Posts tagged ‘communication’

Sailing to Engagement through Communication

Just as “a rising tide lifts all boats”, good communication lifts all “ships”…including effective leadership, courtship, and friendship. In the long run, each of these is buoyed up by frequent, and positive, communication. For the purposes of THIS discussion, we’ll focus on leadership, however the same principles certainly apply to effectively maintaining and sailing any kind of “ship”!

Great leaders know that the wind that fills their employees’ sails, and moves the [engagement] ”ship” forward is clear and thoughtful communication from the leader. Communication answering the questions “Where are we headed?” “Why are we making the journey?” “What’s my role and how does it fit in?” Without these, the ship flounders.

Moreover, timely, specific and sincere feedback regarding employee performance, progress, and accomplishment puts your inspired leader-“ship” in full sail! Add to these, the many additional opportunities available to all, but utilized only by the most effective, leaders in engaging their teams, including:

  1. Simple greetings! “Good morning”, “How was your weekend?”, “Have a good evening”. Daily interactions provide simple, but effective opportunities to connect and acknowledge others. Sometimes just not doing this can leave employees thinking “what did I do?” or “why’s he upset?” A pleasant greeting truly lifts morale and increases trust.
  2. When giving instructions or making an assignment, ensure full communication by asking questions. Until you hear your intended thoughts coming out of their mouths, you have not effectively communicated…and they know that!
  3. Listen! Remember, Habit 5 – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood. You can only understand what you truly hear, and EVERYONE wants and needs to be understood.
  4. Thanks!” Never, ever, ever let an opportunity to express sincere thanks for any and all (even the simplest) act of kindness, assistance, or help of any kind. You may think it doesn’t matter and maybe it doesn’t, but to many a simple “thank you” is gold!
  5. Look beyond your team! Kindness, respectful recognition, and friendliness expressed to everyone in your path raises the overall engagement level of everyone within the organization.
  6. Compliments, when issued spontaneously and sincerely lift spirits, show recognition and awareness, and demonstrably increase trust and communication, while reducing barriers of skepticism, fear, or introversion.

Put the wind back in your team’s sails by increasing the quality, frequency, and sincerity of communication to and with them! It is the surest way to increase employee engagement…and have FUN doing it!

Lead on!



April 3, 2016 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

The Simple Secrets to Motivation

A good leader wants nothing more than a highly motivated team, pursuing a purposeful plan. The rest is relatively easy.

So what’s the secret to creating an environment where motivation is high and where workers are happily pursuing the planned objectives? The answer is simple. – By remembering and leveraging the two most powerful motivators of human behavior – purpose and appreciation!

Purpose – The most highly motivated people in any endeavor are driven by a deeply held sense of purpose, accomplishment, meaning and “matter”. They are emotionally connected to their toil to the point that “quit” is not even in their vocabulary! They believe in their cause. They have an acute awareness of the importance and impact of their contributions, and they take complete ownership of their stewardship

Appreciation – Everyone loves appreciation – a sincere acknowledgement for accomplishment. Even a simple “thank you” or other expressions of gratitude for a job well done, have proven to have greater influence on worker motivation than any tangible rewards. Interestingly, this hunger for feedback isn’t limited to positive feedback. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing – even when they’re falling short (remember the first motivator?) But when they excel AND they hear about it, motivation is off the charts!

Knowing the simple “secrets” to motivation is half the battle. As with most things however it’s the lack of execution that keeps many managers from creating a truly motivating environment. Rather than sharing the vision – the big picture – the “who”, “where”, “when”, “how”, and most important, the “why”, they keep it all to themselves and deprive the team of the real “purpose” of their work.

Then, when their team members do accomplish tasks, make progress, or move forward on known objectives, and the only ones taking notice are the crickets, not only is this not motivating, it’s actually terribly demotivating!

So, here’s the plan…

  • Communicate
  • Share the vision
  • Empower
  • Facilitate
  • Get out of the way
  • Provide feedback
  • Praise liberally
  • Express sincere appreciation…frequently!

Follow the plan, remembering that real motivation comes having a strong sense of purpose, meaning, and matter, followed by acknowledgement and appreciation for effort and accomplishment!

Lead on!


November 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm 1 comment

Eat Your Peas!

“Eat your peas!” 

“But I don’t like peas!” 

“Yes you do……at least you should!”


“Well…because they’re good for you……and they taste good!”

“They don’t taste good to me!”

“We’ll…..they should!  Eat your peas!”

Does this sound familiar?  If you’ve been a parent…or a child (who hasn’t) it probably does.  Removed from the situation, it also probably sounds a little ridiculous.  Sometimes we sound just as ridiculous to our employees, our coworkers, and unfortunately our customers when we tell them what they should do, try, or like.  Remember the old Alka Seltzer commercial… “Try it, you’ll like it!”?  Pretty presumptuous isn’t it?

Habit 5 of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is… “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  Before you can even hope to sell, convince, or recruit others to your proposal you have to understand their perspective – their way of seeing things.  My mom used to say “Never judge an Indian until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins”.  To presume what others should think, do, or like is in reality, projecting our views on others as if they were mindless drones waiting for someone to connect the remote control.

So how can you know…what others want or how they see things?  Simple – ASK!  Then…LISTEN…really listen…empathically…to understand.   Then, and only if it still makes sense, you can sell, convince, or recruit…to their needs…and not to YOUR presumptions!

Try it, you’ll like the results!  🙂

Lead on!


November 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

Always Begin With the “WHY”!

It’s 3:00 Friday afternoon, and your best customer calls.  He’s in a real jam and needs a simple and inexpensive part to complete a job and quickly fills you in on all the details.  Oddly enough, you are completely out of the item, but fortunately any of your surrounding stores has plenty on hand.  You ask Bill, the only one in your branch not doing anything terribly important at the time, to run and pick up the part and deliver it to the job site as quickly as he can.  Then you return to your work.

In the mean time, Bill who’d had to skip lunch earlier during a rush of customers, stops on his way to grab a sandwich and soda.  He’s not really dragging, but he’s also in no big hurry.  He chats it up a bit with the guys at your sister store, and then heads to the job site.  He arrives just in time to see your biggest customer getting locked out of the property for the weekend, due to a conflict with a major event being held there.  He looks completely depressed…because he is!

You see, just as he’d told you on the phone, this job needed to be completed by close of business TODAY, or he’d be facing $25,000 in late penalties!  The 6 month project was all but done, except for the  $6 part.  When you took the call you didn’t think twice about not getting your customer what he needed, as it seemed like a slam dunk…IF…everyone involved knew what was at stake!  Remember, you only told Bill that your customer needed a simple part.  To Bill there was NO urgency…and being relatively new he really didn’t even know how important the customer was to your branch…and the company!

Communication is the lifeblood of an organization, a project, a relationship!  Without it any of these will suffer at least, and possibly die.  In communication, the “what”, the “when”, the “where”, the “how”, and the “who” are all important elements, but the “WHY” is king!  The “what” informs, but the “WHY” inspires!  The “how” instructs, but the “WHY” transforms!

When you communicate with others…especially with employees, and most certainly when giving instructions, go back, way back, to the very beginning and explain the “WHY” behind everything!  Don’t sell your employees, your children, or anyone else short.  Not only CAN they handle the details – the big picture…they NEED them if they are to become engaged!  And we all know the difference between the engaged and disengaged performer!

To get the very most out of people you have to reach their hearts because the heart is where the “WHY” lives!  Always begin with the “WHY”!

Lead on…


October 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

An Attitude of Gratitude

Have you ever noticed that the happiest people you meet are also the first to say “thank you”, and that the most frustrated, selfish, and cynical rarely acknowledge or express gratitude?  Why is that?  Is it because happy people have more to be thankful for?  I don’t think so.   I believe theirs is an attitude of gratitude that is born out of a unique perspective of wonder and contentment.

According to a recent national survey, more than half of all Americans don’t expect to receive a thank-you card or note after giving a gift.  Unfortunately the age-old custom of sending thank-you notes and cards has nearly been forgotten.  The survey, commissioned by the Society of American Florists found that most people don’t even expect an in-person [verbal] “thank you”, a phone call or even an email “thanks”.  How sad! 

Now, don’t misunderstand…I’m not suggesting that we as doers and givers should be seeking recognition and gratitude from others; that’s not the point.  The point is that we as a people are gradually drifting into a state of thanklessnessIt is a problem, especially in a country where prosperity and plenty have given Americans more material blessings than any people, at any time, in history.  People who don’t show gratitude are less likely to treat others with respect.  They are more likely to be rude and insensitive and show a lack of regard for everyone but themselves.  They are more likely to lie, cheat, and steal…and to complain that they are “entitled” to what others have.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day – the one day of the year when many pause to consider all that they have been given.  Some even call this time of year “the season for giving thanks”.  But gratitudereal thanksgiving – knows no season.  It is not an event that we “do” and then set aside for the rest of the year.  Real gratitude is a character trait of people with real characterGratitude indicates an attitude of humility (the opposite of Pride–the first “deadly sin”) and acknowledges one’s dependence upon others.  I cringe when I hear people say “he’s a self-made-man”, and worse when I hear of people who they themselves think that of themselves.  None of us are self-made.  None of us are successful by our own merits…no matter how challenging our lives may be.  There is always a friend, a parent, an advisor, an author, an employee, a customer, a teacher, an inspiration, or an artist that leads us to achievement.  I work for a guy who understands this.  He’s the CEO of one of the best wholesale distribution companies in the country.  Yet every day as people leave work and he hears the “goodbyes”, he calls from his corner office “thanks for the help”.

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to commit to developing an attitude of gratitude at all times and under all conditions.  To look for and recognize the blessings and gifts that just come to us.  To always thank others for help, for things, for ideas, for anything we can find an excuse to express gratitude for.

At a time when people are “thanking” less, what an opportunity to set ourselves apart.  Commit to sending one thank-you card a day to a customer, or looking for one thing to thank an employee for each day. As we do, wonderful things will happen to us as individuals, to those we thank…just watch…

Lead on………..    Cliff

November 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

What’s Your Motivation?

Why do you do the things you do?  Why do you perform at the level you do?  What about your employees; What’s their motivation for what they do and how they perform?  

In a speech by author and lecturer Hyrum Smith, he said that there are three basic emotions behind everything we do.  These emotions cause us to act upon, or react to, the various events and opportunities that make up our lives. These emotions are…Fear, Responsibility, and Love.   

Everything we do, every choice we make…is the result of one of these emotions – fear, responsibility, or love.  When you jump out of bed in the morning, it’s because you’re afraid if you don’t you’ll lose your job, or because you’re driven by a strong sense of responsibility to those who count on you, or…because you love what you do and you love those you serve…and you can’t wait to get to it!  One way or another, everything you (and your employees) do links back to one (or more) of these emotions. 

Why does it matter?  Consider the following: 

  1. The emotion of fear relates to “I have to thinking…  “I have to go to work or I’ll starve”.  I have to help that person or I may lose my job.”  “I have to stretch the truth or I’ll lose the sale.” 
  2. The emotion of responsibility relates to I ought to thinking…  “I ought to be on time because that’s right thing to do.”  “I ought to sweep the floors because the place should look presentable.”  “I ought to call the customer back because that’s she’d expect.”
  3. The emotion of love relates to I want to thinking…  “I want to get up and get to work because I love what I do.”  I want to serve my customers well because I genuinely like and care about them.”  “I want to do exactly what the boss asked – even when he’s not looking – because he’s a good guy and I like working for him.”  I want to spend the extra time training this employee because I love his enthusiasm and potential.”

Clearly, there’s a difference…a BIG difference between the depth of motivation…from fear…to responsibility…to love!  Which would you rather have working for you?  I’ll take ”I want to” every time!  It stems from the love of a job, love of an organization, a customer, an idea, a vision…  Imagine the difference over the life of a career between an employee that is motivated by love (“I want to”) versus one motivated by fear (“I have to”). 

The example you set and work environment you create can make all the difference in how your employees are motivated.  Model the actions, emotions, and care that you desire from your employees and you’re far more likely to see them respond in a similar fashion.  If they know you “want to” carry out the mission, and love doing what you do, your influence will spread and your team’s results will skyrocket!   

Lead on…


October 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Great Expectations

You’ve heard the advice… “Over promise, then under deliver…and you’re sure to disappoint”.  Few things can break trust or weaken relationships more.  Making a habit of it can be “fatal”…especially in trust-based relationships.  Conversely, sound customer service is built upon “under promising and over delivering”, thereby creating situations and results that thrill and excite customers.  The interesting thing is, that while the actual quantity, quality, or degree of what is being “delivered” COULD be exactly the same in every case, it’s the relative expectations that determine the level of satisfaction…and trust.  If you expect a half glass of juice and receive a half glass, you’re satisfied.  If you expect a full glass and receive the same half glass, you’re unsatisfied.  If, on the other hand you expect only a sip of a juice and you receive a half glass, you’re elated!  Again, it all depends on expectations.  The following illustrates well this relationship between expectations, “delivery”, and trust!

I once heard a man talk about his life growing up on a ranch where he worked with his father and brothers raising cattle and horses in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  He was taught as a boy that when he wanted to catch one of the horses to ride, all he had to do was to put a handful of grain into a bucket and shake it for several seconds.  It didn’t matter if the horses were in a corral or a large field; they would come running to get the grain.  As a horse would eat, the young rancher would gently slip a bridle over its head, and prepare the horse for riding.  He was always amazed at how well this simple process worked.  Occasionally though, when he was a little lazy, and didn’t want to take the time to get the grain from the barn, he put dirt in the bucket and shook it, attempting to trick the horses into thinking that he had grain for them to eat.  When the horses discovered they had been deceived, some of them would stay, but most would run away and be nearly impossible to catch.  He said it would then take several days to regain the horses’ trust.

And so it is with service…no matter where it is given…whether it’s at a sales counter, or to your employee, co-worker, boss, or family….anyone that relies on your service, your promise, your “delivery” to them.  Do you over promise…then under deliver? Do you say what you think they “want” to hear, knowing full well you won’t be able to “deliver”?  Do you falsely build expectations by not telling the whole story?  Do you stretch the truth, exaggerate the benefit, or say whatever it takes in order to get what you want…now?  If you’re a manager, a professional, or a parent, your “customers”, those you serve and whom depend on you, expect a higher standard; Anything less is a disappointment!  Think about your “customers” and ask yourself, “what do they expect from me?” Then with that as a minimum, decide what you’ll do today, next week, or next year to exceed their “expectations”… Keep it interesting…keep ‘em guessing…and keep delighting them… They won’t just be “customers”…..they’ll be raving fans!

Lead on…


June 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

Integrity Rules!

In the landscape of human relations nothing is as powerful as integrity.  No earthly force, arsenal, or fortune can even come close to its awesome influence. Integrity is more powerful than even love! It’s easy to be loved….more difficult to be trusted.  Nothing moves people, gains cooperation, or unites like integrity!  To the individual, integrity’s reward is inner peace – the byproduct of bringing one’s behavior in alignment with his beliefs.  Power, influence, inner peace… Who would trade these…for anything?

The fact of the matter is that every day we are tested by life’s challenges.  Sticky situations can cloud judgment, while opportunities to gain advantage, increase one’s popularity, or win the approval of others, often leads to moral compromise…and the loss of integrity.  

For leaders, the benefits of integrity extend well beyond inner peace. Leaders with integrity are trusted…wholly and completely.  On the other hand, those who apply the principles of honesty, confidence, and integrity only situationally are then believed only situationally. Leaders with integrity are trusted….always!  This is power! 

No matter how forceful, demanding, cajoling, or manipulative a leader might be, no other influence even compares with integrity.  

So, when those tough decisions do come…and they will…how do you consistently make good choices, emerging each time with your integrity intact?  The next time your integrity is challenged ask yourself these questions:

1)      Is what I am considering legal and in line with company policy?

2)      Is it fair and balanced (win-win) with all parties involved in the decision being   treated fairly – in both the short and long term?

3)      Will anyone be hurt by this decision?

4)      How will I feel about myself when it’s done? If the whole world (including my friends and family) know of my decision will I feel good about it?

If the answer to any of these questions would cast a shadow on your most valuable asset – your integrity, stop…don’t do it…and enjoy the inner peace, trust, and influence it earns you as a leader… No gain is worth the loss of integrity!

Lead on……….. Cliff

May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

“…I recommend pleasant.”

I received an anonymous email from an employee in one of our stores.  It was short and simple.  It read:

“I am an employee at the ——- location.  I have a few concerns.  There is absolutely no teamwork within the facility.  I’m concerned, because without teamwork, the store cannot function properly.  It would make the whole operation run smoother if we all helped each other out.  This is a great company and I just want the experience [of] working here [to be] a pleasant one. Thank you”

As a boy growing up from the 50’s to the 70’s one of my favorite movies was “Harvey” (1950), starring Jimmy Stewart in the role of Elwood P. Dowd.  If “Harvey” was ever on TV, the Woodbury house was tuned in!  I remember most clearly a scene toward the end of the movie, when Elwood is conversing with a doctor and nurse at a sanitarium…  Say’s Elwood:

“…In this world you have to be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.  For years I was smart.……..I recommend pleasant!”

Elwood, a wealthy eccentric, was by no means espousing ignorance-induced pleasance.  Instead, I think Elwood would advise: “work smart and be pleasant”…pleasant in your relationships and in your interaction with others.   It is important to be careful, focused, and thoughtful about one’s work, but when it comes to people, few things are more energizing, enjoyable, and unifying than an environment where people go out of their way to be kind, thoughtful, and tolerant…i.e., pleasant with each other.

If, on the other hand, we attempt to be “smart” rather than pleasant in our interaction with others, we automatically pit ourselves against them.  There is an implied position of superiority and one of inferiority, or of dominance and subservience…which leads quickly to distrust, distance, and ultimately…disdain.  Not exactly the environment of “teamwork” and productivity we are after…

So stop and take a look around you…what kind of an environment are you as a branch manager, sales, manager, or department manager fostering?  If you’re surrounded by positive energy, and pumped-up people,  don’t change a thing.  But if things could improve, begin right at “home” by…being pleasant…and then…….

Lead on……Cliff

March 4, 2010 at 10:42 am Leave a comment

Do They Know How They’re Doing?

 I once had the very good fortune to hear, and even speak with Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, and regarded by many as “the CEO of the Century”. What a great experience…one I’ll never forget! Jack spoke of many things that made him and GE successful, but if there was one central theme, both in his presentation and in his life it was “candor – openness, and transparency…” He said “candor and transparency are absolutely critical to the success of organizations”. In his book, “Winning”, he calls the “lack of candor” ”the biggest dirty little secret in business”. He says, “Lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer!” Lack of candor effects entire organizations, departments, work teams, and, I believe most importantly, the relationship between the employee and his/her boss. It is this last relationship that I’ll focus on here.

Have you ever learned, way after it was too late, that you’d damaged a relationship, made a mistake, or spent weeks, months, or even years working on the “wrong” priorities only to find out your boss had been disappointed or angry the entire time? How frustrating! How discouraging! How unproductive! Unfortunately, this occurs more often than not! If you’ve attended my class on coaching, you’ll remember the survey: “Why Don’t Employees Do What They’re Supposed to Do?” The top three answers to this question [given by bosses] are: “They don’t know what to do”, “They don’t know how to do it”, and “They don’t know why they’re doing it”. These answers are followed closely by my favorite: “They think they are!”

How does this happen? It is the result of a serious lack of communication and lack of candor! So who’s lacking? The boss! The employee doesn’t have a chance unless the manager [honestly] opens his mouth. Now this doesn’t mean being unkind, demeaning, or sarcastic…it means being open and honest in a respectful way…in teaching, correcting, and encouraging workers to apply their very best to the producing of results. One of the most powerful (to me) things Jack said was, “The day you become a leader is the day you put others (their development, success, rewards, and growth) before yourself and your work.” In other words, it’s the day you love your people! Great leaders are so into the welfare and success of their people, that they set aside any preconditioned tendencies to hold back, not be open, not deal with the difficult thing, that would rob the employee of the opportunity to grow! Employee failures are [almost always] the failure of the boss!

It is equally important that employees are open and honest with their boss. The best ideas come from those doing the work. In an environment of candor and openness, employees know they can, at any time share their ideas, suggestions, and observations, and whether their ideas are adopted or not, they know they are at least appreciated! On the other hand, where mangers respond to worker’s ideas dismissively, sarcastically, or patronizingly, the door to candor and openness gently closes. Moreover, where managers ever express themselves to their employees with anger, intimidation, abusive language, or disrespect that same door SLAMS SHUT…often permanently! Great leaders know this, and work tirelessly on creating an environment of candor and trust as a first priority, for they know that all other things are dependent on doing so. Again, from “Winning”, “To get candor, you reward it, praise it, and talk about it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in an exuberant and even exaggerated way.”

So, why is it that we even need to discuss candor, openness, and honesty? Because it runs counter to our nature, or at least our conditioning. For most, it’s just not easy…but, what is [easy] that’s worth doing? Just as with exercise, good nutrition, reading, and planning, adopting the values of openness and candor require self discipline and determination. But as with exercise, good nutrition, reading, and planning, the payoff is HUGE!

The two most powerful motivators of human behavior are: “Achievement” (a sense of accomplishment), and “Feedback” (acknowledgement for accomplishment). Neither of these most powerful motivators can be maximized outside an environment of candor and openness. Ken Blanchard calls Feedback “the breakfast of champions”. Feedback should not occur on an annual basis, but should take place monthly, weekly, daily, even…hourly! It is a constant and ongoing process. In his closing remarks, Jack offers this last simple, yet powerful, and absolutely critical charge…“No one should ever come to work not knowing where they stand!” Think about it… An employee who doesn’t know how they’re doing, or doesn’t know they’re not performing well, will either continue to do the wrong things, the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, or at least work at an unmotivated level.

If you want to be a successful and effective leader of a highly charged, excited, and engaged team, begin by creating an environment of candor and openness…and begin with YOU!

Lead on… Cliff

January 14, 2010 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

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