All posts by Gunjan Saini

5 Scheduling Conversations to Have With Employees This Fall

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With each new season comes an opportunity to rally your team. Whereas business often slows down in the summer, fall is a time to pick things up.  

There are a number of tasks to accomplish before the new season arrives. Much of them are back-burner tasks, such as cleaning and reorganizing the office. However, conversations around scheduling should be at the top of your fall agenda. 

Getting everyone’s schedules together before fall is crucial for planning. Not only can it give you a better sense of your team’s capacity, but it helps you plan for the next fiscal year and finish up annual initiatives. 

While every business is different, certain scheduling conversations apply across the board. Take a look at the following topics to broach with your employees this fall and ensure that everyone is ready for what’s ahead:

1. Team Meeting Days

Like them or not, meetings are part of working on a team. Decide whether your current cadence makes sense, and if not, when and how often the team should meet. 

Maybe you don’t necessarily need a full team meeting every week. Perhaps every other week is enough. Or maybe you simply need to settle on a different day and time than before. 

See how your team members feel about your current all-staff meetings. Figure out what tweaks could boost productivity and efficiency. Simply shaving 15 minutes off the meeting time could jog conversation along and give attendees time back. 

2. Vacation Plans

One great thing about fall is the reduction in vacation requests. Most people are back from the summer, so there’s less maneuvering around those who aren’t present. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect this aspect of scheduling. 

There may be people who did not take time off in the summer. Ask whether they have a fall trip in the works. Encourage them to put time off on the calendar sooner rather than later. 

While planning for the season, take a moment to review your PTO policy. Talk through hiccups from recent vacations to ensure everyone is able to take time off work without a hitch. 

Discussing vacation plans also helps you and your employees identify loose threads that need to be addressed before they head out. That way, nobody is left high and dry when someone didn’t complete their tasks prior to takeoff. 

3. Summer Hours Assessment

Your company may have changed its business hours in the summer. If so, fall is the time to bring everyone together to reassess those changes. 

In terms of worker productivity, there are pros and cons to having summer hours. Reducing hours in the summer encourages better work-life balance. It can also boost productivity during business hours because people are more rested. 

With that said, summer hours can be stressful. Employees may scramble to get the same amount of work done in less time. And because there are fewer windows for scheduling meetings, collaboration can be tough. 

When evaluating summer hours, ask your team:

  • Who prefers summer hours and who doesn’t?
  • Does the data show summer hours cause an increase or decrease in productivity?
  • Did customer volume change during the summer?  
  • Is there more to accomplish in the fall than summer?

If there’s not a significant change and workers prefer the summer hours, you may opt to keep them. If not, summer hours might not make much sense. 

4. Schedule Flexibility

The new season might be a good time to give employees more autonomy with their schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on workers’ routines, so go ahead and experiment. 

Flexibility doesn’t mean that everyone makes their own schedule without considering others. That would be chaotic. Perhaps people can work from home most days, but on designated days they can head into the office for a team lunch meeting. Different departments could even build their schedules together. 

Flexible scheduling is about doing what makes sense for your team and your company. If everyone is doing good work with a flexible schedule, there’s no need to force a more rigid one on people.

5. Performance Reviews

As you plan through the end of the year, performance reviews will probably happen in the late fall. You should always be preparing for these by giving feedback to workers consistently, but you still need to set a hard date for the conversation.

Getting these evaluations on people’s schedules is a good first step this fall. At least a few weeks in advance, give employees an idea of when they will occur and what they will be focused on. 

When team members are involved in scheduling conversations, they feel more empowered in their work. In a culture of flexibility and empowerment, everyone wins.  

8 End-of-Summer Services to Schedule for Your Business

By | Business Tips | No Comments

Work doesn’t stop in the summer, but fall still feels like a reset. As the hottest season of the year winds down, it’s time to prepare for what’s ahead.

Internally, this means brainstorming and strategizing for your business. But getting ready for the fall also involves accomplishing some back-burner tasks. These are items that we tend to put off until the last minute. 

Many of these items are more urgent than we might think. Accomplishing them can avert future crises and keep customers happy. Luckily, they also tend to be services that people outside your company can do. 

Why not get ahead this year? Before summer ends, set up appointments to handle these tasks:

1. Deep-cleaning the office

Especially as COVID-19 rages on, keeping the office clean is an ongoing task. But once in a while, it’s necessary to do a deeper clean than usual. 

Think about the spaces in your office that receive less attention. Grime can build up and attract pests over time. So before the fall, hire a company to clean every nook and cranny. 

Treat this as an office reset. Encourage everyone to take home old trinkets, snacks, and other possessions they don’t need to do their jobs. 

2. Repainting

Your walls might need a new coat of paint before the summer ends. Small marks and scrapes build up, especially if you regularly have kids in the office.

Repainting is an opportunity to rethink your office color palette. Choose wisely to make the space more relaxing for customers and employees. Earthy tones can help you cultivate an atmosphere that is both inviting and productive. 

3. Cleaning the gutters

It’s easy to forget, but getting your gutters cleaned is a critical part of protecting your office.You need to clear them at least once a year to protect your roof, your foundation, and your landscape from excessive rainwater. 

Make sure the professional you hire is insured. Accidents happen, especially when people are on a roof. 

4. Checking your heating system

As fall approaches, the weather is going to start cooling down. It’ll be a nice respite from the summer heat at first, but it won’t be long before the chill sets in.

Don’t wait until your heater fails to get it serviced. Before the mercury drops below freezing, make sure it’s ready to handle the colder months. Your customers won’t want to sit in the cold as they wait for their appointment. 

5. Scheduling a group counseling session

Unlike the prior suggestions, this service is not for your building. But it could transform the dynamics of your team members for the better. 

As people buckle down and vacation season ends, getting the team together for a heart to heart is a great idea. Scheduling a group counseling session can let people air grievances and bond in ways that an all-staff meeting simply can’t. 

Unless you’re trained, don’t try to facilitate this yourself. To make group counseling work for your team:

  • Explain how you think counseling would help the team.
  • Coordinate everyone’s schedule to find the right time.
  • Ask a licensed professional counselor to come to your office — or to chat with everyone on Zoom.
  • Prepare your employees for what to expect beforehand.
  • Conduct a retrospective by asking each attendee’s takeaways.

6. Prepping Q3 taxes

Tax day is coming on September 15, but don’t panic: There’s still time to sit down with your CPA. Still, you don’t want to find yourself scrambling to get all of your paperwork together at the last minute.

If you don’t have an in-house accountant, reach out to local accounting services. Determine who has capacity to squeeze you in. Before deciding on one, ask around: Have other entrepreneurs in your area had a good or bad experience with any of them?

7. Redesigning your website

Has it been a while since your company website got an update? Hopefully, it’s updated with your company’s information. But a full-scale redesign might also be in order

Redesigning your website is a good way to revitalize your brand and roll out something special this fall. You can also make navigation more user friendly so that customers can more easily book appointments and make purchases. 

Bring a web designer in, and brainstorm ideas that they can work with. The right person can take what you give them to another level.

8. Servicing company vehicles

If your company relies on vehicles, make sure that they’re running smoothly before the fall. Get an oil change, rotate the tires, check the battery, and make sure the antifreeze is in good condition. You don’t want a nasty surprise, such as a vehicle not starting, when a member of your team is heading out to an appointment. 

The sooner you get these back-burner tasks done, the better you’ll be able to focus on what your business does best. End the summer with these preparatory tasks, and you’ll set your business up for an even better fall. 

Too Hot to Hang: 5 Indoor Team-Building Activities to Do at a Distance

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The great outdoors is, well, great. But in the late summer, the heat and humidity can be unbearable. 

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, that can cause problems if you’re trying to plan a team-building activity. Given that they allow for social distancing, outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones. But safer yet, of course, are remote activities. 

Don’t let the heat hinder you. There are activities you can do remotely and indoors that are just as engaging and valuable. Check out the following team-building ideas that you can do when the weather is far from ideal:

1. Trivia Games

Trivia is a classic team-building activity because it gets people talking and can promote healthy competition. It’s also very simple. You just need a set of questions, two or more teams, and a way to keep score. 

Doing trivia virtually isn’t much of a stretch, either. Simply follow these procedures:

  • Assign someone to be the host at the start of each new game.
  • Use breakout rooms to allow teams to deliberate.
  • Agree on how long teams should be allowed to discuss answers.
  • Establish an honor system to dissuade people from cheating.
  • Decide on a prize to motivate employees. 
  • Use an app or video conferencing service to facilitate the match.

What about the topic? It’s up to you. The questions could be based on pop culture, history, or something specific to your company. You might even try making all the questions about whoever is hosting. It’s never a bad idea to help your team get to know the people they work with a bit better.  

2. Group Wellness Day

One of the best ways to promote wellness at your company is to get together for wellness activities. A community of people can set goals and support each other. 

Consider organizing a remote wellness day for team building. You can synchronize computer screens and do things like guided meditations, yoga, at-home exercises, mental health conversations, and more.

Putting on this kind of event will take some planning. Gather some interested employees to help you plan it out. But even though it will take time, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Lean on free video sites, such as DoYogaWithMe, and trusted wellness resources, like the Mayo Clinic.

3. Anonymous Letter Writing

Writing letters is therapeutic. Plus, 81% of people consider it more meaningful to receive a handwritten letter than high-tech options, such as an email.

Think about it like a Secret Santa game. Assign each member of your team a colleague to write to. Then, decide on a theme for the letters. Ideas include:

  • Gratitude and thankfulness
  • Summer reflections
  • Hope and change
  • Mental health
  • Lessons learned
  • Funny stories and jokes
  • Frustrations and challenges

Once everyone receives their letter, get together for a video conference. Figure out who wrote what to who, and share high points from the messages. 

4. Book Club Meetings

You’ll be stunned by the way reading can bring a team together. And book clubs are a perfect way to learn and discuss various topics with colleagues. It’s as simple as choosing a book for your team and setting a date to discuss the insights you’ve gained. 

Not only can you meet virtually, but you can also set up recurring meetings to chat about each chapter. Don’t make it an obligation, but do invite anybody who might want to join. 

5. Dramatic Readings

Have you ever dreamt of being an actor? Well, a virtual play reading might be your chance to show off your acting chops. If you fancy something different, you could even recite a screenplay from a movie you all love. 

Reading through a play is simpler than it sounds: Assign a character to each team member. Encourage them to really get into the role. Costumes and accents can take dramatic readings to the next level.

How should you organize your reading? One way is to do a dry run all in one sitting. Merely getting through the play can give people a sense of accomplishment. Team members who worry about the time commitment might prefer this option.

Although it takes more time, the better choice is to give your team members some time to prepare. That way, they can get props together and really get into their character. The rest of your team can watch the performance remotely and give their standing ovation in the comfort of their own home. 

Who says team-building has to be a headache? There’s no need to suffer through sweat and dehydration to get people together. Summer team-building can be fun, simple, and yes, even comfortable. 

5 Ways to Lead Effectively as an Introvert

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We tend to think of good leaders as charismatic and extroverted. But being able to work the room doesn’t necessarily make someone a good leader.

In reality, good leadership is more about holistically solving problems than being outgoing. Introverts tend to be thoughtful, contemplative people. Thanks to those traits, they tend to be better leaders than people expect. 

Introverts enjoy low-key, solitary experiences. That enables them to make solid decisions without being unduly influenced by social pressures. 

Sound familiar? If you’re an introvert in a leadership role, use your personality to your advantage. Here’s how to do it:

1. Lead by example.

Setting the right example is important for any leader. But introverts are especially well suited to this: When you have a more reserved posture, people will be drawn to what you do more than what you say. 

Leading by example means showcasing the very characteristics that make you an introvert. Accomplish your with the same excellence you expect from your team. Model not just good quality of work, but good productivity habits. Treat others with respect and deference. 

When people see those traits in action, they gain a deeper appreciation of what introversion brings to the table. It’ll also inspire the introverts on your team to reach for leadership roles. 

2. Hold fewer meetings.

Nobody in their right mind would complain about having fewer meetings. But getting a whole team together for a meeting can be especially draining for introverts. Cutting them down can save a lot of energy. 

Yes, meetings are opportunities to display leadership, but they should be used like a spice. Some leaders hold so many meetings as a way to assert their leadership. At a certain point, it just comes across as overcompensation. 

Consider cutting out the following kinds of meetings:

  • Informal meetings without an agenda
  • Status updates that can be emailed
  • Brainstorming meetings
  • Meetings to discuss client issues 

In most cases, those meetings can be handled with a simple Slack or phone conversation. Introverted leaders know not every topic is best addressed in a meeting.

3. Delegate more.

When you’re leading a team, there’s already a fair amount of delegation happening. But if you’re an introvert, you could benefit by delegating even more than you think you should. 

Delegating isn’t just about lightening your workload; it’s also about building trust with your team members. And what better way to do that than by giving them opportunities to take charge?

Some ways to do this include:

  • Putting others in charge of team-building activities
  • Letting a new recruit lead a marketing campaign
  • Rotating speaking roles in meetings
  • Appointing a talented creative to manage brainstorming sessions

As a leader, your role is to facilitate rather than interfere. You can do more by doing less. Encourage others to take the reins in areas they excel but you struggle.

4. Take advantage of one-on-one time. 

Speaking with a group may not be your strong suit as an introvert, so be sure to make one-on-one interactions meaningful. These moments are more personal, so they deserve some extra attention.

You can make the most of both intentional and unintentional one-on-ones. If you are reviewing someone else’s performance, make the situation conversational. Play to your listening strength, and show empathy. 

Informal one-on-ones are just as valuable: Why not join someone sitting by themselves for lunch? Strike up a deep conversation whenever you give other team members rides. Simply drop by offices for coffee on occasion. 

Strong one-on-one interactions are particularly important with new team members. Not only can it help them feel like part of the team, but it builds trust. Together, those are ingredients for employee retention. 

5. Create a calm work environment.

Introverts need a calm space for focused work, but even extroverts can benefit from it. The good news is, creating one isn’t hard.

Put some potted plants around the office. Encourage people to hang a sign on their office door when they’re doing deep work. Give noise-cancelling headphones to team members as gifts. 

In a calm space, you can work around others with the same focus as when you’re alone. Rather than feeling drained after work, you’ll have enough energy to get out of your comfort zone. Isn’t that the sort of work environment you want to cultivate?

You don’t need to be someone you’re not to be a good leader. Introverts can command respect, rally team members, and plan ahead every bit as well as extroverts. If you count yourself among them, lead with your strengths. They’re more valuable to the team than you might think. 

6 Fast Ways to Build Trust With a New Client

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You can probably sense when a person doesn’t trust you. Maybe they leave out information about themselves. Or they question everything you tell them.

Building trust is tough enough on your team. When it comes to clients, it can seem downright impossible. 

New clients are especially prone to skepticism. You have yet to prove yourself to them, so why should they trust you?

It’s a fair point, but don’t panic. Don’t resort to toxic positivity, which can actually push people away. 

Although it’s important to build trust naturally, there are things you can do to speed up the process. Here’s what you can do:

1. Lead with ethics and values.

Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer shows that trust in businesses boils down to two things: ethics and competence. Although you can’t show your skills until you’ve done business together, you can speak to your ethics.

The way to do that is to make your values clear. Any business would promote values related to competence, such as discipline. Go further by pointing out actions you’ve taken to support social causes, sustainability practices, or other humanitarian work.  

When people know what you stand for, they’re more inclined to trust you. From there, you can prove you have the other part of the equation: competence. 

2. Know your clients.

Knowing your clients may seem like a given, but you can’t make assumptions. If you assume your clients are young people, you’re likely to turn off seniors who use your service. 

Without a sense of the demographic and psychographic categories your customers fall into, you’ll struggle to provide a strong customer experience. Build avatars with the following attributes:

  • Average age
  • Gender breakdown
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Geographic location
  • Income level
  • Educational attainment
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Values and concerns

Knowing these things can help you master your branding. But more importantly, it helps you make every relationship more personal and, as a result, trusting. 

3. Be genuine.

One of the simplest ways to build trust is to be authentic. If you put up a front, your customers will see right through it. 

Genuineness isn’t something you can teach. And it can be tough to be genuine when you’re overthinking it. Simply put your best foot forward, and don’t try to hide anything. 

4. Be confident.

If you communicate to clients exactly what you can do for them with confidence, they’ll give you a shot. The reason is, confidence is contagious. If you believe in your business, then so will your customers. 

Confidence should be tempered by realistic expectations. If you’ll say anything to get clients in the door, then they’ll soon see your confidence is a facade. 

Being real but confident with customers is a matter of knowing the ins and outs of what your company can do. If you promise them something you can’t deliver, they won’t stick around after you fail. If you under-promise, they won’t be impressed. Get it just right, and they’ll receive exactly what they expected — which shows you’re true to your word. 

5. Communicate transparently.

It’s no secret that transparency is key to building trust. So when communicating with customers, give them both the pros and cons of your service.

Say you’re a boutique ad agency. You might be able to secure placements nobody else can — at a premium price. Be honest about both pieces of the puzzle.  

If you only emphasize your pros, clients will assume your promises are too good to be true. In fact, they’ll respect you for sharing the cons. Think about them as opportunities for growth. 

Once you’ve given customers the skinny, step back. Tell them what they need to know, and leave the nitty-gritty details for later in the relationship. It’s all about balance. 

6. Emphasize security. 

Sometimes, a client will need to share sensitive information with you. If there’s any question about whether that information will fall into the wrong hands, that customer won’t be keen on working with you. 

Always acknowledge that clients’ security and privacy is critical. Explain upfront how you’ll use their information: Will it be passed to the marketing team? How will it be stored? What recourse does the customer have if it’s disclosed?

Operate with integrity. Don’t ask customers to sign things they haven’t read. Walk through the highlights, leave plenty of time for questions, and be patient if the customer isn’t ready to move forward. 

Trust is the foundation of business. The sooner you can build it with a new client, the better. And if you can maintain it, they’ll be loyal to you for years to come. 

8 Easy Ways to Make Customers Comfortable While They Wait for Their Appointment

By | Appointment, Business Tips | No Comments

There’s a lot that goes into fulfilling an appointment. In many ways, one person’s appointment depends on the execution of many previous appointments. And during busy times, every company falls on occasion. 

When that happens, customers end up having to wait longer than expected. That can be frustrating for those who showed up early as well as those on a tight schedule. If it happens too frequently, customers may start showing up late or not arriving at all. 

You may not always be able to shrink your customers’ waiting time, but you can enhance their waiting room experience. A good customer experience is what keeps people coming back, and the waiting experience is a big part of that.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or extravagant. Take a look at these simple ways to ease customers’ waiting anxieties:

1. Send reminders about waits.

Reminders should already be a meaningful part of your company’s scheduling practices. And if you monitor your appointments carefully, you can alert people when you start to fall behind. 

A reminder about wait times helps customers mentally prepare. That way, they won’t be disappointed when they have to wait once they arrive. They may even opt to reschedule their appointment if they are in a time crunch. 

The key is to be as accurate as possible with the reminders. Don’t underestimate the time they’ll have to wait. Instead, give yourself some room to exceed their expectations. Keeping a customer comfortable in the waiting room begins with making them comfortable with the idea of waiting. 

2. Check your seating layout.

Aside from having comfortable seating in your waiting room, the way it’s arranged can also affect customers. No one wants to be cramped together while waiting, especially during the pandemic or if there are a lot of people in the room. 

By moving some chairs and tables around, you can redesign your waiting area to be more comfortable. Simply declutter the area, space out your chairs, and make electrical outlets accessible.  

Be sure to reorient your room in a way that breaks up the traffic. Doing so will probably involve some trial and error. Pay attention to where people tend to walk, and keep those areas clear. Make sure exits and entrances are clearly marked. 

3. Let in some natural light.

Harsh or dim lighting can make a waiting room unbearable. Natural lighting can significantly reduce the fatigue that builds up from waiting. 

If you’re able to, open the blinds and let in some light. On nice days, open the windows and use the screen door. If windows are scarce in your office, experiment with lights that imitate natural light. 

4. Make Wi-Fi easy to access. 

People tend to spend time on their digital devices when they have to wait. You are bound to get asked about the Wi-Fi connection. 

Reduce the need for customers to ask by doing the following:

  • Name your Wi-Fi after your company. 
  • Make the password visible for customers.
  • Include a guest Wi-Fi option.
  • Train the receptionist on Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

Surfing on cellular data while they wait may cost your customers money. Don’t underestimate how much that can get under their skin. 

5. Provide refreshments.

Food and drinks can be a good way to ease a customer’s wait. You don’t need to break the bank, but do set out some light refreshments. 

Water and coffee are standard. Go above and beyond by setting out juice, lemonade, or soft drinks. Set out a container of tea bags and an electric kettle. 

Snacks are also a smart way to keep customers entertained. Fruit, nuts, and chips are great picks for an office environment. To satisfy your customers’ sweet tooth, you could set out donuts and other pastries.

Always make sure the display is tidy. Remove any food that’s gone bad promptly. Restock the display regularly. 

6. Add art to the room. 

While they wait, nobody wants to choose between staring at a blank wall or at other customers. Hang some art on the walls. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it can actually cut down on the stress of waiting. 

If you have a little money to spend, consider featuring art from local artists. Make sure whatever you choose represents your brand well. Switch up your art periodically to keep things interesting for your most loyal customers. 

7. Set out reading materials. 

Magazines are a staple of waiting rooms. But if you want to step it up, include books as well. To keep kids entertained, pepper in some comics and coloring books. Make sure all periodicals are recent so customers aren’t stuck reading through old news. 

Go broad in your selection so that every client can find something they’re interested in reading. Before they know it, their wait will be over. 

8. Take care of the kids.

Restless kids can be a burden to parents in a waiting room. Worse, they can disrupt the experience of other customers as well. 

If you commonly have kids in your waiting room, create a play area. Colorful toys are a surefire way to keep children’s attention. If you’re lucky enough to have a playground outside the office, let them get some fresh air while their parents watch them from the window. 

Patience is a virtue, but you shouldn’t test your customers’ limits. If you need to ask them to wait, do your part to help them out. 

How to Honor Your Appointments in Times of Turnover

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As hard as the COVID-19 pandemic has been on business, plenty of companies have found ways to keep going. Unfortunately for many of them, that persistence has come at the cost of employee layoffs and furloughs.

If you run an appointment-based business, staff changes may affect your ability to honor those appointments. If you’re unable to, you could lose business — potentially leading to further layoffs.

It’s a dangerous cycle, but don’t despair. With the right time management tools, you can do more with less. Technology and a little bit of creativity is all it takes to make sure that you can cover your customer bases. 

It won’t be easy, but then again, neither is saying goodbye to members of your staff. Here’s how to meet your appointments while downsizing your team:

1. Accept the circumstances.

Sometimes it takes a while for new situations to set in. Realize that all you can do is live in the present, and that things will seem normal again soon enough.

You may be feeling guilty about having to lay people off. That’s a very human response. But in order for your company to execute its appointments, you need to make things work with your remaining staff. 

It helps to remember that layoffs are happening across all industries. Even jobs that people once considered secure have been affected by the pandemic. Although this understanding won’t fix the problem, it can keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the situation. 

2. Let employees carry out existing appointments.

If you haven’t already cut ties with affected staff members, consider keeping them on long enough to handle existing appointments. Doing this gives you time to strategize for future appointments. It also gives your employees space to figure out their finances before they are no longer employed by your company. 

Making this method work, however, requires radical transparency. As a business leader, you’ll need to have difficult discussions. Employees need to know your plans as soon as possible, including:

  • The reason why layoffs are necessary
  • The timeline of what appointments they’ll be fulfilling
  • Your company’s plan for recovery 
  • Their potential future with the company

Those are weighty topics, to be sure. Given the frustrations involved, it’s important to lead with respect and empathy. 

3. Notify your customers.

Transparency doesn’t stop with your employees. Customers also need to know what to expect. Even if you’re confident that every appointment will be honored in its current form, layoffs reach customers’ ears.

Be proactive. Reach out to people with upcoming appointments. Discuss any changes to your operating hours or capacity. Treat affected customers with the same dignity you do members of your team who are losing their job. Leave plenty of time to field customers’ concerns. 

Alternatively, you could ask the team members who’ll be fulfilling the appointments to notify their customers directly. The more personal approach may make it easier for customers to ask the hard questions. It can also help them get acquainted with an employee who may be stepping in for a laid-off staff member. 

4. Reschedule appointments with flexible customers.

Realistically, you will have to reschedule some appointments. Target this adjustment toward your most flexible customers. That way, you minimize the amount of business lost as a result. 

Here, good scheduling software can be a lifesaver. Look through the data from previous appointments to identify which customers are the most flexible. From there, send these customers a message to ask whether or not they’d be willing to reschedule. 

The best scheduling tools allow self-service, enabling customers to change their appointment themselves. To sweeten the pot, offer discounts or gift cards to customers who willingly make changes. 

5. Provide a virtual option when possible.

In order to make some appointments work, the channel may need to change. Many meetings and appointments are already happening remotely, so customers may not be surprised by this switch. 

Virtual appointments are safer and save time for both sides of the equation. 

Think through the nature of the appointment to determine whether or not it can be carried out digitally. A haircut, dental filling, or car repair certainly can’t be done digitally, but many consultations can be. Some tours can also be conducted digitally.  

6. Combine similar appointments.

Some types of appointments must be conducted with one customer at a time. Doctor offices are required by HIPAA regulations to keep customers’ healthcare information private. Masseuses can only relax one set of muscles at once.

For other businesses, however, combining appointments is a good approach. A product demonstration can be done for many customers at once. A Q&A actually works better with more members. By knocking out multiple appointments at once, you make room for others.

Laying people off is never easy, but doing nothing only risks the damage spreading to customers.  When the occasion calls for change, a leader delivers. 

6 Virtual-Meeting Dysfunctions to Nip in the Bud

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Even once the pandemic has passed, virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere. When team members return to their offices en masse, they’ll continue to hold digital meetings due to their convenience. 

But just like in-person meetings, you can waste a lot of employee time with virtual meetings. Whether long or short, you need to make sure that every minute of a meeting is worth it. A single hiccup can throw off an otherwise productive meeting. 

Take control of your virtual meetings. Avoid these six dysfunctions in order to keep them on track:

1. Technical Difficulties

At the best of times, technology can be tough to manage. If the meeting’s leader is having issues, the resulting disorganization can derail the entire thing. 

Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use the program. In the meeting agenda, include a tutorial about how to log into the meeting space. Offer alternative ways to attend, such as calling in by phone instead of using video.

Before logging in, cover your bases. Make sure you have a solid internet connection and the latest version of your video conferencing software. Start early to make time for troubleshooting.

2. Poor Speaking Dynamics

During in-person meetings, speaking dynamics tend to be pretty natural. In a virtual meeting, however, even the closest team may struggle to balance listening and speaking. 

Virtual meetings make it more difficult to see cues that indicate someone wants to speak. The trouble is, the most important contributions are often made in the moment. The solution is to designate a facilitator to keep things moving.

A facilitator can take on the following responsibilities:

  • Opening and closing the meeting
  • Reviewing action items
  • Polling the group to check for consensus 
  • Calling on people to give their thoughts
  • Reframing talking points when there is a disconnect
  • Ensuring nobody only speaks or listens 

A good facilitator knows when to step in and when to step back. Natural conversation isn’t the enemy, so long as it’s on-topic and constructive. Choose your facilitator prior to the meeting, ideally through a team vote to ensure the person has everyone’s respect. 

3. Waning Participation

When people attend a meeting in person, they have more incentive to participate. But in virtual gatherings, it’s easy to go unnoticed. People can mute their voices or turn off their screens altogether. 

This is another issue a facilitator can help with. By throwing out a new prompt, he or she can revive discussion if it’s died. It isn’t always obvious to the wider group when it’s time to move on. It’s the role of the facilitator to make those decisions. 

Another solution is to lay out the ground rules before the virtual meeting begins. Discuss the kind of participation that is expected in the meeting. Decide whether people should respond through the chat or audibly. You can also provide a shared document for silent brainstorming.

4. Personal Distractions

When you’re not in the same room during a meeting, distractions can be a big problem. Someone’s child or pet might interrupt them during the meeting. Their computer may make notification sounds that reverberate in the meeting room. 

Personal distractions can quickly become group distractions. Don’t be rude about them, but do address them promptly. Remind everyone of the meeting’s goal, and remember to be compassionate. There’s no reason to get upset if the distraction is one they can’t control. 

5. Too Many People

You could hypothetically fit a whole company into a virtual meeting. But just because you can include the whole team doesn’t mean you should. Huge meetings can be overwhelming for everyone involved.

The only exception? General meetings intended for a specific announcement. But that’s a situation in which you could pre-record your message and let employees watch it on their own time. 

Instead, utilize breakout groups. Convene multiple virtual meetings, perhaps divided along departments or functional groups. Ask the leader of each meeting to report back with the consensus and action items.

6. Unprofessional Aesthetics

Just because a meeting is virtual does not mean it should be unprofessional. Paying attention to your surroundings and personal presentation is key.

To make sure your look doesn’t distract attendees or communicate “I don’t care”:

  • Use a neutral background.
  • Emphasize books or plants around you.
  • Make sure your room is silent.
  • Keep your camera at eye level.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person meeting at your company.

That isn’t to say you can’t have fun on certain video calls, such as team happy hours. With that said, it’s important to distinguish between meetings that call for professionalism and those that let you cut loose a little bit. 

Don’t let digital meeting dysfunctions get in the way. There’s never a good time for kinks, so work them out now. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with them at the worst time: when the team needs to get down to business. 

5 Myths About Optimism That Lead to Toxic Positivity

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In times like these, it can be easy to catastrophize. Treating work situations as worse than they truly are can hurt your company culture. Be careful, however, not to swing too far in the other direction.

Optimism isn’t a bad thing, but it has its limits. Positivity becomes toxic when it’s used as an excuse to ignore negative emotions or realities. 

Social pressures, particularly at work, can push you to be positive to a fault. Just think about how easy it is to say “I’m fine” when you’re anything but. The trouble is, inauthenticity is contagious. 

If you’re looking to strike the right balance, you need to know the myths that lead to toxic positivity. Learn the truth of each, and use it to enhance your work culture:

Myth No. 1: You can fake it ‘til you make it.

If you can fake positivity, this myth claims, then you’ll be happy. Some versions even suggest faking a smile when you are feeling sad to change your mood.

There is some truth to this. In the long run, however, faking your emotional state is unsustainable. Researchers have even found that smiling through sadness eventually makes your brain associate smiling with sadness. That’s the exact opposite of what you want. 

It’s important to stay true to your feelings. Don’t put on a smile at work just to make others happy. To connect, your team needs to know that your emotions are genuine. 

Myth No. 2: Positive thinking requires ignorance.

Ignorance is bliss, right? Perhaps, but it’s also impractical and dangerous.

At work, you can’t ignore problems simply because they’re stressful. Client messages must be answered. Work relationships have to be tended to, especially when they’re weak. Rarely is personal growth comfortable or achieved through ignorance. 

It’s important to grapple with the things that need to be addressed. If you find yourself engaging in avoidant behavior:

  • Meditate
  • Reimagine and reframe negative thoughts
  • Discuss the issue with a close friend or family member
  • Join a group, either at work or outside of it, dedicated to addressing the issue
  • Seek professional mental health counseling

Myth No. 3: It helps to remember that “things could be worse.”

You’ve probably consoled yourself with this myth at one point. But speculating about how your circumstances could be worse doesn’t help you solve them. In fact, it implies that someone in a situation worse than yours couldn’t possibly be happy. 

The truth is that comparisons are wastes of time. You’ll never know the whole story behind why someone was promoted ahead of you, or why your position was cut instead of someone else’s.

What counts is being content with where you are and who you are. Once you can do that, you can start to build the best version of yourself. 

Myth No. 4: Positivity will keep you motivated at work.

At times, positivity can be motivating. The problem with this idea is that it’s a simplistic answer to a complex problem. 

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the loss of motivation. Maintaining a positive mindset doesn’t solve most of them. Dysfunctional coworker relationships, for example, will not improve simply because you’re in a better mood. 

You may not be able to control what’s going on at work, but you are in charge of your personal life. Give your home life a motivational makeover. Start by:

  • Unplugging from technology, especially in the morning and before bed 
  • Keeping a journal of your thoughts
  • Diving into your hobbies
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Exercising every day

Myth No. 5: Always looking on the bright side draws people in. 

Think about the people you like to be around: Are they always happy, or do they clue you in when something is stressing them out?

What actually attracts people to you isn’t militant optimism, but rather the courage to be genuine. Ignoring negative emotions you’re experiencing can actually push people away. 

Of all the myths on this list, this one might be the most dangerous for business leaders. Excessive cheerfulness can come across as distrust, especially if team members feel forced to match your degree of positivity. Remember, company culture starts at the top. 

Positivity should not be performative. You should strive to be relatable, thoughtful, and sincere. If you’re in a joyful mood, great — but don’t assume it’s the only reason people want to be around you.

As tricky as workplace positivity can be, here’s the good news: Getting it right doesn’t mean you have to act any certain way at all. In fact, all you have to do is stop acting. 

Being sincere is one of the smallest, yet most significant things you can do to build a healthy company culture. Your team can when something is on your mind, so you might as well share it with them. 

Don’t Let Vacation Season Dampen Team Productivity

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With summer on its way, you’re likely receiving more requests for time off. While you want your team to enjoy the season, you’re also worried: How will all the vacations affect productivity?

Even with a strong PTO policy, this can be difficult to manage. And as workers will point out, vacations can boost individual productivity. The wrinkle is, missing hands can slow down the rest of the team.

But before you deny those requests, beware: You don’t want to create a company culture in which people are afraid to take time off. Workers are already taking fewer days off out of fear of appearing “replaceable.”

You need to strike the right balance. Here’s how to keep your team strong while ensuring everyone gets a taste of summer:

1. Preview the season’s work.

Setting expectations before summer takes off is a great way to get team members to think about timing. If they know a major project will be due in early July, then you shouldn’t see a flood of PTO requests for the week before.

This is the kind of discussion to have at a team meeting. Plot out upcoming campaigns and talk through how much work each will take. Revisit the company’s mission, and explain how each campaign connects to it. 

If employees know what’s coming and why, they’ll plan ahead. There may be phases of a project that involve them less than others, during which workers can squeeze in a summer camping trip. 

2. Review your PTO policy.

During the same meeting when you preview the summer, bring up your company’s PTO policy. Often, violations occur when workers simply forget the rules. 

Explain how many consecutive days they can request off. Also, discuss how much prior notice employees must provide beforehand in order to get approval.

Be transparent about the approval process. There are a number of ways to decide who gets to take time off if requests conflict:

  • On a first-come, first-serve basis
  • A rotating vacation schedule
  • Based on seniority
  • Based on who took time off least recently

If you do have to deny someone’s request, work with them. Perhaps they get first dibs over another desirable slot, such as Labor Day weekend. 

3. Create a company vacation calendar.

A calendar that shows who’s taking time off when is an important organization tool. This can help cut down on overlapping vacations.

Make sure you have a system to separate pending from approved requests. Consider color-coding them, or perhaps you simply reply “Maybe” to requests you’ve seen but have yet to approve. That way, workers can be courteous of others’ vacations and rearrange their own schedules to stay productive.

4. Ask people to work ahead.

There’s no substitute for working ahead. Not only does it help the team member on vacation keep their mind off work, but it also minimizes dependencies. Otherwise, the rest of the team may have to wait for the worker to return. 

Before they go on vacation, help employees outline what they’ll accomplish before they leave. Encourage them to get a jump start on a project they’ll be expected to contribute to when they return.

Remember, this applies to leaders as well: If you were expecting their help on a project during their week off, you may have to put together the brief ahead of schedule. Model the behavior you want to see from your team.

5. Over-communicate.

It’s critical that nobody on the team is caught off guard by a vacation. A vacation calendar identifies who’ll be out when, but it’s not enough.

Before someone’s time off begins, initiate a conversation: What’s been done, and what’s left to do on projects that span the out-of-office period? That way, team members can plan to work around the missing person’s portion or pick up the slack when necessary.

If you need to cross-train an employee to handle the work, touch base with them before the other worker leaves. Encourage them to shadow the vacationer for a day to see how he or she works.

6. Promote working at peak vacation times. 

If you get an overwhelming number of requests at similar times — say, around the Fourth of July — consider rewarding employees who hold down the fort. Doing so can give those who really need a vacation more space while showing appreciation to the rest of the team.

Great ways to incentive working at peak times include:

  • Bonus pay
  • Gift cards
  • Additional time off to be used later
  • Free snacks or meals

Don’t buy them a yacht, but don’t worry too much about how much those incentives cost. A fully functional team is more than worth a catered lunch or a few Starbucks gift cards. 

Vacation season doesn’t have to mean making new hires or sacrificing productivity. If you plan ahead and prepare your team, everyone can enjoy the summer. You might even be able to take a vacation of your own. 

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