Category

Empowerment

People leave leaders…..the uncomfortable truth

By | Change, Empowerment, Leadership

Last week I went to a Women in Leadership lunch hosted by CEDA.  One of the speakers (Jane Caro) said, “we only change when it is too uncomfortable to stay the same”.  It really struck a chord with me.  It reminded me of several stages in my career, where this was the final straw and my catalyst for change.

One was a reminder, when this week, 12 months ago, I left my corporate role to start my own business.  The other was highlighted when one of my clients’ celebrated her 5th birthday in business this week.  In our session, I was genuinely excited for her. What a fabulous milestone! As a high achiever, she is still focused on being better and reaching her goals.

In that discussion, she asked me what were the major points for me in growing my last business that turned it from being a good business to that breakthrough moment when things were easier and it “just happens”.

I said there were 4 key things in my experience:

  1. Business Culture
  2. Empowering Leadership
  3. Retaining Key People
  4. Consistency of Service

BUT it was only when things were too uncomfortable to stay the same that things changed.

I remember that point like it was yesterday. I wrote two pages of frustrations (which I still have!) and all the concerns I had in the business at the time.  I felt completely overwhelmed looking at that list thinking where do I start?

One of the biggest issues that were causing emotional and financial pain was the turnover of staff. I have mentioned this before in previous posts, that in the recruitment industry this can be up to 45% and new Recruiters only last 8 months on average! I was certainly experiencing my fair share of turnover in the first few years and it was agonizing.

The impact to the bottom line is significant in terms of re-recruitment, re-training, lost revenue etc, but for me it was also the emotional cost. I remember sitting down with the owner and he said to me “Nicole, people leave leaders, not jobs”.  It was cutting.  It hurt my ego more than anything. My internal story went something like I’m a good leader, I believe in my people, I want the best for them – I just have high expectations.”  So, I decided to put together a spreadsheet of all the people who had left and look at the reasons they gave.  Now of course, some people never tell you the REAL reason for leaving so I decided to be really honest with myself and acknowledge what deep down I already knew to be true.  There was a combination of culture and leadership reasons – that was consistent.

It was at that point, I realised it was too uncomfortable to continue as things were.  Things needed to change, and fast.

Business culture – to change a culture overnight is impossible.  To move from a traditional recruitment culture of “client is king”, “core hours are 8am – 6pm”, “you are available 24/7”, “you always eat lunch at your desk (if at all)” and “taking calls before and after work is normal” was going be a big shift.  It required small steps starting from the top including a shift in mindset.  I remember when I first started coming in late on Friday morning so I could attend a pilates class, how uncomfortable it felt. I would creep back in the office hoping no one would notice.  Ridiculous in hindsight – I should have been promoting it.  This was my in-built belief that hours = work ethic.  I learnt to accept that my commitment and dedication wouldn’t be any less just because my actual number of hours were less. This was a big mindset shift that had to start at the top and was slowly filtered through. (I will be presenting at the RCSA conference in Fiji in 2 weeks on how I implemented this).

Empowering leadership – the statistics prove the theory that people leave leaders.  Not all the time, but it is certainly a contributing factor in a lot of cases and it was in mine.  I engaged a business coach and learnt that people’s perception of my leadership style and their experience of working for me was reality, not what I thought I was doing.  I had to embrace their reality and move to an empowering leadership style where my fundamental values and principles were still the same around performance, expectations and outcomes, but my delivery become more cohesive, consultative and empowering.

These two changes had significant positive impact on bottom line results and other performance indicators. But just as importantly (or more importantly) the effect on my job satisfaction, the enjoyment for the team, the transparency of our communication and a re-invigorated approach.  This allowed us to achieve two things that I often find companies struggle to accomplish.  We achieved employee’s desire for flexibility, work/life blend and career satisfaction with the company’s objective of a high performing team, revenue results and profitability.

We proved that flexible arrangements and productivity can co-exist and don’t have to be at the cost of the other. It was one of the biggest lessons in becoming a high performing and profitable firm where people wanted to work and stayed long-term.

To achieve this requires being uncomfortable and only then are we truly learning and becoming better than we currently are.

*My next post will discuss the other two areas of retaining key people and consistency of service. 

Learning from mistakes….7 tips to making amends

By | Empowerment, Leadership

Yes I've made mistakes life doesn't come with instructionsA few months ago, one of my staff members rang me in a panic.  She had stuffed up. Big time.  She had accidentally hit reply to an email instead of forward to an internal colleague.  The content of the message was…well let’s say, pretty direct and used a few “internal” jargons referring to the sender of the email and instead it went to the sender! Oh dear. A mistake. An embarrassing mistake that she felt terrible about. What to do?

One of my biggest motto’s in running a business has been you have to make mistakes to learn and if you aren’t making mistakes you’re not making anything. I read this philosophy in 2001 reading Richard Branson’s “losing my virginity”. It’s an attitude that I have adopted and put into practice many many times.

The advice and steps we took to deal with it were:

  1. Empathy – let the person de-brief, cry, whinge, discuss the issue – being heard is really important. Being able to de-brief and just talk about a stuff up without judgment or problem solving is really important so people know you care. On this occasion, the Consultant was mortified….she had referred to the candidate in a way that could have been perceived as ‘judgmental’ and perhaps a little unprofessional, so letting her vent was therapeutic, as she wasn’t ready to solve the problem yet.
  2. Step back from the emotion and really look at the facts of what’s happened.  Looking a raw data, sequence of events and timelines can help get clear on what’s important and distinguish how did this happen? (as opposed to the why – which will drive excuses).
  3. How can we solve this – what are all our options here? There is never only one option so it’s important to brainstorm every possible solution, even if you don’t like them or you think that others will disagree.
  4. Execute – decide on the best plan of attack to the solve the problem. The Consultant just jumped on the phone to the “sender” and apologised. Being honest and upfront and using verbal communication was the best option. They actually ended up having a good laugh and she came in for an interview the next day!  Phew!
  5. Learning – what have we learnt? Whenever there is a mistake, there is an opportunity to learn.  This is a good thing! I know one of the biggest lessons I learnt early in my career was not to gossip about other clients … Adelaide is a small market and this is sure-fire way to discredit your reputation.  It was a painful mistake, but an invaluable learning.
  6. System – let’s put a system in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
  7. Move on – don’t dwell on it and go over and over and over it again. Being able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off speaks volumes about who you are.

What happened that day for this Consultant is pretty minor in the scheme of things, as most mistakes on a day-to-day basis can be fixed by following the steps above.  Over the years when I think about mistakes that were made in the business, they tend to be incremental ones such as charging an incorrect rate on a temp margin, sending a group email with all the address of the recipients visible, sending a courier to a wrong address, forgetting to send an important document in the mail, not returning a call the same day…. I think sometimes we need to remember that we are all human and mistakes happen. It’s the way that we deal with it that, see the learning opportunity and of course make sure it doesn’t happen again!

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Staff mojo… how to plant the seeds of motivation

By | Empowerment, Results
Inspiration: My daughter Charlie

Inspiration: My daughter Charlie

This week one of my top performers was having a downday….she’d lost her mojo, was feeling ‘flat’ and told me she was struggling with motivation. “How do you keep motivated and inspired?” she asked me. As a leader, my stomach sank.  There is nothing scarier than a top performer who is feeling worn out…..as Leaders we get scared that if we don’t quickly ‘motivate’ them, they might drop their performance, burn out or dare I say it….leave. The pressure! I wanted to give her an answer, not any answer, a great answer that would make her feel valued, inspired,motivated and happy.  But the fact is there isn’t just ‘an answer’.

Can you really motivate someone? Especially in a 30 minute weekly meeting! Truth is it can’t be done. You can’t physically motivate another person. It is not something I can give to someone else to make them feel good again to conquer the world.  However, I can certainly influence them, share my experiences and ask them questions that may help them find their own internal motivation.

Firstly, what’s not working? What is it specifically that is making them feel disheartened, disinterested or demotivated? Is it just a once-off incident of something going wrong with a client, an internal disagreement or something bigger? Or is it an accumulation of things that have been niggling at them, with something that has made them snap that perhaps in isolation would not have been a big deal but now seems huge. Getting to the crux of their de-motivation is really important because once this is solved; that can often be the end of their bad patch and they return to a positive frame of mind.

In this circumstance, nothing was specifically going wrong with my Consultant. There wasn’t anything in particular that she was unhappy about. So it comes down to desire…..

Whatever job you do, you need to be clear on why you are doing it. What’s in it for you? What are the goals you are aiming for and the benefits you receive from doing what you do? I’ve always been a visual person and it might sound corny, but really having something in front of me to focus on gives me inspiration on days that perhaps aren’t perfect or going 100% my way.  Early in my career, working as a Recruitment Consultant, I had picture of a convertible at my desk – I was determined to have a sports car.  Those days when I didn’t want to pick up the phone and make a cold call or tell a candidate they didn’t get the job or it was 7pm at night and I was screening even more CV’s, I would look at that picture and find my inspiration and that extra mojo I needed to achieve success. As years went on the visuals changed – but there has always been pictures of something (holidays, houses, travel) or someone (family) to inspire me. And it works. I got that silver MG convertible at age 21 – the insurance was a killer! The moment you take your eyes off the goal, you can lose focus, ambition and drive.

So with a demotivated staff member – be clear on what their goals are. What is this person motivated by? Do they have visuals around them? Everybody aspires to something – as the leader we need to show the connection between what they do and how they can go about achieving it in their day to day work.

If this doesn’t work, the flip side is cost. I don’t like to use this method as much – it doesn’t have a nice warm and fuzzy attached to it like the benefit method does.  For example, I have had Consultants tell me in the past they aren’t motivated by money or they don’t aspire to a new house or an overseas holiday. They are happy as they are. Great. Really, that is great.  But you’re telling me you’re de-motivated, you have lost inspiration and are feeling flat – what is the cost to you, your career and your results if you continue this way? Perhaps things won’t be that great anymore.  It is getting them very clear that if they don’t make the calls, see the clients, fill the jobs, generate the results, then actually you won’t be in top performance and then they may not be in such a great place. The ultimate cost here is their job.  This can be the make or break conversation that either gets them back on track or a realisation that change is on the horizon.

Day to day, I have found several things that work as quick “motivation injections”:

  1. Have a conversation with someone who makes you feel good
  2. Read an inspiring article, quote or surf social media for new ideas and excitement
  3. Write down at least 1 new quantifiable goal that you really want to achieve
  4. Take 30 minutes to write a dream list – anything you ever wanted to achieve/have/own and there is no restrictions (dream big!)
  5. Put up a new visual for inspiration – photo/screen saver/picture
  6. Take action – do something that makes you feel uncomfortable (as this often generates big results eg: a new client)
  7. Write a love & loathe list (to re-focus on what you are good at)
  8. Plan a holiday & enjoy the research
  9. Buy a new book on-line
  10. Have a coffee, go shopping or plan a day off to “re-charge”

So for me – how do I keep motivated and inspired? My husband laughs as I’m telling him what I’m writing about – he says it’s the mortgage and my love for shopping that keeps me motivated! There is of course some truth to this – visual goals remember! But I do believe inspiration comes from around us as well as finding inspiration from within ourselves – it is not something someone else can give us or make us feel. I am certainly inspired by other people’s success or by a conversation or a presentation, movie or book.  But real inspiration, the type of inspiration that drives me to succeed and achieve, comes from within.

What tips and tricks do you use to stay motivated and re-focus when feeling flat?