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How to Set Up Your Employees for Success

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How to Set Up Employees Success

Managing a team can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s a challenge that must be taken seriously. As a manager or team leader, it is your responsibility to set your employees and team members up for success. Their performance will reflect on your capabilities as a leader.

There are many ways for you to help your employees reach the next level, but is there a best way? That largely depends on your team and their needs. Consider implementing these ideas to help your employees be more successful than ever.

Provide Easy Access to Helpful Resources and Guides

There are so many advantages you can extend to your employees beyond a regular paycheck. To set them up for success, providing additional resources is a must. For example, many full-time employees get access to benefits packages, such as health insurance and retirement contributions, so they don’t have to seek out these things individually.

The resources you supply to your employees can go far beyond the basics. Consider making safety and training manuals easily accessible to your team. Referring to this information may help employees improve their job performance without the need for a formal training meeting or direct supervision.

Set Them Up With Project Management Software

It’s amazing how the addition of one simple tool can completely transform how your employees work. Implementing project management software may help your team increase productivity and improve efficiency. Using this program will make it so much easier for your employees to succeed every single day.

Project management software became more popular during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many companies shifting to a remote workforce, this tool allowed team members to effectively communicate and collaborate even when working from separate locations. The same software is helpful for teams that are hybrid or in person, too.

With project management software, you can store important documents, send instant messages to anyone within the organization, and plan out projects in detail with assigned roles, deadlines, and to-do lists. These functions will streamline so much of what your employees are already doing.

Help Them Manage Their Time

No one likes to be the person who snaps at employees to get back to work. Instead of resorting to such behavior, try teaching your team members to manage their time more effectively. Higher efficiency, due to improved time management, will allow for more lightheartedness in the office, along with many other benefits to job performance.

Team scheduling software is an easy place to start. This will make shift scheduling simple, which is especially useful for companies with numerous part-time employees and inconsistent schedules. Team calendars, scheduling links, and time management training are other measures to take into consideration.

Provide Excellent Hiring, Onboarding, and HR

Setting your employees up for success begins the day they are hired. Your hiring and onboarding process determines how quickly new hires can hit the ground running and how supported they feel right out of the gate. A good onboarding process will also help you maintain higher retention rates, allowing you to continue working with the same team long-term.

When hiring, be sure to establish fair expectations during the interview process. Be honest about the nature of the job and what you expect from the role the new hire will fill. Being transparent about your company and its operations also helps new employees be better prepared when gearing up for their first day.

Onboarding is the process of getting a new member of the organization trained and acclimated as quickly and effectively as possible. A great way to do this is to run a mentorship program. A veteran employee can take a new hire under their wing to answer their questions and teach them how to complete tasks efficiently. Mentorship also enables new team members to create friendships early on for quick team-building and camaraderie that will lead to your team’s success.

Keep in Touch

In addition to everything else you do, it’s important to check in regularly with each of your employees. Implementing weekly or monthly check-ins will help with accountability and progress reporting. It also gives you numerous opportunities to touch base with each team member and ask for their feedback on various topics.

Your employees have a pretty good idea of what they need to help them succeed and can share with you a different perspective on workplace matters. For instance, you might have no idea that the breakroom microwave needs to be replaced because you never use it. While that may be a small and silly example, the point still stands. Keeping in touch with employees will allow them to communicate these types of concerns and other more important issues.

Constant communication between management and employees is essential for success. Listening to your employees’ feedback can lead to innovative ideas that improve your business and increase the trust shared between both sides.

When your employees succeed, you succeed. Give some of these tips a try and watch how your employees grow and improve within your organization.

Image Credit: Alexander Suhorucov; Pexels; Thank you!

7 Tips for Firing an Employee Gracefully and Ethically

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Firing an Employee Gracefully

As an empathetic leader, I couldn’t help but cringe when I read how Better.com let go of 900 employees…over Zoom. Not only is this a PR nightmare. It can drain morale and create a toxic work environment.

But, could it get any worse? Well, here’s what an employee, who wasn’t fired, had to say about the experience to Business Insider.

“You’re the lucky ones,” CEO Vishal Garg told them. “Garg said the people he laid off had been low performers — and then he set the bar even higher for those of us left, telling us it was time to work even harder than before,” the employee added. “It was pretty scary to hear that from someone who had just fired 900 people.”

“This wasn’t my first time being at a company going through layoffs, but this one was different,” they stated. “There was absolutely no warning, and in the aftermath, Garg belittled the laid-off workers to the rest of us and told us there would be no second chances from now on. The whole thing was demoralizing.”

“Since the layoffs, everyone has been on edge,” the employee elaborated. “We’re all looking behind our backs, expecting to get fired next. It’s not a healthy environment.”

While the optics are bad, we don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. So maybe Garg did have a valid reason for letting these employees go. In my opinion, though, he went about it the wrong way.

Why you might have to let an employee go.

One of the most challenging decisions we have to make is to part ways with a team member as a leader. Of course, sometimes, this is inevitable. Examples would be incidents of;

  • Acts of discrimination
  • Assault and harassment
  • Criminal activity
  • Insubordination
  • Lack of competence
  • Constant absenteeism

While the hiring process is intended to weed out unprofessional individuals, sometimes they slip through the cracks. And, in some cases, they may not actually display these characteristics until they’ve settled into their roles.

Additionally, you may have to downsize to improve efficiency or reduce costs. Or, you may have to pivot and change direction to respond to market changes.

Whatever the reason, if terminating an employee is inevitable, here are seven tips to carry this out gracefully and ethically.

1. Offer opportunities for improvement beforehand.

When an employee’s performance is in question, the chances are that a series of events have led you to need to make this difficult decision. That’s why it’s recommended that you might frequently consult with each member of your team individually to discuss their progress and offer feedback on where they can make improvements. You may also want to conduct performance reviews twice a year.

Generally, termination should only be the last option if the employee has violated the company’s policies. However, an employee can use a performance improvement plan (PIP) instead of firing them. This can help them track their progress, reach their goals, or discourage destructive workplace behaviors.

If you’re unsure whether your employee is performing well, ask your other team members for their perspective. For example, you could ask them about their attendance if they’ve missed deadlines or have difficulty communicating or collaborating with others.

If you document other members of the team’s experiences, this strengthens your case for why and how an employee must improve. In short, employees should never be caught off-guard when it comes to being fired. Instead, you should give them a chance to improve.

2. Inform human resources of the employee’s behavior.

The Human Resources department should be informed of all actions taken before terminating an employee. At the minimum, this should include implementing an improvement plan and how the employee progresses. In addition, documentation provides evidence and reasons for an employee’s termination by tracking the employee’s incidents and behavior.

HR can ensure that termination is a fair decision and that the proper procedures and protocol are followed. It’s also essential for both employees and the workplace that termination procedures comply with state and company requirements.

3. Create a transition plan.

“Choose the day and the time for the termi­nation deliberately,” advises management consultant and author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals Dick Grote. “While experts disagree on when a firing should occur, all acknowledge the importance of having a rationale — a good business reason for your choice of time and day for dropping the ax.”

“Doing it early in the day, early in the week, encourages the employee to get right to work on finding another job,” he adds. Furthermore, this reduces the chances of them spending the weekend planning revenge. “Friday after­noons, on the other hand, often create the minimum amount of disruption to the rest of the staff,” stays Grote.

Whether or not firing an employee is the solution, always put your company interests first. You probably put up with a subpar performance for months hoping the situation would somehow improve. As the end nears, make sure that the transition goes seamlessly not to harm the company or your colleagues.

“Check the succession plan for an internal candidate,” he suggests. For example, if you need to terminate someone, you may want to start recruiting and wait until you find a replacement. Sending these subtle hints to clients, customers, and even your team that staffing changes are imminent could ultimately work in your favor.

4. Be clear and concise.

When it comes to firing an employee, winging it is never the best course of action. You need to know actually what to say and how you’ll deliver the news. That’s why it’s suggested that you also practice the conversation you will have with the employee.

“Make sure you know exactly why you’re firing a worker, have specific examples, and bring the proper documentation, writes Kathryn Vasel over at CNN. “That includes copies of performance reports, any write-ups, and applicable financial forms like unemployment insurance and health insurance and 401(k) options.”

You should be clear and firm about the termination and the next steps. “There is no room or need to get into a protracted discussion,” said Dan Ryan, founder of Ryan Search & Consulting. “It is what it is; there is no productive discussion that can take place after.”

5. Don’t humiliate the employee.

“If I must fire an employee, I treat them with dignity because I don’t want to humiliate them,” writes Mike Kappel, founder, and CEO of Patriot Software, LLC in Forbes. “I will always fire someone in private behind closed doors.”

“Employment termination isn’t just bad for that individual— it’s also bad for the other employees,” he adds. “Other employees don’t know if or when they’re going to be on the chopping block.”

It’s also possible for your employees to have relationships with the fired employee, such as being friends outside of the workplace. As such, you could “risk draining the morale of the others if you fire someone in front of” the entire team.

He suggests it might be a good idea to fire the employee after the other employees have left for the day. In that case, the terminated employee does not have to leave their office (or wherever you fired them) in front of their coworkers.

Always have a witness.

“When you need to fire an employee, you and someone from Human Resources should be the only two people in the room with them,” Kappel continues. “If you don’t have an HR department or representative, grab a witness, like a trusted employee or even your business’s lawyer if applicable.”

In the event that the employee sues you, having someone else in the room with you is imperative. Why? Because this individual can confirm your firing of the employee was legal and ethical.

During the termination of an employee, a police escort may be appropriate in very rare situations. That may sound excessive. But, if you feel that they may become aggressive or violent, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“I once had to fire an employee with a police escort,” recalls Kappel. “She threatened to beat up another employee.” She also engaged in cage fights on weekends. So, when the officer arrived, the employee was let go — and thankfully without incident.

6. Keep documentation of the entire process.

Documentation is essential for the company’s reference — both during the termination process and afterward. These documents may include records such as a written notice of termination. As a rule of thumb, you should always document any actions taken, such as implementing a Performance Improvement Plan and its results, before firing an employee.

In general, the more documentation you have, the more straightforward this process can be? Why? Because it ensures that all work procedures are followed based on your employee handbook and pertinent labor laws. And, if the employee dispute the firing, you can use these documents to validate your decision.

7. Handle paperwork and tie up any loose ends.

In addition to termination documents, you should also bring the employee’s final paycheck with you. If you offer a severance package, explain what’s included. Review any noncompete or nondisclosure agreements with the employee, along with if they’ll continue receiving benefits like health insurance.

“After learning of the termination, the employee will most likely feel confused and upset,” writes Amy DelPo, attorney, for NOLO. Prepare to assist the employee by answering questions such as;

  • “Do I work the rest of the day or leave immediately?”
  • “When can I collect my belongings?”
  • “Do my coworkers know this is happening?”
  • “What should I tell my clients?”
  • “I have appointments scheduled for the rest of the week; what should I do about those?”

It would also be helpful if you developed a plan for ongoing work before the meeting to address the following;

  • Are these projects going to be assigned to someone else?
  • Are there any tasks the employee needs to complete?
  • Is the employee required to assist with the transition?

What to do after terminating an employee.

The following steps may be necessary after firing an employee. However, doing so may avoid terminating another employee or helping the department fill the vacant position.

  • Educating employees about workplace expectations. You can accomplish this by sharing employee handbooks and having one-on-one meetings. As a result, this could be enough to prevent additional firings.
  • Keeping employees in the loop. The law outlines specific guidelines about when and how to discuss an employee’s termination. However, being transparent about an employee’s termination openly and discussing any behavior that may still exist within the workplace will discourage rumors from being spread.
  • Posting a new job to fill the existing position. Reassign tasks to other employees after terminating an employee’s employment, or have managers temporarily take on those tasks to account for the departed employee. To avoid overburdening other employees with work and responsibilities, create a new job posting for the vacant position as soon as possible.
  • Strengthening your existing team. Host team-building activities if you need to bolster morale and encourage team bonding. You could also celebrate your team’s achievements or have some fun in the workplace, like throwing a pizza party.

Image Credit: Sora Shimazaki; Pexels; Thanks!

Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

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Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

In order for the company to achieve its goals, everyone from top to bottom must be productive. Additionally, productivity will motivate employees, increase morale, and promote a more positive work environment. All of these, by the way, is essential if you want you and your team to get excited about work following COVID.

As you know, you must become an effective leader to improve your team’s productivity. But, that’s often easier said than done. Thankfully, you can improve your leadership skills using the following strategies. In turn, this will pave the way for productivity.

1. Don’t be a boss.

Initially, this may sound like a contradiction. But, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” As it turns out, the Bull Moose was 100% right.

As Building Champions notes, the key differences between a boss and a leader are;

  • Leaders focus on sustainable solutions, while bosses prefer quick fixes. Leaders show subordinates how and why to do things, while managers cultivate a micromanaged environment.
  • Unlike bosses, leaders are more emotionally intelligent. In contrast to subject matter experts, leaders are emotionally and people-savvy. Great leaders are empathetic, but also very capable of controlling their emotions.
  • Leaders manage people while bosses manage work. Leaders motivate people to achieve specific goals, while bosses control them. Influential leaders influence, inspire, and encourage others to make an organization successful.
  • Unlike a boss, a leader is someone who listens and speaks. Subordinates are expected to listen and obey their bosses when they deliver orders. Regardless of the title of the individual, leaders listen to everyone’s opinions.
  • Leaders encourage rather than criticize. Even though constructive criticism is healthy, excessive and constant criticism can be discouraging. An outstanding leader strikes the right balance between constructive criticism and rewarding employees when they excel.
  • Leaders create more leaders, not just circles of power. It’s considered a form of competition by the boss to hog all the power and authority. Instead, through delegation, education, and providing the right resources, a leader creates other leaders.

2. Effective communicators.

Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of increasing productivity among your team. Overall, members of your team should feel comfortable talking to you about challenges they are facing. But, if you want this to happen, you need to provide ample time to meet with them. And, you also need to make sure that you actually listen to them without judgment.

If this is an area that needs work, encourage your team to speak up during meetings. You can also put them more at ease by informally chatting with them, like during lunch. Other suggestions you can practice would be;

  • Make sure everyone is kept in the loop. Always keep the lines of communication open. Teams are more motivated when leaders are transparent and keep them informed.
  • Listen with empathy. Communication is a two-way street. As such, you must listen attentively to your employees. The more you listen to their concerns and implement changes, the more you will display respect as well as improve productivity and work processes.
  • Be careful about the medium you choose. Cooperation and healthy work culture will be enhanced with a suitable communication medium or tool. Examples include email, Slack, and Zoom.

3. Walk the talk.

Leading by example is a simple and effective way to increase your team’s productivity. If you do this frequently, your team will eventually become more productive. For instance, if you want your team members to show up to team meetings on time, you must make it a point to arrive early.

By setting the bar for productivity, your employees will most likely follow suit. After all, leadership is about influencing others to be more efficient.

4. Grant ownership.

Ownership is a powerful business principle understood by the best leaders. The best way to give ownership to team members? Let them make their own decisions and hold them accountable for those decisions.

You can induce a sense of responsibility in your team members when they’re held accountable for their work. As a result, it becomes apparent to them that their decisions can directly impact the performance of everyone else.

There are several different ways to take ownership of a project. For example, one employee could be a project manager, while another focuses on research. Regardless of the exact responsibility, this builds their self-confidence. How? Because it shows that you trust them to get the job done on time.

5. Bring more humanity into the workplace.

“As a leader, you can be the one to ignite more humanity at work,” write Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer in Fast Company. “Take time to pause and reflect on how you may be contributing to a work environment where people are disengaged.”

“Your people are watching you all the time, taking cues from what you do and say,” they add. “What is your impact? Are you helping their work feel deeper and more connected? When you do, people will give more of themselves, and business wins.”

In other words, without humanity, your employees will continue to suffer a toxic burnout. But, thanks to the following five practices, you can successfully bring more humanity into the workplace.

  • Creating safety. Having a sense of belonging allows individuals to feel safe, fully express themselves, and know what they have to offer.
  • Working together. Establish and work towards achieving a common goal. Also, “be sure every team member feels heard and knows their contributions are valued,” they advise.
  • Claiming values. Clarity and intentionality come from knowing what you stand for. It’s your job as a leader to help your employees learn about their values and to understand why they do what they do.
  • Owning your impact. “When you take responsibility for your impact, it creates personal accountability; your words and your actions align,” add Cohen and Roeske-Zummer. In order to own your impact, you have to be personally responsible for the work you do and the culture you create.
  • Daring not to know. Leaders who show they are human, vulnerable, and do not know all the answers, allow others to step up. The strength of an organization depends on not knowing. You can take charge by saying, “I don’t have the answer for that, what do you think?”

6. Encourage learning opportunities.

Companies offering extensive training have 218% higher income per employee than companies with no formal training, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Moreover, these companies have 24% higher profit margins than those who haven’t invested as much in training.

As if that weren’t enough, employing training and development encourages engagement and retains your top talent. Whether if it’s paying for in-person/online classes, bringing in speakers, or attending workshops, everyone in your organization, including yourself, should be enhancing and learning new skills.

7. Offer incentives.

Research conducted by Genesis Associates in 2018 found that 85% of the employees surveyed felt highly motivated to perform their best when there was an incentive. Why? One reason is that when we feel appreciated, we’re encouraged to repeat the behaviors and habits that made us productive in the first place.

It is essential to consider the employee’s individual needs or preferences when deciding how to reward them. For example, some might prefer public recognition depending on your employees, while others would rather have privately expressed thanks. Besides simple words of appreciation, you can also consider the following incentives:

  • A handwritten note. By sending them a handwritten note, you show your appreciation and that you care enough to take the time to thank them personally.
  • Take them out to lunch. This is also an excellent way to get to them better. If they’re working remotely, you could have food delivered to their home.
  • PTO. If you don’t wish to give your employees a bonus or raise, you can offer paid time off in lieu of vacation and sick days.
  • Introducing a wellness program. You can reduce your company’s health insurance costs and sick days by implementing a workplace wellness program.
  • Lazy Monday/Friday Coupons. Employees can use these coupons to arrive late on Monday mornings or leave early on Fridays.

8. Reduce phantom workload.

Introduced by Marilyn Paul, Ph. D., and David Peter Stroh, phantom workload “is the unintentional work created when people either take expedient but ineffective shortcuts or avoid taking on such as essential.”

Examples include complex tasks like:

  • Clarifying mission, vision, and values
  • Asking questions that challenge what is ambiguous or unrealistic
  • Identifying and resolving conflicts
  • Clarifying and streamlining decision-making processes
  • Providing candid, constructive feedback
  • Differentiating people with sanctions and rewards
  • Launching innovative projects
  • Making decisions that require disinvestment in programs or projects

“When not addressed, the phantom workload leads to a variety of consequences such as rework, unproductive meetings, organizational conflicts, and fractured relationships,” explains Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. In addition, it wastes time since we keep working on “the same problem over and over again.” Eventually, phantom workload “leads to greater stress and a further reluctance or inability to engage in difficult tasks.”

The good news? You can rescue phantom workload through tactics, such as;

  • Setting a limited amount of realistic goals for you and your team.
  • Changing your behavior by identifying why you want to change.
  • Planning out your day and protecting your time.
  • Asking others for help.
  • Using rewards or inspirational resources like Ted Talks for motivation.
  • Overcoming procrastination through mindfulness or working on the most challenging task first.

And “experiment with different time management and strategies,” Deanna suggests. “There will be some trial and error involved. But, it’s the only way that you’ll discover what works best for you.”

9. Give each other feedback.

Introducing a team feedback process is the final but most important item on the list. When employees aren’t aware they are being inefficient, then how can they improve their performance?

With that in mind, that’s why performance reviews and constructive feedback are essential and not a nuisance. It’s a proven way to guide employees in strengthening their weaknesses.

Additionally, don’t forget to ask them how you could help them improve after giving them the feedback. For example, maybe a little bit more guidance would be useful on specific tasks. Or perhaps that could use a little more creative freedom. And, to further encourage a culture of trust and open dialogue, ask them where you can improve to become a better leader.

5 Strategies for Keeping Your Team on the Same Page

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5 Strategies for Keeping Your Team on the Same Page

Every manager wants their team to run like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, good intentions often fall short. In an effort to keep teams informed and connected, calendars can get overloaded with meetings, and employees can get more confused than when they started.

To get and keep your team on the same page, you need a better approach. This guide will outline five different strategies that you can use in any combination to take your leadership to the next level. A coordinated team, after all, is much easier and enjoyable to manage.

1. Up Your Meeting Game

A survey of employees in the UK showed that respondents considered 37% of meetings to be pointless and unnecessary. That’s over a third of meeting time that’s going to waste! Changing your approach to meetings will make better use of your time in the conference room while making sure your team is always in sync.

Start by outlining your meetings thoroughly before even adding them to your team calendar. Each meeting should have a specific purpose or goal in mind. Holding a meeting just to have a meeting is a pointless endeavor.

Next, make sure you show up to the meeting prepared with everything you could possibly need. With an adequate game plan, you can ensure that meetings don’t run too long or go off topic. You can get straight to the point and focus on getting your team on the same page before dispersing once again. 

2. Keep the Conversation Going

Even while you’re tuning up your meetings, you shouldn’t rely on them exclusively. The best way to keep your team connected and informed is to keep the conversation going long after a formal meeting has concluded. Discussion should be happening every day, whether it’s a clarifying question or checking in on the progress of a weekly assignment.

Numerous companies faced communication crises during the Covid-19 pandemic. Trying to keep remote teams pulling in the same direction was more difficult than it was in an office setting. This led to a large increase in the use of communications software such as Zoom and Slack.

One tool that you should look into for your team, regardless of its composition, is project management software. With a tool like this, project-related communications are visible to everyone on the team, and automatic task notifications keep interested parties in the know. This works great for remote teams, office-centric companies, and every organization in between. 

3. List Out Project Details

Another great use of project management software is the ability to break out key project details. Outlining your projects in such a way helps inform teams of all the important steps of a project, even if they’re only responsible for a few of them. 

There are different ways to list out project details, usually depending on the type of software you use. Let’s use ClickUp as an example. Within this program, you can create an assignment complete with a description, due date, and assignees. In addition, you can add a checklist of items that must be completed in order for the assignment to be finished. Last but not least, you can view a complete history of all the changes that have been made to the project and who initiated them. 

4. Share Schedules

An essential aspect of staying on the same page is coordinating time and individual schedules. What happens when a project is in crisis and team members cannot contact the team leader? Such situations can be avoided or at least mitigated by sharing schedules with one another. 

Now, let it be said that there’s such a thing as sharing too much information. Unless you have a great relationship with your team, they don’t need to know about your date night or your plans to go disc golfing over lunch. What’s more important is establishing the times where you’re available and unavailable and letting teammates know when and how you can be reached.

Online calendars are nifty tools for ironing out those details. You can create a custom scheduling link that can be embedded into a website or posted in your company database. With a simple click, team members and even clients can see whether you have any openings for a meeting or phone call without disturbing you. 

5. Embrace Transparency

Transparency does a lot of good for your company. Not only will it keep employees happy and boost their morale, but it will also develop a culture and atmosphere where collaboration can thrive. It’s so much easier to keep your team in the loop when transparency is a high priority.

Think of transparency as the willingness to freely share information from the top to the bottom of your organization. As the leader, it’s up to you to set the example that others will follow.

You can do this by clearly setting expectations, checking in with individual team members, and being honest about how you’re spending your time. Secrets that don’t pertain to birthday parties or Christmas bonuses tend to tear a company down rather than build it up. 

No business can thrive when its right hand doesn’t know what its left hand is doing. But with the right combination of communication, tech-enabled organization, and transparency, your team members will be able to pull together and achieve your organization’s goals.

Instilling Generosity Into Your Leadership Can Help Your Company Succeed

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Instilling Generosity Into Your Leadership Can Help Your Company Succeed

Bad bosses foster bad blood throughout the whole team. That’s not just theoretical, either — it’s been proven again and again. For instance, a Gallup study showed lousy managers contributed to about half of their organizations’ resignations. But to be honest, not all supervisors belong in a Dilbert cartoon.

Take you, as an example. You’re reading an article on moving your leadership level up a notch. So you’re not exactly shying away from self-improvement. But, at the same time, you might not be aware of one attribute that could ratchet up your ability to lead: generosity.

Instilling Generosity Into Your Leadership

What makes generosity such a powerful force when used by leaders? For one, it’s unexpected in a delightful way. When most people describe their bosses, the word “generous” doesn’t spill from their lips. Maybe they say “kind” or “driven” or “smart,” but they rarely talk about a team leader’s or executive’s generosity. This shows how much of a unicorn trait it can be.

Secondly, generosity tends to promote a ton of goodwill. There isn’t an in-person or remote office on the planet that couldn’t use an extra dash of positivity. In fact, infusing a spirit of generosity into a workforce can create a domino effect. As workers experience generosity from their leaders, they tend to pass it around, too.

Finally—and on a personal level—being generous is good for your health. One psychological study on volunteerism found a correlation between generosity and a longer life span. Consequently, practicing generosity regularly could allow you to lead more people toward their dreams and goals over your lifetime.

But how do you put generosity into action? To help your company succeed, you’ll need to make more than just a few small changes. Like most behavioral changes, you need to practice some patience and diligence.

Help your company succeed by forging ahead with a few steps.

1. Redefine your idea of generosity

First thing’s first: To become more generous, you have to know what generosity is.

For example, many leaders would call themselves generous because they hand out year-end bonuses. Yet, according to Jason Jaggard, founder of executive coaching firm Novus Global, wealth can be broken down into different vehicles. The vehicles include energy, knowledge, and opportunity, and they can have just as much (or more) impact than spreading cash.

It’s important to open your mind to thinking of generosity from all angles. For example, when you mentor a struggling coworker, you’re generous. When you’re introducing a neighbor to someone who is looking for a worker with the neighbor’s skills, you’re generous. These actions might not seem extraordinary, but they indicate your willingness to serve.

2. Put a premium on listening

Generous leaders listen. In fact, they listen often, and they listen well. They don’t just hear the words others are saying, but they look for context and opportunities to help. At this point, 83% of workers want their bosses to provide more input. An excellent way to help others is by listening to them carefully and then responding with kindness, honesty, and thoughtfulness.

Listening helps reveal your generosity to your employees.

What does listening show your employees? First, it tells them they’re valued. You actually care. Secondly, it proves that you’re open to learning something, too. Third, it builds your relationship with your people. And that relationship may mean the difference between them staying for years or moving on to a different employer.

3. Go beyond being commonly empathetic to becoming high-level empathetic

We’ve all heard a lot about the importance of empathy in the workplace, especially after the 2020 pandemic. Empathy doesn’t end with just understanding others’ emotional states, though. You can use your emotional intelligence as a springboard to transform someone’s personal or professional life.

Let’s say you have a salesperson who’s been underperforming for about a month. You know that something’s happening, but you don’t know what. So, therefore, you talk with the salesperson and find out he’s going through a divorce and is trying to move out.

Rather than just offer some extra PTO or the ability to work remotely, head down a more generous route. With his permission, you could put out feelers with friends who are landlords or need long-term house sitters. This is a way to be generous through your network. It shows your empathy doesn’t end with the words, “That’s too bad.”

4. Hand over the reins

One thing about leaders, particularly entrepreneurs, is that they tend to be selfish when it comes to leading. After all, they’re leaders by trade. It’s who they are, and they like being at the front of the line. Yet taking up the spotlight isn’t very generous, is it?

Quite honestly, much leadership in business causes others to shrink up and lose initiative — which will surely hurt innovation, morale, and employee engagement. In addition, when you injure anything in your employees, it doesn’t help your team succeed; it’s also not going to help your company succeed either.

When appropriate, give people the chance to lead. This doesn’t mean anointing them as CEOs for the day, though. Instead, hand out projects and delegate key responsibilities. To be sure, sometimes your employees will falter or even fail at their assignments. You have to be okay with that.

Your overarching objective isn’t for them to be perfect, but for talented workers to have the chance to wow the world. So don’t be surprised if this type of generosity allows you to unearth some potential future executives among your personnel.

5. Act protectively with your people

It’s funny how often corporate leaders will stick up for their services and products, but not do the same for their high-performance workers. Ouch. Don’t be “that boss” who throws employees under the bus.

Stick up for your team members when it’s appropriate, even if that means that you’re going to have to go out on a limb. In other words, extend your generosity like a blanket that offers security, and shows that you aren’t a fairweather founder.

Will there be times when you don’t agree with something a staffer has said or done? Absolutely. And you may need to make difficult choices. However, you don’t have to allow angry customers to trash your employees just to make a sale.

If you believe your employees are in the right, say so. You’ll be amazed at the loyalty you can foster by moving to the same side of the table as your crew. Furthermore, fostering a company culture of true teamwork will also help your company succeed in the long run.

6. Spotlight generosity when you see it –and aim to imitate it

When you hear about another leader doing something generous, talk about it in glowing terms. The same goes for any act of generosity you spot among your workers. By communicating your appreciation for generous decisions, you’ll show just how important you place generosity.

In time, you’ll probably start to see people make more generous moves as a result, which will ultimately help your company succeed.

At the same time, be sure to model the generous behavior that moves you deeply. For example, if a colleague volunteers at a shelter, you may want to see if the shelter needs additional help. Of course, you don’t want to step on (or try to “one-up”) your coworker’s generosity, but you should be open to helping.

Generosity in the workplace is kind of like one of those beautiful weeds in your yard that you can’t help but admire. It sprouts, spreads and reseeds at a high-paced level if you let it. To start a new era of generous habits among your team right now by auditing and augmenting your own generosity as a leader.

Video Credit: nik fowler-hainen; prezi; thank you!

Image Credit: fauxels; pexels; thank you!

How to Effectively Measure and Track Employee Productivity

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How to Effectively Measure and Track Employee Productivity

Prior to Covid-19, employers were increasing efforts to monitor the productivity of their employees. In fact, according to a 2018 Gartner report, 50% of 239 large corporations admitted that they were monitoring their employees. In particular, the content of their emails and social media accounts. What’s more, these companies also stated that they monitored who their employees utilized and who’s meeting with whom.

According to an Accenture survey of C-suite executives one year later, 62% of their organizations collect data about their employees. Of course, the pandemic has only accelerated employee monitoring. And, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.

An ExpressVPN survey found;

  • Even though 83% of employers think employee monitoring is unethical — 78% use monitoring software.
  • More than one-third of employees believe their employers don’t monitor their online activities, and 15% don’t know it’s possible.
  • The majority of employees (56%) feel stressed and anxious about their employer monitoring their communications. Moreover, 41% wonder if they’re being watched, and 32% take fewer breaks because of it.
  • The majority of employees (48%) would be willing to lower their salaries to prevent surveillance. In fact, 1 in 4 workers would take a cut of 25%.
  • Employees admit that 41% of their recorded work calls contain evidence that could lead to their termination. Additionally, 37% of employers claim to have used stored recordings as evidence for firing.
  • Moreover, employers use stored emails, messages, or calls to inform their decisions regarding performance reviews (73%) and to track potential worker unionization (46%).

So, what’s the answer here? After all, with the latest wave, companies may be rethinking their plans for re-opening. But, even when things do return to normal, remote work, or at the least hybrid offices, are here to stay.

At the same time, employers will need to measure and track their team’s productivity without making them feel anxious. It’s certainly a precarious situation. But, you can use the following ten techniques to make this possible.

1. Set clear expectations and reasonable deadlines.

I’m still baffled at how many leaders and project managers still fall into the trap of not setting clear expectations and reasonable deadlines. In my opinion, these topics should always be a top conversation priority — regardless if your team works at the office or works remotely.

If you tell your employees what you expect from them, especially in a remote working environment, they’ll be happier and more productive. If “the big talk” is an area that you’re struggling, try using the following;

  • Focus on clearly defined objectives or goals.
  • Objective and goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • Explain the “why” behind your expectations so that they know that their work is meaningful.
  • Provide examples and access to the right tools and resources.
  • Agree on reasonable deadlines.

2. Arm yourself, and your team, with the right tech.

“Having a surplus of communication and collaboration tools is great,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “At the same time, you don’t have to collect them all. We’re not talking about Pokemon here.”

“Instead, limit the tools that you’re using,” Deanna recommends. “Besides decreasing distractions, it prevents everyone from bouncing back-and-forth between tools. Furthermore, it can also help reduce information overload.

Some suggested tools to measure and track your team’s productivity include;

  • Calendar can automatically schedule meetings. More importantly, with its analytics feature, you can see where your valuable time is being spent.
  • Slack is a popular messaging tool that allows you and your team to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
  • Basecamp is a project management tool designed to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Hub Staff is packed with features like time tracking, screen recording, employee monitoring, and scheduling, and payroll software.
  • Google Drive will let you and your drive collaborate on online documents together.
  • Kickidler is more than just employee monitoring software. It also comes with time tracking, employee productivity analysis, and efficiency dynamics. The Autokick feature will notify employees of their productivity stats or if they’ve been on a website too long.
  • Time Doctor is a time tracking application. It also breaks down how much time has been spent on a specific task or project.
  • Teamwork allows you to track every of your team and convert that into invoices.

3. Trust is a must.

“Trust is the foundation of every relationship in our life,” says Jen Fisher, U.S. chief well-being officer for the consultancy Deloitte. “Every positive relationship starts from a place of trust.”

Work environments built on trust are healthy and productive, adds Fisher, co-author of Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines. Moreover, trust is perhaps more important than ever during this uncertain time caused by the pandemic.

“The pandemic has catapulted us into the future in many ways,” she says. “With uncertainty, you need trust and meaningful and supportive relationships.” And, you can build trust with your remote team by;

  • Reduce your team’s stress by not micromanaging, be respectful of boundaries, and communicating frequently.
  • Help them learn and grow by offering frequent feedback.
  • Get to know each team individually, even if it’s a virtual one-on-one meeting.
  • Again, have goals, objectives, and expectations that are crystal clear.
  • Share your expertise, but also admit that you don’t have all of the answers.
  • Freshen up your virtual events and meetings, like sharing achievements or going on a virtual field trip.
  • Be consistent, such as always being respectful of their time.

Above all else, be transparent. If you’re monitoring your team, let them know this in advance. And explain to them that they’re not being monitored to spy on them. Rather, you need this data to eliminate time wasters and bolster their productivity.

4. Focus on measuring outcome, not input.

“Employee monitoring was pervasive before the crisis,” notes Ryan Wong in Entrepreneur. “In 2018, research found that 50% of large corporations were using email monitoring and location analysis..” However, “in the early months of lockdown, use of monitoring software skyrocketed, with industry leaders like Teramind and ActivTrak reporting record increases in sales requests.”

“For employers, monitoring tools might seem a useful stopgap at a time when teams aren’t in the office,” he adds. The problem? “Time spent at a keyboard or in front of a webcam is hardly indicative of performance or productivity.”

Monitoring in this manner is actually detrimental to obtaining the results you desire. Employees who are aware their keystrokes are being tracked, for example, are incentivized to produce high-volume work that has little commercial value.

“The deeper issue is that, in many ways, we’ve measured productivity all wrong — confusing inputs for outcomes,” states Wong. “Even tracking ‘hours,’ the oldest of workplace metrics, is fundamentally misleading. Just knowing someone has worked a 40-hour week gives little insight into what they actually accomplished.”

The better approach? Measure and reward business outcomes. “These will differ from business to business and employee to employee — and that’s precisely the point,” he explains. “Taking the time to first define what success looks like, and then finding ways to measure — is the surest way to boost output. Handy schema like KPIs, OKRs, and KRAs, all circle around this central premise.”

5. Reward quality, not quantity.

When it comes to your employee’s work, it’s important to find a way of measuring quality. As an example, think about the customer service you provide. Your brand’s reputation depends on it, but it’s hard to measure.

With that in mind, consider quality when putting systems in place to track employee productivity. And, ask yourself, “What can you do with it to track job performance?”

For instance, is there any feedback you received from a distributor regarding an employee who went beyond the call of duty? While your employee might have needed more time to complete this level of work, the value you received is incalculable. And that should definitely be measured and rewarded.

6. Use positive reinforcement.

It should come as no surprise that happy employees are more productive. However, happiness doesn’t always mean giving them a raise. While that can help, you can increase employee happiness through positive reinforcement, such as;

  • Showing compassion, empathy, and gratitude
  • Focusing on meaningful work
  • Treating employees with respect
  • Not blaming others for failure
  • Providing constructive feedback
  • Rewarding good work with acknowledgment or promotions.

7. Manage task distribution.

Identifying each employee’s strengths and weaknesses can be accomplished by analyzing the data. For example, you might notice that one team member completes a task much faster than anyone else. Ideally, you should give this employee all these responsibilities going forward to increase your team’s productivity. By doing this, everyone will have more free time in their schedules, which will increase productivity.

Understand why your weakest performers are less productive than other team members. For example, perhaps they’re having difficulty with certain programs, applications, or tasks related to their work. In this case, you may consider training them to improve their skills and increase their productivity.

8. Measure both short-term and long-term.

Track-specific key performance indicators for both short- and long-term goals.

Recognizing small accomplishments will keep employees motivated to work towards bigger goals.

Furthermore, this presents an impressive picture. While it may not seem obvious, the little things can have a huge impact on pushing your team towards the big goal.

9. Eliminate time-wasters.

Analyze the data to see where your employees spend a lot of time. For example, you might want to restrict employees’ access to these websites or apps during the workday so that they aren’t distracted.

Data may also indicate that certain clients are taking up a lot of your employees’ time, making them less productive than they should be. It’s possible that your business isn’t even making money from that client. As such, it may be worthwhile to revisit a time-wasting client relationship to make your team more productive.

10. Focus on the bottom line.

Increasingly, small companies are focusing on their bottom line instead of the hours worked by employees. This allows them to track progress while ensuring that their employees have more flexibility — mainly how and when they work.

Moreover, there are several cost benefits to having a remote team. This includes reducing rent and utilities, cleaning services, food, and taxes. In fact, the average real estate savings with full-time telework is $10,000/employee/year. Additionally, remote teams tend to be more productive. They’re also less absent, more likely to stay with your company, and would prefer working from home than accepting a pay raise.

How to Develop New Forms of Leadership

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How to Develop New Forms of Leadership

What do all successful leaders have in common? They’re on a constant quest for knowledge. Whether through books, workshops, or shadowing peers, it’s an essential leadership trait.

Why is this the case? Because it keeps them up-to-speed on the latest trends and sparks creativity. And, most importantly, it ensures that they can grow into an inspiring and productive leader.

With Gen Z entering the workforce, this is more important than ever. After all, how boomers and millennials were lead are completely different than what Gen Z would expect. One area that you shouldn’t overlook is developing new forms of leadership so that you can connect with this demographic.

Increase your leadership capacity.

“Developing leadership skills is one of the most powerful moves you can make to transform your professional and personal life,” states Team Tony. “It’s an empowering process of harnessing your natural talents to inspire others.” During this journey, you’ll also “become more attuned to your strengths and weaknesses, which creates self-awareness and the ability to relate to others.”

How can you achieve this? By asking yourself the following three questions;

  • Do I know what my leadership style is? “Understanding your leadership style opens the door for building managerial skills in harmony with your true nature,” the authors add. “Is your leadership approach democratic, visionary, coaching, affiliative, pacesetting, or commanding?” Knowing “where you fall in these categories, you’re better equipped to develop leadership skills.”
  • What are my weak spots? Be honest with yourself here. It’s the most effective way to pinpoint what skills or form of leadership you need to address.
  • How can I take action? Now that you’re aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can take steps to develop leadership skills. For example, if you want to become more of a coach, then you’ll want to focus on areas like becoming more self-aware and how to ask guided questions. And, you also have to practice offering guidance as opposed to micromanaging others.

Get in the trenches.

Do what separates a boss and leader? Bosses believe that they’re above the team. True leaders, however, are a part of the team.

Instead of hiding out in your office or distancing yourself from your team, spend time with them. You can do this by eating lunch with, scheduling one-on-ones, and working next to them. Besides giving you the chance to get to know them better, which you can use to motivate them, you can also learn new forms of leadership from them.

For instance, maybe it’s difficult for you to give up control. That’s understandable as a business owner. But, encouraging ownership is one of the most effective ways to motivate your team.

But, after spending time with a team member, you realize that they possess more of laissez-faire or hands-off style. You can then pick their brain or shadow them to see how you can delegate more effectively, promote a more autonomous work environment, and how to let go of control.

Embrace 360-degree feedback.

A 360-degree feedback approach is when leaders use a full circle of viewpoints to evaluate their performance. Examples include feedback from subordinates, colleagues, customers, and their own self-assessment. When done correctly, this can increase self-awareness, clarify behavior, and encourages personal development.

The biggest hurdle to jump is being willing to listen to negative feedback. Don’t take it personally. Use it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and make changes.

Learn from a coach, mentor, or consultant.

Whether it’s hiring a coach, catching up with your mentor, or bringing in outside consultants, these types of relationships are priceless. They can share with you how they achieved past victories, as well as setbacks.

Moreover, they can challenge you to try out new forms of leadership. Or, you can be inspired by them and put your own twist on their style.

For example, you may look up to Steve Jobs or Elon Musk for being innovative, decisive, or encouraging teamwork. But, you don’t have to romanticize their bad behavior. As such, you could blend those styles with empathy.

Work outside your organization.

“One of the simplest and most powerful sources of learning is simply to have worked within different organizations,” writes Ben Brearley BSc. BCM MBA. “Leaders who have spent much of their time within a single organization tend to become accustomed to the status quo.”

To prevent this, spend time in other work environments. When you do, you become exposed “to new ideas, new people and new organizational models,” adds Brearley. “It also provides you access to more diverse leadership approaches, because you’ll have had many different bosses to report to.”

“If you are somebody who has worked at the same organization for a long time, you need to ensure that you continue to learn from as many different external sources as possible,” he suggests. Hopefully, this will “provide you with diverse outside information that you can bring into your current role.”

How can you work with other organizations? You could find a part-time job, volunteer, or collaborate with partner companies. Some ideas for the latter would be co-sponsoring an event, co-branding a product/service, or publishing research together.

If the above is too overwhelming, seek opportunities to take on new roles and responsibilities within your organization. Maybe you could spend a day working for your sales department manager to see how they lead.

Share what you know.

“If you want to learn — teach,” advises Sally Fox, Ph.D. “Those of us who teach leadership professionally know this secret: We have to develop ourselves, keep learning, and model what we believe.”

“No matter where you are in your career, you can mentor others, offer what you know, share your questions, exchange insights, and keep learning,” Dr. Fox adds. “By so doing, you’ll further your own education.”

In addition to mentoring, write blog boats, host a podcast, or start an online course. I also think that speaking opportunities are clutch since you can also mingle and network. Overall, there’s no shortage of ways for you to pass along your knowledge.

Schedule “me” time.

Most of us avoid spending time alone. After all, we’re social creatures. And, loneliness can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

However, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in some solitude occasionally. In fact, this can be beneficial as this can reduce stress, encourage gratitude, and build mental strength.

Moreover, spending time by yourself allows you to plan and develop compassion. Most importantly? It gives you a chance to reflect and learn more about yourself so that you’re comfortable in your own skin.

Introduce yourself to new and disruptive ideas — as often as possible.

As a leader, I’m positive that you’re surrounded by your favorite books, podcasts, and websites. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, these resources are proven ways to keep learning and growing.

But, you should also expand your horizons. Ask your network what book you should read next. Listen to a brand-new podcast while you commute or exercise.

You can also subscribe to innovation blogs like Innovation Management or Both Sides of the Table. Another idea would be following influencers on social media or stay updated with hashtags. And, you should become a TED Member and dig into leadership reports from organizations like Criterion.

Steps to Reopen Your Office — What to Expect from Employees

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Steps to Reopen Your Office — What to Expect from Employees

Like so many other business owners, you’re rearing to get back to work in your office. Specifically, going back to what life was like before COVID-19. Your main goal for right now maybe simply returning to the office.

That’s not unreasonable. The rollout of the vaccine is here — and things are looking up. According to JLL’s “Human Experience” report, three in four workers wants to return to an office in the future. However, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

In other words, don’t’ haphazardly and rush your reopening. Instead, start developing a plan that will ensure that you can safely and efficiently reopen your office. And, if you don’t know where to begin, here are some pointers to get the ball rolling.

Steps to Reopen Your Office — Brush Up on the Law and Health Guidelines

Without question, the step you must take is reviewing the legality of opening back up. For example, check your local guidelines to actually see if you can resume business operations. Even if you can, there may be limitations on how many people can be in the building simultaneously. The vaccine is helping a lot in getting permission to get back to work.

Because guidelines vary across states — you’re going to have to do this part on your own. But, simply Googling your state and business reopening guidelines should steer you in the right direction. If you rent your office space — you could ask your landlord. Or you can schedule a virtual meeting with stakeholders to discuss your reopening.

Another helpful tool? USA Today’s real-time tracker or COVID-19 trends and restrictions. It can at least give you an idea of whether or not your state is tightening or loosing-up regulations.

If you have the green light, there’s another legal matter to dig into. And, that’s if you can force employees back to work.

Well, that depends on the state. However, if your employers are considered essential or have a contract, employees must show up to work. But, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers paid leave if an employee or someone they care for has been impacted by COVID. If you have any high-risk team members, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may compel you to let them continue working remotely.

Create a Written Return to Work Plan

“Most employers will return to the office in stages, with some employees continuing to work at home for an extended period of time,” writes Dawn Ross, Partner at Carle, Mackie, Power & Ross LLP. To be frank — expect this new hybrid workplace to be “the norm over the next several years.”

“Instead of allowing this to happen haphazardly, create a written return to work plan detailing who will be returning to the office,” advises Ross.

At the minimum, your “return to work plans” should include information like, “When they will be returning, and outlining what precautions have been put into place to keep employees and the general public safe.” Many “of these steps will take a month or more,” start planning earlier than later.

What should be in your written plan?

As a part of your plan, Ross also recommends doing the following;

  • Survey your employees to find out who wishes to come back. While JLL found that a majority of employees want to return, another online survey shows that close to 30% would quit if forced back to the office.
  • Order PPE. Place your order for cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves.
  • Daily health checks. Both the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)” recommend that all employers consider some kind of health check for employees coming into the workplace,” adds Ross. Additionally, “several counties have issued Health Orders instructing all employers to create policies that require employees to complete a health check before coming into the office. Many counties have created a daily health check app for this purpose.”
  • Temperature checks and COVID-19 tests. At your expense, you can conduct and require employees to take temperature checks and COVID-19 tests.
  • Have positive COVID-19 contingency plans. If an employee tests positive, you need to have a plan. It must “address contact tracing, notifying local health officials, and cleaning the affected area, and must include a written notification to employees working in proximity to the positive employee without disclosing the employee’s identity,” advises Ross. You should also have a procedure in place in case you must quickly shut down if there is a spike in numbers or the virus mutates faster than we think.
  • Update IIPP plan. Your state has guidelines “requiring employers to include COVID-19 prevention measures in their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPPs).
  • Worker’s compensation. Employees may be entitled to worker’s compensation if they test positive for COVID-19. If so, you should initiate the claims process.

You should also think about how many people will be allowed in the office? And, will have shifts between work-at-home and work-at-office?

Other reopening considerations.

You’re not done just yet. If employees are working from home because they don’t want to return, or you’ve had to reclose, you should have the following in place;

  • “A written work from home policy that clearly states your expectations and requires your employees to commit to those expectations,” states Ross.
  • Depending on your state, you may be required to reimburse employees for work-related expenses.
  • Workplace safety can also apply to remote workers. You should provide them with ergonomically correct desks, chairs, and keyboards.
  • Changing employees from salaried exempt to non-exempt.
  • Taking a measured approach for those who do not want to return to the office.

If your business interacts with the general public, post required local postings for them to see. You can also refuse to serve customers who do not comply with safety precautions. And, you may also an Assumption of the Risk policy for customers.

Redesign the Office by Taking Recommended Safety Actions

Even with written policies in place, you’re still going to have to re-design the workplace before reopening. After all, you want to make sure that your team remains safe and healthy. Moreover, you have to follow local or state ordinances.

While this may seem overwhelming, the CDC has put together an extensive list of guidelines that your office should adopt. For starters, if the building has been unoccupied for an extended period of time, you should check for mold, rodent/pest, or mechanical problems. Don’t forget about looking for stagnant water and ensuring that ventilation systems are working properly.

In terms of decreasing transmission of COVID-19, concentrate on;

  • Encouraging healthy hygiene practices by providing each employee with sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Also, put up signage reminding people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds and coughing into their elbows.
  • Practicing social distancing by keeping chairs/desks at least six feet apart. You could also install physical barriers and stagger arrival/departure times.
  • Reconfiguring walking areas so that everyone is walking in one direction.
  • Replacing high-touch communal items, like coffee pots, with pre-packaged or single-serving.
  • Discouraging large gatherings and canceling non-essential travel.
  • Intensifying cleaning and disinfection, such as asking everyone to wipe down their workspaces at the ends of the day

To ensure that everyone is on the same page, the CDC suggests including and involving all employees. Also, you should hold seminars, workshops, and drills, so that you are aware of new workplace safety practices.

Bonus tip: If you don’t have the funds to do much of the above, unlock capital. For example, selling off assists that you no longer need. You may also be able to receive assistance through organizations like the Small Business Administration.

Implement Safeguards For The Ongoing Monitoring Of Employees

You should be commended for coming this far. But, this is another critical step to take before reopening. And, that’s implementing safeguards that will monitor your team. These include;

  • Even if it’s not COVID, encouraging employees who are sick to stay home.
  • Conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks.
  • Monitoring absenteeism and offering more flexible time-off policies/schedules.
  • Having contingency plans if an employee gets COVID-19.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open with employees and Creating and testing emergency communication channels for employees and state and local health authorities.

What happens if an employee tests positive?

Cleaning and disinfecting the area where they were present is a must. The employee should also be quarantined until released by a physician or public health official. And, if any other employees were in close proximity, they should also be isolated for 14-days.

It’s important to keep all your employees notified. And, if they voice concerns, you may want to close the office back down until everyone tests negative.

Encourage Vigilance and Lead By Example

I get it. You’ve put in a lot of time in effort in reopening your office. However, that doesn’t mean things are going to go back to normal. You still need to maintain a regular cleaning and disinfection routine. You should also keep tabs on the number of COVID-19 cases in your area — if there’s a spike, you may want to be proactive and shut things down.

But, this shouldn’t completely fall on your shoulders. Even with these protocols in place, your employees need to hold themselves accountable.

Who is responsible for stopping the spread — all leaders and all employees

“The only way to create and sustain change is to have 200% accountability,” writes corporate trainer and author Joseph Grenny for HBR. “Employees must understand that they are not simply responsible for following safe practices themselves (the first 100%), they are also responsible for ensuring everyone around them does as well (the second 100%).”

Moreover, lead by example. If you aren’t practicing precautions like social distancing or mask-wearing, then why would your team follow suit? And, Greeny also recommends using moral messaging. “Make the moral case for changing behavior by telling stories of affected friends, family, or clients to bring the risks of non-compliance to life,” he writes.

Finally, create a culture of transparency. Don’t penalize employees if they experience symptoms or aren’t comfortable being around others. Let them know that it’s acceptable to remind others of the new workplace policies if they notice someone not following them.

7 Leadership Strategies that Build Trust with Your Remote Team

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7 Leadership Strategies that Build Trust with Your Remote Team

The infrastructure of any solid relationship is trust. While certainly true in every sphere of your life, it’s essential in the workplace. After all, it’s been found that employees working in high-trust environments have reported:

  • 76% more engagement
  • 74% less stress
  • 70% more alignment with their companies’ purpose compared to employees in low-trust environments
  • 50% higher productivity

Moreover, numerous studies have found that trust is critical to team success. And, this is most true as remote managers are struggling with trust issues during COVID-10. Thankfully, you can use the following 7 strategies to turn this around.

1. Mitigate your team’s stress.

According to author and leading trust expert Paul Zak, stress is one of the most forceful oxytocin inhibitors. Why’s that important? Well, oxytocin is the hormone that’s responsible for social and romantic bonding.

As such, this chemical is kind of important when building trust with your team. Specifically, it helps teams work and grow together. And that can completely transform the workplace for the better.

“In my research, I’ve found that building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference,” wrote Zak. “Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.”

“They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance,” he added. So, yeah. This just makes sense.

But how exactly can you reduce workplace stress?

For starters, stop micromanaging your team. Instead, grant autonomy by letting them work however and whenever they want. Since they’re currency WFH, this is key since it can make work-life integration easier — like juggling work and homeschooling their kids.

Additionally, make it a point to communicate with them regularly. Regardless if it’s a quick phone call, weekly Zoom check-in, or through Slack, this gives you a chance to acknowledge them or address any concerns.

What’s more, you should make yourself available so that you can provide guidance. For example, if they’re struggling with time managementwhich is a stressor that 46% of employees, then offer advice on how they can fix this problem.

You should also encourage them to take time off and be respectful of their boundaries. That means not bombarding them with messages when they’re off-the-clock. And give them access to mindfulness apps like Calm.

2. Serve up the feedback sandwich.

Giving credit where it’s due is a proven way to build trust in the workplace. In fact, a Globoforce study found that those who received recognition from their leaders recently were significantly more likely to trust them (82% vs. 48%).

Here’s the thing, though. Eventually, singing your team members praises loses meaning. Studies actually show that “negative” feedback (if delivered appropriately) is more helpful than positive reinforcement.

The reason? People want to learn and grow. And, they want to be challenged, not cuddled.

A simple way to achieve both types of feedback is using the sandwich method. Here you would deliver feedback as follows; positive, constructive, positive.

Why does this work? Because you’re kicking and ending things on a positive note. At the same time, you’re also delivering honest and constructive feedback.

3. Get to (virtually) know your team members.

The cornerstone of fortifying any relationship is getting to know the other person. And, by that, I mean getting to know them outside of the workplace. Even if that’s regularly meeting with them in person, it’s having frequent and informal chats with them via text, email, or scheduled “coffee” meetings through Zoom.

While you don’t want to cross any lines here, ask them how they’re doing. Inquire about their hobbies, passions, or how their family has been. It sounds simple. But, spending a couple of minutes each week getting to know each team member helps you bond over similar interests while showing that you genuinely care about them as a person.

4. Make sure that your goals, objectives, and intentions are crystal clear.

Not to be too crass here. But, this is leadership 101. Always make sure that you always do this from jump street.

For instance, let’s say that when a team member has completed their portion of a project, they must notify the project manager. That may not sound like a biggie, but what is the preferred channel here? If it’s through Slack, but they sent an email, that could cause bottlenecks and lots of ibuprofen for the headaches this caused.

In short, make sure that you share your goals, objectives, and intentions with your team. More importantly, double-check that they understand them so that you’re all on the same page.

5. Be competent but also vulnerable.

“Trust in leadership is also based on a leader’s demonstration of on-the-job expertise and ability,” writes executive coach Dina Denham Smith. “In virtual teams where people can feel disconnected, strong communication is an especially critical leadership skill, one on which your competence will be judged and trust built or diminished.”

While you certainly do not want to cause information overload, “there’s no such thing as over-communicating,” adds Denham Smith. After all, “if you don’t communicate frequently and clearly, your people will fill in the blanks with their own, usually worst-case, assumptions.” Additionally, you need to be open about your expectations and transparent “on company direction, policies, and procedures, including the decision-making process.”

At the same time, admit that you don’t have all the answers. You should even own-up to your mistakes. And, if you need help, ask for it.

“While it may seem counterintuitive, leaders who ask for help draw others to them through this display of humanness, inspire others by making them feel needed and garner trust and followers,” adds Denham Hill.

6. Freshen up your virtual events and meetings.

Even though virtual meetings have been around for years, they’ve become the status quo thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While an adequate way to keep-in-touch and build rapport, they’re also exhausting. However, you can spruce them up to establish trust while also bolstering morale.

If you need some ideas, Calendar Co-Founder John Hall has the following suggestions:

  • Get underway by acknowledging your team’s achievements or sharing a joke.
  • Host theme events, like a holiday party or virtual lunches where participants share their favorite recipes.
  • Conduct weekly check-ins to provide updates or ask how everyone is holding up.
  • Always follow virtual meeting etiquette, like muting your mic when not speaking.
  • Encourage silent brainstorming sessions.
  • Organize virtual team-building activities such as fitness challenges or “happy hour.”
  • Keep them engaged by challenging them. For example, you could ask how they’ve overcome a problem in the past.
  • Shake things up occasionally, like surprising them by taking a virtual field trip or inviting a guest speaker.
  • Schedule events when it’s best for your team. While you’ll never find the perfect time and date, you could poll them to see what works best for the majority.
  • Wrap each function up on a high note. For instance, you could ask positive-direction questions like, “What did you find most valuable?”

7. Be consistent.

According to Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, there are three elements of trust; positive relationships, good judgment/expertise, and consistency. I think that you should have an idea about the first two. So, let’s go over what consistency means.

Consistency “is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do,” they explain for HBR. “People rate a leader high in trust if they:

  • Are a role model and set a good example.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Honor commitments and keep promises.
  • Follow through on commitments.
  • Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.

While this may not be the most important element, it’s still essential. For example, let’s say that you penciled in a one-on-one for Thursday at 3 pm. You had a family emergency and didn’t let the team member know you had to reschedule.

Your team member arrives on time and patiently waits. After some time has passed, they email you, and you reply that you had to cancel. That’s not only disrespectful of their time; it also shows them that you can’t be trusted to hold-up your end of the bargain.

Good Leaders Don’t Surround Themselves With “Yes” People

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When you’re hiring, your initial instinct might be to build your company full of people pleasers. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to have people who are more than willing to help? You probably also like the fact that your new hire wants to explore new opportunities and they are extremely reliable.

If you’re fortunate, as you suppose, your new hire will probably even share similar backgrounds and interests. And, you probably won’t have to worry about them causing any trouble — like questioning your leadership skills.

Sure. In theory, that sounds like a good deal. Realistically, though, only surrounding yourself with “yes” people is a terrible, no good idea.

The dangers of “yes” people.

The major drawback of people pleasers is that they have problems with time management. Because they’re willing to lend a hand or take new responsibilities they fall behind deadlines. Also, since “no” isn’t in their vocabulary, they end-up stretching themselves way too thin.

Eventually, that reliability that made them an asset is out the window — they may even become resentful of you. They’re now scrambling to catch-up. And, that’s just a one-way-ticket to Burnoutville.

What’s more, they also have difficulty maintaining a healthy relationship with work and life. Everyone, no matter who you are, needs time away from work. It’s a proven way to rest and recharge so that you can be at 100% peak productivity.

Being on all of the time may also cause problems with their personal relationships. Instead of attending a family gathering, they’re trapped in the office working on next week’s presentation. That may not seem like a bid deal, but relationships are the key to happiness — and if you’re not happy, you’re not productive.

As if that weren’t enough, they are unwilling to share with you critical feedback. As a consequence, this may prevent you from correcting workplace operations. They may also be hesitant to make suggestions on how to improve the products or services you offer.

Also, if they aren’t transparent with you, then don’t expect them to critique you. I understand that hearing constructive criticism is never easy. But, it’s essential if you want to grow as a person and leader.

The solution? Well, as industrialist and founder of Wrigley Chewing Gum Walter Wrigley Jr. once said, “When two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”

In other words, don’t surround yourself with “yes people.” Instead, have a diverse team that challenges you. And, you can do that by…

1. Fill in the blanks.

Take a good look at your team. What skills are lacking? How diverse is your current staff?

Answering these questions is a great starting point. Hiring someone based on specific needs is obvious. For example, if you need a coder, then you’re going to go out and find the best one available But, the second question can be tricky.

“Although you own the business, don’t be fixated on hiring people from only particular backgrounds,” recommends Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar article. “After all, the business world is very dynamic. To ensure you are adaptable to inevitable changes, get employees from as many backgrounds as possible.”

“As much as where the concerned employee is coming from is important, it is their potential to grow with your business that really matters,” adds Choncé. “In just about five to ten years, your business is going to change. Ask yourself where the concerned employee fits in the whole picture.”

If need further assistance hiring a diverse team, here is a 6-step process from Ideal:

  • Conduct a diversity hiring audit on your current hiring process
  • Pick one metric to improve for your diversity hiring
  • Increase your diversity hiring in your candidate sourcing
  • When candidate screening, look beyond criteria like their prior company, school, or personal connection.
  • Increase your diversity hiring in your candidate shortlisting using technology to remove bias
  • Evaluate your diversity hiring metrics

2. Grant autonomy.

While there are times when you might have to micromanage your team, most of the time you need to grant autonomy. For control freaks, that can induce a panic attack. However, it’s one of the best ways for your team to learn and grow.

More importantly? Giving your peeps this type of freedom keeps them motivated and engaged. And, on your end, you’ll have less on your plate.

Simply put. Autonomy is a win for everyone from the top to the bottom. And, despite your fears, it’s easy to implement if you do the following:

  • Clearly communicate why the work they’re doing is important. Don’t forget to also frequently share your mission and vision as well.
  • Allow them to speak their minds. Solicit feedback on your performance. You could also leave room at the end of meetings for them to share their opinions. Or, you could go old school with a suggestion box.
  • Let them choose how, when, and where to work.
  • Allow them opportunities to showcase their strengths and pursue their interests.
  • Give them the right tools and resources to succeed.
  • Make sure that you’re delegating the right job to the right person.

3. Listen effectively.

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say” — Andy Stanley

Arguably, one of the most important traits leaders can have is to actually listen to what others are saying. Sometimes that can be as easy as speaking less and asking lots of questions. Other times you may need to utilize techniques like not going into the conversation with an agenda.

Overall though, getting back to communication basics is your best course of action. I’m talking about making eye contact, not looking at your phone, and responding accordingly. You may not like what you’re hearing, but that’s no excuse to lose your cool.

4. Let them fail.

As someone who has experienced failure, I can tell you that it’s never a pleasant experience. At the same time, failure has pushed me to become more resilient. I’d even say that it’s been the greatest teacher I’ve ever had.

With that in mind, let your team have an occasional setback. I know that just the thought of this may keep you up at night. But, it will encourage them to grow as individuals and think innovatively.

In the immortal words of Micheal Jordan, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

5. Seek out different perspectives.

Outside of work, you should also surround yourself with people who challenge you. Besides helping you embrace this at work, it will help you become a better person. And, you can do so by:

  • Joining an exercise group that pushes you and holds you accountable.
  • Attending conferences, after-hour meetups, or mastermind groups outside of your niche.
  • Finding a creative community, to learn something new or discover a new interest.
  • Networking and engaging with people who have diverse opinions on social networks.
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