Did you ever work in a place where your workmates felt like family? It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? That’s when you really love going to work because you know that whatever happens, there will be harmony. Everyone will be in sync and tasks will be accomplished.

Did you ever work in a place where you felt like prey? You never knew what to expect once you arrived. Everyone was looking out for himself and shifting blame elsewhere whenever possible. The very thought of having to go to work felt like a kick in the gut. You knew that at any time there could be conflict and you would have to be on the defensive. You always had to be on the lookout because no one had your back but someone would surely have a piece of it in their mouth.

It’s amazing how one person can throw off the entire balance of a team. Whether it’s a manager or a co-worker, a single self centred individual can ruin the dynamic of your work environment. These people suck the life out of organizations every day. How do they get in there, anyway?

They get in because it’s hard to know what someone is made of when you interview them. People put their best face forward and they are not necessarily hired for fit, but rather experience or skill. Mind you, experience and skill are both very important, but hiring people who fit into your corporate culture (and hopefully you are trying to create a positive one), is extremely important.

Before you decide to hire someone, make sure they are interviewed by both managers and peers. If the candidate’s personality has a certain edge to it, or if their mentality is simply not compatible with everyone else’s, someone will likely pick up on it. Some people are very astute that way. If you are lucky, you will have at least one person on your hiring team who is a highly intuitive judge of character.

As your new hire settles in, listen to what co-workers have to say about that person. Typically, if everyone has a problem with someone, then that person is the problem. If you do hire someone who turns out to be someone who is hard to get along with, then offer training if appropriate. If that doesn’t work, then get rid of them. Don’t waste your resources on a bad hire and don’t ruin everyone else’s productivity level and your corporate culture because the toxic person you hired happens to produce certain favourable results. Attitude is everything. Your business will thrive the most when all of your employees are acting in the best interest of the team’s objectives for the company. One person putting his or her personal needs first (financial, promotional, etc) destroys the dynamic of the team and the greater results of the company. Even if they are producing, the team as a whole would do much better without the toxic member’s input.

Showing your employees that you have zero tolerance for abusive or difficult people will strengthen their commitment to your company and increase their overall level of engagement. Also, when your company gains a reputation for being a great place to work, you’ll find your hiring pool to be loaded with excellent candidates. After all, who wouldn’t love to work for a company that prides itself on maintaining respect and dignity in the workplace?


Time Wounds All Heels

So you’re a manager or team leader and you’ve dumped on your people and treated them as underlings and ninnies for quite some time. Now you find you’ve got employees who give you lip, call in sick, refuse to do you favours and resist your direction. You know they talk about you behind your back. They’ve complained about you to your supervisor/manager and everything is falling apart on you. Clearly, no one has any respect for you and some don’t even care about the consequences of acting out their anger and frustration. You’ve received your wake-up call but don’t know how to fix the mess you’ve created.

As a bully manager, you are a liability to your company. Your behaviour can result in law suits being filed by employees and former employees. You cause turnover and you also cause people to take stress leave. Your behaviour seriously hampers productivity and causes customers to desert you.

Furthermore, I’ve never met a bully manager who wasn’t all stressed out by their conflicts at work. It takes a lot of energy to be a creep. If you have a history of being a mean-spirited, condescending jerk, then you need to understand that you are bound to have your comeuppance. As Groucho Marx once cleverly said, “Time wounds all heels.”

The process of building trust as a manager is one that takes patience and commitment, so if you’re looking for a quick fix, you can forget it. Naturally, it will be especially difficult if you’ve got a reputation for being a jerk (that’s the polite term). Take heart, though. I said it will be difficult, but it is definitely possible to create a positive environment even when your leadership has been less than exemplary. Here are some tips to get you started:

No Double Standards: If you want your employees to respect you, you need to follow the exact same rules you expect them to follow; and do it 100 per cent of the time.

Respect: You have to give respect in order to get it, so make sure all of your interactions with your team members are non-threatening. Never speak to others in a condescending tone. Ask politely and don’t give orders.

Show Genuine Interest: People naturally like people who take an interest in them. Ask your employees if they had a pleasant weekend; ask about their family, pets and hobbies. Ask about anything that isn’t too personal and take an interest in what they tell you.

Share Information: Share a little personal information and share information related to the business. Openness is an important part of building trust. When you share, others will reciprocate.

Be Helpful: Don’t set up road blocks for your employees. Give them every opportunity to be successful. Encourage them to be the best they can be by offering your assistance and friendly advice. Offer courses, books or whatever else you need to offer to build their confidence and skills.

Be Flexible: Even though rules are important, it is also important to be flexible enough to bend them once in a while for people. If you treat people the way you would want to be treated under the same circumstances, then you will know when flexibility is necessary.

Have Fun: Don’t take things so seriously all the time. It’s ok to let loose and relax with people. Tell a clean joke or a funny story. As long as your remarks are not negative or potentially hurtful to someone, it should be safe to have a laugh.

Don’t Be a Hot Head: If someone annoys you, don’t blast them right away. Cool down and find the appropriate moment to address the behaviour in a civilized fashion. You may find that after you’ve cooled down, that it really wasn’t that big a deal.

Pick Your Battles: Understand that you don’t always have to be right, and even if you are right, it’s ok if you are the only one who knows it. Some arguments just aren’t worth pursuing. If the matter is not really earth shattering, then don’t waste your energy on it.

Don’t Be Vindictive: Never try to get even with people. No one can respect or trust anyone who cannot take the high road. We win when we choose grace over drama.

Don’t Be a Control Freak: Give people credit for having intelligent ideas and capabilities. If things always have to be done your way, then you are doing a great disservice to the business. No one is perfect and acting like you are better than everyone else will only serve to alienate you from the people you need the most: your team.

Don’t Engage in Constructive Dismissal Practices: Constructive dismissal is a sleazy practice that doesn’t escape the notice of the victim’s co-workers. It seriously hampers productivity and fosters an environment of extreme mistrust and lack of respect. If you need to fire someone, then do it as nicely as possible. Civil behaviour is always best.

These tips just scratch the surface. I’m looking forward to the day when companies adopt and actually enforce a zero tolerance policy around bullying and workplace harassment. To date, I have seen a lot of companies who simply pay lip service. It makes me question how people interpret the word, “harassment” and I wonder why some types of harassment are condoned while others are not. Harassment is bad for business, no matter who is doing it or how they are doing it.

It’s really been such a long time since I’ve posted anything to my blog. In order to regenerate readership and interest in what I do, I would like to offer Canadian residents a free copy of my book, Engaged for Growth. All you need to do is email me a request with your business mailing info, company name and position/title. I’d be very happy to cover the cost of postage provided there is only one book per person/company. Please send your request to: renee@powerconferences.ca

I don’t get it. I see this time and time again, and I am always baffled by managers who hire people just because they have a pulse and are willing to do the job. This practice is especially common where the position being filled is a low paying, low status job (retail, customer service, etc).  The problem with not carefully choosing employees is that you will constantly have to replace them. Hiring the wrong people causes turnover, lost customers and a whole host of other problems that cost companies a lot of money.

Considering these front line positions actually drive the business, employers need to be especially careful about who they hire. It makes no sense whatsoever to hire people who are not perfectly suited for the work.  Taking the time to look for the right people may be a little painful, but in the long run it will pay off. You’ll have employees who are passionate and dedicated to the company.

Here’s another pearl of wisdom:  If you regard all people who occupy those front line positions as imbeciles, then you will continually hire imbeciles. If you think they are all a bunch of unreliable flakes, then you will hire unreliable flakes. Do you get it? Look for the people you want, not the people you think you will end up with and don’t settle for less.

If you think no one wants to be a CSR or a retail sales guru, think again. I have met many people over the course of my career who simply love being on the front line. The money isn’t what drives them, it’s the challenge of making a customer happy or selling a bunch of merchandise to a customer who was “only browsing”.  These people are out there so there is really no need to hire someone who is clearly not right for the job.

Here are some people you should never hire for a front line position:

  • People who have no relevant experience but have a long employment history. Registered Nurses or Computer Programmers applying for a receptionist position are not suitable candidates. They will leave as soon as they find something in their field of expertise.
  • People who do not present themselves professionally.  Avoid sloppy dressers, people who smell bad, people who look to be of questionable character, people with poor language skills, and people who have no polish whatsoever.
  • People who say, “I just want a job (any job) so I can pay my bills.” These people have no passion for the business or the work they will do. They will only put in enough effort to get a pay cheque and will probably call in sick every chance they get.
  • People who have a history of leaving jobs after only a few months. That’s a no brainer for some. Don’t fool yourself into believing your company will be the one that this person will stick with. The best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour.
  • People you don’t have rapport with. If you can’t build rapport in a job interview you will not build it later. Employees need to fit in with the culture and they need to be able to relate with their co workers and their boss. If you’re not feeling the love in the interview, don’t hire that person no matter what. Your job as a manager will be infinitely easier if you are working with people you can get along with.
  • People who are not naturally pleasant. This runs along the same line as the above point. You can’t teach people how to be pleasant or happy. If you detect that a job candidate has a certain negative edge to him, then don’t hire him.  He won’t suddenly change and become nice to be around.

Employers should develop a profile of the perfect candidate for the job. Taking the time to figure out what type of person is best suited for the position will help you with your search. Knowing what type of people to avoid will help you even further. Committing yourself to hiring only those who fit the profile will pay off, so be patient and keep trying to find the right people.

Many books have been written about success. Some are based on studies of successful people (Naploeon Hill), and others are based on who knows what. Most people who have managed to achieve a lot in life will tell you they had plenty of failures, but they obviously learned something along the way.

In my mind, “The Secret” to success is the following:

  1. Plan, don’t just visualize
  2. Act, don’t just think
  3. Look for opportunity, don’t just wait
  4. Create, don’t just observe creation
  5. Be fearless because mistakes can be disguised opportunities
  6. Learn from your mistakes
  7. Don’t give up. Where there is a will there is a way. Continually look for “other ways”
  8. Always be willing to adjust your plan: e.g., visualizing about selling something to a non-existent market will not make it happen. If you can’t create the market, then you have to be willing to sell something the market has a need for.
  9. Don’t work alone. You can’t be successful without support from others. Build a support network of people who can benefit you in some way.
  10. Give. If you don’t give, you will never get. In this world what goes around, comes around. You must give unconditionally in order to receive.
  11. Be patient and determined. Sometimes we have to follow a long path to get to where we want to be. Everything happens for a reason. Know that there is a wisdom behind the things you must endure in life, even when that wisdom is not immediately apparent. This is just another way life disguises opportunities.

A Special Guy

My eldest son lives with a mild form of Autism. He occasionally asks me why God made him that way. I have two answers to that question:

1)      I believe that all people with disabilities teach people something. Even if only one person needs to get the message, that is the wisdom behind God’s creation. No matter how intellectually or physically impaired a person is, each life has a purpose and must be lived out in order to accomplish it.

2)      Every person living with Autism is affected to varying degrees. Some cannot speak, while others can. My son, Maurice can speak, read and write. He is not a savant, nor is he a computer whiz. He has his challenges as do others with this condition. I feel his abilities allow him to tell the world what others with this condition will never be able to express.

Maurice wrote a very poignant poem for his English class which reflects his awareness of how the world sees him. It’s hard to be a teenager and it is even harder to be a teenager who is obviously different from the others. Although I normally post business related items on my blog, I think I would like to give Maurice the opportunity to tell the world how he feels. His poem is below.

A Special Guy

By: Maurice Cormier

God it’s great to be a Special Guy

When you’re looked at

People talking about

How stupid you are

How people love to see you go


If you don’t mind at all

God it’s great to be a Special Guy

When people start kicking you out

Of their little social group

Or run away when they see you

Start talking crap in front of you

And laughing

If you don’t mind at all

Oh God it’s great to be a Special Guy

When Girls you try to talk to

Look away and tremble in fear

Friends and boyfriends start threatening you

If you don’t mind at all

Oh Dear God it’s great to be a Special Guy

Having no friends

Eating lunch by myself

Making imaginary people

Feeling angry

If you don’t mind at all

Yes, God it’s so great to be a Special Guy

Getting extra hours on tests

Going on field trips

A nice place to chill and settle

Extra help is close by

And just generally

“Enjoying life in school”


But then right in the middle of relaxation

Comes the shining

Special Ed. Room


Blackberry, iPad, laptops, internet; it is easy to develop addictions to the devices that simultaneously join and divide us.  There are now so many ways to remain connected to people that the line between our private lives and our business lives has become increasingly obscure. Managing business and personal relationships can be a tremendous challenge. People sacrifice their personal lives to develop better business relationships and race to get more accomplished at work. Bosses and employees are often expected to keep working long after 5:00PM and frequently miss important events and dinners with family. At night, they are wound so tight they get out of bed at 3:00AM to send out email. They know it’s not healthy, but they keep on driving forward. Some are fearful of what will happen if they don’t try to create miracles every day at work, and others are so driven and passionate about their work, that they just can’t stop themselves. The self -imposed stress is almost unbearable. Mental fatigue has become the new normal, and even though they know all of this can be personally disastrous, they persist.

Several years ago, I was interviewing for a sales job and asked my would-be manager what he was like to work for. He told me he works 10-13 hours a day and expects the same kind of dedication from his employees. I told him the position would not be suitable for me because I have a family and they are my priority. I added that I was willing to put in extra time when needed, but I could not do that every day. He immediately got defensive and told me that when he gets home at night, he does not open his brief case and he mows the grass on weekends. It occurred to me that he will come home one night and find his wife in bed with his neighbour. Needless to say, I didn’t get offered the job, and wouldn’t have taken it, anyway.

That guy made an impression on me, though. Over and over I see people giving it all up for the company. They never seem to realize how expendable they are. They foolishly believe that if they work hard enough and long enough, they will never be let go. The truth is, however, that the decision to let go of an employee is a business decision. When it is time to let you go, they will let you go because it suits them. They will focus on your shortcomings and completely ignore your sacrifices. They will never thank you for always being early and working late. They will never pay the legal fees you incurred for your divorce which was the result of your misaligned priorities. Likewise, no one gets promoted because they never take a lunch break, or because they missed twelve of their children’s concerts and a family funeral.

Entrepreneurs face similar challenges. They make themselves overly available in case of emergency. The computer is on all evening, the Blackberry is forever buzzing and the phone is always ringing, yet probably 98% of what takes them away from enhancing their personal relationships can be dealt with during a normal work day. It is a matter of managing time and setting priorities.

Just as we make decisions to be constantly available for business, we can make decisions to block off pockets of time to be available only to family and friends. Taking yourself off the grid, so to speak, will refresh you. Follow these simple rules for a month and see what happens:

  1. Use a phone with voice mail that is only for family and friends to find you and tell them when they can call you.
  2. Turn off the Blackberry and other mobile devices during social time with family.
  3. Make a rule not to work after 6:30PM.
  4. Don’t work on weekends.
  5. Hire an answering service to field business related calls after hours. Give them the criteria for what is urgent, and have them contact you under those circumstances only.
  6. During evenings and weekends, don’t check email or surf the net, even for fun. Go for a walk, or engage in some other physical activity instead. Include a friend or a family member, or just enjoy being alone.
  7. If you take a vacation, do not take electronic devices with you.

If you do these things, you will probably find that you are more relaxed, and that your personal relationships are warmer. You will also notice that your business did not fall apart; the earth did not break into pieces and that your desk still has a bottomless pile of tasks that you can now more effectively work on. What about your blood pressure? I’ll bet it’s lower.


A number of months ago I had my kitchen renovated and a couple of weeks into the project, the designer, “went on leave”. I later found out she would certainly not be coming back. The same company lost its receptionist recently and when I called to follow up on a problem I requested be fixed, I was told she “retired”. Sure! Judging from the dealings we had with this company I am pretty sure that is simply a euphemism for, “she quit”. In fact, I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did!

Geeze! It reminds me of a company I used to work for. Whenever someone got fired an obscure email would circulate saying that person was no longer with the company. It always felt a little weird. Now, I know they can’t very well divulge the details of an employee’s departure, but there is always something a little curious/ominous about the use of euphemisms. Who do they think they are fooling, anyway?

An employee hands his resignation into his manager. The boss is surprised and disappointed. This guy was his best worker. He thought he was really engaged and had high hopes for him. When he asks his departing employee why he is leaving the company, the employee simply states he received a better opportunity from someone else.

What really happened? Do engaged employees really quit their jobs to pursue better opportunities? No they don’t. Being an engaged employee means being very committed to what you are doing with your current employer. It means your work is challenging enough, you are comfortable with the corporate culture, you feel like you are a part of the greater vision and you are making a measurable difference. Engaged employees do not quit. Not ever. It is only when they become disillusioned, frustrated, fearful, or experience some other negative emotion that they become disengaged and then quit “for a better opportunity”. That phrase, “a better opportunity” is really a euphemism for, “you suck”.

So what were the game changing moves that caused your precious employee to become disengaged? It is really important to ask yourself what went wrong. When you lose employees, you need to take it personally, because it is personal. They may not hate you as a person, but you somehow failed them from a management perspective and you will continue to lose employees if you do not reflect on the real circumstances of their departure.

Reflecting on the circumstances will allow you to get to the real issue. Don’t blow off the excuses. Drill down and find the truth you need to see. The employee will never tell you the whole truth, so you need to put your thinking cap on and drop your ego into the garbage bin. If they tell you they need more money, for example, they are more likely telling you they feel taken advantage of (money is rarely, if ever an issue for engaged employees). You need to then ask yourself why they would feel taken advantage of. What did you do to make them feel that way?

Taking the time to reflect on your failings as a leader will allow you to improve your skills. Asking yourself what you could have done differently and remodelling your style, so to speak, will give you better results as you endeavour to keep employee engagement at a high level.

Here are some of the real reasons people become disengaged and quit their jobs:
1. Something damaged the relationship between the manager and the employee
2. Doesn’t fit in with co-workers
3. Feels their job may be in jeopardy
4. Feels taken advantage of
5. Feels unsupported
6. Feels unappreciated
7. Confused about expectations
8. Embarrassed by performance of co-workers/company (lots of mistakes and angry customers)
9. Lack of equipment needed to perform quality work
10. No future opportunities for advancement or improvement
11. Negative corporate culture
12. Bored with tasks (work feels meaningless and unchallenging)
13. Personal values conflict with corporate values or scope of job
14. Life changes (spouse gets transfer, illness, etc)
Except for number 14, all of the above mentioned reasons can be dealt with before employees decide to quit. Communication is the key. Building rapport with your employees and fostering an environment of trust, excellence, respect and integrity will help you a lot.

In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill suggested that people who want to be successful in business assemble a group of like minded business people and form a mastermind group. Mastermind groups, are essentially support groups. No one can be successful on their own, so a mastermind group is a wonderful resource for entrepreneurs. It is a place where business people can get advice, build strategy and become more effective.

I’ve recently started running mastermind groups for people who want to improve their business results. I love these groups! There is nothing like being able to benefit from the experiences of other people. It is also wonderful to be able to interact with people who are as interested in your success as they are in their own. Not all entrepreneurs have a supportive and understanding family, so getting support from like minded individuals can be vital to creating a successful business.

There are many kinds of mastermind groups. Some focus on building a particular element of a business (like my sales and marketing groups and my leadership groups) while others keep a more open format and use it as a forum to receive input from others regarding nagging problems. Whatever the focus of your group, it is important that all members have the right attitude. Here are some things you need to keep in mind when using mastermind groups to support your business:

Be willing to give. Your input is essential to the success of the group. Be willing to offer advice, give referrals, or do whatever you can to help other members of the group.

Be willing to receive. If members are expected to be generous with their time and advice, then as a member, you must also be willing to receive input from others, even when it may seem a little harsh. The higher purpose of the group is to create a foundation for success. If you are unwilling to accept the advice and assistance of other group members, then you shouldn’t be there.

State your challenges and ask for help. In a mastermind group, every member of the group will have an allotted time to state their challenges and ask for help. Doing this will help you grow so don’t be intimidated. Take the floor when you have the opportunity.

Keep your co-members secrets safe. The mastermind group is meant to be a safe haven for its members. No member should ever disclose what happens in the meetings. If members are to be open about their business goals and challenges, then it is essential that each member is honoured by keeping secrets confidential.

Set goals. Every meeting should provide members with a set of goals to work on. Your group leader along with the other members of the group can help you clarify your objectives. Once you know what they are, write them down and treat them like a homework assignment.

Create an action plan. Use your time in the meeting to create an action plan. The other members of the group, along with your leader will hold you accountable. If you’ve ever had difficulty committing to goals and following an action plan on your own, then the group will really help you achieve things!

Have fun! Take the opportunity to enjoy being among a group of helpful, success oriented people. Be open to developing lasting relationships with the group members and be prepared to have a good time together. We are most creative when we are relaxed and having fun. Let the group bring out the best in you!

Last week I contacted two different marketing companies about two different things and they approached the opportunity to do business with me in exactly the same way. I call it snob marketing. Snob marketing is when the sales person/consultant says something like, “We are very particular about the kind of people we do business with. You may not be for us.” Now, I know that that statement is designed to stir up an eager want in me. I am supposed to want to be considered worthy enough to have them take my money. Needless to say, it backfired and they really only managed to make my skin crawl.

Personally, I am only interested in whether or not a vendor is right for me. I think most customers and prospects feel the same way. I am not interested in trying to prove that I have what it takes to be someone’s customer. I’m not standing in line at Studio 54 and we are no longer living in the 70’s.

Why do sales and marketing people think they have to resort to tricks all the time? It seems pretty obvious to me that if you do anything to insult the intelligence of your prospect, you lose the opportunity to do business with them. It’s like the car salesman who makes the phoney telephone call to his boss to see if he can get approval for the price you are trying to negotiate. Then there’s the guy who tries to tell you his deal won’t be around for you later. I contend that if he wants the money (and he does), he’ll make the deal available!

Prospects and customers appreciate sincerity. The moment you resort to trying to pull the wool over your prospect’s eyes is the very moment you shut him/her down. If you genuinely believe you have a product or service that will help your prospect in some way, then say so. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I think we may be able to work together. Let’s meet and see if there is indeed a fit.” That opens doors. Telling your prospect that he/she may not be the kind of person you like to do business with is akin to erecting a 90 foot iron gate and slapping on a 120 pound pad lock!

Here’s the thing about marketing: any strategy you employ that works will only work for a little while. As soon as everyone starts to do it, it becomes completely ineffective! It used to be you could mail out a special offer and people would come running. Once everyone does that, it’s no longer special, is it? You always have to keep things creative and fresh. Here’s another example: free webinars are not as effective as they used to be. Why? Because everyone knows they are going to be sold something. Who wants to walk into that?

Honour your customers and prospects. You usually need them way more than they need you. Cut the crap and be honest with people because let’s face it: if a prospect waved a few grand under your nose, you’d probably hump his leg!

I can’t stand cheap people. I don’t mind frugality, but I detest cheapness. Being frugal is not the same as being cheap. Frugality is simply being sensible with money, but cheapness is far more pervasive. It is a refusal to give, and usually people who have trouble giving monetarily hold back on everything else as well. Cheap people generally withhold affection, are not particularly helpful, they withhold information, are happy to receive but cannot reciprocate, rarely do favours for people and in my mind, are generally not very nice to have around.

In my book, Engaged for Growth, I talk about the Seven Virtues of Leadership (you can also view the Slideshare presentation of the virtues on this blog site). While all of the virtues are important, I have to say that I believe the virtue of generosity is the virtue which gives the leader the ability to leverage the most influence over others. Having a generous spirit is also pervasive. Generous people give their time, do favours for others, reciprocate easily, are helpful and supportive of others, and are generally warm and loving people.

Human nature is to want to do for those who do for you. We are socially programmed to reciprocate. For generous people, this is a no brainer. Cheap people, however, have a lot of difficulty with this concept and will always try to find ways to not have to reciprocate. They try to create loopholes that relieve them of their obligations. They make promises to give but change the criteria to suit their own needs. You cannot lead this way. Your colleagues and employees will not be able to respect you if you always do what is socially reprehensible. Most people find cheapness to be a distasteful quality. Cheap people cannot command respect, so don’t be cheap.

What should you give? Give fair compensation, give your time, give love, smile, give information and show people how to do things, buy someone a nice lunch, give sincere praise, give a referral, or give whatever you would like to be given. Just be generous and be sincere. Never give with the expectaion of receiving. That is not true generosity.

I belong to the “what goes around comes around” school of thought. I believe that treating people well brings good things into your life, and treating people badly, means you will receive bad karma. I try to do the right thing with people. I happily give a lot to people, and I will continue to give. This blog is a free gift for anyone who wants to learn and I am committed to posting informative and useful information to help people be the best they can be. It is my deepest desire to change the way employers work with their people and to enlighten those who want to lead. Leaders are models for others, and our generosity inspires those around us to be better. Failing to be generous means you fail to inspire. If you can’t inspire others, then you are not a leader.

It may seem shallow, but we all judge books by their covers and we all create impressions of people based on what we see.  When people look at your appearance, they pass judgement about your income level, your education, your morality, your social status, your degree of sophistication, how successful you are and your trustworthiness.

How your employees perceive you will affect the degree to which they can take you seriously and that will affect the results you get from them.  If you come to work looking like you picked your clothes out of a pile at the bottom of your closet, that screams incompetence, and no one wants to follow someone who is incompetent.

Anyone who has had to hire people can tell you about the number of candidates that come through the door dressed like they’re going to a ball game or the grocery store. Managers sometimes think that because they are the boss, they can wear what they want, so they come to work with torn jeans, wrinkled shirts or stains on their clothes.

Never go to work looking unkempt or really out of style. It affects your credibility. A bad dye job or hair showing 3 inches of dark roots looks horrible. Not getting your hair cut, neglecting to shave or keep a neat beard says that you are a slob. Men with long nails and ladies who don’t wear any makeup to work create the wrong impression. Take the time to look after your appearance. Your employees will be much more receptive to whatever you have to say if you are not visually offensive.

I have seen bosses who regularly came to work smelling of booze from the night before. It’s hard to respect someone who shows no self-control in their life and doesn’t respect the work environment enough to come to work ready for the job at hand. Sorry, but no one is at their best when they are hung over.

If you don’t look right for the job, then you won’t be taken seriously, and you will have difficulty developing rapport with your employees and other co-workers.

Not getting the results you want? We all get stuck from time to time as we struggle to achieve our desired goals. This happens to all of us and there are many sources for this problem that need to be analyzed if we are going to come up with an effective solution. Sometimes we stagnate because we are more focussed on the problem than the solution. Sometimes we are too close to the problem to really see the whole picture, and sometimes we are simply distracted by things that invade our mental space and occupy our time. I like to call those misaligned priorities because they seem to demand our attention but do not actually move us toward our goals.

Getting to where you want to be means remaining committed to your goals. I am a very goal driven person, and I get extremely frustrated when things don’t happen for me. Sometimes my tenacity bugs people, because I am like a dog with a bone. I absolutely cannot let go. When the voices around me tell me to let the goal go, I will still push myself to get there. I remember reading in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich that one of the common traits of successful people is the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Whenever I think of that, I strengthen my resolve to keep going and try to find better ways to get there.

Doing whatever it takes means you need to ask yourself some different questions in order to find better solutions. One question I like to ask myself is, “What am I going to do today to bring me closer to my goal?” This question forces focussed action, and since nothing happens without action, it must drive you closer to achieving your goal. After that question, you have to ask yourself what your intended outcome is and examine whether or not the action will indeed bring you closer to your goal.

Another question I like to ask is, “Who can help me?” No one can be successful alone. Everyone who has ever achieved anything worthwhile had someone in their corner. Figure out which relationships you can leverage to get the kind of assistance you need. Before you do this, though, take the time to think of as many things as possible that will help you. For example, you may think all you need is a good business referral, but there may be some other things that could be even more valuable to you. Take the time to reflect on what these could be, then go out and find someone to help you.

Flexibility is really important if you want to achieve a particular goal. A goal may remain unchanged or may need to be modified slightly. Be prepared to modify both your goals and the way you think about your business or career. Ask yourself if there is something more or different that you could be doing. Does your market need to change? Does your product or service need to change? Is your approach inefficient? What do you need to do differently?

In developing questions to ask yourself, put a little pressure on yourself to come up with different questions and solutions each time. By doing the same thing day after day you will not create better results, so insist on changing it up. Only perform actions that produce something. If you can’t cultivate the results you want by repeatedly performing the same action, you must be prepared to do something else. For example, writing a blog requires you to perform the same action repeatedly and doesn’t necessarily produce immediate business results. What it does do, is cultivate opportunities. If no one is reading it, however, it is a waste of time.

Are your wheels spinning or turning? Are you stuck in a rut or are you driving on the road ahead? Try asking some different questions and if you need help, find a friend, a mentor or a coach who can push you to ask the right questions and develop great solutions.

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I had a book signing event at a prominent book store on the weekend. Since I am an author and an employee engagement specialist, I asked one of the store’s managers if he was interested in business leadership books. His response to me was that he was not interested in developing his leadership skills and that he just punches the clock and does what he is told. Later, when I was leaving, I stopped by his office to say good bye and he was chewing out one of his staff for goofing off while someone was on break.

So there he is; another disengaged manager trying to engage his employees by yelling at them for being disengaged. Good grief! Here’s a news flash: You cannot engage employees if you are not engaged yourself! Your attitude is contagious. If you are enthusiastic and interested in what you are doing, then your people will be more likely to embrace your enthusiasm as you try to connect with them on a human level. If you are barely interested in your work and “punch the clock” then don’t expect much more from your employees. Your disinterest is the model of behaviour they are following!

When I left the store, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of company would even want a guy like that on their payroll. Are they so desperate for managers that they have to resort to hiring people who have no drive, or is that hiring manager just as disengaged as he is? Hmm. Something to ponder…

 I like Seth Godin. I subscribe to his blog and just today received his posting called The Paralysis of Unlimited Opportunity. It made me think about all the distraction we face in our work lives and wonder how many of us are compromising productivity due to a lack of focus. How many of us possess the drive, ambition, know-how and desire to succeed but are distracted by a million little nothings in our day? You know what I mean; web-sites, phone calls, text messages, family, and life in general. It is easy to get pulled in a million directions. How many of us spend too much time sifting through email that adds no value to our lives? Are you spending more time waiting for opportunities than creating them? Are you flogging dead horses even though you know you are not Jesus Christ and cannot give life to the dead? Is this the paralysis of unlimited opportunity or just the paralysis of having a distracted and undisciplined nature? Maybe you are just spending too much time tuning into the white noise of being busy doing nothing.

Here are some tips to help you get around this:

1. Know what you are working toward. Have a very clear purpose, write it down and decide what exactly you need to do to achieve this. Failure to do this will result in your swirling in a sea of white noise for eternity.

2. Turn off the white noise at the end of every day and make a list of priorities for the following day. Your day isn’t done until you’ve accomplished them and written out new ones for the next day.

3. Find someone to hold you accountable. Having a friend at work or even outside of work who can participate in this with you is very effective. Your friend should also be setting goals and reporting to you. You can’t meet every week and have none of your goals achieved; it’s way too embarrassing! Mutual accountability is great for helping you move things along.

4. Read books that motivate you. Filling your head with fluff will result in your being less productive. A commitment to reading or listening to books that inspire you to achieve more, develop important skills and increase your expertise will allow you to become much more productive.

5. Hire a coach. I do provide private leadership coaching to my clients, and it is not terribly expensive. There are many ways to access coaching with the technology that exists today. If all of the above isn’t helping you, consider hiring someone who specializes in working with others to enhance performance.

Taking action to  overcome your white noise will be the difference that gives you an edge and will allow you to be all that you can be. Do something. As Seth Godin says in his blog post, just don’t do nothing.

I regularly play a training game with my clients, which demonstrates the power of positive feedback. I divide the workshop participants into three groups and assign three leaders. The object of the game is to toss a penny against the wall and have it land on a strip of masking tape placed about two feet from the wall. The leader of each team is given a separate set of instructions which must be kept secret. One leader is to give only positive feedback to their team mates, and should continually offer encouragement by saying things like. “Good try.” “Nice technique”, etc. The second team leader is to say nothing at all. He must allow the players to just toss away pennies and make no comments of any kind. The third leader is instructed to give only negative feedback. He must make comments like, “That’s terrible!” “What are you doing?” “You suck,” etc.

I have to say that every time I play this game, the results are always the same. The team who gets positive feedback always manages to get the most pennies on the tape. The team who gets no feedback does much worse, and the team that receives only negative feedback gets the worst score of all. Interestingly, that team tries really hard to win. They support each other and offer encouragement to each other. They shut out the team leader completely, physically blocking his view of their performance. They do this every single time! It’s fascinating, and people do this at work all the time.

Think about your experiences with negative managers. How did you and your co-workers cope? Did you all gang up and complain about him/her whenever you had the chance? Were there things you tried to keep your boss from seeing? How can you use what you know about motivation to build the power of your team?

Co-operation 101

Don’t you hate working with people who have no desire to help or do anything beyond what is written in their job description? Isn’t it frustrating to have to wait for some important information to come from a co-worker who takes her sweet old time getting things done and holds up everyone else?

I once saw a T-shirt that read, “Lead, follow or get out of the way!” I can’t tell you how many times I have come across people who made me think of that line. I do get frustrated by those who refuse to take the lead, but aren’t willing to either follow or get out of the way. How do you overcome the hurdles of working with uncooperative people? No matter what your position in a company, everyone needs to learn how to gain willing cooperation from others. Here are a few tips to help you bring about action when you need it the most:

Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Before you allow yourself to get upset about not being able to move forward on a project, take a moment to think about the other person’s priorities. The world shouldn’t have to stop and come running to help you because you have a sudden need.

Taking the time to politely explain your case and the reason why your need is so urgent, could also be helpful. Sometimes people are unwilling to do things because they either don’t fully understand why they must be done, or they don’t understand the task. Make sure you are very clear about expressing your needs. Never be demanding or hostile. That is the fast way to get shut down.

Use what you learn about your co-worker’s needs as leverage. Knowledge is power. Asking him about the projects he is working on will allow you to better understand his needs. The more you know about your co-worker’s needs the more likely you will be able to offer assistance. Offering to help him out on another project in exchange for a favour, for example, may be enough for you to get things rolling again. It’s all about give and take. You can’t expect to just take all the time. Be prepared to lend a hand whenever the need arises.

Maintain a generous spirit. People like to help likeable people. Make a point of saying hello to your co-workers and take an interest in what they have to say and the things they like to do. People love to talk about themselves, they love to hear their name and they love to hear nice things about themselves. Always be sincere in your interest and comments to others and only say nice things. The warmer and friendlier you are with the people you work with, the better your relationships will be all around.

Bring in a treat once in a while. Everybody loves a little treat. Nothing says you’re special like a surprise cup of java or a batch of cookies. It doesn’t cost much to do and the return on investment is priceless!

I love business. I love being able to talk about business with savvy individuals who share my passion. I love being around business people I can learn from. I love business books. They are my version of erotica! I love working with business people and I love having the opportunity to bring teams to a higher level.

It is incredibly rewarding for me to be able to share my wisdom and talents and to see results happen. It is why I do what I do for a living. Business and business leadership are my greatest passions. They are also among my many talents.

Do you know what your talents are? Are you working in a field that allows you to do what you do best every day? This is important in order to be engaged at work. You will have the best results when you are engaged and doing what you do best every day.

I recently read a book called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. I recommend this book to everyone because it comes with a free online assessment that will allow you to discover your greatest talents. Once you know what they are, you will fully understand what your greatest asset at work is.

I believe one of the reasons people end up not doing what they do best every day is because most of us have talents we don’t recognize as talents. My sister once commented to me that she has no talent. She felt this way because she is a terrible athlete, a terrible cook, she can’t draw, feels she is only mildly musical and although she can carry a tune, she feels she is not really a great singer, either.

The problem here, of course, is that when we think of talent we tend to think of either art or sports. Talent, however, goes much deeper than that. Some people have a talent for listening while others are great strategists or have tremendous analytical ability. When you were a kid on the playground at school nobody ever marvelled over your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from a different perspective, but if you could whack a baseball across the field, you were a super star! That is why we often fail to recognize the many forms of human talent.

Employers need to know where their employees’ talents lie and employees need to know this as well. Fully understanding what each team member can bring to the table will give you a huge competitive advantage. It aids in creating just the right amount of diversity for your team and allows you to choose people whose strengths complement each other. High powered teams are in sync and you cannot be in sync if you are unaware of the talents each team member possesses.

Building on your areas of strength will allow you to become successful whereas focussing on improving areas of weakness is a waste of time and energy.  For example, I couldn’t hit a ball if it hit me first. Knowing what I know about talent, I know that if I practiced every day for eight hours over a three year period, I’d still never be able to hit a ball with the accuracy of any professional golfer, ball player or tennis player. No matter what the sport, I will always be a lousy athlete (just like my sister). I might improve my skills somewhat, but it would never be enough to amaze or impress anyone.

On the other hand, brushing up on my skills in business, human relations, leadership, facilitating, and writing would be much more productive. By developing my existing talents, I will see the greatest return for my efforts. If I devoted eight hours a day for the next three years to developing myself in these areas I would likely see a tremendous improvement in my performance and would generate results that far outweigh those I am achieving today. That is all good!

Take the Strengths Finder test and see what your talents are. Then develop an action plan to make the most of those talents. If you can tie your performance to a measurable result, then you will even be able to see how much you improve over the coming months!

By: Renée Cormier

Every company makes mistakes that affect the quality of customer service, but quite often delivering great customer service is simply a matter of managing customer expectations and showing a willingness to do a little more than what is normally expected for your industry. Customers tend to get very annoyed when you don’t deliver what was promised but they are always thrilled when you go out of your way to see they get their needs met.

Lesson #1: Apathetic and lazy employees will never satisfy customers, but determined and cooperative employees will. Train your people to do what is best for your customers, not what is most convenient at the time.

A building supply store employee once told me about a customer who wanted a particular type of flooring which according to the computer was in stock. None of the sales people or the manager on the floor could find the stocked item so they sent the customer away without the product. This particular employee was galled at their response to the customer and went out of his way to call another store location to see if they could get the flooring from them. He located the flooring, purchased it with his own credit card, returned the item at his home store and called the customer to tell him they had the flooring he wanted. The customer came in, picked up the flooring and went home happy. Later that day, the same employee started looking around in the flooring section and noticed that way up high on a shelf, the stocked item that “no one could find” had been sitting there the whole time. That particular employee received an award for out of the box thinking.

Lesson #2: Teach your employees to read between the lines and allow them to use common sense when dealing with customer issues.

There are many times in business where customers meet up with policies and procedures that simply don’t make sense. “This is our policy” isn’t usually a very practical response to a customer’s problem. There are times when in order to satisfy a customer’s need, you must do something that is not written in the policy but makes perfect sense. Customers may forget or be completely unaware that you have a 30 day cancellation policy and need you to stop charging them for a service they are not using. You will never get them back by being difficult. If they have a grudge against you, it will only become larger if you penalize them for not wanting to be your customer.

Lesson #3: Taking advantage of your customers will not allow you to gain their loyalty. Forcing them to pay unnecessary fees, or trying to take away their freedom to choose by binding them to contracts may be a popular marketing tactic, but it leaves the door wide open for a competitor to offer to treat people right. That, of course, will cause you to lose business!

Inflicting cash grabs on your customers only makes them resent having to do business with you. My hydro and gas bills reflect one cash grab after another. Unfortunately, where I live, I don’t have many choices with respect to service providers. Trust me, though. As soon as a competitor turns up with the right mentality (a customer focussed mentality), I will switch providers. As a customer I reserve the right to maintain that my money is for my benefit.

Life is all about solving problems. The most successful people are really just great problem solvers.  The saying that necessity is the mother of invention is really just another way of saying that inventions solve problems.

Leveraging your employees to help you solve your problems in business is critical to your success as a company. Here are a few ways to inspire creative thinking and take your business to the next level:

  1. Encourage open communication. Giving your employees the freedom to speak is essential to the success of your business.
  2. Never shoot down an idea. Work with your employees to refine ideas, instead.
  3. Allow all of your employees to think and use their creativity. Low level employees rarely get this opportunity and believe me, that is bad for business!
  4. Don’t force your employees to have to jump through hoops to get a decision made. Red tape stifles creativity.
  5. Present challenges in a group meeting and have your team brainstorm ideas together and choose the most viable solution.
  6. Reward and recognize employees for contributing ideas that further your business objectives.

Did you ever notice how some people make it difficult for you to be their customer? They ask you to pay in advance for things that don’t need to be paid for ahead of time. They can’t order exactly what you want the way you want it, so you have to purchase something with unnecessary features. You have to come back on another day because someone important isn’t available to help you. It all sounds weird to me, but you and I know it happens all too often.

There are some simple rules to sales and customer service that need to be kept in mind. Firstly, empower your people to make decisions. Customers get really peeved when the person they are dealing with cannot act in their best interest. It’s not hard to do that. Just set the parameters with your employees and push go. Oh yeah, don’t forget to give them permission to think. That helps a lot!

Secondly, don’t set up road blocks for your customers. People buy when you make it easy for them. Things like flexible payments, free trials, etc all contribute to bringing people closer to buying. Make the process so pleasant and easy they’ll have to say yes.

Thirdly, keep in mind that customers return when you demonstrate you care about their needs and their experience in dealing with your business. Make it as enjoyable as possible. Whatever you do to enhance your customers’ overall experience will attract their future business.

Let’s face it. We live in a world of rapid communication and that communication can make or break your business. Potential employees can surf the internet to find out what employees think of the companies they work for or have worked for in the past. Potential customers can view customer service complaints on millions of websites to see what experiences others have had with your company. A simple Google search could reveal a ton of information about your business that may not be favourable at all.

In spite of all of this, I am continually mystified by the reluctance of many companies to actively try to engage their employees and their customers. How can they not accept the reality that the world has changed and that corporations are no longer as powerful as they used to be? The days of being able to hide your problems from the public are long over and it simply doesn’t pay to live in denial!

An engaged workforce will at least triple your current bottom line results so it is well worth your while to invest in leadership and employee development programs and to concentrate on building an engaged corporate culture. Failing to do so means your business results will only be about 29% of what they could be. That is because on average, only 29% of employees are engaged and they are carrying the results of your entire company. The remaining 71% of your employees are dragging you down and since this condition is reversible, it makes good business sense to work on increasing employee engagement!

I understand that soft skills training is often seen as being a nice thing to do, if you can afford it, but the fact is a good training professional will be able to tie training to solid business results. It really is not fluff and if your employees are like those in most companies, you truly cannot afford to let developing your employees become a low priority.

I have seen what’s out there and I know why we training professionals get a bad rap. It’s because there was a time when less than competent people thought they could cash in on the gravy train when companies had money to spend. They produced nothing, held no one accountable, took away a cheque and drove off in their Beemers. Meanwhile everyone who participated in the sessions went back to their old habits and nothing really changed for the business.

Sadly, those guys are still out there and they still get business from those who have a poor point of reference. They look super slick and act like they’ve got the world by the tail, but they are not true professionals. Look for training that is focussed on achieving results and comes with a guarantee. In my opinion, anyone in my profession who is not willing to stand by their work isn’t worth hiring.

Be a Learner!

The only thing worse than being ignorant is being ignorant and unwilling to learn; particularly when what you need to learn about is vital to your well being! Arm yourself with knowledge of things that affect your career, your money and your health. Here are some ideas to advance your knowledge:

  1. Read books, blogs, articles, etc. There is no shortage of reading material available in this world. You can choose to either pay for info or get it for free via the internet or your public library. Just make the time to read and learn.
  2. Listen to audio books. If you don’t think you can make the time to learn, then get your books on CD and listen to them in the car. I often buy the audio version of books I like just so I can be reminded of what I learned later.
  3. Talk to experts. If you want to be rich, talk to rich people. If you want to learn more about science then socialize with scientists. It’s that simple. If you need a mentor in a particular profession, then seek out people who can help you. Talking shop with people in the know is a great way to learn.
  4. Teach someone what you have learned. Teaching something is a great way to solidify your personal knowledge. I once knew a teacher who had to teach Chemistry early in her career because there was no one else available. She was scared to death of that opportunity because she was always stymied by Chemistry in school. She endeavoured to learn the subject and teach it and in the process managed to demystify the subject for both her students and herself!

We are never too old to learn and even the learned need to involve themselves in the continuous process of developing their skills and knowledge. Reminders are wonderful! Where do you need to build your knowledge?

Empowerment isn’t about letting your employees run amuck. It is about giving people the tools and the trust they need to make decisions that are helpful to the business. It is also about allowing them to use their creativity to find answers and take your business to new heights.

To empower your people you must first make sure everyone has lots of information. Share everything. You cannot expect great results when people don’t have a complete understanding of the business, so share the good, the bad and the ugly. Besides, withholding information creates mistrust, and no team can function effectively where there is an absence of trust.

If you want to learn more about how to empower yor employees, check out my book, Engaged for Growth. It’s a small book, but it’s packed with powerful information!

One of the biggest problems companies face today is the problem of business execution. Many a great idea has fallen flat on the boardroom floor because no one could get past the discussion phase. It’s a common problem that personally drives me crazy. Organizations need to get out of their own way in order to make things happen!

One of my personal strengths is my ability to initiate and organize change. In fact, I have a system that gives companies which want to evolve an effective way to facilitate change. By using this system, leaders can  figure out which steps need to be taken, who needs to be involved, what exactly needs to happen and when things need to happen.

Systems are only worthwhile, however, if they are used regularly. Having great systems in place throughout your organization will allow you to be more successful and organized. Chaotic organizations will never do as well as those which consistently apply effective systems. One terrific advantage of using my system is that it allows companies to develop their own unique systems and refine them as the business evolves. It also allows them to incorporate their values into any changes that take place, and I’m a big fan of that!

Curious? Ask me about this. 905 593-2778

In my last post I mentioned that many sales and marketing professionals consider that we are all in sales. I was reminded of a session I did once where I showed pictures of different people and asked what impressions they left. One was a picture of a guy with his hand extended in greeting (in fact, you’ll see that picture in an earlier post about on-boarding. Click here to view). One person in the group cringed and commented that he looked like a sales guy, saying she hated sales people. My response was to ask why she hated sales people and I informed her of the following:

Sales people drive the economy. Without sales people there would be no business, no jobs, and no homes to buy; not even a cardboard box to live in. Since boxes have to be manufactured and supplies need to be purchased in order to manufacture them, it would be impossible to make anything other than a lean-to to live in. Even then, you’d have to fashion a knife out of stone and basically live like a caveman.  Who wants that? I’ll take my nice home in the suburbs, my furnace and central air conditioning, thank you very much (all of which were purchased from some very nice people).

The next time you find yourself thnking that sales people are sleazy, please stop and make a distinction between professional sales people (who have integrity at their core) and the others who are really in the minority. A sleaze is a sleaze in my opinion, some are unfortunately in sales, but some are in other professions as well. Don’t paint everyone with the same brush. Hug a sales person today!

Anyone with a background in sales and marketing will tell you we are all in Sales. People have to sell themselves and their ideas every day. This is very true, but did you know we are all in Customer Service as well? Yup. It’s true. As long as you have to work with people, or interact with people at any level, there is a certain fineness that is required to maintain a harmonious environment. That fineness involves adopting an attitude of service.

In adopting an attitude of service, you must ask yourself what you can do in the service of others, rather than what you can do to simply serve yourself. Ironically, it is in serving others that we best serve ourselves. What goes around comes around, as they say.

Something very important is missing in our busy lives. In fact, its absence is a pretty common occurrence nowadays. We all get so caught up in our day to day rush we frequently forget to acknowledge the efforts people make in our favour.  Remember the magic word your mother taught you to say whenever someone gave you something or did something special for you? Thank you. It’s simple, isn’t it? You can say it out loud; you can write it in an email or include it in a memo. You can say it while you are walking in or out of a room, or you can pick up the phone and make a special effort to thank someone for their consideration, kindness, effort, favour, etc.  It isn’t that hard, really, and it isn’t even that inconvenient to take the time to do it. Believe me, it isn’t.

Those two words are so powerful they can completely change the emotional temperature of a room. They are so powerful they can instantly make people want to do more for you. A little appreciation goes an awfully long way.

Say thank you to your employees who come to work every day. They could have chosen to fake sick and stay home. Say thank you to your customers who give you their money. They could have chosen to give it to your competitor, or just hang onto it. Say thank you to sales reps that take the time out of their busy day to make sure you have samples and little freebies to try out. They could have just not bothered. Say thank you to your boss who keeps you working. Say thank you to your significant other for being so sweet. Thank your friends, relatives and neighbours, just because they said or did something that made you feel good.

People make efforts on our behalf all the time. Take the time to notice and acknowledge the contributions that are made. No kind act is too small to be allowed to go unnoticed. Make a call, send an email, say thank you and be grateful for all you have been given.

By the way, thank you for reading this. I really appreciate your interest.

Identifying the talents of your employees, or your own talents, for that matter, is crucial in the battle to secure an engaged workforce. One of the questions used in Gallup’s famous employee engagement survey is “At work, do I get to do what I do best every day?” It is a sad fact that many people work in areas where they have developed skills they actually have little talent for. Sometimes, people may be so skilled at something, they appear to have talent, but where there is no passion, there is no talent.

My father was a violinist. He played the violin every day of his life until he could play no more. If he had even five minutes to spare while he waited for my mother to get ready to go out, he would take out his violin and practice. What was he practicing for? He wasn’t a concert violinist (although he could have been). He didn’t have an event to prepare for. He practiced because he loved it, and he wanted to keep his skills sharp. The violin was as much a part of him as the hair on his head. It was his greatest passion. Playing energized him and brought him joy.

My father also gave violin lessons to people over the years. Teaching was not his passion. He was, in fact a terrible teacher (sorry, Dad). He had no patience for his pupils, he would yell at them when they made mistakes. He was a terrible motivator and was far too critical to be a talented teacher. Knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach something are two completely different skill sets. That is why the most talented performers are not necessarily the most talented teachers. It is also why your best sales people are not necessarily the best sales managers.

One of the best ways to identify talent versus skill is to analyze how you feel after completing a task. If you feel a sense of joy and a rush of energy after spending hours doing something, then you are using your talent. If you feel drained, have a headache or are just so glad to finally be done with that mess, then you just did something you have no talent for. You were working with a skill.

I am a firm believer in spending the bulk of my time doing the things I do best, and letting others do the things they do best. Whenever I have to hire people, I try to hire people who are naturally good at the things I am terrible at. That makes for a more efficient team.

If you are not good at initiating tasks, then hire someone who is. If you are not a good designer, but know how to design, hire someone who is a truly talented designer. Being able to do something exceptionally well is the edge you need to take your business to the next level. If you think you are saving yourself money by performing to mediocre standards, think again.

In business, talent is everything. Having your people work within their areas of talent, not just their skill sets will provide you with a higher level of employee engagement. It will allow your team to deliver exceptional outcomes, and will ultimately make you more money.

Most people hate performance reviews. I often hear complaints that review time seems to be the perfect opportunity for your boss to kick your rear end into your front end. What really drives people crazy is that many times the poor review just seems to come out of nowhere! What could possibly drive your boss to give you such unexpected grief? Here are a few possibilities to consider:

Your Boss is Disorganized: If you have never or have rarely met to discuss progress on your objectives prior to your most recent review, your boss doesn’t have her priorities straight. A course in Time Management would do her a lot of good!

Your Boss is an Abysmal Communicator: It’s always possible your boss never really learned how to give a proper performance review and doesn’t have a natural ability to communicate effectively.

Your Boss has a Hidden Agenda: Your boss may have decided it is time to restructure and needs to unload a few people the cheap way. If he can make you miserable, you might quit. In other words, you could be the victim of a constructive dismissal. This is a dangerous game for employers to play, but it is still pretty common.

You Make Too Much Money: Your boss may have been told to limit the salary budget for the upcoming year. If your annual raise and bonus is dependent upon the results of your performance review, then dinging you on your review would be essential. If you are at the top of the pay scale for your position, and your boss has been mandated to cut costs, you are going to be the primary target for a negative review. You may as well start updating your resume. You will probably be restructured out of a job.

So, what should you do if you’ve just received a rotten review?

  • Don’t sign anything you don’t agree to and issue a rebuttal.
  • Ask for empirical data to support the claims against you.
  • Emphasize your achievements and provide supporting data.
  • Ask your manager what type of support you will be receiving from the company to help you overcome your challenges.
  • If you feel you are being constructively dismissed, let the big people in charge know. Send your rebuttal to HR and the CEO, or your manager’s boss and tell them your thoughts on the subject. If you’re going down anyway, you may as well expedite the process. You’ll be handed a severance cheque within days. If you let them force you to quit, you will only give them the fuel to treat others this way (and add unnecessary stress to your life). Inconvenience them and make them pay you to go away.

A Note for Leaders:

Constructive Dismissal is a form of bullying. Several American states have been working on passing legislation that would ban bullying in the workplace and force employers to pay heavy compensation to victims. There is a realization that anti- harassment legislation needs to protect everyone, not just women, and racial or religious minorities. This is likely because according to studies, 40% of Americans claim to have been bullied at work.

Canadian courts are more recently taking a dim view of bosses who bully employees, particularly when the employee ends up becoming sick, taking stress leave or starts taking anti-depressants to cope with the pressure of the continual harassment. There is an emerging trend where judges forced the employer to compensate the employee as much as $1million. Subway, Honda Canada and Xerox are just a few companies known to have received such judgements.

In 2004, the Quebec government brought in legislation to protect employees from being victims of psychological harassment at work. Their definition of psychological harassment is, “any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures, that affects an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity, and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee.”

That means that yelling at your employees, swearing or name calling, threatening to fire them or harm them in any way, could get you into very hot water. Anything you do to shatter the self confidence of your employees could be considered harassment. Read my book, Engaged for Growth, to learn more about this subject and to develop healthy workplace practices that engage your people and drive the best results!

If you want your employees to follow your initiatives, you’d better start showing enthusiasm for your business! Enthusiasm is contagious. When you are enthusiastic, your employees will be as well. Positive energy makes you stronger and negative energy weakens you. Today’s corporate climate requires bosses to keep things light and positive. No doom and gloom. Telling everyone, “Sales are really down this year. I don’t know how long we can stay in business like this,” will not help you. Instead try, “Sales are down for now, so I think we all need to brain storm and see if there are opportunities we are somehow missing. We’ve got a great product and terrific people so we should be able to get past the dip.”

No one should have to dread going to work. Neither should employees be forced to view each day as a struggle which will ultimately lead to a catastrophe. Be mindful of how your attitude affects those around you!

I always say that ego is the greatest enemy of leadership because it is your ego that will interfere with your ability to improve. Your ego tells you, “I don’t need to be better” but the ego gives you a road you can run down endlessly and takes you far from the truth. Ego dominated managers are actually cowards who are filled with fear and who are unwilling to face the truth about themselves. Ego is a defence mechanism and as a defence mechanism, ego overcompensates for feelings of ineptitude by trying to keep others from looking good. Ego dominated bosses therefore, tend to do things like withhold information, devalue employees, compete with employees, dismiss input from employees, etc. The list of behaviours could go on forever, but the source is always the same: fear.

Deep down, ego dominated managers fear people will see them as the inept creatures they really are. They are misguided in believing that as the boss, they are supposed to have all the answers. The truth is, the best leaders intentionally surround themselves with the most capable and talented people and the worst leaders intentionally surround themselves with the most incompetent people. Both leaders want to look good, but the ego dominated manager/leader sees star employees as potential threats, so he seeks out all the yes-men and lackeys he can find. They make him feel strong and important. They constantly suck up and feed his ego. Employees who show creativity, strong capability and intelligence aren’t appreciated by an ego dominated manager/leader, and may well find themselves constructively dismissed if they don’t quit first.

I think it is fair to say that most of us have seen our share of ego dominated managers. It is important to know that even good leaders can fall into ego traps from time to time. We are all human after all. Great leadership requires a person to be able to recognize when the ego is rising to the forefront and controlling our behaviour. As a leader, it is also a requirement to keep your ego in check.

Common Ego Dominated Behaviours:
Withholding information
Devaluing employees
Competitiveness/ looking out for yourself only
Being dismissive
Always having to be right/ wanting to have all the answers
Not taking responsibility for the errors of the team
Feeling you are smarter or better
Being manipulative
Taking credit for achievements you didn’t earn
Failing to give credit to those deserving it
Power tripping

I am so proud and happy to report that my new book, Engaged for Growth is getting top ratings from Indigo shoppers. Feel free to check out the listing, make a purchase and post a comment for the world to see. The book is a quick read and is meant to give the reader the most important things they need to know to get their people engaged at work. http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Engaged-for-Growth-Ren%c3%a9e-Cormier/9781897453285-item.html?ref=Search+Books%3a+%2527renee+cormier%2527

The Extra Mile

By: Renée Cormier

The road to developing extraordinary customer experiences shouldn’t be riddled with pot holes, but it often is. Managers want to know how to get their people to care enough to go the extra mile while customers are fed a line of excuses that would choke a bull. “We’re so busy.” “The truck didn’t come in.” “We only do what we are told.” “That’s our policy.”

Here’s the thing about customers: they don’t care why you can’t do something, or why you failed to deliver. They only care that their expectations were not met. They also get really annoyed when they spend money doing business with you and are treated like an inconvenience, or worse, like they have a mental problem.

Customers may not always be charming to deal with, but you should always be charming when dealing with them. Most of us know that. Still, doing what is unexpected and positive is the best way to charm your customers. That’s called going the extra mile. Seeing something that needs to be done and doing it, even though the customer did not ask for it. Taking time out after hours to make sure your customer has their order on time, because you value the needs of your customer and understand that the health of your business depends on their happiness.

Here’s a fact: There is a direct correlation between engaged employees and customer loyalty. It’s not hard to figure out why. Disengaged employees don’t care about the results they create. They are merely putting in time. Therefore they never consider doing anything that would pleasantly surprise a customer. They deliver service that is mediocre at best, and sometimes downright horrible!

Many companies think that by offering extensive Customer Service training they can fix their Customer Service problems. The trouble is the training is only beneficial after the manager has been trained in how to engage employees. If you’ve ever wondered why “training doesn’t work” that is part of the problem. You need to get to the root of the problem. Bad managers create disengaged employees. Sometimes, in fact, often times, the whole company is comprised of bad managers and that is where the real problem lies.

Getting your customer service staff in gear to exceed your customers’ expectations is key if you want to have an edge over your competition. Here are a few things you can do to get started:

Draw the Line: Some people just don’t get the relationship between behaviours and outcomes, so in a non threatening way, it is important to draw the line, so to speak. Let your employees know how important excellent customer service is to the health of the company (and their jobs). Your front line people are extremely vital in keeping your business afloat. They need to know the value of the role they play in realizing the mission/vision!

Hire Smart: Never hire anyone for any position in your company simply because they are willing to do the job. Customer Service people need to have an attitude of helpfulness and an eagerness to please (as should everyone else). If you hire people with the wrong attitude, you will drive your customers away.

Show Great Appreciation: Given the nature of Customer Service work and the important role your CS staff play in your company, it goes without saying that you must show them appreciation. It is imperative that you make sure they know how important they are and are shown appreciation for their efforts daily!

Outstanding Moments: In the name of delighting your customers and reminding your CS staff how important it is to deliver outstanding service, have a brief meeting after shifts to allow your people to share their outstanding moments. Asking your Customer Service staff to talk about how they went the extra mile that day will inspire their co-workers and reinforce the right mentality. It will also provide the manager with the opportunity to congratulate and openly express appreciation for their efforts, thereby driving up morale and engagement.

Look Inward: Great leaders strive for continuous self-improvement. They are not afraid to let go of their ego and reflect on their own mistakes. As long as you are asking your employees to tell you how they were outstanding each day, you may as well do the same in the confines of your brain. Do take the time to reflect on how you were outstanding each day in the eyes of your employees, and where you could have been better. Make a plan to improve and follow it. No one wants to follow an arrogant leader, so this is a really important exercise to perform.

Train, Train, Train: Ok, now I’ll give myself a plug and tell you to train your people! We all need reminding and there is always something more to learn. Start by getting Leadership and Communication Skills training for your managers and Customer Service and Communications Skills training for CS staff. Yes, it is among the many ways I work with companies to help them achieve employee engagement and positive bottom line results!

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with businesses to increase efficiency, productivity and profit.  A specialist in the area of Employee Engagement, Renée has spent the last 12 years as a training and development professional. She has been an entrepreneur, worked for both large and small companies, managed both people and sales effectively, and developed systems and habits that brought her much success. Renée uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that show business leaders how to engage their workforce and get guaranteed bottom line results! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable. POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES is a member of the Canadian Society for Training & Development.

Contact: renee@powerconferences.ca      Phone: (905)593-2778 www.powerconferences.ca

A System for Success

By: Renée Cormier

Did you know that an important part of securing employee engagement means making sure your employees have the tools to do their jobs effectively?  In spite of this, a surprising number of companies force their employees to wing it. It seems ridiculous that sales managers would send their reps out without the benefit of a presentation binder or a script to work from, but many do. Similarly, it is pretty common for employers to force their people to work with computers that continually crash, or software programs that do not quickly and effectively produce necessary reports. Ineffective tools and systems waste time and money and will most certainly lead to employee frustration of mammoth proportion. Those frustrated employees become quickly disengaged and will ultimately harm your business results!

If you think you are saving money by not purchasing top notch equipment for your employees to use, then you are sadly mistaken! As an employer, anything you do to help your employees be more effective is money well spent. Here are some areas to keep an eye on in your company:

Sales: Since I spent many years working in sales roles, I know how important it is to have a structure to follow. Now, I know many sales people complain about having to follow structure, but you will find that the most successful sales people will tell you they use a presentation binder and they know exactly what they are going to say when they go into a sales meeting. Professional selling is a process. It doesn’t happen by accident. Skilled sales people follow a finely developed process that works. If your company hasn’t developed a process, then doing so is a must! It is also important to make sure your people stick to it. If you have developed a process that doesn’t seem to work very well, then get input from your people to help you fine tune it. You’ll be glad you did!

Customer Service: Sales people always complain about the gap between what they promise customers and what actually gets delivered. Interestingly, Customer Service people complain about the same thing! Part of providing excellent customer service is getting everyone on the same page. Each department in your company is dependent upon the other. No one can function efficiently without the support of others, and your customers will most certainly be let down if your various work teams are not in sync. Successful companies have solid systems in place for taking orders and delivering products and services to their customers (both internal and external). If something is not working, then the whole team needs to get together to see what tweaks can be made to the existing system to make it more effective. Striving for continuous improvement is a vital part of creating engaged employees and securing customer loyalty!

Continuous Improvement Systems: Toyota implements 99% of the suggestions received from employees. The result of doing so has paid off significantly. The people who actually use your systems and equipment are in a much better position to tell you where you need to improve than any “Lean Expert” or consultant. Just look at GM and Ford. They employed tons of Lean Manufacturing experts, and most likely forgot about the people running the equipment.  The moral here, is develop a system that allows employees to help you improve all of your processes, and then implement the best suggestions. You will be more likely to have effective systems, and your employees will know they are valuable to the business. Valued employees are engaged employees, and as long as you are striving for continuous improvement, you will continue to rise above the competition!

Meetings: In many companies meetings are a great way to waste time and talk about what needs improvement. Meetings should be a springboard for action, not a forum for inaction! Structure your meetings so that you have objectives. Do not have a meeting just because it’s Friday and you always have meetings on Friday. If you’ve got nothing to address, then you don’t need to have a meeting! If you do have issues to address, don’t add too much variety to the agenda. In fact, the fewer items you address in a meeting the better. Many companies save a whole bunch of items for a long and boring meeting and then wonder why they never act on anything that was discussed. The reason is that you will be more likely to take action on the one thing you discussed than on the twenty different items you discussed. It is far better to have several short meetings that end with an action plan, than one big one that ends in, “I can’t wait to get out of here!”

Remember, successful companies are all about structure! Develop systems that work, support your people, and give them the opportunity to be the best they can be. Of course, you can always call me if you need my help!

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with businesses to increase efficiency, productivity and profit. A specialist in the area of Employee Engagement, Renée has spent the last 12 years as a training and development professional. She has been an entrepreneur, worked for both large and small companies, managed both people and sales effectively, and developed systems and habits that brought her much success. Renée uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that show business leaders how to engage their workforce and get guaranteed bottom line results! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable. Contact: renee@powerconferences.ca

workshop facil.By Renée Cormier
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

Do you know where your company is going? What about your people? Are they really clear about the direction in which you are heading and do they really understand how their work contributes to the overall growth of the company?

You’d be surprised at how many companies drop the ball on this one. Many mid-sized companies haven’t even got an articulated vision and many larger companies don’t speak of the mission, vision and values outside of the executive boardroom. It is not enough to post statements around the office. Successful companies live by these statements and work with employees at all levels of the organization in realizing the vision. They do this by involving their people in discussions about the business and referring to the mission, vision and values whenever decisions are being made.

If you are a little confused about why you need to have three separate statements, let me clarify their functions for you:
Your mission statement is a statement about the overall purpose of the company. Your mission may be, “We strive to be the largest supplier of top quality widgets in North America.” Mission statements don’t have to be complex. In fact, the simpler, the better. Your employees will be more likely to support you in your mission if they understand it and remember it. Many companies have fancy statements that read like Latin bibles and then wonder why everyone seems to be running in different directions.

Your vision is basically a description of what your mission looks like as it is being carried out. So in developing your vision, you should ask the question, “What is happening as we are accomplishing our mission?” Again, keep it simple. You want your employees to remember the vision and to be able to actually visualize the success. Your vision statement could be something like, “By exceeding customer expectations with our top quality products and service, we are the preferred supplier of widgets in North America.”

Values statements are important in the realization of your mission and vision, because they are at the core of every decision you make (or at least they should be). Your customers will react to your values because how you conduct business will depend on what you really value. Saying you value customer service is not that same as really valuing customer service so do make sure your values are a sincere reflection of who you are as a company. If you need to adjust your values in order to realize your mission and vision, then you need to take extra care when making decisions about the business. No decision should be finalized before confirming that it does not conflict with the company values.

When choosing which values you wish to operate from, solicit input from your employees and keep the number of values limited to six. Having too many values will complicate things. It may be easy to think of twenty or more values, so carefully choose the ones that will help you realize the mission and vision.
Remember, when it comes to developing an engaged workforce, direction is important. Everyone needs to know where they are going and to be moving in the same direction. That can only be accomplished once you are clear about what you are trying to achieve.

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with businesses to increase efficiency, productivity and profit. A specialist in the area of Employee Engagement, Renée has spent the last 12 years as a training and development professional. She has been an entrepreneur, worked for both large and small companies, managed both people and sales effectively, and developed systems and habits that brought her much success. Renée uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that show business leaders how to engage their workforce and get guaranteed bottom line results! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable. POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES is a member of the Canadian Society for Training & Development. Contact: renee@powerconferences.ca http://www.powerconferences.ca

Are your employees calling in sick a little too often? Are they having a hard time meeting deadlines? Are your customers complaining? Are you experiencing high turnover in staff? Do you feel like an overpaid babysitter? Give me a call. I’ll give you some strategies to help get you the results you’ve been wishing for.

Employee Engagement Specialist
1-888-MY-ETHER ext. 03844862

By: Renée Cormier

Question: What costs American businesses over 300 billion dollars annually?

Answer: Disengaged employees.

According to extensive studies conducted by Gallup Management Journal, only 29% of employees are engaged in their work. 54% are disengaged (mentally checked out) and 17% are actively disengaged (sabotaging the efforts of their co-workers). What’s more, Gallup has determined that the only source of this problem of employee disengagement is bad managers!

This means that if your company is like most, every million dollars you spend on payroll, gets you $290,000 worth of effort! It also means that if you invest in nothing else, you should invest in your managers (or if you are a manager, invest in yourself). Helping your managers become better leaders will increase the level of employee engagement in your company. This, in turn, will cause increases in productivity, efficiency, profit, and will also help you retain valuable customers. Guaranteed!82833682

The greatest advantage any business could have over their competition is not their product, but their engaged employees. Through their studies, Gallup found that more than half of disengaged employees will never recommend their employers’ product or service to others, but most of the engaged employees would. Since most of your competitors are likely suffering from disengaged employees, it would obviously serve your bottom line very well to make the effort to engage your people. There should be absolutely no incentive to have these disengaged people on your payroll.

Question: Can disengaged people appear to be productive?

Answer: I’ve come across some sales people in companies who seem to bring in enough money to make their bosses want to keep them in spite of showing signs of disengagement. Sales managers never seem to care about the attitude as long as the numbers are good. That, however, is a deadly mistake. Most sales people are very money driven and therefore create the impression of being engaged when they are producing great sales results. Ironically, they would be absolutely phenomenal if they were actually engaged.

Keep in mind that revenue is not the measure of engagement, attitude is. Money does not affect employee engagement, culture does. If your high sales performers are always complaining about company policy, inept delivery or service people, and the lack of support, for example, then your sales person is simply motivated by money. As a sales manager or business owner, you may think that is good enough, but beware. He is in the game solely for his own benefit, not the benefit of the company, and that is deadly.

Remember, disengaged employees are not loyal. Your disengaged high sales performer will take off with your customers at the earliest opportunity. You are not doing your business any favours by keeping him or her amongst your ranks. You are simply delusional if you think your business will steadily thrive with these people around. They are working on bringing your other sales reps over to the dark side, sabotaging their morale and success all the way. Not all sales people are solely motivated by money, and this performer will ruin the others.

Question: How can I determine whether or not my employees are engaged?

Answer: There are some obvious signs of disengagement which include actions like complaining to co-workers, apathy, frequently missed deadlines, absenteeism, tardiness, lack of interest in company events, etc.

The best way to determine the level of employee engagement in your company is to conduct a survey. I use an employee engagement survey to help my clients see where they are and where they need to improve. I also conduct workshops and coaching sessions to show leaders how to build an engaged workforce. Engaging employees is the only way to have lasting success in business. Any results achieved in spite of having a disengaged workforce pale when compared to the results that occur when your people are engaged.

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with businesses to increase efficiency, productivity and profit. Renée has spent the last 12 years as a training and development professional. She has been an entrepreneur, worked for both large and small companies, managed both people and sales effectively, and developed systems and habits that brought her much success. Renée uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that show business leaders how to engage their workforce and get guaranteed bottom line results! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable.

Contact: renee@powerconferences.ca           www.powerconferences.ca

By: Renée Cormier

Are your employees satisfied or engaged? As a business owner or manager, you had better know the difference between the two. Your employees may be satisfied at work because they are happily doing the bare minimum to keep you off their backs, but that’s not the same as being engaged. Engaged employees are the passionate ones who happily put in extra time when needed, are enthusiastic about the projects they are working on and are the most positive employees you could ever have! They love their work, they care about the results they create, they feel appreciated, and believe they make a meaningful contribution to the growth of the company.

disengagedAccording to Gallup, only 29% of employees feel that way, so if the remaining 71% of your workforce doesn’t really care about the success of your company, how much better would your financial results be if everyone were engaged? I don’t have an exact number, but I can tell you that Gallup reports that businesses lose billions of dollars annually to disengaged employees. In fact, several researchers report that engaged employees produce more, and cost a lot less than their disengaged counterparts. They even play a significant role in building customer loyalty.

So how can you create a work environment that is conducive to building employee engagement? Here are some areas to work on to get you started.

On-Boarding: No one is more enthusiastic about their job than the new hire is in the first two weeks of employment. Sadly, a lot of employers do not have or implement an effective orientation program, and the great attitude goes south almost immediately! A lot of companies train very badly, and then wonder why it is so difficult to find good people.

Mission Vision and Values: All employees should be aware of how their role is tied to the mission, vision and values of your organization. Most companies make the drastic mistake of ensuring only the management team is connected to the goals of the organization. The reality is, every single employee has the power to affect the direction of the business whether he cleans the floors, answers the phones, or develops strategy. What are you telling the receptionist about his/her importance to the company when they have no input and no real idea about the direction of the business? How does that message affect the people he/she comes into contact with? You can be sure a percentage of customers are being driven away because of it!

Integrity: People like to be led by people who have integrity. Managers who have illicit affairs, steal from the company, or treat people unfairly are never respected. Lack of respect for the boss translates into apathetic employees, i.e. disengagement. As a leader, you must demonstrate that you are trustworthy, reliable, fair minded and unselfish. If you can master that, then you are well on your way to creating an engaged workforce!

Connectedness: Build positive relationships with everyone you work with. Taking the time to actually talk to your employees and co-workers is extremely important. Demonstrating that you value your relationships at work tells people that you also value their contribution. Don’t forget to actually tell people how much you appreciate their efforts, though. That’s part of building relationships and those simple words will pay off exponentially!

Flexibility: All companies have policies and procedures that must be adhered to, but ask yourself where you could afford to be flexible with these. For example, flexibility with scheduling, working from home, and time off may benefit your company more than you think. By taking a little pressure off your employees, you will likely secure their commitment to you and foster pride in the company. Evaluate where you would like more flexibility in your work and offer the same to your employees.

Remember, no one goes to work looking for ways to mess up. Humans inherently want to do a good job and to be recognized as valuable contributors to society. Take advantage of that fact and turn your business into a profit machine!

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with people to produce better business results. Renée has spent the last 11 years as a training and development professional. She uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that will provide her clients with business results that positively impact the bottom line! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable.  Renée can be reached by email at renee@powerconferences.ca or by telephone at (905)593-2778.



75676081By: Renée Cormier

It’s true. Most people are pretty enthusiastic when they start a new job. Sadly, on day one, a large number of new hires are left feeling like an imposition in everyone’s day and end up questioning their decision to accept the job offer.

New hires are at their best their first day on the job. They are keen to make a difference and can’t wait to get into the meat of their work. Unfortunately, most companies are ill prepared to start their newbie and end up jeopardizing the new hire’s level of engagement from the get-go. Read on for some suggestions to successfully onboard your new employees and capitalize on your opportunity to engage them from the start.

The Welcome: To make the welcome most effective, everyone needs to be prepared for the arrival of their new colleague. There is nothing worse than starting your new job, only to discover that no one is available to work with you, and that no plans were made to get you off to a good start.

Did you ever notice that everyone who leaves their position (willingly) usually ends up with a big party and a gift with a card signed by everyone? Why can’t companies welcome new people with as much fan fare? What a beautiful way to start a job. Giving your new hire a feeling of acceptance right from the start fuels enthusiasm and cements their commitment to the company. That is so much more beneficial to the company than the previously described situation where the new person is left standing around feeling like they are inconveniencing the entire team.

Have the party at the very beginning of the work day. Welcomes are for the beginning of the first day, not later in the day, and definitely not later in the week! Decorate the office, if you can. Order a cake with the person’s name on it and give them a little welcome package wrapped as a gift that will help them with their work (a calendar, a pen, keys, a mug, restaurant info, important numbers, a floor plan, etc.). It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It’s all in the presentation!

Make it a point to get everyone in the office to have lunch with the new person (one at a time over a few weeks) so they can get to know each other individually. Each day should have an action that a staff member must take to get the new person involved in the culture of the company. It doesn’t have to cost money. Spending the time is what is important, so if there is a group who goes bowling on Thursdays, be sure to invite the new person to join the group. If you raise money for a charity, have the new hire get involved in that as well.

Partners & Mentors: Every new employee should have a group of people they can rely on for information related to their job, and someone who can mentor them. Assign these people very carefully. To keep the engagement level high, you must first determine who your most engaged employees are. Statistically, according to Gallup, if you have a group of 10 employees, approximately 3 will be highly engaged, 5 will be somewhat disengaged, and 2 will be completely disengaged. The latter group will try to act as the corporate informant and let the new hire in on all the gossip and pitfalls of the organization, and some members of the middle group may do this as well. Don’t give them extra opportunity to call your fledgling over to the dark side.  Get your best people (the keenest, brightest, most productive and enthusiastic) to work with your new employee in every way possible. Put them on projects together, get them involved in the orientation and integration process. Make them the go-to people as much as possible.

Get To Work: As mentioned earlier, new hires are very eager to make a difference. Find out where their greatest strengths are and put them to work on something that is productive and meaningful right from day one. Do not have them do work that is not in their job description. For example, if you hire a Director, help him or her get into the job by assigning a meaningful project. They can partner with other people in the department to get things done and understand more about the business in the process. Do not have your new hire follow people around to “observe” or stick them in a room to clean up shelves. This is demeaning, unproductive and bad for morale. Each time you have your new hire do something meaningless, you drive him/her closer to the door. The unspoken word is, “we don’t recognize your talents and have no use for them, anyway”.

Promises, Promises: A lot of companies get swept up in the excitement of hiring and promise things to employees, only to forget later. The new hire is left waiting for gold to fall from a bucket into their laps and it never comes to fruition. You may forget, but employees never forget. Be sure to make a list of the things you promised and set forth a fair timeline, along with appropriate objectives so you can deliver on those promises. Have a discussion with your new employee about his/her expectations as well as your own and provide support for continued success. By doing this, you will demonstrate that you have integrity and will move closer to building continued engagement and loyalty from your new hire.

Appraisals: New employees need lots of guidance and support in their roles, but they also need feedback from you. Be very careful not to fall into the trap of continuous criticism. Criticism is never constructive, and is always destructive. No one needs that. Even the term “appraisal” sounds intimidating. Turn those appraisal sessions into a relaxed one-on-one mini-meeting where you can review goals, provide support and bond with your new hire. Remember, we all need to feel valuable, and disengagement is directly tied to feeling under-valued. Praise efforts, acknowledge accomplishments and look for the good. Never focus on the negative. Saying, “You could have done this better,” is not conducive to the engagement process. Be friendly, not threatening.  People are more inspired by warmth than coldness. An open, non-threatening communication style motivates and builds loyalty. That’s what employee engagement is all about.

Continuing Development: How do you support your new hires in getting around the learning curve? Whether you have just hired from outside your organization, or promoted from within, everyone needs to have a plan for continuous learning that should include soft skills training. It is well known that people get hired for their technical skills and fired for their people skills. If you have hired someone into a management position, see to it that they receive ongoing leadership training that includes components built around developing skills in communication, leadership, team building, delegation, building trust, etc. If you hire a Customer Service Agent, give that person continuous relevant training as well. It doesn’t matter what position the person holds in the company, they are deserving of the opportunity to cultivate their skills for their own benefit, and the benefit of the company. I have met many people who worked in companies and climbed the corporate ladder, but never took a course in anything that really mattered to the success of the company. Soft skills matter a lot and anything you do to tell your employees they are important to your business, will contribute to their degree of engagement and put money in your company’s pocket!

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with people to produce better business results. Renée has spent the last 11 years as a training and development professional. She uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that will provide her clients with business results that positively impact the bottom line! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable. You can contact Renée through her website www.powerconferences.ca or by sending an email to renee@powerconferences.ca






By: Renée Cormier

All companies experience turnover to some degree. Many companies refresh their pool of employees by restructuring their organization every three to four years, and even though the change is sometimes good, it is always costly. Other companies just can’t seem to hold onto people. Sometimes this is a casualty of the industry, such as in Hospitality or Retail. Those industries do tend to lose people more frequently. Nevertheless, if you own or manage a company where high turnover is an issue, you are needlessly losing a tremendous amount of money. Calculations for turnover costs can vary depending on the position, but typically they range from 1.5 to 2.5 times the annual salary.

When determining the true cost of turnover to your company, don’t just consider hard costs such as severance pay, litigation, training costs, advertising and recruiting costs. The heavier expenses actually lie in the things that are not immediately apparent. For example, a restructuring can have a terrible impact on employee morale. Fear and uncertainty tend to de-motivate and distract employees, thereby lowering productivity. Being short staffed also lowers productivity, and stresses the remaining team members, which could lead to increases in absenteeism and the dreaded “stress leave”.

The fall-out from turnover gets even worse when you calculate the customers you lose due to lost relationships with departed employees. Quite often the reason you have your customers in the first place is because they like the people they are dealing with. When you lose an employee, you may lose his customers too. You may also lose customers because the lack of staff has compromised the quality of customer service in your business. Botched orders, slow delivery, lack of stock, missed deadlines, and trying to recover from errors, all cost money.i-quit

Knowledge loss and knowledge acquisition have a cost as well. When someone leaves your company he takes company secrets, client information, technical skills and more with him. What’s more, it will take his replacement an average of 14 months to get over the learning curve. That’s 14 months of lower productivity, confused and perhaps frustrated customers, frustrated co-workers, mistakes in processes and any number of other workplace mishaps. Once again, it’s money out the company window.

So now you know why you need to hang onto your people, but do you know how? A lot of companies spend a tremendous amount of money on professional recruiters and personality assessments with the hope of being able to find the right person for the job. The assumption is that if you pick the right person he or she will stay around. While both of these methods are helpful, they are not the only answer to your problem.  The fact is, if you have a problem with turnover, it is probably not because you continually hire the wrong people. It is more likely because of you. As John C. Maxwell says in his book Leadership Gold, “People quit people, not companies.” In other words, if someone quits, take it very personally.

It all comes down to Employee Engagement. Engaged employees do not quit. They are fulfilled, content, dedicated and highly productive. They feel they have an important role to play in the success of the company, and no one will lure them away.

I have a client in Alberta who complained that the labour shortage there has made it virtually impossible for companies to retain people. Competitors continually try to lure people away with offers of higher pay. Don’t be fooled into believing that money is the real issue behind your stream of departing employees. Some may leave for that reason, but if they are engaged, they will not feel so compelled to leave. They have too many important things to do for your company and won’t likely trade a great work environment for an unknown and possibly disastrous one.

A 2003 Statistics Canada study looked at whether or not alternative work practices decrease turnover. The study conducted by René Morissette and Julio Miguel Rosa determined that these practices for the most part seem to have little impact on turnover, except where there is a formal policy of information sharing. They continued to say that the quit rates were also lower in companies that had self-directed work groups and in those with a policy of profit sharing.

I can’t help but see the connection between employee engagement and these particular practices. Information sharing and forming self directed work groups are important in the strategic development of employee engagement. Please note, however, that policy does not affect results, people do! Many companies have wonderful policies around training, communication and work practices but failure to implement, or weak implementation of these policies renders them useless.

 Keeping your people engaged requires continual effort in involving them in your business. Your frontline people need to be just as involved in the success of the company as the President. The job functions are different, but both need to understand their relationship to the mission, vision and values of the organization as well as their unique role in creating positive bottom line results.

The Gallup Organization developed 12 questions to determine employee engagement and through extensive surveys determined that only 29% of employees are truly engaged in their work. Buckingham and Coffman discuss the significance of these questions in great depth in their book, First Break All The Rules (Simon & Schuster, 1999). These questions are keys for leaders in determining how to breach the gap between employee presence and employee engagement. Remember, engaged employees don’t quit, so understanding the factors that lead to disengagement is crucial if you are trying to reduce turnover in your organization.

The questions are as follows:

1.    Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2.    Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

3.    At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4.    In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

5.    Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

6.    Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7.    At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8.    Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

9.    Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

10. Do I have a best friend at work?

11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress?

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?


Consider this list a checklist of sorts. If, as a leader, you make every effort to make sure your people can answer positively to these questions, then you shouldn’t have a very big problem with either turnover or employee performance and your profits should soar.

If you are not sure how to get your people to the point where they can answer these questions with the highest degree of agreement, then you need help. Leaders need to learn how to lead, and to tell you the truth, an awful lot just don’t have a clue. Truly, you can never stop learning about leadership. You will never know it all or remember it all, and great leaders are the ones who engage in continual development and encourage the same in their people.

In fact, most problems in companies can be attributed to poor leadership. If your Customer Service reps don’t care about customers or always show up late, it’s likely not because they are twenty years old and self-centered. It is more likely because they are working for a company that doesn’t make them feel important and hasn’t successfully tied them to the mission, vision and values of the organization. So once again, take those shortcomings personally and do something to change the situation. These problems are definitely a reflection of your leadership!

If your teams can’t meet deadlines, somewhere in there is a leader who can’t gain willing cooperation from people, isn’t clearly expressing expectations, can’t make decisions, or who can’t delegate effectively. Whatever the cause, there is a problem that needs fixing and the leader is at the core of the problem.

Fixing your leadership problem will certainly have a positive impact on your turnover rates, and even in industries or professions where high turnover is typical, improvements can be made. Ignoring the problem will achieve nothing and since no business was ever intentionally created to lose money, it makes no sense to let this opportunity go by.

Whether you engage the services of a training professional or simply read every book you can find on leadership, make sure you implement the strategies you learn and cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and support at work. If you consistently dedicate yourself to practising exceptional leadership, you will discover your employee turnover rates are a non-issue.

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with people to produce better business results. Renée has spent the last 11 years as a training and development professional. She uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that will provide her clients with business results that positively impact the bottom line! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable.  Renée can be reached by email at renee@powerconferences.ca or by telephone at (905)593-2778.




By: Renée Cormier


Malcontents…every company has them and they are costly to have around. In spite of this, many companies are reluctant to get rid of their troublesome employees. Some malcontents manage to create the perception of having value because they are long time employees and know many important things. Some companies may even fear that losing these disruptive people will have a negative impact on their business. The truth is that these employees have little or no value to any business and according to statistics, have a negative impact on customer loyalty. Yes, if they are long-time employees they may be expensive to get rid of, but believe me, they are much more costly to your business if you decide to keep them!

According to a recent Gallup Management Journal survey, these malcontents make up 17% of the workforce in an average company. They are the “actively disengaged”. What’s more, 56% of disengaged employees would fire their boss if they could and two thirds of these people would never recommend your product or service to others. Malcontents will not only drive away your prospects, but they will also drive away your existing customers. One can assume from these statistics that their presence is a tremendous drain on their bosses and co-workers! All of these factors cost businesses a lot of money!

So how do you keep these people from ruining your organization? How can you progress with these disengaged employees sabotaging your business? The solution is simple. You have to fire them. Unfortunately, they are like a bottomless box of Kleenex. There will be others popping up to take their place if you don’t know how to create an environment that gives them no power. In other words, you need to create an environment that is conducive to employee engagement.

71751260Here are some secrets to creating an environment that will disarm those dreaded malcontents:

Determine Your Team Values: Companies often have a set of values posted around the work place which may or may not mean anything to the employees of the company. This is usually because most companies post the values and forget to live by them in their daily interactions with their employees. It is as though they were posted for everyone but the Leadership Team to adhere to. Never mind. Each workplace team should have its own set of values to work within and these values should be agreed upon by each member of the group. If these values happen to correspond to the values of the company, then that’s a bonus. If you happen to work for a company where people do live by the values, then your own team values will add to your efficiency.

Have a team meeting where everyone brainstorms the values they would like to incorporate into their work life. You may get answers like “respect for time”, “positive attitude”, “accuracy”, etc. Write all of these answers out on a flip chart or white board and have the group narrow down 5 or 6 of the most important values you wish to adopt.

Next, get everyone to contribute examples of how each value will play out in the work day. An example for positive attitude would be, “not putting up road blocks every time a new assignment comes up” or “not permitting negative comments about the company or other co-workers”.

Once you have established your team’s values and have a clear idea of how they can be applied to a day’s work, you have something to refer to whenever your malcontent is not performing according to the values.

Use the Company Vision as Leverage: All employees need to understand how their role is important to the company vision. They also need to understand how the vision benefits society. If it is not clear in the way the vision is written, then you need to draw a picture for your team. People are more eager to make a contribution to society than they are to make a contribution to the CEO’s bonus. Speak of the benefit your product or service has for your customers and remind them that the work they do is meaningful to society. Employees who are tied to the vision and believe in the goals of the company will take pride in their work and the products you sell.

Motivate Your People: Figuring out what motivates people is always a challenge. The simplest thing any manager could so is just ask. Usually money is not what it takes to get people rolling in the direction you want to take them, so if you’re worried that engaging employees will cost you too much money, you can relax. Sometimes a little flexibility in scheduling, allowing people to work from home on occasion, or setting up a recognition board for all to see, is all you really need to do. Sales people often ring bells when they close a sale. Keep the environment light. Motivate with positive outcomes, not negative. Avoid threatening with poor performance reviews, firing, suspensions, etc. Those tools should be last on your list of tricks to gain compliance.

Among the most useful things any manager could do when it comes to motivating employees is to align with the most engaged employees (Gallup’s top 29%). Use those employees to influence your middle group (54%). The bottom 17% will likely never become your friend, so don’t waste your time trying to make them love you. They never will. The middle group can go either way, and it is extremely important for you engage them before the malcontents corrupt them. Use the top 29% to give you information regarding what is happening in on the ground, so that you can circumvent problems before they actually come up. Communication is the key to your success.

Place the Right People in the Right Roles: One important factor that leads to disengagement at work is people feeling they are ill suited for the role they are in. Often people get promoted into positions that are not maximizing their strengths, and so they under perform. Have conversations with your team regarding where they feel they can be most valuable. It may be in a whole other department, or it may be in a former role, but you will never know if you don’t ask. Getting people into the right position may take some jockeying around, but once you get it right, you’ll be glad you took the time.

Of course, part of getting people into the right roles may also mean having to let people go. If your team players are not exhibiting the attitude required to get the business moving forward, then you must get rid of them. Offer support to help them improve and if you see no positive change in behaviour, then let them go. You can’t teach pleasant, happy or co-operative, but you can teach technical stuff. Don’t fire people because their proficiency in Excel is mediocre. You can teach that. At work, attitude is gold. Hire and retain pleasant and cooperative people.

Set a Shining Example: Nobody respects leaders who lack integrity. Double standards, playing favourites, egocentricity, manipulative behaviour… You know the drill. It’s all bad. Your character as a leader will define your success. All of your decisions are a reflection of the character that guides you. Be a shining example of humbleness, integrity, honesty and trustworthiness in both your personal and professional life. All things good should spring from you if you want to be able to give no voice to the malcontents. They cannot criticize you, complain about your character or condemn you if you give them no reason. Live as faultless a life as is humanly possible, and when you falter, accept responsibility for your actions and apologize.

Getting everyone engaged at work is no quick job. It is definitely a long process, but if you are willing to persevere, the rewards will be enormous. Your company will make a lot more money regardless of economic conditions, your people will be much more productive and efficiency rates will be considerably higher. Guaranteed!

Renée Cormier is the President and owner of POWERHOUSE CONFERENCES, a company dedicated to working with businesses to increase efficiency, productivity and profit.  Renée has spent the last 12 years as a training and development professional. She has been an entrepreneur, worked for both large and small companies, managed both people and sales effectively, and developed systems and habits that brought her much success. Renée uses her experience in Business and Adult Education to develop and implement training programs that show business leaders how to engage their workforce and get guaranteed bottom line results! Clients say her learning sessions are lively, engaging and valuable.
renee@powerconferences.ca                 www.powerconferences.ca