Posts Tagged 'team-building'

Wake up call for Gen Y workforce

Achtung! Wake up kids, it’s a new ball game!  Listen closely now, I’ve got a new word to add to your vocabulary….layoff.

Making my rounds as a small business consultant, in the past 90 days, I’ve noticed a perceptible change in the younger, less experienced workforce…the Gen Y folks in their early 20s. Now, I don’t want to make too much of this observation but…the new generation of workers is getting a rude awakening. No reason to repeat what you all know…times are tough. In some industries, real tough. And, compared to a just one year ago, layoffs are far more common.

Around the water cooler, staff members in the slowing home services business wonder…”Will I be next?”  As I said, to me, this newfound concern for job security is clear.

What does it mean? More importantly, what does it matter?  I believe those of us whose concern it is to manage and lead in tough times, have a real opportunity!  An older member of the management profession, I’ve seen it, lived it all before…backin the late 80s.  Recession then led to job cuts and more work for those who were kept on the team.  And, I must say, we learned alot about productivity, as delivered on a daily basis by concerned workers.

I suppose all I’m saying is….Maslow had it right! His well known “hierarchy of needs” theory is proven to be fact over and over again. Human beings react to the most urgent, most threatening situations in ways that preserve their lives and lifestyles. Nothing new here.  The point is, when people are worried about thier jobs, they tend to listen more closely to those who have the power to end their careers.  “What”, they wonder, “must I do to keep this job?” 

Smart leaders understand that, if only for a fleeting moment in time, Gen Y workers, self-possessed and focused on balance, flexibility and lots of control and immediate gratification in their lives, are going to pay more attention to how they can add value to the company.  This is a good thing!

Smart leaders will sieze the moment!  I’m not talking about grinding an extra 10 percent out of each frightened worker…I’m talking about teaching the new generation of workers how good they can be! Why? Because most have no idea how productive a person can be when focused on the task at hand vs. a consuming belief that life must be fun 24/7!

So, go for it boss! Crank up the training…have more team meetings. Let your best people know that, together, you will weather the recession and emerge a better, more productive team than ever before.

Teach your people to multi-task. Cross train everyone. Show people how good they can be and recognize the positive growth when you see it!

Let’s go America…time to turn off MSNBC and CNN…time to cut out the negative thinking….time to pull you team up by the boot straps! You can do it…your workers can do it….if you understand that it really does take an energized team approach to leading.

Go for it! After all…what is your next best option?


New Administration, hard times, NOT business friendly

Like it or not, republican or democrat, the die is cast; there will be a measurable change in your business model, and soon.  My objective is not to sell you on a particular philosophy but to alert you to the inevitable.  With higher taxes on even small to mid-sized businesses and reduced discretionary spending, you owners and managers out there will now have to control costs more tightly.  If you don’t, the alternative will surely be less on the bottom line.

When growth comes, not from adding revenue and taking advantage of accompanying economies of scale but through budget crunching cost reductions, YOU WONT BE ADDING PEOPLE, will you. Soon, you will come to the realization that you are going to have to succeed with the people and equipment on hand.  And, if you are normal, this is a frightening concept.  

I’d like to suggest you think about the one thing that does make sense for the short-term future; get more productivity from the people you have!

I understand, asking today’s ‘gen y’ worker to do more is akin to blasphemy but…you gotta do what you gotta do.  The good news is, even workers who want more time off, more flexibility on the job and continuing benefits, even those folks will respond to greater recognition and an enhanced position on the team.

Think about it…the starting quarterback is injured. As he takes his seat on the bench, you look hopefully at the back up. You tell the back up; “This is your you can be somebody, you can help us win the game. And, when we win, YOU win.  More money, pride in knowing you are the best, maybe even a promotion to the staring team.” 

My point is, when you are in a pinch, if you understand how to impact human behavior, you can win every time.  So, you don’t  tell people times are tough, that the new congress has jacked your taxes and you will earn less money. You don’t say that because nobody but you cares! What you do say is this; “Team, I know everyone here is concerned about the economy, our jobs and our company future.  It’s natural to worry when all you see in the media is a growing unemployment number and businesses failing.  Well, we are not going to fail and YOU are not going to lose your jobs, period!  We’ve been handed a tough situation but, if we all pitch in, we will weather this storm…and we’ll do it by working together and working smart!

Having reassured your team, you explain that everyone, including you, the leader, will need to do more short-term but, when we win, everyone will share in the success. [Don’t say that unless you genuinely mean it]

What I’m suggesting is, in tough times, when you may even need to cut staff, you can still WIN with your core team. It requires “hands-on” coaching and an understanding that, if treated with a modicum of respect and shown they are important, no, vital to success, your people will work harder and do more to help your team win.

This is my consulting message to clients and I wanted to share it with you.  Thinks about your management style. Are you bossing or coaching?  Will your people go to battle for you becasuse they understand you will do the same for them? Or, are people simply cogs in a gear wheel?

Tough times require a refocused effort to create and maintain a positive workplace enviornment and it begins with letting your people know YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE!

Developing Teams – It’s About Time To Get Serious!

In the spring of 2008, I made over a dozen presentations to business groups interested in learning how to be more effective and successful managers. 

When they hired me, these folks knew they were going to hear about one thing, leading, or managing if you prefer, people.   After 20 years in management training, that is the part of the business I understand best.


In every instance, whether I was speaking at a trade show and conference or to a private business management team, in one way or another, I asked this question; what is your most vital resource?  To clarify, if you had to pick one resource that, if properly used, will lead to success, what would it be?  And I offer these choices; Products? Equipment? Operating capital? Credit? Marketing programs? People?  And in every instance the answer is the same; people are the key resource in building a successful business.  It’s not that other resources aren’t required; it’s that they are more easily acquired and managed.  If you accept that as fact, let’s move on.


Again this season, as in every spring since 1985 [when I began training/consulting], I encountered owners and managers who struggled mightily with people. It has to be the single biggest frustration we face. 


As an example, reflecting on my experience with one company, the sequence of events goes like this:

  1. Plan the year…marketing strategies and details.
  2. Create the annual budget with all known costs, revenue projections, etc.
  3. Set timelines/benchmarks for activities, marketing, sales, and production.
  4. Oh yea, people!  Do we have enough of them?


And the story repeats itself to a greater or lesser degree in 90% of the businesses I encounter.


My point; everything is nailed down…except for people.  Smart managers plan and strategize.  Owners and top managers with valuable experience lay out the year, deal with banks and vendors.   We know it pays to contact each customer and confirm their business for next year.  So, many make the time to do that.  But staffing with the right people? Gee, time to get the ad in the paper.  Bad.


Enough ‘brow beating’.  The intent of this article is to make you think about developing your team.  My goal is to get you to put people on the top of your resource planning list and do it now!  The intended result will be to begin 09 with the best prepared core of people you’ve ever had.  Does it take time? Yes.  Will you invest more labor dollars up front? Yes.  Is it a smart business move? Yes…if you do it properly, as part of an overall people strategy that builds teams vs. just filling chairs.


Mistakes to eliminate:

  • Assuming your best, core people are satisfied and will be there when you need them most.
  • Assuming staffing is pretty much a ‘roll the dice’, run the ad and see what happens game you play without predictable results.
  • Assuming you can start new hires and bring them up to speed in a week or two.
  • Assuming training and daily coaching will happen without specific, focused plans in place.
  • Assuming you can’t control new hire turnover.


Strategies I’ve seen work to develop people:


  • Assess your staff.  Don’t assume you know a person’s mind.  If you want to build a team of loyal, committed players, you must begin by confirming that motivationally, your veteran leaders are ‘on board’ and supportive of your business philosophy and practices.  If not, they will sink your ship, guaranteed.  Have a one-on-one with core team members.  How did the year go for them?  Are they getting bored, need a challenge or expanded responsibility.  What can you do for them that will motivate them to help you?
  • Designate a competent person to handle new hire recruiting and on-boarding.  It’s time to get serious about bringing on the best new hires.  You cannot develop someone who is simply doesn’t have what it takes or who has taken the job for invalid reasons.  Understand, you can control this process and, do a large degree, the results will be predictable.  The days of finding the best new people in the classified ads are gone.  You’ve got to be more pro-active than in the past.

          Sales reps find jobs on the internet.  Go to ‘monster’ or ‘career builder’   and be pro-active!  Scan resume’s listed and contact them!  This takes time.  Assign the responsibility or do it yourself but don’t sit, waiting and hoping ‘the ad works’.

          21st workers search specific, industry focused internet sites. So, get familiar with sites that address your industry and business.

          Use your best employees to find additional labor.  Create incentives for successful ‘in house’ recruiting.


Don’t let incompetent people conduct screening interviews!  Prepare and role-play the hiring  questions in advance.  Be sure you are looking at past performance as the best indicator of future results.  And, for most jobs, I place a candidate’s attitude above all else in scoring the interview. 


Show candidates your ‘best face’ but present the job honestly with clear expectations and rewards.  A candidate will be asking him/herself “Why should I work here”.  You must effectively answer the question in their mind.


Don’t forget the interview setting.  What are the physical surroundings like?  Clean or disorganized?  The physical environment means a lot.  Walk outside and come back in.  Would you want to work here?  Is your office private, uninterrupted?  Desk cluttered?  All this matters.



  • New hire on-boarding must be a positive experience.  Bring new hires into a positive, organized and well planned training, learning environment.  Show the new team member how he/she is now an important team member.  Introductions are first.  How does the new hire fit into the group?  Give the new person an opportunity to spend some time with each veteran and get to know them unsupervised.  You are going through a process called ‘socialization’ and it takes time.  Be sure that each day of the first few weeks is planned and controlled to ensure a positive start and finish.  The new person should be given limited goals, followed by honest but consistent positive reinforcement as they learn and gradually take on more responsibility.  When new people feel important, respected and succeed, they don’t quit.


  • Provide ‘hands-on’ daily coaching after the initial training period.  It is vital that the each new person on your team is brought on-board with enough advance time to go through a reasonable learning period without undue stress.  ‘Hands-on’ coaching is an investment of time and effort that is not only worth making, it is key to the new person’s success.  You or your designated ‘recruiting/training’ person can be this coach.  Or, the immediate supervisor can do the job.  But someone must prioritize and maintain consistent daily contact, coaching and reinforcement of early learning.  Though daily coaching, the new hire will learn and form the right habits quickly.  To throw new people out on the job without initial training and follow up coaching simply does not work.  Your investment in the recruiting, on-boarding and follow up coaching process must become an integral part of the annual business plan.



  • Provide visible ‘top-down’ examples of positive leadership.  Practice what you preach.  If you truly want to build a team of loyal, ‘can-do’ players’, your people must see exactly those traits in you.  Telling people to be considerate of customer’s feelings and needs, then failing to do the same with your staff, sends an undeniable double message.  If your people feel you highly value your customers but treat the staff with less caring and concern, your people will simply leave.  Think about how you treat customers vs. your people.  Be honest. If you place the same priority on your employees feelings about you as you do the opinions of your best customers, I guarantee turnover will drop!  So, don’t assume high turnover.  Be certain you have a positively motivating work place environment.


With limited space, I have tried to address some of the most impactful and controllable factors we all face as people managers and leaders.  The suggestions I make have been proven to work in the real world.  How much you need to change, how seriously you take the people challenge is up to you.









Where Did All The Good Workers Go?


An article explaining how anyone can build a powerhouse team.


Author – Bill Hoopes, Trainer and Organizational Effectiveness Expert


            Time and experience have taught me a lot about solving tough people problems. I don’t have all the answers.  I do know that no single formula works consistently in all situations.  And I have had some experiences (successful and unsuccessful) that have led me to conclude there are specific, positive things that you can do to make success through people possible, or even probable. While I cannot guarantee solutions in every situation, I can guarantee improvement.  If that sounds fair—read on.


Woody & Bear speak out from the grave –


            I’ll admit it, there may have been times when building a team of strong, loyal and consistently productive people seemed fairly simple…I just can’t remember any!  As an Ohio State Buckeye fan, I recall the way Woody Hayes put it: “You win with people.”  For him, it was that simple.  Find the right people, teach them what they need to know, hold out a ”carrot” like a Rose Bowl trip and get out of the way.  Paul “Bear” Bryant, legendary coach at the University of Alabama, felt the same: “Find some talent, show them how to make the first touchdown, and back off—the rest is simple.”   But that’s ancient history, right?

            Is it really the same for us today, in business?  As a manager and management trainer for many years, I’ve come to realize that, while Woody’s and Bear’s level of competition was higher and more intense, and while winning or losing was determined in an afternoon, the principal determinants of success in sports apply equally to other endeavors, like business.

            But what is it specifically that leads to success?  Let‘s look closer. We’ve told ourselves for years that winning with people means simply finding the “right” people, training them to proficiency and direct their daily efforts.  And, sure, we must provide consistent encouragement and positive feedback.  The icing on the cake is the incentive to work. Something like a pot of gold [motivator] is placed at the end of the rainbow (task completion deadline), and miraculous things happen — sometimes. 

Is it that simple? Do we clearly understand why, then, more managers, leaders and coaches don’t win consistently?  Conversely, do we know why some teams just can’t lose — even in the face of tough competition?  Is the answer really just “great talent?”  Ask George Steinbrenner if buying great players is enough to win.  The answer is NO. Great players, like great employees, make it easier.  But in today’s workplace, staffing with 100% champs isn’t realistic.


How we can win:  Winning through people requires a clear, two-part, approach.  We must:

            * First, expand your ability to discover and attract the best of the labor pool. This is NOT a dream! I’ve done it and helped others recruit winners. Job one is building a core of essential team skills.

            * Next, make each work day a more positive and productive experience for our “starters” and “bench warmers” alike. This takes focus and coaching skill. And everyone reading this article IS capable of coaching successfully!


Keep this in mind; no team ever won all the marbles with “stars” alone. It’s the competent, supporting bull pen that usually makes the difference.  And it is from that second level that you must find and develop the next generation of leaders.

            You must work both sides of the street simultaneously. First, don’t let up in your recruiting efforts to upgrade where necessary, replacing losers, while, at the same time, giving focused consistent attention to those currently on staff.  Both are critical parts of an effective people plan.


Having said all that, I concede that the commonly accepted reason for failing with people remains, “Just aren’t enough good people these days.”  The implication is: Good people (the kind we want and need to win) were there, but no more. Evidently, we must conclude, the “good people” have vanished from the scene. They are gone!  I hear it daily. And to complicate things, we’ve talked ourselves into believing that we cannot win the game or reach our objectives with anything less than perfect employees. That’s silly. 


Smart leaders succeed all the time with less talent and the right attitude.  Get that? Attitude. I can teach an average person to excel IF the positive attitude is there and is genuine.


If you accept my premise, perhaps you’ll trade in today’s pessimism for a shot at my experience-based optimism.


For now, consider what I call the “Magnificent Seven”:


7 Ways to Build a Powerhouse Organization


These basic requirements can make your job as manager, leader or owner much easier:


1. Create a clear definition of your business identity, goals and values.

2. Develop a practical philosophy of leadership [how you’ll interact with the troops].

3. Study yourself, your past influences, how you came to form your attitudes about people and work. Fine-tune, identify the “leadership style” that will work best for you. [one on one situations, team meetings, honesty, involvement, info sharing, setting a positive leadership example. Where do you fit, your preferences…there is NO one best “style”.]

4. Commit yourself to balancing people/task relationships. [Most are task oriented]

5. Develop a comprehensive human resource strategy. [A culture that promotes the advancement of your team members…who, in turn will build your business.]

6. Make an accurate assessment of the positive and negative elements of your employees’ working environment today.

7. Use your management power sources intelligently. [Hint, your personality is your strongest source of power….so, don’t fear human interaction, learn to use it!]


Obviously, each of the seven steps above can be a project in and of itself.  I’ve spent nearly a quarter century helping managers win with people. If you need help, let me know