Leaders and business owners often look at communication as a ‘soft skill’ that they don’t have time to develop. They simply don’t recognize the bottom line cost of poor communication. In a survey of 400 corporations, an estimated $37 billion is lost due to poor communication and misunderstanding. But leaders who DO focus on effective communication strategies in their business have 47% higher returns to shareholders, lower turnover and more highly engaged employees, according to the Holmes Report.
And these are the impacts of simple transactional communication. According to Judith Glaser, author of “Conversational Intelligence” there are three levels of communication. The higher levels of communication are based largely on development of trust. When we trust, and focus on solutions, we feel free to share and develop our ideas. If we don’t create an environment of trust and collaboration, the people with the best ideas will leave and go to companies that do.
“The single biggest illusion about communication, is that it has taken place”
– Judith Glaser
For entrepreneurs, effective communication can be the difference between failure and success. If you want your company to succeed, here are 5 ways to improve:
1. Email is for the exchange of information
There are many great tools for productivity and disseminating information to your team. Don’t confuse these tools with communication. Generating ideas, fast decision-making and team collaboration take real face to face (yes live is better than Zoom but do what you can for now) interaction in an environment that supports sharing and trust.
2. Ensure your team knows the company brand purpose & vision
Every single employee at the Ritz Carlton knows the company’s vision, mission, cultural values and credo. Those values are baked into the daily operations of the company, so it is easy for employees to connect their actions to the higher purpose. If your team does not know where you’re going, they can’t follow you. If they don’t see the connection between what they are doing daily, and the overall goals and direction of the company, they become disengaged and unmotivated.
3. Stay flat
In a flat company team members are free to communicate with anyone, without fear of stepping on toes or reprisals. As the business leader, do your best to keep an open door policy. Set aside specific hours to close the door to work on projects or have private conversations. Fluid communications allows for much greater flow and exchange of ideas, delivering better results in less time.
4. Make effective communication part of your rhythm
Set up regular schedules for meetings and conversations. Have regular weekly or even daily huddle team meetings. Have regular weekly phone calls or video meetings with the sales team if they are in the field. Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about, once you get the conversation started, you’ll often be surprised at what happens. Even if you are a company of 2 people, regular, effective communication makes a difference. Your team will create synergy that didn’t exist, just by sharing with each other what they are working on and what challenges they are experiencing.
5. Effective communication is a two way street
Introduce the WIFLE (What I Feel Like Expressing) process to your team. Your employees need to feel heard. They need to be given permission to express what is on their mind, without interruption, judgment or reprisal. Regular use of the technique can cut meeting time in half and uncover problems and opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
Using techniques that encourage vulnerability among team members goes even farther, creating the trust that then enables innovation and creativity to thrive.
If you need to learn more about how to do a WIFLE, just let me know.
The modern office space has come a long way from the standard cubicle farm. Now more than ever, businesses are creating offices that cater to all types of workers — whether they are millennials, Gen Xers, collaborators, introverts or extroverts. With companies such as Instagram, Hutch and Dplus Global creating fun, airy spaces, it’s no wonder that strategic office space design is being recognized for its significant impact on employee productivity. According to a 2017 Capital One Work Environment Survey, 82% of office professionals believe companies need innovative office spaces that can encourage and engage innovation. Yet, as a means of enhancing productivity, workplace design is often overlooked.
If you’re the owner of a business, large or small, looking for ways to increase the output of your employees, the answer may lie in strategic office design. There is no one-size-fits all solution, but understanding the needs of your employees can help you develop an office layout that fosters a creative and productive workforce.
What Office Space Factors Affect Employee Performance?
There are various factors that can negatively impact employee performance in the workplace, including the physical design of a space. Aside from disruptions from chatty coworkers and problems with office equipment, the top factors that affect an employee’s productivity, health and well-being include:
Lighting— Insufficient lighting can lead to eyestrain, fatigue and headaches, especially from florescent lights.
Temperature and ventilation—Inadequate temperature control and poor ventilation can lead to discomfort and health problems.
Furniture arrangement— Equipment and furniture that’s too close together can appear cluttered and unorganized, increasing workers’ stress.
How Can You Improve Workspace Design to Boost Productivity?
It’s essential for businesses of any size to take the physical environment of their workers into consideration when designing a quality office space. Here are four design factors that can contribute to employee happiness, health and performance:
Gone are the days of cookie-cutter offices. With the rise of startups and remote employment, flexible design is an imperative. You can incorporate it by adding standing desks, moveable walls and areas that serve as both lounges and meeting rooms to bolster collaboration. Personal workspaces or pods can offer a retreat from a noisy office. They also allow companies to bring privacy and quiet to an open floorplan without adding square footage. Manufactured by Zenbooth, ROOM and TalkBox, these mini isolation pods are personal cubicles the size of phone booths. Offering employees a variety of work spaces, such as quiet nooks and informal meeting areas, can spark inspiration and motivation and boost deep concentration.
Comfort is vital in any office where workers are seated for extended periods of time. The aim of ergonomics is to improve the conditions of everyday workplace activities, allowing employees to perform their jobs optimally and minimizing potential health risks and musculoskeletal injuries. Incorporating ergonomic seating can help reduce stress on an employee’s neck, back and shoulders, reducing injuries and sick days. Poorly designed workstations can negatively impact a worker’s hands, wrists and back, while implementing sit-stand desks can allow employees to change positions, improve their posture and benefit from a kick of energy.
Opportunities for Movement
Sitting for long periods of time can lead to neck strain, disc damage and leg disorders, and also increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular complications.Promoting movement in the workplace is critical because it improves posture and circulation and allows for collaboration with colleagues. For example, Google encourages movement at its New York headquarters by providing a massive rock-climbing wall where employees can take climbing breaks from their jobs. Outdoor spaces with work areas or gardens also can encourage workers to walk around and stretch.
Banishing dingy lighting and colorless offices can have a significant impact on employee performance. Fluorescent lighting can cause eyestrain and headaches. Incorporating both natural and artificial lighting by including more windows or raising blinds also can help. According to a Future Workplace study of more than 1,600 U.S. employees, access to natural light and outdoor views outranked other perks such as fitness centers, on-site cafeterias andchild care facilities. A bright and well-lit office can create a more cheerful mood and facilitate productivity.
Go beyond the basics of office furniture and a place to sit and bring out the best in your employees by giving them the freedom to choose how they want to work. It could mean the difference between success and failure for any size business.
Guest Author bio: Tom Smith is co-Chief Executive Officer for Truss Holdings, Inc., the largest commercial real estate marketplace. He has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial real estate and technology industries — specifically in finance, sales and marketing.
Accountability or the blame game, what happens most frequently at your business? When things don’t go as planned in your business, or in your life; schedules missed, customer’s expectations not met, quality of work not up to standards; what do you hear? Blame, excuses, denial? Or ownership of the issue, accountability for the results and responsibility for taking corrective action? If you’re like many small business owners, you hear lots of reasons and excuses.
A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world. We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle. If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.
Why is Accountability important?
It closes the gap between intention and action. Between plans and results. Between goals and success. And it’s the foundation of an ethical business culture and personal integrity. If you focus on or change nothing else but accountability in your business, you will see massive results.
Accountability and empowerment are inseparable. When someone is blaming and making excuses, they see the cause and solution as being outside of themselves. Outside of their control, influence, and power. They have no capability or power to change the outcome. Accountability is a promise and an obligation, both personally and to the people around you, to deliver specific, defined results.
How do I become Accountable?
So how do I become accountable and take responsibility? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses. Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”. Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.
According to Stephen Covey,“Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”
Accountable people are aware of the positive and negative consequences of their actions – they want different consequences – they take different actions. A team organized for accountability, to achieve a desired result, immediately becomes interdependent. In order to achieve effective interdependence, you must have the structure to support it in place. Accountability in your business requires structure, focus and clarity that supports and builds trusted relationships and gets results.
The empowerment of choices can even be fun and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before. Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and don’t need to judge yourself if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything. If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, blame anyone or have any negative feelings about the result.
If you are accountable and take responsibility for your actions and behaviors, you may come to understand that there are no failures, only different choices and results.
John Wooden once said; “You can make mistakes, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes”.
We avoid accountability because we don’t want to feel inadequate, not good enough, not smart enough, a failure. What most of us don’t realize is that being accountable has exactly the opposite effect of that which we fear. We won’t feel inadequate, we will feel empowered, to change the outcomes we have by taking responsibility for our actions, holding ourselves accountable, and making the changes we need to make to get the results we desire. Its magic.
If the answer is “no”, don’t worry you’re not alone. According to a well-known Gallup study, only 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged at work, 52% are apathetic and 16% are actively disengaged. One study also notes that companies with the most engaged teams outperform their peers by 147%.
How do you know if your employees are engaged?
Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”. Those who are actively disengaged are openly negative about the company and workplace. The middle set just don’t care.
Employees who are not engaged can’t help you get the business where you want it to go. They can’t help you because they don’t understand how what they do on a daily basis connects with the higher purpose of the company. When they don’t have a purpose, it’s just a job. Their work doesn’t fulfill the human need to be part of something larger than themselves.
How do you re-engage your employees?
First by spending time developing your brand purpose, your company’s reason for being. The “Why” of what you do. For deeper understanding read Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”. Why is not about profits, it’s about a purpose, a cause, the difference you want to make in the world. Every single person in your company needs to deeply understand and resonate with your Why.
One of the examples I like is Tesla’s: “Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
As Tesla founder Elon Musk himself put it: “Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy.”
Next, define your “How” – the company culture, the values on which every employee from the receptionist to the CEO, makes decisions on the company’s behalf. Involve your team in developing the company values. Define what you mean exactly by each value, as it relates to customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. How do you live the value?
In 2014 CVS pharmacy stopped selling cigarettes in its stores because it was out of alignment with their core value of helping people improve their health. This decision was costly to make, but they could not continue operating with this glaring misalignment. Since that decision was made, overall cigarette sales in markets where CVS had at least a 15% market share, overall tobacco sales are down 1%. That’s 5 fewer packs per smoker and 95 million fewer packs per year. CVS went on to spend millions on anti-smoking initiatives. That’s how you live your values. When employees are aligned at a values level in a company like CVS, they become alive and engaged and everyone benefits.
Third, be very clear about your ”What”. The What is the delivery of the product or service your company provides. What are the company’s long term and annual goals? How does what every employee does on a daily basis contribute to fulfilment of those goals? What are the quarterly goals of every employee? What are the action steps needed to fulfill those goals this week, and today? Who is holding accountability for each employee?
To determine the impact of engagement in your organization, get in touch to get a free survey.
Diversity, inclusion and gender parity are overwhelmingly proven to be fundamental to producing our best results, yet it remains a significant challenge for us to achieve sustainable change. Companies have spent millions of dollars on workplace diversity training yet most are left with little to show for it. Most workplace diversity programs fail to produce meaningful, sustainable results, and some have actually increased bias among individual employees.
Turns out you can’t mandate the elimination of bias. The command and control methods being used don’t work. Currently, just 20% of C-suite executives in the U.S. are female, despite the fact they earn college degrees at a higher rate, and start out in equal numbers in the workforce. And Just 3% of C-suite roles are held by Asian, black, Latina or other women of color.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
To understand what we can do to create true gender parity and diversity in the workplace, it’s useful to look at how we got here. The evolution of the human species gives us insight to begin to understand the challenge we face.
Humans evolved, and survived as a species because we lived in tribes. Inside of our tribes, was safety, trust, and survival. Everybody had a role, we had to cooperate within our tribe to survive. If you had a bad day hunting, it was ok, someone else had a good day. Everyone was going to eat.
Inside the tribe was a circle of safety, a circle of trust. Going it alone outside the tribe was certain death. Outside the tribe, were people who weren’t “like me”. Anyone who didn’t look like me and my tribe couldn’t be trusted. Adhering to this principal was critical to survival.
Nearly every system in the human body evolved and exists to help us survive and thrive in this tribal environment. Thousands of years ago, other hominid species died off while we lived on. Today, at least throughout the developed world, finding food, shelter and avoiding danger no longer occupy our days.
In our modern world, advancing our careers and trying to find happiness and fulfillment are the definition of our success. But the systems inside us that guide our behavior and decisions still function as they did tens of thousands of years ago.
Our primitive mind, the one that acts in our unconscious, still perceives and evaluates the world around us in terms of threats to our well-being or opportunities for survival. Our brains release certain chemicals in reaction to these perceived opportunities and threats, or trust and distrust. These reactions actually happen in different parts of the brain. Trust happens in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), while distrust happens in the Amygdala, or primitive, unconscious brain.
Some of you may have read Malcom Gladwell’s book, BLINK – The Art of Thinking Without Thinking. He calls this functioning or the part of our brain that leaps to conclusions, the “adaptive unconscious”. It is also more commonly known as Unconscious Bias.
This is the part of our brain that acts like a giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a whole lot of data then makes decisions and takes actions, that we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.
Think about it, when your tribal ancestors were out hunting and gathering, and a shadow passed by, did they take time to think about whether it was a passing cloud or a predator, or someone from a waring tribe? No, they ducked for cover, at least the ones who survived did. Today, when you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a car is bearing down on you, do you stop to think through all your options? Of course not. You act, immediately without thinking.
That’s the only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed an unconscious decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s much better to perceive a threat that turns out to be innocuous, than to miss a real one, and die. Our massive brain computers got very efficient at identifying anyone who wasn’t in “my tribe” and was therefore a potential threat. It does this completely unconsciously.
This is the evolutionary survival mechanism that is at the heart of our challenges with gender parity and diversity. Just using training alone, will not change this mechanism. We have to do more. We have to systematically identify and address the structural barriers to diversity. We need to unlearn bias at the individual level and implement reasoning based decision making techniques. We need to create culture shift at the corporate level, supported by ongoing process, measurements and diversity training and coaching.
Countless management books, seminars and programs offer insights into how leaders can develop trust within their organizations. Their consistent theme—“It begins with you”—is certainly valid, as leaders must model trust and set an example for their people. Success depends on a personal campaign of inner reflection, values assessment and emotional intelligence. Training can be effective and rewarding, but much of the focus, and effectiveness, often stops there.
Leaders develop trust in their team to enable them to rely on others to do the right thing. They do this by observing people’s character and behavior over time and gaining confidence in them. They earn trust by consistently displaying personal integrity, accountability and concern for others.
Trust, in fact, is the most potent tool in a leader’s arsenal, asserts JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson in The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great. Trusted leaders are more productive, profitable and prosperous. Their people are more engaged, passion and loyalty soar, and the overall work ethic is enviable. The organization sees lower turnover, waste and inefficiency.
Trust is not just for the C suite
While we’re often led to believe that trustworthy behavior will permeate the work environment like ripples in a pond, this trickle-down theory is overly simplistic. As Gallup studies reveal, employees trust their coworkers even less than their leaders. Organizations cannot reach their full potential until leaders establish a culture where employees trust their coworkers. Leaders may require assistance from a professional executive coach to achieve this goal.
When there is distrust throughout an organization, creativity and innovation are greatly diminished. Brain science shows that when people distrust their co-workers, the amygdala – the part of our brain associated with the “fight or flight” response, gets triggered. When the amygdala is triggered, it puts our prefrontal cortex – the “executive” part of the brain associated with rational thinking and creativity, on lock down. From an evolutionary stand point, this response makes sense. When we are out hunting or gathering, and a shadow passes overhead, survival dictates that we respond immediately, without stopping to analyze whether it was a predator or simply a fast moving cloud.
To make matters worse, once our amygdala goes into high gear, it activates the limbic area of the brain – where all those past memories of similar situations are stored. Once that has happened, it dredges up similar threats and weaves them into the movie we are producing about the person in front of us whom we don’t trust. Once that has happened, we go into protection mode, and it’s nearly impossible to have an open, engaging, free flowing conversation about anything, much less be able to come up with new ideas and innovations.
What can we do to begin to re-establish trust?
The first steps are to look at ourselves, and work to increase awareness of when we are experiencing what Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligencecalls an amygdala hijack. She suggests the following ideas to help sideline signals from the amygdala:
Notice how you respond to threats – fight, flight, freeze or appease
Notice patterns, do we always choose the same response?
Choose an alternative behavior at the triggering moment (ie; deep breathing..)
Become more aware of our responses and realize we have choices (journaling helps)
Recognize the patterns before they happen, and interrupt the pattern.
Ultimately, we want to work to actively transform the fear into trust. Transforming a company culture from one of fear and distrust to one of openness, collaboration and deep trust, has transformative impact on the overall success of the business.