Eric Jacobson

Archive for the ‘Soliciting Feedback’ Category

Book Review: The First-Time Manager, Sixth Edition

In Effective Communications, Employee Satisfaction, General Leadership Skills, Hiring, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Leading By Example, Listening Skills, Management, Mentoring, Motivating Employees, Soliciting Feedback, Team Building on February 26, 2012 at 7:15 am

Amacom (of the American Management Association) has just released the sixth edition of the best-selling book, The First-Time Manager — originally published in 1981.

The book covers eight core responsibilities of a new manager, including:

  • Hiring
  • Communicating
  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Training
  • Monitoring
  • Evaluating
  • Firing

Expert advice is additionally provided regarding:

  • Using Your New Authority
  • Managing Your Mood
  • Building Trust

One of my favorite sections of the book is the one about class in a manager:

  • Class is treating people with dignity.
  • Class does not have to be the center of attention.
  • Class does not lose its cool.
  • Class does not rationalize mistakes.
  • Class is good manners.
  • Class means loyalty to one’s staff.
  • Class recognizes the best way to build oneself is to first build others.
  • Class leads by example.
  • Class does not taken action when angry.
  • Class is authentic and works hard at making actions consistent with words.

The First-Time Manager is an excellent how-to guide for anyone new to managing people.

Other books for new managers include any from the Top 20 list of Leadership Books, as voted on by LinkedIn Linked 2 Leadership group members, who were asked the question:

  • What’s the first leadership book you would give to a new manager?

What To Ask When An Employee Leaves

In Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Exit Interviews, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Books, Soliciting Feedback on February 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Knowing why an employee leaves your company can help you to reduce your employee turnover rate.

That’s because you can use the reasons a departing employee provides to gather information about processes, people and departments that might need some redirection to correct situations that may have contributed to the employee’s reasons for leaving.

And, if you spot trends in the answers departing employees are giving you, it will be critical that you act on that valuable information.

Here are 15 questions you or your Human Resources (HR) team can ask during an exit interview to better understand the real reasons employees leave:

  1. Why are you leaving?
  2. What did you like most about your job?
  3. If you could improve the job in any way, what would you suggest?
  4. How would you rate cooperation within your work group?
  5. How would you rate communication within your work group?
  6. How would you rate your opportunity for advancement?
  7. Did you receive the necessary training to do your job?
  8. Did you receive frequent coaching and balanced feedback from your supervisor?
  9. Did your supervisor resolve complaints and address problems effectively?
  10. Did you receive the necessary information to perform your job effectively?
  11. Would you recommend that a friend or acquaintance apply for a job here?
  12. If you could change three things about your department and three things about the company, what would they be?
  13. Did you think your pay was fair?
  14. How would you describe the morale at the company in general?
  15. What else can you tell me about why you are leaving?

These questions come from The Essential HR Handbook, written by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell.  Their book is a quick and handy resource for any leader, manager or HR professional.

5 Questions To Ask Employees During Performance Reviews

In Effective Communications, Employee Engagement, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Listening Skills, Management, Motivating Employees, Soliciting Feedback on January 4, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Here are five important questions you, as a manager and leader, should ask during employee performance reviews:

  1. What have I done to help – or hinder – your job performance?
  2. What can I do in the next review period to help you achieve/improve?
  3. What conditions here enable you – or make it hard – to do your best work?
  4. What do you want most from your job?
  5. How can I help you reach your career goals?

I bet most employees have never heard most of these questions from their supervisors on a consistent basis.

Thanks to Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell for these questions — just some of their great advice from their book, The Essential HR Handbook.

Leadership Lessons From Abraham Lincoln

In Company Culture, Effective Communications, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Quotes, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Leading By Example, Listening Skills, Management, Motivating Employees, Soliciting Feedback, Team Building on November 6, 2011 at 8:27 am

Did Abraham Lincoln really say, “Get out of the office and circulate among the troops,” back in 1861?

He did.  But, not in those exact words.  What he said, according to author Donald T. Phillips, is this:

  • “His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.”

Lincoln made this statement when describing his reason for relieving Gen. John C. Fremont from his command in Missouri (September 9, 1861).

Phillips writes that for Lincoln, casual contact with his subordinates was as important as formal gatherings, if not more so.

Phillips, includes many more leadership lessons from Lincoln in his fascinating book, Lincoln on Leadership, where Phillips presents 15 of Lincoln’s leadership statements in today’s vernacular.

Another leadership lesson from Lincoln is to:

  • Influence people through conversation and storytelling

Phillips explains that Lincoln had a strategy that emphasized the role of stories as powerful motivational tools that spread loyalty, commitment, and enthusiasm.  Stories are important because they are memorable.  They teach.  Employees learn largely by stories and not mounds of data.

Other lessons from the book include:

  • Wage only one war at a time
  • Encourage risk-taking while providing job security
  • Avoid issuing orders–instead request, imply, or make suggestions

5 Ways To Get More Ideas From Your Employees

In Brainstorming, Company Culture, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Listening Skills, Management, Motivating Employees, Soliciting Feedback on November 4, 2011 at 6:52 am

Your employees have lots of ideas.  So, be sure you provide the forums and mechanisms for your employees to share their ideas with you.

Hold at least a few brainstorming sessions each year, as well.

And, when you are brainstorming with your employees, try these five tips:

  1. Encourage ALL ideas.
  2. Don’t evaluate or criticize ideas when they are first suggested.
  3. Ask for wild ideas.  Often, the craziest ideas end up being the most useful.
  4. Shoot for quantity not quality during brainstorming.
  5. Encourage everyone to offer new combinations and improvements of old ideas.

70 Ways To Be A Better Leader

In Company Culture, Effective Communications, Employee Engagement, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Listening Skills, Making Decisions, Management, Mentoring, Motivating Employees, Soliciting Feedback, Team Building on July 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

This list of 70 ways to be a more effective leader is one I like to review every couple weeks:

1. Don’t micromanage
2. Don’t be a bottleneck
3. Focus on outcomes, not minutiae
4. Build trust with your colleagues before a crisis comes
5. Assess your company’s strengths and weaknesses at all times
6. Conduct annual risk reviews

7. Be courageous, quick and fair
8. Talk more about values more than rules
9. Reward how a performance is achieved and not only the performance
10. Constantly challenge your team to do better
11. Celebrate your employees’ successes, not your own
12. Err on the side of taking action

13. Communicate clearly and often
14. Be visible
15. Eliminate the cause of a mistake
16. View every problem as an opportunity to grow
17. Summarize group consensus after each decision point during a meeting
18. Praise when compliments are earned

19. Be decisive
20. Say “thank you” and sincerely mean it
21. Send written thank you notes
22. Listen carefully and don’t multi-task while listening
23. Teach something new to your team
24. Show respect for all team members
25. Follow through when you promise to do something
26. Allow prudent autonomy

27. Respond to questions quickly and fully
28. Return e-mails and phone calls promptly
29. Give credit where credit is due
30. Take an interest in your employees and their personal milestone events
31. Mix praise with constructive feedback for how to make improvement
32. Learn the names of your team members even if your team numbers in the hundreds
33. Foster mutual commitment
34. Admit your mistakes
35. Remove nonperformers
36. Give feedback in a timely manner and make it individualized and specific

37. Hire to complement, not to duplicate
38. Volunteer within your community and allow your employees to volunteer
39. Promote excellent customer service both internally and externally
40. Show trust
41. Encourage peer coaching
42. Encourage individualism and welcome input

43. Share third-party compliments about your employees with your employees
44. Be willing to change your decisions
45. Be a good role model
46. Be humble
47. Explain each person’s relevance
48. End every meeting with a follow-up To Do list
49. Explain the process and the reason for the decisions you make
50. Read leadership books to learn

51. Set clear goals and objectives
52. Reward the doers
53. Know yourself
54. Use job descriptions
55. Encourage personal growth and promote training, mentoring and external education
56. Share bad news, not only good news
57. Start meetings on time

58. Discipline in private
59. Seek guidance when you don’t have the answer
60. Tailor your motivation techniques
61. Support mentoring – both informal and formal mentoring
62. Don’t interrupt
63. Ask questions to clarify

64. Don’t delay tough conversations
65. Have an open door policy
66. Dig deep within your organization for ideas on how to improve processes, policies and procedures
67. Do annual written performance appraisals
68. Insist on realism
69. Explain how a change will impact employees’ feelings before, during and after the change is implemented
70. Have face-to-face interaction as often as possible

Will You Be The Next Blockbuster, Borders, CDs And Mail?

In General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Management, Soliciting Feedback, Strategic Planning on July 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Perhaps you saw the July 4th issue Fortune magazine article about how digital companies are so big and growing so fast, that they are obliterating old brick-and-mortar businesses.  Fortune reported that:

  • The U.S Postal Service is on track to lose $6 billion this year.  Cellphone text messages sent are up 1,200,243% from 2000.
  • Netflix sales are up 43,101% from 1999 versus Blockbuster’s drop of 29% in sales during the same period.
  • Amazon has almost single-handedly bankrupted Borders.
  • iTunes debuted in 2003 and Tower Records closed in 2004 and Musicland folded in 2006.  FYE is shriveling.

And the Wall Street Journal recently reported that sales of greeting cards have fallen 9% since 2005 amid the rise of social media and email.

What is the digital company or the new technology that will force you to change your business model?  Or expand, or morph?  Or, worse…that will cause you to close your doors?

As the leader in your business, are you listening to your sales force who hears everyday about the competition and what your customers want and your prospects need?

Are you spending ample time with your lower and mid-level employees who are interacting with your vendors, customers and co-workers and likely have ideas for you that typically don’t gain your ear?

Are you engaging with your tech-savvy Generation Y employees who life and breath the digital landscape?

Do you diligently set aside time each day or week to read your industry’s trade journals and Blogs, and do you attend industry trade shows?

Perhaps it won’t be digital technology that will change or crush your business model.   Instead, it might be the fact that more than 10,000 Baby Boomers, since January 1st of this year, will reach the age of 65. And, that pace is going to keep happening every single day for the next 19 years.

Will that aging population change your business in terms of how you deliver customer service online and in-person, or the way you deliver your product, or the way you create or manufacture your product.

Are you holding focus groups with Baby Boomers to learn how best to serve them in the future, particularly when you consider they may be more technically inclined than you think?  For example, according to Pew Research Center:

  • 69% of people ages 54 to 64 now buy products online.
  • 93% of that age group send/read email.
  • 54 to 64 year-olds spend more time online than do people between the ages of 12 to 34.

Bottom line?  Are you spending enough time with your management team, your employees and your customers and at industry events so you don’t become the next Blockbuster, Borders, CDs or Mail?

Dig Deep For Ideas

In Company Culture, Employee Engagement, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Listening Skills, Management, Soliciting Feedback on June 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

The next time you are looking for ideas for how to grow revenue, streamline processes and procedures and/or reduce expenses, dig deep within your organization. Don’t ask only your direct reports for their
Instead, ask everyone at all levels. Some of the best ideas will come from your lower and mid-level employees who are interacting with your vendors, customers and co-workers every day in the very areas that, if improved, could make the most dramatic impact.
  • Be sure to acknowledge receipt of each idea.
  • Keep everyone informed of the types of ideas you’ve received.
  • Perhaps update them on a monthly basis.
  • When you implement a suggestion, recognize and reward the submitter, including possibly financially.
Feel free to accept ideas anonymously. But, if employees know you are sincere about wanting their input, and witness you acting upon suggestions, most of your team members will be proud to tie their names to their ideas.
Finally, if there are some of the same suggestions that are offered up by multiple people, odds are those are the ones that need your immediate attention.

How To Talk About Inconsistencies With An Employee

In General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Management, Mentoring, Setting Goals, Soliciting Feedback on March 8, 2011 at 5:01 am

If you’re having a difficult time clarifying inconsistencies you are hearing from an employee about a project’s/task’s progress, try asking these questions (or making these statements) the next time you meet with the employee:

  • Here’s  what I see. Here’s what I hear you saying.
  • Here’s what we know so far.
  • So let’s see  if I’m on track with you…
  • Let’s see where we are…
  • How about we step back from a moment and look at a few different ideas…
  • Did I hear you correctly when you said…?
  • Am I missing something here?

Always be sure you’re  on the same page and have the same understanding of the progress being made with your employee’s projects.

Thanks to Jane Murphy for these tips from her book, What Could Happen If You Do Nothing.

Ask Your Customers To Help You Create Your Strategic Plan

In Customer Service, General Leadership Skills, Leadership, Leadership Books, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Management, Soliciting Feedback on December 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Mike Brown, the founder of the Kansas City company called, The Brainzooming Group, encourages business leaders to solicit feedback from their customers when creating a strategic plan.

Brown recently wrote in Smart Companies Thinking Bigger magazine, that you should “ask a group of current, former and potential customers the following questions:”

  • If you’re a current or former customer, why did you start using us?
  • What have we done in the past to make your biggest challenges more difficult?
  • If you still use us, why do you continue to do so?
  • If you don’t use us currently, what are some of the reasons why you don’t?

“These questions are designed to allow your customers to share their perspectives and opinions openly, not rate performance on a numerical scale,” explained Brown.

He explained that the answers to the questions will provide you valuable insight into:

  • Your current strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities to more successfully help your customers
  • Potential challenges from not fully meeting customer expectations

Mike Brown is the author of the ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation,” a guide to breaking through personal challenges to living a more creative and innovation-oriented life.

%d bloggers like this: