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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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?

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