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Champion Leadership Blog

Champion Leadership Tip #4 – Great Leaders Know It’s All About “Thanks-Giving”

This week is a special holiday week in America as we celebrate all the things in life for which we are grateful. We celebrate this gratitude with a large feast with our closest friends and family.

As we move into the holiday season which starts with the “Thanksgiving” holiday this Thursday, it got me thinking about how great leaders show genuine appreciation for the efforts of those they lead and create situations to recognize those efforts in special ways that connect with their followers.

A little “thanks” goes a long way, as long as it is specific and genuine. Well-done shows of appreciation by managers and leaders can improve employee morale and motivation. They can also go a long way towards replacing the need to continually throw salary raises and bonuses at employees in the hope of improving their morale and motivation.

Studies continue to show that in lieu of appreciation and feeling valued in the workplace employees pine for higher wages, bonuses and benefits, which creates an entitlement mentality and wealthier unhappy and unappreciated employees.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday spend time in the next few days working on and implementing one or both of these ideas:

  1. Invest a few minutes each day to write down a couple of specific things you appreciate about each of the people on your team. Then, invest just one-two minutes with each individual person to share what you wrote in a face-to-face conversation.
  2. In your next staff meeting, open it up by going around the table one person at a time and share “one-thing” you appreciate about each individual on your team (the public show of appreciation will have a huge impact on the overall morale of your team and create a collective and contagious positive feeling).
  3. Write a hand-written “Thank You” note expressing your gratitude for the contributions your team member has made. Again, here, be specific as to what it is the team member does to contribute to the effort. Handwritten notes are a lost art in this day of e-mail and text messaging and I guarantee will have a huge impact.

One caveat that I can not stress enough. Your comments must be specific to the individual and not just generic praise. By specific I mean pointing out a specific incident in detail, or a specific achievement that made a difference to the team, the company or helped you as a leader do something different or better.

For example – “Jim, I don’t know if you realize how big a help it was and what a difference it made last week when you went out of your way to help Steve prepare for his presentation to XYZ Company. I don’t think we would have gotten that contract without the insights you were able to provide to Steve. Thank you for taking the initiative to go the extra mile when you recognized the need.”

Have fun with it and enjoy the process by noticing the reactions and feedback, both verbal and non-verbal, you receive after doing these. If you do, I believe it will become addicting to you and contagious for your organization and will easily begin to improve the performance of your team.

A Lesson in “How Not to Motivate Employees”

I’ve heard of some pretty bad bosses in my 27 years in business and have witnessed some very poor tactics in attempted workplace motivation, but this has to take the cake.

The NY Post today reported about a restaurant owner in Manhattan that cursed out his employees and threatened them with their jobs for not accumulating enough e-mail addresses from patrons.

About the only thing worse for this restauranteur would have been for him to verbally abuse his staff with an outburst during the dinner hours with his restaurant full of patrons.

It seems from reading the article that employees know their boss’ personality and were not surprised by the outburst. I’m sure it will get some of them to start collecting the e-mail addresses he demands, but, at what price.

Mr. Ponorovsky (the restaurant owner) is creating a ‘compliance’ culture at his place of work and could very well be considered a bully boss. His approach may reap short compliance with his demand, but I doubt it will create results long term.

This type of approach, which I’m sure has manifest at other times, will have employees on edge and can not, under the emotional stress, deliver high levels of customer service necessary in the restaurant industry.

Or, maybe, he’ll continue to succeed despite his approach, but I would still argue profits would be higher if he were to adjust and create a ‘commitment culture’ at his restaurant where his employees did what he requested because they were committed to helping their employer be successful, instead of just doing it so they can continue to collect a paycheck.

I may go patronize the restaurant just as a show of support these abused employees and order a glass of water, sit there for 2-hours with friends but leave a big tip.

What do you think?

New Study Reveals – 25% of Companies Rate Employee Morale Low – I’m Surprised It’s Not More

In a new CareerBuilder Survey released today 23% of employers reported that the work environment at their company was experience low employee morale. If you look at the positive side that means 77% of companies may be experience high levels of employee morale, but somehow I think that’s not even close to being accurate.

Delving deeper into the survey findings, which included feedback from 2,900 employers, you will find that 40% of workers were having difficulty being motivated to perform their job requirements.

Based on feedback I’m getting from business professionals in the Hudson Valley region of New York I have to believe the number of low morale workforces is significantly higher than just 23% of companies. How much higher its hard to say, but I’d say it’s closer to 50%. Then again, maybe my view is skewed by the fact that maybe I only get referred in to companies that have challenges with their workplace attitudes and employee morale and motivation.

Those companies I’m referred in to really have a hard time knowing what to do about employee morale, especially in challenging times, when salaries are being cut and layoffs continue to grow. It’s virtually impossible to maintain high morale when people are in a state of uncertainty about the future of their employment that will impact their financial future.

To mitigate the angst in a workplace employers need to be as transparent as possible and communicate even more than usual about the situation. Strategies for salary reductions and layoffs need to be viewed as being allocated fairly (and by fairly I do not necessarily mean “evenly”).

Another strategy is to try to give employees as much as control over their situation as possible, since most feel a complete lack of control in this type of environment. One example of what I mean is companies that have an annual holiday party.

This expense could be seen by employees as cutting in to whatever little extra cash they may be able to enjoy during the holiday season. As such, if given the choice between a holiday party or getting a few extra dollars in their paycheck or a small holiday bonus instead of going to a company party, many may choose the former.

I would contend its best to forego the holiday party, which would be lightly attended and attended by many who would not have as high a level of holiday cheer as they should, and give employees a sense of controlling their situation.

Leaders that want to create a high morale and high performing work culture should consistently apply the 6-Keys I outline in my latest white paper. Additionally, they will become an even better leader when they understand that in situations like these its not about themselves and what they want. It should always be about the people they lead and leading with compassion and empathy.

As leaders, listen to your people and give them what they desire when its easy to do so.

Champion Leadership Tip #3 – To Become a Better Leader, Lead Yourself First

I was attending a regular weekly employee meeting of a new client my first day on the project when the entire group of 15, including the company’s owner, recited in unison the company values. Within 10-minutes of that exercise the company owner, in responding to an issue brought up by a team member, violated about three of the values just proclaimed as being important to the organization.

It was a perfect example of why low employee morale was rampant throughout the organization, and a great thing for me to witness to start my coaching and consulting intervention.

In the realm of leadership and developing an organization with high morale and motivation the strategy of “do as I say, not as I do” is a loser.

The highest value a leader can bring to an organization is “congruency.” Congruency is “walking the talk,” “doing what is expected of others,” and being an examplary role model for the espoused values and behaviors that build the foundation of championship organizations.

One of my business mentors, Alan Weiss, The Million Dollar Consultant, said in a workshop once that people “follow what they see in the halls, not what is written on the walls.”

People follow people they respect. People respect people with integrity. Leaders gain integrity by being the role model and modelling the behavior they expect from those they lead. Its virtually impossible for leaders to hold others accountable to expected values and behaviors when they themselves blatantly violate those values.

Therefore, its time to do a self-assessment. As a leader are you showing up consistently as you expect others to show up? Are you fulfilling the values and behaviors t which the organization proclaims its commitment?

How could you be better at leading yourself first? If you were, what message would it send to the rest of your team?

One area I’ve found in which leaders fall short of leading themselves first is procrastination. Two of my present clients came to me to help them fix the challenges they were facing in their business because they themselves had procrastinated on key issues. Their inability to stop procrastinating caused low morale, and low employee engagement throughout their organizations. As simple as it sounds they needed help to end procrastination.

If this is a challenge for you and others in your company, you may want to download a couple of free chapters and an exercise from my End Procrastination NOW! System, available free at this link.

Panera Bread vs. Starbucks? A Contrast In Customer Experiences!

As has probably been apparent in my recent posts I’ve been focusing on the little things in customer service lately (e.g., recent posts such as “It’s the Little Things That Count in Customer Service” and “An Now for a Story About Very Poor Customer Service”).

Last week I found another noteworthy distinctive contrast.

I had the opportunity to meet with a couple of business colleagues to build a deeper relationship on two separate occasions. One I met at a Starbucks and another at Panera Bread in our local area.

Not being a coffee drinker I have no particular affinity for Starbucks other than its a nice casual public place to meet to have a light business discussion and there are enough locations around that its usually a mutually convenient place to meet.

Panera Bread is similar to Starbuck’s in the context of being a nice, clean, comfortable place for a light business meeting with two important contrasts.

One is obvious. Panera is a more comprehensive restaurant with soups and sandwiches, breakfast danish, etc. whereas Starbucks offers coffee and other related beverages and isn’t particularly known for its food options.

The other important distinction between the two is that Panera Bread offers unlimited free, no questions asked, WiFi internet connection. Theoretically one could set up camp in a booth at Panera Bread with a laptop and mobile phone creating a pseudo virtual office. Some of my colleagues have done this, and some do this regularly. A colleague of mine who works in human resources for the Panera Bread tells me that unless the restaurant is extremely busy during standard meal times, no one would think twice of allowing a person, who has not purchased even a soft drink to stay and operate a virtual booth office all day long.

I presume the same could be done at a Starbucks but the biggest difference is Starbucks requires registration through an AT&T mobile account to get an internet connection. Registering a Starbucks card gets you two-free hours of internet time and using the card to purchase something at least once every 30-days gives you another two-free hours. AT&T does offer an unlimited option for a fee.

I understand Starbucks position that it wants to be able to comfortably accommodate customers consistently throughout the day and not have seats taken up by non-paying customers. I would probably feel the same way. I also know that most Starbucks seating areas are significantly smaller and more limited in the number of patrons they can accommodate than Panera Bread.

Panera Bread, on the other hand, has made a corporate decision to build a deep relationship with its potential customers providing them with a perk that has the opportunity to build long-term loyalty. The thought process here is that if the patron is in the restaurant for a long period they have to eat or drink something eventually. Plus they will hold meetings with colleagues who will buy foot and drinks as well.

I am trying not to make a value judgment on either approach as I understand the business model, marketing strategies and limitations of each. I just think its important to point out the distinctions between the two approaches and use it as a point of discussion regarding the pros and cons of each to learn how we can apply the lessons to our own businesses.

What are your thoughts? (If you needed a virtual office with internet access outside of your main office are you a big enough coffee drinker and a fan of Starbucks to go through the card registration process at a Starbucks? Or, would you be more like me to want the simplicity of Panera Bread’s approach to be able to just sit down, open the laptop, connect and get to work?)

Please leave a comment if you are inspired to do so.

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