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Give Them Something Good To Talk About!

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Right now, a lot of employers aren’t thinking enough about how to truly engage their employees because they have the benefits of the dullest economic recovery working in their favor. Having most employees “thankful to have a job” doesn’t mean they are putting their passion to work for you. And if you think they are sitting quietly being ever o thankful you are deluding yourself. The water cooler has morphed into the smart phone and they are communicating with each other in ways that belie their facial expressions.

And all this “new” social networking isn’t new at all. Only the technology is new and it gives employers the opportunity to see the truth in a manner that was never available before — that is, if we care to know it.

A few short years ago while heading marketing for one of the top global health benefits providers, I had just come out of a meeting with the CEO and immediately called my own staff to provide all the answers to several issues. At the end of that meeting my head of research, MY HEAD OF RESEARCH… stood up and said, “I’m going outside to have a cigarette and find out what is really going on!”

At first I was really angered by that statement but then realized what he just told me… “people don’t believe any of these preplanned statements so we like to come up with our own truths…” I then wondered if more of us should take up smoking so we could go outside and find out what is really going on! Those smoker’s hamlets were basically liberated water coolers, allowing employees to say what they want and weigh in on what is going on with minimal risk of being ratted out. Being caught was minimal since no one in the C Suite would be caught dead smoking and the few that did would never break the Smoker’s Code…

So what does this mean and what does it have to do with anything?

  • Employees will talk and trust me, they will talk about you – so give them something good to talk about
  • Employees want to feel like they are part of something great – your company allows that opportunity – so give them something good to talk about!
  • An employee’s decision to work for you is a reflection on them. Therefore, it would only stand to reason that they desire to say something good about their employer – so again, give them something good to talk about!

The fact that so many employees are willing to bad mouth their employers demonstrates what a dismal job companies have done to truly engage their employees. It is also curious as to why that is — after all, human capital is one of their biggest investments and the only one that can take your inner knowledge with them if they decide to work elsewhere.

So what do you do? How do you take advantage of this social networking in a way that builds employee engagement and is good for your bottom line? Well, there isn’t a playbook that is good for all. But there are a few things you can keep in mind… most of it sounds like good parental advice, namely:

  • .. don’t spin. Take it all in! It’s great to get accolades but listen closely to your biggest critics and greatest critiques. Your employees have more knowledge than you about your products, services, customers, and operations. They want to succeed meaning they want you to succeed.
  • Pay closest attention to employees who are closest to your customers. Those who are in your customer service operations know your customers better than anyone. And they know your product better than anyone. They are the ones explaining when things go wrong and build the long term bonds that lead to a sustainable customer base.
  • In most cases, your customers stay with you because of your employees — not because of you. Strong relationships are forged between your employees and customers, leveraging that bond for continuous improvement will only help your business

Considering that your knowledge and best customer relationships are ingrained in your employee base, you can’t afford NOT to continuously engage with them. The technology today merely enables a better connection.

Author: Ed Faruolo

Footbridge in Sankei-en Gardens, Yokohama, Japan

Is There a Difference Between Leading and Managing?

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Is there a difference between Leading and Managing?

The term leadership often is confused for management and is used interchangeably. 21st century research and practice is delineating the expertise of each domain, however, and defining them differently.   At Attuning.Org we define leadership as mobilizing resources for socially constructive change. Management includes the necessary technical and creative skills to keep a group, organization, or state running. The difference is that leadership requires the pickup and movement of where an organization in a process of adapting it to the current environment and moving it into another place within the environment. Management keeps the system in place but works to improve its efficiency and operations.

This is not to say that a leader isn’t sometimes a manager and vice versa. However, by defining our terms more deeply, we can then determine how best to exercise leadership and management depending on the challenges that need to be addressed.

One of the first steps a leader must take in considering change is to diagnose the situation. This is perhaps contrary to the way many people are taught. They believe that jumping into action is rewarded. This immediate action, however, can lead one down the wrong path and consequently cost a great deal in time and effort. Taking time to diagnose a situation, akin to a physician diagnosing an illness of a patient, allows more data to be collected and then an opportunity to move into action steps. As any scientist would do, a leader runs experiments with change to see what works and what does not. He or she then re-evaluates the change efforts to pursue the path or tweaks the effort and tries again.

Today’s leaders must understand the context in which they want to impact change. There is no prescription or rubric that can be followed to lead; but there are approaches to exercising leadership that may improve the chances of successful outcomes. Contextual leadership allows for an individual within a family, group, community, or state to try to influence change and in fact these types of leaders (sung and unsung) are do so every day.

In the next blog posting, we will consider the difference between technical versus adaptive challenges that need to be identified to best address the work that must be done.