All posts by Cindy Constable

Strategic Planning Facilitator: A Wise Addition To The Process

You want your business to thrive, and to ensure it’s reaching new heights each quarter you must implement regular strategic planning into your routine.  

Strategic planning is “… an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. “ according to the Balanced Scorecard Institute.

For more resources on strategic planning, you can view my previous blog posts

Why Your Business Should Be Strategic Planning

The 5 Benefits of Strategic Planning For Your Business

While strategic planning can be completed solely by those within the company, some businesses are finding that bringing in a strategic planning facilitator helps them to yield better results from the overall process.

This blog post will outline the duties of a strategic planning facilitator and why it might be a good idea to add one to your company’s process.

What is a Strategic Planning Facilitator

A strategic planning facilitator is a consultant hired by a company to guide a business through their strategic planning meeting.

If you don’t hire an outside facilitator, you or whoever is leading the meeting takes on the role of facilitator.

There are many benefits associated with hiring an outside strategic planning facilitator which will be highlighted below.

The responsibilities associated with being a strategic planning facilitator might include

  • Assisting in explaining the planning process to the teams
  • Advising the CEO on the selection and organization of the planning teams
  • Briefing the strategic planning team on methods and tools
  • Leading the team through the planning process
  • Organizing and conducting the most important events
  • Encouraging the team to achieve tasks and meet agreed upon milestones.

Save Time In Advance

Preparing for a strategic planning meeting can be extremely time-consuming.  Hiring a facilitator can take most of the logistical preparation duties off your plate. This is always a welcome benefit for those typically tasked with that duty.

Provide Outside Perspective

When those within a company are having conversations about the business, they are very close to the situation.  Sometimes it’s difficult to fully see a case for what it is when you are in it. That’s why bringing in a strategic planning facilitator allows you to hear an outside perspective on the strategy and issues at hand.

While an outside perspective isn’t exactly necessary, it can be beneficial to hear what a neutral party thinks about a decision.

Stay on Track

It’s simple to get off track when having a meeting, especially if that’s the culture of your company.  Having a strategic planning facilitator allows you to stay on track throughout the process, so you are only addressing relevant topics that will help you achieve the goal of the planning session.

Facilitators are used to dealing with many people with various personality types so he or she can help to keep the meeting moving in a positive direction despite any disagreements or tough conversations that might take place.

Allows Everyone to Fully Participate

When one person from the company is facilitating the meeting, they’re unable to also fully participate.  Hiring a strategic planning facilitator ensures that every person who is a part of the planning committee can be present and participate as much as possible.

It’s common for more outgoing personalities to dominate the conversation.  Having experienced strategic planning facilitator helps to keep those present engaged, so everyone has a voice.

Provide a Proven Process

Strategic planning facilitators bring their skill set to the stage throughout the process.  Instead of trying to figure it out as you go, using a proven method allows you to ensure you are following a framework for strategic planning success.  

Having a proven process also reduces the risk that those in attendance will waste time.  Clearing the schedule to hold a strategic planning meeting means that every minute counts and the time spent planning should be used effectively.

How to Know Your Business Needs a Facilitator

Now, despite knowing what a strategic planning facilitator does and the benefits associated with bringing one to the table, you might be questioning whether your business is ready for that commitment.  Here are a few telltale signs that it’s time to hire a facilitator for your strategic planning meetings.

You must address tough issues

When you know in advance that tough topics or concerns must be addressed during the meeting, it might be best to bring in a facilitator.  This is especially true if there is a history of communication breakdowns when discussing tough issues as a company.

You Struggle to Stay on Task

If your meetings lead to conversations about everything under the sun beyond the purpose of the meeting, you will surely benefit from having a strategic planning facilitator.  Consider the opportunity cost associated with having this meeting. There’s no time to waste.

You Don’t Communicate Well

If your team has difficulty communicating with each other well, especially regarding tough issues, save yourself the headache of facilitating the conversation by hiring an outside specialist.  They’re from outside the company, so they can bring out the best conversation amongst those involved to help reach the ultimate goal.

Moving Forward

Deciding to hire a strategic planning facilitator is an important one.  You must ensure you hire the right person with the best experience and personality to work with your company.

The benefit of bringing in a facilitator will undoubtedly improve the process and developing a top-notch strategic plan will hopefully lead to increased business success and employee satisfaction.  Happy employees are engaged employees and engagement leads to success, so it’s always important to keep that correlation in mind.

To learn more about increasing employee engagement, download my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.  

 

5 Recruitment Strategies to Build a Team That Supports Your Company Culture

The culture of your company sets the tone for how your business operates.  Therefore, when you are hiring new employees, you want to ensure that you incorporate recruitment strategies to build a team that supports your company culture.

What Is Company Culture?

Your company culture is defined as the “beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions” according to Investopedia.com.

Your goals, community, office setup, employee benefits, dress code, etc. are grounded in the culture that develops over time within your organization.  While many businesses have a company culture that grows organically and is never explicitly referred to, it’s sometimes essential to strategically create a company culture or to improve the culture of your business.

Whether your company culture is discussed in depth or not, at a minimum, a business should identify what the general culture is so recruitment strategies can be appropriately aimed at hiring those to support the current culture.

Company Culture and The Hiring Process

When you identify the company culture of your business and employ recruitment strategies to build a team that supports your culture, you are impacting the attraction, selection, and retention portions of your human resources process.

Attraction

Points 2 and 3 listed below (website and advertisement incorporation) will help you to attract the right employees for your business who are a good cultural fit. Drawing the right people is the first step.  If you’re going through the hiring process and none of the candidates fit your company’s needs culturally, it will be difficult to move to the next step which is selection.

Selection

Point 4 listed below (ask questions related to values) will help you to select the right employee.  A mixture of their ability to complete the duties required for the position and their responses to your culture based questions will aid you in picking the best person for the job.

Retention

Keeping employees with your company can be difficult if they don’t fit within the culture.  For example, if you are a very laid back, casual, teamwork-based business yet you hire someone who is rigid and professional to a fault who operates as an island, they likely won’t feel satisfied being with your company for an extended period.

#1 Develop Your Values

The first step in ensuring your recruitment strategies support your company culture is developing a set of values. This is done by first defining how you want your company culture to look. Next, review what your company culture looks like now and the changes that need to be made, if any.  Finally, consider the resources you need to have in place to support improving the culture if necessary.

#2 Incorporate Culture on Your Website

Components of your company culture that are most important should be incorporated into your website.

The overall tone of your site can display your company culture.  Your copy and images should be used to communicate your cultural message.

What does your “about us” page say about your business?

Consider incorporating employee profiles showcasing those within your business and speak specifically to the cultural competence they display that you’d want to see in others who join your team.

#3 Add Culture to Your Advertisement

When you advertise the position you’re hiring for, incorporate your cultural requirements or expectations into the copy.

Examples of ways to incorporate your culture are…

“Do you like working in a casual environment? Are you a team player? Are you looking for a job that feels more like fun than work?  If so, you just might be the right fit!”

“We are seeking a goal-oriented, self-starter to join our busy medical practice.  We pride ourselves on providing the best service to every patient regardless of ability to pay.  As a pillar of our community, we are here to serve those in need. If you have a heart of service, please give us a call.”

“2 weeks paid time off,  monthly team luncheons, 401K match, and casual dress code are just some of the benefits of working with Red Leaf Management.”

When you include information about the culture of your company within the advertisement, you are letting your potential interviewees know ahead of time the type of environment your business has.  This is likely to provide you with a better candidate selection than you’d receive when making typical statements such as, “I’m seeking a highly qualified family law attorney to join our busy firm.”

Discuss Culture During The Interview

During the interview, consider discussing the culture of the company.  Include things such as whether you are a proponent of teamwork, if you are a very technological savvy business, if the office offers a family-like atmosphere, or if there’s less open communication and collaboration.

Letting your potential candidate know this information upfront allows them to make a more educated decision regarding if they would even be interested in joining your company based on the culture.

It’s true that if an employee doesn’t fit within the culture of a company they might struggle to engage as well as those who do feel comfortable with the company culture.

(For more on improving employee engagement, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement)

Ask questions related to value

Instead of sticking solely to questions about the requirements of the position, ask questions that would allow you to gauge whether the potential candidate would fit within the company culture.

Examples include

What values are more important to you?

How does an organization with effective communication look?

What is your ideal work environment?

How do you bounce back from failure?

Questions like the ones listed above don’t speak directly to their ability to get the job done.  Instead, they speak to the candidate’s character. Their character is what will impact their ability to fit within the culture of the organization.

Choosing the best recruitment strategies to build a team that supports your company culture is vital if you want to attract, select, and retain top-notch employees. Incorporating the strategies outlined above should provide you with a solid plan of action to do just that.

 

How to Communicate as a Business Leader: The 4 Communication Pillars

Holding a leadership position and being an effective communicator go hand in hand.  It’s impossible for you to lead a team, company, or department, without being able to communicate well with those within your organization and those with a stake in the success of your organization.  

There are many skills required to be a successful leader in business, and communication is indeed one of the most important.  While most leaders have gotten to their place in a company because they have a strong set of communication skills, it’s always an area that can be improved upon over time. This blog post will detail the 4 communication pillars that guide you in learning how to communicate as a business leader.

What is Communication

The definition of communication is the ability to send and receive information between two or more people.  When communication is discussed, verbal communication is often the first that comes to mind, but this method of communication is just one.  There are multiple forms of communication as a business leader that must be mastered so you can lead effectively.

Listening

Listening is often considered one of the most important types of communication. The mistake many people make is to focus on listening only to respond, not to understand.  This is especially true when under pressure, in a rush, or in a conversation where emotions are running high which happens very frequently in the business world. Without the foundational ability to listen, it’s impossible to maintain appropriate communication.

Here are a few ways you can improve your listening skills.

Face the speaker: It’s difficult to show you’re listening when your body is facing the opposite direction, or worse, looking at your phone or computer.

Maintain eye contact: This nonverbal form of communication shows that you are giving the speaker your full attention.

Keep an open mind: If you go into a conversation with preconceived notions and your mind set on how things will go, you’ll be unable to take in what is being said during the conversation entirely.

Minimize distractions: This includes internal and external disturbances.  While it’s easier to reduce external distractions, your inner thoughts, feelings, and that running to-do list might be more difficult to forget.  This takes practice.

Engage: When you engage in listening by asking questions, paraphrasing what was said, and providing feedback or advice when asked, you are an active part of the conversation, without only listening to respond.

Verbal communication

Verbal communication includes your volume, enunciation, the words you use, and your tone.  It is the most frequent form of communication in business and mastering it is vital if you want to be a strong leader.

Here are a few ways you can improve your verbal communication skills.

Be concise:  Communication doesn’t always require many words.  You want to learn to get your message across without adding information that isn’t relevant and without confusing your audience.

Think Before You Speak: Don’t be in a rush to answer when speaking.  Take the time to consider what your response will be before you begin talking.  This gives you time to check your emotional awareness, gather your thoughts, and formulate an idea of what you will say.  Doing this also minimizes the likelihood that you will say something that you later regret.

Vary Your Tone: Speaking in a monotone voice will quickly bore the person or people you’re speaking to.  While you don’t have to be an animated performer, you don’t want to sound bored during your conversation either.  By varying your tone and the pace of your sentences, you will keep the conversation, or at least your part, more interesting.

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication is comprised of your facial expressions and body language.  This form of communication can change the entire tone of the conversation, that’s why it’s vital that you always keep it in mind.

Here are a few ways you can improve your nonverbal communication skills.

Maintain eye contact:  Eye contact is essential.  Too much eye contact can be intimidating and inappropriate, but too little eye contact can seem as though you’re hiding something or not interested in the conversation.  There is no hard and fast rule for how long you should look at someone before looking away. Do what feels natural and comfortable for you.

Check your posture: Think about what your body is saying to your audience.  There’s a big difference between a person who is standing slouched over with their head down and a person standing straight with their head up.  Who would you want to have a conversation with? Be sure that your posture is portraying your intended message.

Read your audience: It’s not only important to consider your nonverbal communication skills, but that of your audience as well.  Are they looking at you or looking around seemingly bored? Are they engaged in the conversation or do they keep looking at the clock waiting for it to end? Do they seem guarded with their arms crossed, or open to the communication you’re having?  Keep the nonverbal communication of your audience in mind as you interact with them.

Written Communication

Written communication is frequent, especially in this technological age. It’s often required that we communicate via text message, email, notes, etc. It is best to communicate using appropriate writing skills related to proper grammatical conventions, but using the proper tone and being clear and concise is also crucial.

Here are a few ways you can improve your written communication skills.

Be brief:  Written communication should be clear and to the point.  When it becomes more lengthy, it’s easier for your message to be misconstrued.  It’s best to provide brief written communication and follow up with a verbal conversation on the matter when appropriate.

Reread: The tricky part about written communication is there are no nonverbal cues to indicate the true meaning of what’s being said.  I can send an email stating, “I need to see you in my office now.” That might automatically put you on high alert that something is wrong.  However, if I walk to your office smiling and say “I need to see you in my office now.” with a chipper and light-hearted tone, you might be curious as to the reason, but the same alarms won’t go off in your head.  

Communicating as a business leader is a necessity.  As you improve your communication skills, you will see your relationship with those within your company and stakeholders improve.  

As you learn how to communicate better, you will see the engagement of those within your company grow as well.  Working to enhance the participation of those you lead is crucial, and if you’re looking for additional ways to boost the engagement rate of those on your team, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.

The 5 Essential Qualities of a Successful Leader in Business

Whether you are leading an entire company, a department, or a small team, if you want to be a successful leader in business, there are certain traits you must acquire. While being a leader is not a one size fits all position, the most successful leaders share a set of personality traits.  This blog post will outline the 5 common business leadership skills you will want to improve over time.

As you read these qualities, be sure to consider where you stand on a scale of 1-5, 1 being it doesn’t describe you at all and 5 being it describes you perfectly. If you find that your rating is a 3 or below, you want to think about developing your leadership skill in that area. It has been said that employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss, so if you can ensure you’re the best leader possible, you will likely increase retention rates, productivity, and engagement within your company.

For more on improving employee engagement, get a copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement, for free. Decisiveness

Leaders are required to consistently.  Those who you lead look to you to take action that will move the company forward.  If you are unable to make decisions that will benefit your team, department, or company, you will be unable to succeed in a leadership position.

Decisions will sometimes need to be made quickly, so you must practice your ability to make choices that require quick, on the spot decision-making skills.

Other decisions are based on a long-term plan and require collaboration, strategy and more thought to be successful.

Leaders sometimes believe that to be a good decision maker they must do it independently, but often, making decisions will involve communicating with other stakeholders in the company from various levels.

Being able to communicate through the decision-making process and come to a conclusion that suits everyone involved is one of the signs of a real business leader.

Integrity

Integrity is your ability to be honest and behave in an upright manner.  As a leader, others are always looking at you to see how you react in situations and will see you as an example of what to do and how to move throughout the company.

You must carry yourself with integrity to be a leader that guides others.  You don’t have to be perfect and maintain a 100% squeaky clean image with no room for error, that’s difficult to manage, instead, be honest.  Be relatable. Be real with your team.

If you make mistakes, explain what happened and what could be done differently in the future. Do not put yourself in a position to fake being perfect, then let down your team when they realize that you are only human.

Also, do not take the idea that you are only human too far. You must always keep in mind that you are the example of leadership within your company.

Knowledge

As the leader in business, you have to know what’s going on in your company and your field.  You’re not required to be an expert on every topic within your business, but you should have a general understanding of most issues related to your niche.

In certain situations you won’t be able to provide the necessary resources or information, so it’s important to know where to quickly access information that’s required to move your company forward.

If you lack a strong knowledge base, people will see your deficiencies and recognize that you don’t know much about the area in which you call yourself a leader.

Endurance

Endurance is the ability to keep going.  As a leader in business, you must keep going because all eyes are on you.  If you’re unable to maintain endurance as the leader, others will see that it’s okay for them to stop when things get hard.

It’s an excellent teachable moment for your team to let them sometimes know when you are feeling tired or stressed and what you do internally to keep yourself going so you don’t quit.  They will see you as more relatable and hopefully learn from you instead of believing you’re a corporate robot who never has a bad day.

Also, when you lead others, they will turn to you as a shoulder to lean on when times get tough for them.  Having to motivate them to keep going and keep yourself going can be taxing, that’s why having enough endurance to support yourself and those around you is crucial.

Building a supportive company culture is a great way to lift the burden off everyone’s shoulder and improve endurance all around.

Imagination

When you hear the word imagination, you might envision crayons, glitter, painting and imaginary friends, but imagination is a an authentic and crucial quality of a leader in business.

Having imagination is the ability to develop an idea based on something that isn’t currently true and believe you have what it takes to make it come to life.  Any leader without the ability to imagine a better future for the organization in which it leads will always be holding back the company.

When Amazon offered first went public in 1997, and a share was only $18, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and his team imagined the company growing.  As of October 2018, Amazon stock is over $1,600 per share.

When Oprah Winfrey started her career as a radio personality in Nashville, TN, she imagined that her career would grow beyond her then position. Now Oprah’s net worth is 2.9 billion, not million, dollars.

Many successful people have had to imagine their success before they experienced it or imagine their business improvements, upgrades, significant changes and partnerships before they became real.  You must do the same.

When you are a strong leader in business, those who you lead will recognize it and respect it.  While many leadership traits vary from the 5 detailed above, be sure you have these established as a bare minimum set of qualities you concentrate on building.

 

Managing Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

When a company employs others, it’s likely that conflict resolution in the workplace will need to occur.  Sometimes, the conflict can be handled by the employees who are at odds, other times another employee or manager will have to step in.  Either way, resolving conflict in a timely and efficient manner is essential to the continued success of the company and positivity of the overall company culture.

When conflict resolution in the workplace is required, there are a few action steps that need to be taken to eliminate the differences and return focus to the matter at hand, company success.

Acknowledge

Conflict is bound to happen, so getting used to that idea and being willing to face it head-on is an invaluable skill. When issues are swept under the rug, they never truly disappear.  The knowledge of the dirty floor still lingers despite it being hidden.

When conflict appears, take the time to acknowledge that an issue is present and that a resolution must occur.  This is not the time to choose sides prematurely or make assumptions about what may or may not have happened. Instead, be open to the idea that there is an issue and be understanding that your employees are likely upset about the matter at hand.

Self Resolve

Many disputes can be resolved without the involvement of management.  Once you acknowledge an issue, encourage employees to sit down and attempt to solve the problem themselves.  When you give them the opportunity to resolve their problem instead of immediately stepping in, you set the precedent that resolving issues independently should be the first step.

Provide them with a timeframe to attempt to solve their problem and check back in with them.  If it has been resolved, great. You can check back in overtime to make sure the issue hasn’t resurfaced.  If not, continue with the conflict resolution process.

It’s important to exercise good judgment when deciding whether your employees can resolve the conflict themselves.  If the issue is ongoing, involves extreme disrespect, discrimination, harassment, etc., you wouldn’t expect them to handle it independently, and you should forego this step.

Express

When a person is upset, they want to vent their frustrations and feel heard. Giving your employees the opportunity to do so allows them to release their feelings which will make the conflict resolution process more productive.

Facilitate this process properly.  If both employees are in the room, ensure they’re not interrupting each other or displaying disrespectful body language.  Sometimes it’s best to hear both sides separately, then bring them together. You must do what’s best for the specific situation based on personalities, the nature of the conflict, and your company culture.

Policy

Sometimes conflict resolution in the workplace will be simple because the issue will directly violate company policy or the policy will have a detailed process regarding what’s to happen in the specific situation.

If there are guidelines, you want to follow them, if not, you must move forward in deciding on a solution that works best for the employees and company.

Solution

Now it’s time to determine what specific steps need to take place to resolve this conflict. It’s important to remember at this time that a full agreement doesn’t need to occur because sometimes employees will have to agree to disagree.  Instead, discuss what each employee would like to see happen and determine how they can find a middle ground. Any commonalities that can be agreed upon during this time is a significant step.

The solution stage should be tailored to your company culture, the issues at hand, and your employees, but there are a few parts of the process that should be included.  These were provided by the Human Resources Department at the University of California Berkeley.

Find multiple alternatives

Brainstorm various ways in which this problem can be resolved. Allow each member involved to provide input, so their voice continues to be heard.

Determine actions to be taken

Once a list of possible solutions is developed, determine the best course of action moving forward.  Consider the pros and cons, both logistically and emotionally for each option.

Get a verbal agreement by all involved

This step is critical. You want everyone to agree to the solution verbally as his or her acknowledgment that he or she will do their part in ending the conflict. If an employee refuses to agree, the odds are likely that the issue will repeat itself, and get worse as time goes on.  If this is the case you might consider bringing in a conflict mediator, or if insubordination is at play, a consequence might be needed.

Follow-Up

Completing the conflict resolution process is not a guarantee that the issue at hand will be resolved.  It’s best to check back in with those involved from time to time to determine whether the problem is continuing or if it is no longer prevalent.  

If the issue is still not resolved, again, it might be time to bring in a mediator, or if there is a case of insubordination, consequences might need to be given to certain people involved.

Having conflict in the workplace is never a fun thing to deal with, but sometimes resolving conflict can lead to better communication and ultimately a stronger bond between employees.  Never sweep issues under the rug. Bring them to the forefront and understand that it is your responsibility to maintain a positive and healthy environment of engaged employees and that’s difficult to do when there is no conflict resolution in the workplace.

If you want to learn more about maintaining engaged employees, you can download my free e-book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. In this book, I break down best practices to get your employees engaged in your company’s success.

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