together smoothly even if some compromise may be needed. However, it also takes courage to make a stand on what you believe to be right.

Thank you, Dr. King, for having the courage to make the world a better place.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Fostering Efficiency in Your Internal Teams

Image Source: Pexels

As a manager, your job is to create an efficient environment in which your team can succeed. That means developing a workflow that supports collaboration, positivity, and productivity all while fostering the efficiency you need to be competitive in the modern economy.

Fortunately for you, there is a wide range of available tools and strategies that can help you support a hyper-efficient team, regardless of your industry. Integrating these into your workflow can make all the difference in promoting a Lean strategy that fosters productive teamwork.

Overcome common barriers to team efficiency with the following strategies. But first, understand the challenges you face.

Common Barriers to Team Efficiency

Let’s start with the difficulties of modern teamwork.

The internet has opened up world trade, allowed for virtually limitless business opportunities, and supported heavy competition in just about every product and service niche there is. That said, we all have a lot to keep in mind when developing internal projects, campaigns and strategies to meet various client needs.

However, another component of modern offices has added to the challenge. COVID-19 caused a rapid shift in the way we work, and now many teams have to coordinate work from their homes as the world begins to embrace remote work. For many teams, this has created obstacles in the path of efficiency, such as the following.

Poor Communication

Professionals have to communicate all the time. Without the benefit of face-to-face meetings, many are left having to rely on digital tools, coworkers in different time zones, and text communication that fails to relay vocal tone and body language. Naturally, this is a recipe for poor communication.

Without clearly stated goals, tasks, and objectives, any team will struggle with efficiency. Poor communication leads to re-briefs, work that has to be re-done, and wasted time and money overall. That’s why managers have to go above and beyond to ensure teams are on the same page.

Unclear Roles

In a similar vein, unclear roles can be a huge problem among teams — especially those that work in virtual environments. That’s because it can be harder to understand workflows at a distance. Without the benefit of seeing what your coworkers are doing on a consistent basis, it’s more difficult to know exactly where you might be able to step in and solve problems. Take care to check in daily and make yourself open to answering questions to better address this problem.

Lack of Motivation

Apathy in the workplace can be another challenge when it comes to productivity. This apathy might be the result of one or more factors all pressing on the industry at once, from pandemic concerns to analysis paralysis caused by too much data and too little actionable insight.

Fear of failure in decision-making is another huge problem, one that is making firms less efficient and less honest in many cases. Rather than creating easy-to-reach key performance indicators (KPIs) or changing them altogether when the data doesn’t go your way, embrace team brainstorming and innovation instead.

These are only a sampling of the obstacles in the path of increased efficiency and job satisfaction, but being aware of these issues is half the battle. If you know what to look for, you can better understand when it’s time for a change. But how can you go about actively fostering greater efficiency?

Ways to Foster Efficiency

Today’s data-driven business environment has a lot to offer. Knowledge is everywhere waiting to be cultivated. Meanwhile, businesses better understand the value of a diverse, inclusive workforce that is open to continuous innovation. Even if your team is operating remotely, the tools of success are available to you.

These are but five ways you can begin fostering efficiency through tech and best practices:

  1. Foster emotional intelligence among your team. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Charles Duhigg, equality of voices through conversational turn-taking and high emotional intelligence are the best methods of fostering effective teamwork. Build a psychological safety net in your meetings by creating an environment of respect, empathy, and awareness. 
  1. Adopt Lean practices. Lean principles are all about continuous innovation, optimization, and waste elimination. When a team applies these principles, they set themselves up for success through constant improvement. Adopt Lean practices for greater efficiency. 
  1. Embrace modern tools. Lean sales and marketing should bring value directly to customers — and they should also bring value directly to your team. The right toolset allows individuals to communicate with each other, assign tasks, check in, and measure the effectiveness of their work through customer feedback. Find software platforms and systems that will help you enhance your efficiency.
  1. Make employee development a priority. Your employees are bound to lose motivation if they don’t feel progress in their careers. Instead, offer them chances to learn new skills. This might take the form of internal mentorship programs or access to educational resources, which can help foster better internal processes and team relationships.
  1. Define worthy KPIs. Your KPIs are the metrics by which you measure your efficiency. Don’t set the bar low. Rather, define the outcome you want to achieve and then track the metrics that align with your goals. From lead-to-sale conversion rates to cost-per-lead, understanding these metrics is essential for maximizing your productivity.

These are just a few of the many ways you might go about fostering efficiency in your team. From here, it’s a matter of maintaining clear goals and inclusive working environments in which employees always feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions.

Your efficiency depends on emotional intelligence aligned with cohesive communication software. Whether you’re managing a team remotely or in-office, these tips can help you cultivate a thriving, productive team for a long time to come. Start now by practicing emotional intelligence in your leadership strategies.


About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Set SMART Goals in the New Year

Happy New Year! For many of us, the turn of a new year involves reflecting on how far we’ve come in the past 12 months and planning for the next. Often, that involves setting goals.

Setting goals is the best way to meet your objectives. Without goals, you are just flying by the seat of your pants with no direction or idea if you are on the right path.

Sticking with anything new is difficult. Too often, people set goals that are vague and unrealistic. Not only does this lead to frustration, but it also decreases the likelihood of actually achieving the goal.

Rather than capitulating to our shortcomings, try using Lean skills instead. Transforming an ambiguous goals into a SMART goal can help.

So, make sure your goals are:

Specific, simple, and clear. For example, use one action verb. Remember, the greater the specificity, the greater the measurability.

Measurable. Goals and targets should include numeric or descriptive measures that define quantity, quality, cost, etc. Goals should be written to answer, “How will you or others know when the goal has been successfully met?” The more precise you are about what you want to get done, the easier it will be to see what and how much was accomplished.

Achievable, realistic, and attainable. You should feel challenged by the goal (a 10-mile run in 6 months), but not that it is out of reach (a full marathon, tomorrow!).

Relevant.  Consider the following questions: is this the right time for this goal? Is this goal worthwhile to you?

Time-bound. Deadlines make things happen. For new year’s resolutions, this part is simple—it’s by the end of 2020! If you have a big goal that will take years to achieve, what is a 1-year milestone to aim for by the end of 2020? If you need more deadlines, what are milestones to aim for in each month or each quarter of this year?

Having goals like this can make you more accountable and the act of writing them this way has value, too. Thinking through what specifically you hope to change, to what degree, and why it’s relevant to you helps you set a goal that is meaningful—and those are the goals you stick with!

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Lean Quote: Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions With SMART Goals

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Why do New Years Resolutions fail? Mainly, because they are only a statement, or what we wish for in the coming year. There are usually no action plans, no deadlines, no backup plans. Sometimes they are unrealistic resolutions, with no other thought or plans beside the statement.  —  Catherine Pulsifer

Making and breaking New Year’s resolutions is so common it’s become a cliche.

But the trouble with your resolution isn’t you. It’s the resolution itself. Many are vague or too general. They don’t give you a plan to ensure you get what you want out of it.

If you want to stick to your resolutions this year, shift your thinking. Instead of making general resolutions to eat healthier, spend more time with family, or quit smoking, set a SMART goal.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:



Attainable (or achievable)



Think of a SMART goal as a map that can help you get what you want, whether you’re looking to improve your health, finances, professional life, or personal life.

The best thing about SMART goals is that they’re things you can attain provided you stick to the plan and don’t give up. Even if you get sidetracked, you can adjust your goal to get back on track.

When you set SMART goals, you gain a better understanding of what matters to you and what you want to get from life. Once you start thinking about relevant and attainable goals, you can weed out the resolutions that sound good on paper but aren’t going to get you where you want to be.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2022

10 Resolutions Leaders Should Make in the New Year

If you’re like many leaders, you’re busy making resolutions this week. I think that’s a great idea.

Here are ten ideas to get you started. Sticking to even one of these resolutions in the new year will make you a better leader, but you might be surprised at how valuable they'll be outside the workplace.

1. Embrace Accountability

Accountability is an oft-misunderstood concept. The most common misconception is that accountability is a negative factor that people must be held to. However, in its truest form, accountability is a healthy force that should be embraced.

Make this the year of embracing accountability and better leadership by giving your team the autonomy they need to approach problems in a way that they feel they can take genuine ownership over them. Watch them transition into happily accepting accountability for their responsibilities, and leave the managerial pressure back in the past. Reframe accountability in your workplace to be a powerful and positive force.

2. Build Trust

Trust is absolutely vital to the success of any relationship, and it's a two-way street. You need to know you can trust your employees to do their best every day, and they need to trust the decisions you make are in the best interest of the team.

In order to give employees the autonomy they require to truly embrace accountability, you have to trust them. Before your team can truly dedicate themselves and be fully engaged, they need to trust you.

3. Be a Better Communicator

A good leader needs to express themselves clearly. Without establishing healthy communication with your team, you will never be able to achieve your most ambitious goals. Think of it this way; you can’t possibly express yourself and listen at the same time. You need to be a good listener to become a facilitator and vice versa.

Be completely present when you are engaging in conversation with others. Don’t let technology or other people distract you — make eye contact, put down any phones or other objects, and give that person your full attention. Give them time to speak, and take the time to reflect on what has been said and thoughtfully provide a response.

4. Break Down Barriers

All kinds of barriers exist in the workplace. Physical barriers like walls and distance combine with less physical, but still very real barriers like time, hierarchy, technology, communication, and culture. This can be the year of the sledgehammer—breaking down barriers wherever they stand, and becoming a better leader because of it.


5. Develop Employees

Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. Encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. You can make their career. In order to get the most from your employees, you need to invest time and resources in their development. Annual performance reviews simply aren’t enough. Make a point to sit down with each employee on a monthly basis (or more frequently, if possible) and provide them with specific feedback and areas of improvement.

6. Be a More Strategic Leader

If you’re like many other managers and executives, you struggle to balance short- and long-term priorities, and need to be able to move strategies past the goal-setting stage and into the transformational stage.

Whether or not you feel strongly about New Year’s Resolutions, a brand new year is an excellent time to evaluate your current leadership style and identify opportunities to enhance your skills.

7. Get Comfortable With Your Discomfort

If you really want to lead and create impact, you're going to have to get comfortable with your discomfort — comfortable with confronting the things you may not want to address head on, comfortable saying "no" to things that don't line up, and comfortable with saying "yes" to things that do but that stretch you. Your comfort with discomfort is proportional to how far you can lead.

8. Spend Less Time In Meetings

Meetings are often the enemy of your real work. The reason you work evenings and weekends is because you didn’t get your work done during the day, in great likelihood because you were in meetings.

Time is precious and let’s face it, literally no one wants to spend any more time than is necessary in a video call anymore. Team meetings are necessary to keep work on track, give quick feedback and guidance, answer questions, and overall ensure your team is working systematically toward its deadlines – but they need to be both efficient and have meaning for your team members.

9. Try Something New

Speaking of growth and improvement, this is the perfect time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. But not just something new, something you're a bit afraid to do.

Find that one thing you've been avoiding and tackle it—don't give up until you walk away victorious. It can, but doesn't have to be work-related—the confidence you gain will translate either way. Whatever it is, go do it, then find the next challenge.

10. Celebrate and Reward Improvements

New Year's resolutions are all about celebrating and facilitating growth, whether that's personal, professional, or otherwise. It's important to take time to reward and recognize even small, but positive steps forward. After all, those small steps are what add up to impact.

Naturally, your resolution may focus on areas that lack progress, but don’t forget to savor the progress made, and find some small way to celebrate.

Whether or not you feel strongly about New Year’s Resolutions, a brand new year is an excellent time to evaluate your current leadership style and identify opportunities to enhance your skills.

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