Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lessons from a Flea: How to be an Engaged Employee

A few years back I had an employee that was totally NOT engaged in his job. He would drag into work, wait to be told what to do and then half-way complete his work while not paying attention to any details. He had no "fire" or passion. No pride or ownership in his work. It wore me out!! At first I thought it was my fault - but then I realized he had to take responsibility for the job he was hired to do.

Engaged employees are those who have passion for their work and the organization they work for. The online shoe company Zappos takes this concept so seriously that they offer new employees $2,000 to quit after the first month of training. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says, "We want people to be here because they are passionate about customer service and because they like our culture...not just here for the paycheck." In the long run the company feels the $2,000 buyout is cheaper. Wow!

In his book, The Daily Drucker, Peter Drucker states, "Fleas can jump many times their own height, but not elephants." In other words, the smaller the entity, the greater the potential for achievement of gigantic proportion. Now, I'm not calling you a flea or suggesting that your organization has fleas! What I am saying is that you, as an engaged employee, can have enormous impact on your organization. In today's economy it's up to you be as valuable to your employer as possible.

Are you an engaged employee? Do you think the people in your organization are giving it their all? Do you think employees in your company feel appreciated and look forward to coming to work each day? If you answered "No" to any of these questions then your company could be missing out on 40% more profitability, 50% lower turnover and 56% more loyal customers.

If you watch the Celebrity Apprentice you saw what a not-so-engaged employee looks like when Joan Rivers fought with Clint Black. Click here to watch it.

Organizations in the Smart Zone have engaged employees and leaders. Here are some tips to help you and your organization become more engaged.

  • Be a "Can Do" person. Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, focus on what you can do. Be action oriented. Many times people don't take action because of their belief that they aren't worth much. Our beliefs affect the way we feel, which affects the way we think, which affects the way we act. So the next time a co-worker asks you to help organize a customer appreciation day, instead of saying, "No, I can't do that," say, "What I can do is coordinate the customer invitations."

  • Get to know people. Learn what excites your employees, co-workers and customers. What are their goals? What stresses them out? How do they define success? (Just for fun watch how Michael Scott of the TV show The Office defines success). I don't suggest prying too deeply into a personal conversation. Just show an appropriate and genuine interest in those with whom you work and their well-being.

  • Use meaningful rewards and recognition. An employee appreciation golf outing on a Saturday might not feel rewarding to a single parent who has young children. Also, recognize efforts and accomplishments of those working on long-term projects to give them a boost towards achieving their goal.

  • Say "bye bye" to blame. The process of blaming and figuring out who to blame is a time waster. Mistakes should be acceptable and encouraged. Mistakes show that action was being sought. We can't all hit the bulls-eye every time. When things go wrong ask "what" and "how" questions like, "What can we do in the future?" or "How can we change what has happened?"

By the way, I call an employee who is not engaged "disengaged." But what do you call a person who is not in the Smart Zone? We have been trying to come up with a name for someone who is out of the Smart Zone and want your input. Please email us with your ideas!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Child Abuse Awareness Conference

I am excited to have been asked to speak at the upcoming CITY House Child Abuse Awareness Conference on April 29 in Plano, Texas. Click here for more information about the conference.

CITY House, or the Collin Intervention to Youth, is an emergency shelter for children and teens that provides family counseling, life skills education, parenting skills groups and crisis intervention services. For 20 years, CITY House has been providing a safe environment for 10 to 17 year olds in the only teen homeless shelter in Collin County.

The conference kicks off with a breakfast and will include sessions on Working with Abused Children, Working with Abused Teenagers, Working with Survivor Adults and Working with Professionals. The day will end with an awards ceremony presenting Community and Advocacy awards.

Register now for this informative conference.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How to Help Your Spouse After a Job Loss

Last week I was asked by the FOX 4 Good Day TV show to discuss ways to help your spouse redefine his/her household role after a job loss. If you missed the show, click here to watch the TV segment. A big change like a job loss or career change can derail you and take the whole family out of the Smart Zone.

Losing a job is an ego buster and it's up to both you and your spouse to support each other. If the job loss is unexpected you both may experience symptoms of grief - similar to a death in the family where you feel angry, depressed or are in denial. The faster you ask "What can we do now?" instead of "Why did this happen?" the better off you and your family will be.

Use these Smart Moves to help your spouse after a job loss:

  • ASAP. The out of work spouse should immediately check with their HR/benefits department to determine severance options, health insurance extensions and other benefits available their company offers as well as file for unemployment. This way, the out of work spouse is still contributing to the household income.

  • Keep a routine. If your spouse is not used to being at home he/she may not know how to handle the down time and feel they have no value. Help your spouse resist the urge to sleep in or hang around in pajamas all day. A little down time after the job loss is fine - and probably necessary. But not for longer than a week or so. Establish duties that the out of work spouse can do to help the household run better: grocery shopping, laundry, kids' activities, etc.

  • Don't belittle. If the out of work spouse is taking on a new responsibility like grocery shopping, for example - let him/her do it their own way. Don't micromanage.

  • Know that roles will change. Accept that the out of work spouse will have a new role in your home. While they may not be contributing monetarily their job loss does not reduce their importance as a family member. Talk openly about the change in roles rather than letting it be the white elephant in the middle of the room.
    Keep communication, trust and respect for each other in check. Many people fear their spouse may leave them when they lose their job.

  • Kids will figure it out so help the out of work parent communicate how he/she is excited to be spending more time with them for a while. Children need to be assured that they will be loved and cared for. Let the kids help teach the parent some new duties - like where soccer practice is held, their favorite breakfast foods to buy, etc.

  • Let the kids help. Let your kids offer their suggestions for ways to save money and how they can help out with the family situation. They could forego their allowance for a period of time or help earn their own spending money by babysitting or mowing lawns.

The best thing you can do is allow your spouse to maintain his/her dignity. Don't broadcast to everyone you know about the job loss (family and close friends are okay) and only speak highly about your spouse to others.