Is Your Team Prepared for Emergencies in the Workplace?

One week ago, I was robbed at gunpoint. Luckily for my employees, and myself, the robber just wanted the money in my store. He did not want to hurt anyone. That did not take away from the scariness of the situation or my thankfulness of safety when it was over. In the aftermath, I was thankful I made time the past two years instructing my employees on tips and protocol when dealing with a bad situation.

We must make time to inform our employees what to do in the case of emergencies. If the moment ever comes, we want them to think clearly and focus on what they know. The few minutes you set aside to discuss these things with them twice a year is time well spent if a crisis reveals itself. Here are tips to help you help your team:

  1. Designate shelters-in-place – These are rooms that are secure from the outside, usually with little or no visibility, where your employees can go to hide from an active shooter or protect themselves in case of a natural disaster. The room should be free of objects that could fall on top of them. The room should be structurally sound (bathrooms often are very sound). The room should have little to no visibility from the outside and be able to be locked.
  2. Have an area to meet up outside of the workplace – If employees evacuate the building (from fire for example), you will want to get a head count to ensure that all are accounted for.
  3. Post maps that clearly identifies exit paths and doors – These maps will help them think clearly in case of an emergency.
  4. Discuss What-If scenarios with your team – What if someone is robbing the workplace? How will you respond? What if there is a tornado? How will you respond? The types of situations can go on and on. I would recommend natural disaster scenarios, fire scenarios, and scenarios that involve potential assailants or robbers.
  5. Have these meetings bi-annually – You may have new employees, and it’s always good to have reminders of the proper protocol in case of an emergency.

Do you have scenarios that you prepare your team for? Do you feel like you and your team are prepared?  I would like to know your thoughts.  Please join the discussion and post a comment!

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Challenging Yourself

Management is demanding. The best of us face problems every day, and many of them were out of our control. It’s part of our job, but can leave us mentally drained. I’ve found that by challenging myself in my personal life, I have more energy and a clearer focus at work. Here are some ways that you might consider challenging yourself to re-energize after a long day’s work.

  1. Take some classes – What do you want to know more about? Take some classes on that subject! This can be fun and challenging. I’ve found out by going back for my master’s degree, my focus at work is more acute. By the way, if you’re looking for a challenging and enlightening MBA, I would encourage you to check out the EMBA program at the University of Nevada, Reno. http://www.unr.edu/degrees/emba/online-emba #unrbrand
  2. Volunteer for a favorite cause – There are many charities out there trying to help those less fortunate. There are few things better in life than helping other people. It’s good for the soul, too!
  3. Coach – If you have children who play sports, sign up as a coach if possible. Even if you know very little about the sport, the time you spend with the children aiding their learning and working towards a common goal can help bring clarity to other times in your life you spend leading (such as at work).
  4. Become an expert at your hobby – Spend the extra time mastering your hobby and find others to share it with. Many times there are local groups you can connect with to share in your passion.
  5. Blog! – Sharing your thoughts with the world is a scary endeavor. I’m sure you have something very valuable to contribute to others, and blogging about is a great way to share. Platform by Michael Hyatt is an excellent resource to get you started with blogging. Follow his blog at http://michaelhyatt.com

Let me know how you challenge yourself by leaving a comment. And please subscribe to my blog by clicking Follow!

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Are You a New Manager? 6 Tips to Relate Better With Employees

Being a new manager is hard. It may be your first management assignment, or you may be the new manager for a crew of people.   It’s crucial you start your employee relationships with the right tone and image. Here are 6 tips to help you do this.

  1. Introduce yourself to the group– Meet with them as a group and introduce yourself. Give them a brief biography and maybe a quirky fact. Let them know that you’ll meet with them each personally over the next few days. The idea to communicate is to let them know that you are here, you care, and you are ready to do a great job for them and the company.
  2. Meet with employees individually – During this 15-30 minute meeting, ask them questions about their career goals. Ask them what they do well. Ask them what you can help them with as their manager. Ask them what you can do to improve the team or results. Ask them about the things they do well that can help you and the team. Share with them some details about your life – spouse, kids, hobbies, causes and interests. Ask them about their family. It’s important to remember what they are saying. When you are done, take 5 minutes and write down some of the highlights to remember.
  3. Create quick wins – Based on your initial meetings with employees or within groups, take action on anything quick you can do to improve the team.
  4. Publish quick wins – Anything you do that immediately improves the team condition or results in the first 30 days should be published / posted to let the team know what changes you were able to make based on their feedback.
  5. Don’t change anything for 30 days – If the group didn’t ask for the change in your meetings with them, don’t change it the first month. Many groups have a life of their own. It’s good to watch to see how the team interacts and the decisions and actions they make daily. When you introduce change you want, you’ll need to be ready to sell it and the benefits.
  6. Be fair – Ultimately, there will be those that will attempt to persuade you that an employee is a bad apple. Assume positive intent and judge that employee for the actions they take and the results they get. Address any team concerns only if you sense it cannot wait. Even then, ask questions first to understand the other employee.

I would love to hear any tips you have as a new manager. Please leave a comment! Thank you for reading.

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Can We Talk About Absenteeism?

Unscheduled absenteeism is a problem in some workplaces. It has many root causes, but it triggers so many other problems.

  • Lower customer satisfaction (in a service industry)
  • Lower productivity
  • Higher costs (paying for PTO or not, many times the people that cover may be overtime or excess workforce you keep in case)
  • Lower morale of those attending work
  • More headaches for the supervisor or manager

The list doesn’t end there, but those are some major consequences.

Showing up to do a job sometimes is half the job. After all, if the person is not present, it’s hard for them to do the work. Here are the two methods that I find most effective to shore up attendance. I would suggest using them together for best results.

  1. Have a heart-to-heart with the employees who are absent the most. Let them know that you care about their health, but you need to ensure their attendance. Some cases may qualify for FMLA, so be prepared to discuss their options with them. Above all, ask them for their help in increasing their reliability by being absent less often.
  2. In accordance with the HR policies in place, be prepared to enforce the attendance guidelines. While some of these people may perform well when they are there, they are also causing many other problems by their excessive absenteeism. The enforcement of the policy should be fair and equitable. In other words, what’s good for your bottom performer is good for your top performer.

In the end, you may lose an employee to excessive absenteeism. However, by making the policy clear to all, by expressing your concern for their health, and by enforcing the policy, absenteeism will decrease. Chances are, you will see the following effects, too:

  • Better customer satisfaction
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower payroll costs
  • Higher morale for all
  • Less stress for you

Please take a moment to leave a comment, suggestion, or recommendation for another topic that may help you. Also, please follow me on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

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Have You Thanked an Employee Today?

There can be so many problems and situations that arise daily for a front-line manager that it can sometimes be easy to forget those who help you do your job better. It’s hard to focus on the positive actions your employees took and easy to fight the next fire.

Today, I ask you to slow down and think about those employees who are helping you by going above and beyond to do their job well. Here are some ideas that I’ve tried in the past, or have seen others try that work well:

  1. Hand them a thank you card – Go to the Hallmark section of any Walgreens or grocery store and buy a box or package of blank inside thank you cards. Keep this in your drawer and write a personalized note once in awhile inside the card to give to the employee. They will appreciate the personal touch.
  2. Give them a $5 Starbucks card – These can be purchased at any Starbucks and who doesn’t like free, top-grade coffee?
  3. Recognize them in front of their peers – Call a huddle or quick meeting and personally thank them in front of their peers. Give them a note or a handshake and say something sincere about how what they did helped the team or helped you do your job better.
  4. Bring in donuts or muffins – For a team thank you, a boss can earn kudos by bringing in a tasty breakfast! Donuts from the local donut shop, or muffins (my favorite are Costco’s!) are tasty and most will love them!
  5. Pat on the back / handshake / and a thank you – In the middle of the workday, approach the employee, and sincerely thank them for what they did. Tell them how what they did made a big difference (be specific), and give them a handshake or a pat on the back.

Today, I want you to thank an employee! Leave me a comment on what you do to personally recognize an employee’s effort. Also, subscribe to my blog by clicking Follow and follow me on twitter @JoeCroarkin!

 

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Bottom Line: How well do you know your People?

When people say, “bottom line,” many times they’re referring to the results. As a results oriented American business culture, managers put the pressure on employees to get the results, and sometimes they do not take time to understand what will motivate them for those results. I have one quick way to find out what motivates people and to get them to work for you as much as the results.

 

I must admit that I got this technique from my former boss Josie, my favorite manager in my career. When I transferred over to her facility, I got to meet 100 new employees. And 95% of them worked their hardest, but they worked their hardest for her. I noticed as the operations manager, she would walk around the facility, and, more often than not, her conversations with employees would be about them or their family, or some other endearing detail she had learned before. These employees were not afraid of her. In fact, they wanted to exceed all of their expectations because they felt as if she cared about them as people, at least as much if not more than, as employees.

 

Ask yourself an honest question: As the boss, do the majority (or all) of your conversations during normal business times reflect work related topics? Ask yourself another question: Do the people you got to know the best personally also seem to be your most reliable and hardest workers? I would be curious to hear what your honest answers are to these questions.

 

So, the bottom line is not the results, but it is, “How well do you know your People?” Please leave me a comment, follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to this blog by clicking on Follow.

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Assuming Positive Intent

He always does that!

 

She never checks her work!

 

As a manager, do you sometimes have too many balls in the air and not enough time to address issues with employees? It’s only natural that we sometimes have these moments. Depending on our position, we have many more fires to put out, and it seems easier to blame the employee rather than looking deeper into the causes.

 

By looking deeper, I mean assuming positive intent.

 

It’s a popular research topic, and it seems that the best leaders assume positive intent. So, what goes into assuming positive intent?

 

  1. Asking questions – Having a short conversation with the employee can do wonders. “I saw you doing that, and I have a hard time understanding why. I know you have a well thought out reason/plan. Can you take me through that?”
  2. Listening – This is a skill that needs to be honed over time. It’s sometimes not the words, but it’s the tone, eye contact (from both parties), and confirming your understanding of the other. “If I heard you correctly, you said…” It’s also in asking clarifying questions to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. “I understand you’ve been busy this last week. What obstacles specifically did you face?”

 

After trying to understand their point of view with good listening skills, the ideal boss would look for ways to either help remove some obstacles for the employee or whatever seems to be needed (additional training, access to resources, etc.)

 

However, someone who does not assume positive intent will not have their listening ears open to try to understand the obstacles and issues that the employee had.

 

As a manager, leader, coach, and mentor, these are the opportunities for you to make a difference in that employee’s productivity and engagement. Don’t pass on these moments. Assume positive intent!

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