A Startling Statistic for Startups

A survey of 7,000 U.S. workers across 19 industries conducted by the nonprofit group Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation found that 71% of workers are looking to change employers. Darren Hardy, author and executive coach, claims that 1 out of 7 employees are on the hunt for new work. Losing even one employee can be most devastating to a startup.

The main reason: Employees leave bosses, not companies. Here are two powerful, simple, affordable and frequently overlooked ways to retain valuable employees:

#1  There is much to be gained from regular one-on-one, face-to-face, distraction free, check in conversations with your employees. People are drawn to bosses who mindfully listen and show appreciation for their talents. Taking 10-15 minutes to check in with your staff on a personal and professional level every couple weeks helps build trust and rapport ( staying power).

If those kinds of conversations feel awkward, prepare a couple open-ended questions that get a conversation moving, like How is the job going? If I could make it more pleasant, more efficient or help you do your job better, what would it take? Let them talk. Take notes. You may not be able to fulfill every wish, but at least you give them the opportunity to express them. Then, follow up with their suggestions within a week to 10 days. This further demonstrates a sincere appreciation and respect for their input. You can ask these same kinds of questions in a group setting, but you’ll learn more in the one-on-one meetings.

#2  Reinforce the obvious and not-so-obvious accomplishments. Celebrate the sales, the negotiated contracts and technical breakthroughs, of course. But don’t forget the little things that make the business better. The not-so-obvious, but noteworthy acts to mention include stepping up to cover for a colleague, meeting a difficult customer’s demand, picking up lunch, etc. Actions like these allowed for productivity where there might have been none. No positive, helpful act that serves the business well should be overlooked.

Oftentimes, it is a founder’s modest and meaningful acts of connection that keep a team intact.

If your staff retention rates run low, look to creating better connections. I can help. Contact me at [email protected]

A Tight Ship

A Tight Ship (definition): A well-managed and disciplined organization. This expression, dating from the second half of the twentieth century, alludes to a vessel whose ropes are taut and seams well caulked, indicating that it is well managed.

The SIX FUNCTIONS OF TEAMWORK embody the notion of A TIGHT SHIP: (Five of these functions are found in Patrick Lencioni’s book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – a must read for entrepreneurs)

First, a small business can be highly functional, valuable and competitive if every crew member continually works to strengthen their core. This means all worries and personal problems must be left at shore. A competent crew member is physically and emotionally ready for the journey — well-rested, nourished, energized, focused, ready to step up and able to manage the stressors along the way. A strong core within each crew member fosters a “tight ship” mentality. The other five functions of a team provide for smooth sailing.

All hands on board trust one another and depend on each other for the success of the journey. Without trust the mission will be stalled by shaky stops and starts, disloyalties, lost time, mutinies and burnout that impede progress towards the goal of the expedition. The Captains (the executive team), with their over-arching duties and responsibilities, must be a cohesive unit and ONE with the journey. They trust their Chief Mates (managers) and crew to secure and steady the ship in the following ways:

Healthy conflict is welcomed as one shipmate may notice a problem or disagree with a directive. Crew members are encouraged to speak up for the sake and safety of the mission. It’s up to the Chief Mates and the Captains to listen to these concerns and coach up a crew member to avoid escalation of the conflict. The Chief Mates need to have the authority to recommend that a crew member gets sent back to shore if the conflict is unresolved.

The crew is committed and dedicated to staying afloat and making the trip successful. Friendships are important, but keeping the ship stable and moving towards its target is the crew’s priority. To be anything less could jeopardize the mission. However, crew members who share this priority can be a very powerful asset when extra effort, sacrifice and going above and beyond the call of duty is required. Friends who support each other for the success of the mission make friendships stronger.

Each shipmate, for the journey to endure and be successful, must be accountable for their actions. This includes following the chain of command, meeting or exceeding expected job performance, conserving resources by carefully watching costs, managing distractions and eliminating sources of strife like skipping on their shift or skimping on their duties.

Tight ship teamwork depends on the managers’ ability to optimize results and secure a competitive edge. A tight ship is strong, agile and reliable, able to take on new missions or to rapidly change course as needed in today’s business world. New trends and policies may require a shift in direction to avoid stormy seas or to weather the competition. It is the responsibility of the Captains to remain focused and vigilant in their roles, and rest assured knowing that the Chief Mates will keep the ship tight.

Does your small business run like a tight ship? If not, I can help. Contact me at [email protected]

Replenish Your Reserve

As I write this post today, I’m waiting to hear back from a company who sought me out (and others apparently) for a large project. Fortunately, at this point in my career, I have a few irons in the fire, so if this one doesn’t come through it won’t matter much.

Nevertheless, for every interesting opportunity that comes my way I, like my entrepreneur comrades, will dig deep and spend days researching and writing up extensive proposals. We sacrifice sleep and family time to prepare a great  presentation. Sometimes it pays off in a grand way, but often times it doesn’t.

When rejection befalls us we sulk for a bit, feel drained, think about what we learned from that experience and how we’d play it differently. Yet, when the next opportunity arises, almost reflexively, we re-ignite the fire and jump into action with the same grit and gusto. That’s just what entrepreneurs do.

What I find interesting, is the seemingly endless mental and physical energy reserve we have. It’s a marvel of the human brain and spirit to keep dipping into that reserve again and again until the win. Does this reserve replenish on its own? Or are there things we should do to replenish that capacity lest it run dry? Here are 5 ways to keep your mental and physical reserve capacity filled to the brim and accessible when opportunity knocks:

1. Regularly engage in activities or hobbies where you repeatedly and consistently experience success.
2. Make every rejection a learning experience. Try to get feedback from the decision-makers. Or sit down with a mentor to go over your material to identify weak points.
3. Maximize your focus and attention skills as missing details, assumptions, misspeaks or a lack of clarification are often the culprits behind rejection.
4. Be sure your sleep and exercise regimens are optimal. They are the engines behind our mood, resilience and physical endurance.
5. As you evolve as an entrepreneur, know when to say “no” to an opportunity where the ROI is minimal. Save “yes” for the truly exciting opportunities where the payoff is great either as a win or as a significant learning experience.

Too many rejections and not enough wins? CoreCoaching may help. Contact me at [email protected]

Perpetuate Success

It’s a given. As an entrepreneur, you accept the fact that you may go many weeks, months and years to experience a success. However, the patience and resilience required to stay upbeat, while it appears that everyone else is “killin’ it” on Facebook, can take a toll on your well-being. Research shows that the age-old adage “success breeds success” is real. I suggest you stoke the fires of optimism, confidence and motivation in your startup by incorporating successes into your life unrelated to work.

Dr. Michael A. Freeman, psychiatrist and entrepreneur, researches entrepreneurship and mental health and advises founders: “Build a life centered on the belief that self-worth is not the same as net worth. Other dimensions of your life should be part of your identity.”

Whether you’re a parent, a volunteer in your community, a musician, or a mountain climber on weekends, it’s important to feel successful in other areas of your life. No matter what your endeavor, create a plan for achieving a personal best. Your goal should be reasonable enough to make the chance of success high, and it should be just beyond your comfort zone to feel the rush of a challenge met.

Another option is to create success for others. If you are crunched for time, find an afternoon once a month to help a struggling student in math, or offer mentoring to a young entrepreneur club in your area. Sharing victories can be just as perpetuating.

Racking up successes outside of work can reinforce an upward spiral of winning at work.

Need help racking up personal victories? Consider CoreFourCoaching. Contact me at [email protected]  

Let’s Have Some Fun Being Accountable

If you ask your staff, What are you doing to get more done?, you’ll get a some blank stares and some good answers like: I limit social media, filter email, turn off my phone, shorten conversations, etc. The follow-up question results in more blank stares: How well are those efforts paying off?

Because I’m known to be somewhat of a task master, when I say to my clients – Hey, this exercise will be fun! I get a few smirks. It has elements of surprise and learning that helps the bottom line, and makes for good group discussions, so it’s within the realm of “fun.” Here’s how it works:

Each staff member cuts out five 4 inch strips of paper. They write a day of the week on each strip, mix them up and put them in an envelope. For four weeks, at the end of the work week, each person closes their eyes and picks out one day of the week from their envelope. If they pick “Wednesday” they need to recall what they did for every hour on Wednesday. If they don’t remember, they can look back on their plan for the week (assuming that they had a plan!!) to see what work was accomplished or how they spent their time. At first, the reports are pretty dismal, the average report ranges from 30-40% productive use of work time.

This exercise has many advantages: It makes people more conscientious about how they use their time at work. It helps one see the value in making a plan for each day. Knowing that Friday is coming up soon, and not knowing which day will be pulled, improves the consistency of their efforts. It also helps one use the anti-distraction strategies more consistently and judge their effectiveness. This exercise also makes leadership clarify expectations for productivity.

I shared this exercise with three different companies.  By the 3rd week, at all three facilities, productivity overall kicked up between 20-30%! Now, that’s fun!

Give it a try at your startup, and let me know the results!                                        [email protected].


Coaching Up or Out?

In my last CE post I talked about coaching valuable, but problematic employees. I will refer to these employees as Ms. or Mr. X.

In hindsight, you may have noticed these problems (a haughty attitude, lack of cooperation,frequent complaining, etc) coming early on, but chalked it up to Ms. or Mr. X being “new to the team.”

You get busy, and in the back of your mind, you hope that Ms. or Mr. X  will respond to peer pressure, conform and the problem will vanish. It’s highly unlikely.

So, the next question is − coach up or coach out Ms. or Mr. X? Prior to that sit-down conversation, prepare your talking points. What characteristics will make this employee coachable? Is Ms. or Mr. X:

  • open to learning? (Ask for examples.)
  • confident enough to accept their limitations? (What are they and do you agree on the problem behaviors?)
  • ready to listen and appreciate the gift of criticism (Ask for examples.)
  • willing to persevere to change (How will change become visible immediately?)

If “coaching up” is the decision, then create a plan to monitor these changes (daily, weekly or biweekly check-ins and by whom). Expect the employee to summarize in writing this meeting and the commitment to change. That is your documentation. Review the plan for accuracy.

You may think this process is a “bit tough” on the employee in question. Yes, they may pass on the challenge and quit. But, in fact, you are helping Ms. or Mr. X succeed in the workplace and in life. You are also demonstrating leadership and supporting your team by addressing the aberrant behavior head on.

Founders: Interested in learning more about building core leadership skills? Send along your queries and workplace conundrums to me at [email protected]              

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