Tag Archive: employee engagement

Workplace Conflict; The Good, The Bad & The Useful

For a good portion of my career, I thrived on being a marketer. From my early days as a market researcher, an account manager, and eventually an agency executive, I loved the strategy and process of creating great concepts with compelling messaging that influenced buyers’ behavior. Managing a creative team, a client team, or corporate team, is sometimes burdened with conflict. Handling conflict was not my favorite part of the job, ever!

I aspired to broaden my career and went back to school for a Masters in Leadership Development about 12 years ago. Through a confluence of introductions, opportunities and also being an adjunct instructor at Drexel University, I joined one of my cohort’s businesses, Merit Career Development. Initially, I began helping them with a new branding initiative, but in an “Ah Ha” moment we realized that I’d likely be a strong trainer for Merit, too.  We were right. I have been running corporate trainings for Merit now for five years and I love it! But here’s the surprise: one of my favorite courses to facilitate, is Conflict Management (followed closely by Critical Thinking & Decision-Making.)

Why do I now enjoy talking about managing conflict? Because it makes sense to me now! And I also realize how much value it provides in driving better ideas and solutions. If we didn’t have conflict, and we all agreed on everything, we would live in a pretty boring, uni-dimensional world. How could we effectively cultivate new ideas or innovation without conflict?! It would be much tougher! The process of resolving conflict is very important, as well. It helps build and strengthen relationships, trust, and influences the development of new solutions to the challenges we face every day.

How do we make conflict good and useful?

Ultimately, it comes down to three important things:

  1. Being respectful towards the person or people who have a different opinion
  2. Opening yourself to hearing another perspective (opinion, solution, recommendation, etc.)
  3. Taking the time to truly understand the other opinion

Learning to listen and take the perspective of the person you are in conflict with, or reframing your perspective, as we discuss in the Critical Thinking course, is extremely helpful. It can be enlightening. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and give their idea a chance to be a winner to best understand the opportunities that may exist.

The results of working through conflict can be similar to a great brainstorming session; not all ideas are good or practical, but they often result in a better idea emerging through conversation and compromise. When this happens, the best part is that there is not one winner and one loser; everyone is a winner and feels ownership in the solution.

Good luck with conflict. Embrace it and become a better person by managing it with respect. You just may like the outcome!

Look for Part 2 of this series next month where we’ll share proven tips for recognizing different conflict styles and how to most effectively respond to them.

To learn more about the author, Gail Cooperman, or the workshops she teaches, click here.  If you would like to bring any of our trainings to your location, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/workplace-conflict-the-good-the-bad-the-useful/

Why Simulation-Based Instruction is the Best Way to Learn!

sitrain_teams_playing_wide_sts

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) asks the Chief Executive Officer (CEO): “What if we spend time and money training our employees and they leave the company?”

The CEO responds: “What if we don’t and they stay?”

Taking time and resources to train your personnel is often looked at as a necessary evil. Training employees takes them away from their day-to-day tasks and the cost will be reflected on the bottom line. Adding to the challenge of supporting training, is the uncertainty of the return-on-investment at both an individual and organizational productivity level.

As an executive who is considering training your team, the most important question you should ask is not: Should I train my team? but rather: What method of training should I use? Different training methods result in varying levels of content retention. Of course you want to ensure that your organization achieves the greatest value from training, so relevant content as well as deploying the use of experiential learning techniques should both be priorities.

learning-_pyramid

As the image to the left illustrates, participatory learning, especially using simulation for practice, provides the highest level of retention for training, second only to “teaching others.”

What is simulation-based learning? It is an instructor-guided, interactive learning environment that replicates an actual business, technical, or educational challenge. It permits the learners to practice resolving issues in a relatively worry-free atmosphere. Not only is it authentic and relevant to the learners’ work, but it provides a safe environment to learn; mistakes won’t result in costly repercussions. It’s ideal to spur on innovation, too, because it allows for creative problem solving.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective technique for developing every professionals’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, whilst protecting the organization from unnecessary risks. It is useful in resolving practical dilemmas, and provides four real-time benefits.

  1. EXPERIENTIAL & REPETITIVE LEARNING. While in traditional lecture-based training, the desired outcome is merely explained; in simulation learning, individuals achieve an outcome from first-hand experience. Adults, like most people, learn better through experience. In the simulation, individuals have the opportunity for repetitive practice, which helps increases retention.
  2. KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION. A key facet of any learning is that understanding is increased when it is linked to some already known piece of knowledge. Simulation-based learning, because of its participatory nature, has the added benefit of being able to psychologically link concepts and allow participants to link knowledge areas through their actions.
  3. RISK-FREE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. Regardless of our attitude, learning research validates that we learn by making mistakes. In fact, they are invaluable to the participant. If executive decision makers can participate in relevant and realistic simulations, they can safely make mistakes, learn from them, and promptly apply their learned knowledge to their real work challenges, avoiding costly mistakes or unintended consequences.
  4. ABILITY TO ADJUST THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY. The technology provided in most simulation-based learning tools are designed to allow the difficulty level to increase as the competency of the individuals and teams improve. This provides additional flexibility and continual learning opportunities for a varied level of experienced personnel.

Simulation-based learning is the most effective learning technique for both your employees and your organization. Your training dollars are better invested with simulation training because of higher learning retention. Further, because your team will practice with relevant and practical scenarios, the potential for catastrophic mistakes is mitigated.

If you’re looking for a relevant, engaging interactive learning environment with simulation, call Merit and ask about our SimulTrain® project management training experience. Contact Jim Wynne at  jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/why-simulation-based-instruction-is-the-best-way-to-learn/

Why Success is More Likely with Active Listening

Listening includes a lot more than just hearing words. Frequently, we need to interpret or infer a deeper or underlying message beyond the spoken word. We deploy many of our senses to detect non-verbal cues and assimilate our life experiences with the verbal message when we actively listen.

Usually, the objective of a conversation is to expand the listener’s knowledge, perspective or sensitivity to a topic that impacts behavior or beliefs. In the workplace, managing projects can implode due to poor communications. These can result in missing a critical deadline, budget overages, decreased sales, and in some cases, costly lawsuits.

The most effective communication takes place when both parties are actively listening. So what is “active listening” and how do we do this?

Your active listening is apparent to the other party through your audible or visible signals. This can include something as subtle as raising our eyebrows, leaning towards the speaker, or using certain gestures (like a thumbs up, high five, etc.) Tilting our heads when we listen, on the same angle as the speaker, generally reflects a subconscious agreement  Uttering sounds like “uh huh” or “hmm” also tell the speaker that you’re paying attention. In America, making eye contact is considered a must in showing that you are listening, although this does vary in some cultures.

Of course asking good questions is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are listening.
If you don’t have any questions (perhaps, because the message is crystal clear to you) then paraphrase the speaker’s message. You can preface your restated summary by saying something like: “Ok, now, if I understand what you’re telling me, you’d like to … (paraphrased summary of speaker’s objective).”

It is important to be authentic, too! In your effort to make it evident that you genuinely hear the speaker’s message, do not diminish your own persona or credibility. Be sure to phrase your introduction to your rephrased statement in a style that is consistent with the way you speak.

Why not find out if you’re as good a listener as you think you are? If you haven’t taken this insightful (and free) listening assessment yet, you can right now – or later when you have about 45 minutes and no distractions. When you’re ready, take the Active Listening Assessment here. Upon completion, you will receive an explanatory report along with tips and techniques that you can use to become a better active listener and communicator.

If you or your staff would benefit from mastering effective communications, improving active listening and learning “meaning-centered communication”, we can help. Please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

NOTE: PMPs: This assessment qualifies for one PDU and you will receive a certificate.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/why-success-is-more-likely-with-active-listening/

Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The Essential Secret to Great Performance

The concept of emotional intelligence, EQ, has been studied for over 30 years. Research shows that high EQ predicts success beyond an individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Emotionally intelligent leaders have significantly greater annual profit growth, increased customer satisfaction, and higher personnel retention. In management, the more senior the leader, the more the EQ matters. In sales and customer service capacities, the higher EQs correlate directly to success.

RedheadStudies show that lack of EQ may limit a person’s ability to achieve results. Lower EQ scores correlate with lower merit pay increases, lower job satisfaction and more burnout. Managers’ and supervisors’ EQ scores correlate with their performance ratings.

The definition of emotional intelligence has been the subject of ongoing debates; however, researchers all agree that it consists of two principal components. The first component; intrapersonal skills or self-awareness, is the ability to recognize one’s emotions as they occur, helping one gain self-control in potentially emotionally charged situations.

The second component, interpersonal skills or social awareness, is the ability to recognize others’ emotions. The ability to express empathy enables one to have more positive relationships and minimize unproductive conflict. EQ helps put people at ease, build and mend relationships, confront problem employees, and manage change.

It is important to note that emotional intelligence can be learned. Understanding and incorporating specific EQ skills, techniques, and behaviors can help improve both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skill sets. An intra-personal skill, self-monitoring, can help one can limit or minimize emotional hijacking. Let‘s look at this closer…

Emotional IntelligenceWe all have specific words or phrases that are steeped in emotion. During the 1960s and 70s, the term “nuclear power” raised a great deal of emotion—both positive and negative. Similarly today we have emotionally charged words or phrases such as “gun control”, terrorism, and consumer privacy. It is important to recognize one’s own emotionally charged phrases and stop the emotional hijacking that is about to take place.

By recognizing our emotional responses when we hear a cue by self-monitoring, we can prevent emotional hijacking before it takes place. Stopping to recognize the emotional trigger is an important first step. Taking a deep breath, and/or silently counting to 10 can help us regain composure and react in a rational manner.

As for interpersonal skills, empathy helps us develop more positive relationships with others at work. Increasing our display of empathy enables us to connect with another person on an emotional level, thus allowing us to develop a meaningful, trusting relationship.

The question remains, however, how much emotional intelligence do you have—what is your baseline? Do you have an EQ deficiency, or are you well above average? There is only one way to know your EQ baseline and that is to take an assessment. Many exist on the Internet, some free others fee-based, however they may not stand up to statistical reliability and validity standards.

We invite you to take our free online self-assessment http://www.meritcd.com/assessments/eq/ and see how you compare to others; it takes less than 15 minutes. You will receive a report comparing you to the general population and you will know your starting point. With your baseline in hand you can select appropriate techniques and build your self-awareness and social awareness skill sets, and improve your emotional intelligence.

Would you like some guidance to improve your staff’s EQ? Merit offers half-day and full day workshops that help participants understand, identify their baseline, and strengthen their emotional intelligence. With exercises and interactive assessment tools, this workshop is engaging and life changing. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com or call him at 610-225-0449.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/emotional-intelligence-eq-the-essential-secret-to-great-performance/

Crossfit Training; Your Body and Your Mind

The start of a new year brings with it many changes, professionally as well as personally. Many of us choose to start the New Year by making goals and resolutions, whether resolving to stick to a budget, or picking up a new hobby. Mine? I’m in the majority of the population: lose weight. To help me achieve my resolution I’ve started an exercise program called CrossFit training.

What is CrossFit training? The CrossFit training program, as explained by its founder Greg Glassman, is a system of performing functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that optimizes physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains: Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

Glowing_ManThe CrossFit program was developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Athletes are trained to perform at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges. This type of fitness is demanded of military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring overall physical prowess.

CrossFit training benefits the body by training your individual muscles over time to work together to provide an overall greater level of personal fitness than can be achieved by only conditioning one set of muscles at a time. This got me thinking: are there other areas in my life where I can use this approach? How can I “crossfit” my skills to become better at my job? How can I crossfit new learning opportunities to become a more valuable employee?

How can CrossFit training the body carry over to crossfit training your mind? If we consider our skills, hobbies, and responsibilities in our careers as muscles, we can make the analogy that those skills are muscles needing exercise. Some muscles are used more than others; some are barely used at all. All too often in our jobs, there is a set way of doing things that is like performing a repetitive workout. However, the brain is a muscle that like all muscles must be exercised to be kept in peak condition.

Modern cognitive psychology has demonstrated that the brain is not a static entity. Rather, the brain is continually and constantly developing and pruning pathways across skillsets, linking new knowledge to existing knowledge, or destroying old pathways which aren’t utilized to make room for new synaptic links. You can take advantage of this process by crossfit training your brain with a new skill or area of knowledge, which is seemingly unrelated to your existing career or job responsibilities.

people teaching each otherHow can crossfit training your mind benefit you in your workplace? Cross-functional training has many benefits for organizations as well as employees. At an organizational level, cross training skillsets help safeguard the organization against widening skills gaps. Organizations that cross-train employees across a range of functions put themselves in a good position to prevent sudden shortfalls and manage surges in specific areas when there is a spike in demand. On an individual level, cross training enables employees to explore and assess alternative interests and abilities. It also enables managers to identify and nurture employees who show exceptional talent in a particular function. Cross-training yourself to learn new skills, can increase your employability and enable you to stay relevant.

A few examples …learning the components of Strategic Leadership as a Project Manager (PM) can help reduce the probability of failure by sharpening leadership skills that enable the PM to better understand, motivate and build consensus with other members of a project team.  Or, learning to identify the role emotions and subconscious biases play in the decision making process can enable an individual to make more effective decisions. Learning Risk Management skills can enable a Human Resources manager to better anticipate potential problems and know how to create effective solutions before a problem arises.

In 2016, give consideration to learning things outside the scope of your role or responsibilities. Even if learning new skills may not seem directly related to your current work position, you will be increasing your value. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without these new skills.

If you are seeking to reduce your organization’s gaps in skills, improve cooperation and productivity through better communications and decision-making knowledge, or provide some morale-improving, team-building workshops, let’s talk. With a wide variety of courses, delivery techniques and a highly skilled training team, we will help you achieve your training goals for 2016 and beyond.

Contact Jim Wynne at 610-225-0449 or at jwynne@meritcd.com.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/crossfit-training-your-body-and-your-mind/

Can Everyone Be a Leader?

Collective LeadershipIn recent years, a growing number of organizations have changed the way they are structured. The old top-down way of doing business, in which management wields all the power, is increasingly giving way to a collective leadership style, in which all employees are involved in setting and reaching company goals.

Some of the most successful companies—like Google, Apple, and Zappos, for example—are comprised of employees who are passionate about their company’s business strategy and working toward its goals. They are also engaged in actively promoting their company’s policies

Collective leadership is one way to increase employee growth and productivity. Blurring the lines between boss and worker, it empowers the latter—and leads to creativity, team building and openness, allowing employees more ownership of their work, while maintaining a level of discipline that ensures the job gets done.

Leaders who practice this type of collaboration believe that their power doesn’t come from their title or position, but rather that the group is stronger when everyone shares information and each individual is encouraged to offer ideas and suggestions.

The challenge for the leader is to create an environment where diverse individuals can work together effectively toward those shared goals. To do so, keep these points in mind:

  • The manager must trust the employees and their judgment, and make sure the employees know it.
  • Employees need to be capable of achieving the stated goals.
  • Employees must believe in what they are doing and know they are members of the team.
  • The manager needs to recognize that employees from different generations may have different work styles and know how to blend those differences for team productivity.

A manager who practices collective leadership is easy to spot. First and foremost, she doesn’t dictate to her team, rather, she brainstorms with them, and they arrive at solutions together. This leader knows how to allocate time and resources to foster this collaboration, allowing team members to hold various roles in which their responsibilities evolve.

She doesn’t run around “putting out fires,” instead, she gets to the root of an issue, offering immediate and ongoing feedback. She coaches all year round, not just at performance review time. And she ensures her team members are cross-trained, trusting them and allowing them to be accountable for themselves.

Of course, it’s not simple or easy, but there are some guidelines for creating a collective leadership style in your workplace, according to Marion Chamberlain in the Huffington Post.

  • Rotate leadership responsibilities, giving everyone the chance to understand what it means to “lead.”
  • Educate everyone equally, giving them access to the same information.
  • Don’t promote just to promote. Let individuals learn new tasks and move forward in those they are best at.
  • Offer good salaries, benefits, and additional perks, so employees will want to keep advancing their skill set.
  • Allow employees to make their own decisions and hold themselves accountable, based on clearly stated guidelines.

The collective leadership approach has grown with the increase in international competition and the shrinking of the global marketplace. Employees want to have more responsibility and autonomy in their work, as they actively engage and work as a team to create and set goals, and to achieve them.

This is especially true of the generation born between 1981 and 2000, the Millennials, who, in general, like to interact and collaborate with their colleagues, using a high degree of creativity to accomplish goals. This is a major divergence from the Baby Boomers who thrive on direct orders and chain of command, closed doors and annual reviews.

A truly collaborative environment is creative and innovative, and must tap into the best qualities of all the diverse individuals of all ages in its workforce. Putting at least some of these techniques in place can be a smart business decision that pays dividends over the long haul.

For more information about how Merit Career Development can hone your leadership and management skills, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@meritcd.com.


© 2015 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/can-everyone-be-a-leader/

4 Engaging Techniques to Improve Team Learning

Create project management training with a focus on fun and engagementNo matter how informative the content of a project management training session is, employees won’t benefit from the content if it’s not engaging. In order to get the most out of your training investment, project managers should use fun, interactive teaching methods. Here are four examples of training techniques that help teams learn better.

1. Involve corporate culture

Every business has a specific culture among its employees, services and leadership. Training that doesn’t take the organization’s culture into account can come off as boring and out-of-touch. Chief Learning Officer (CLO) magazine recommends that managers engage employees through understanding and adopting the corporate culture as their own.

“Understanding a company’s cultural strengths, then effectively tapping into the energy and emotional commitment those strengths engender in employees, provides incredible momentum to accelerate transformation,” CLO explains. “Learning leaders can instill a sense of employee pride and commitment. Look for ways to connect workers to something larger than a new policy on paper.”

Using culture as a tool is a subtle but powerful leadership technique that can bring people into the conversation. This can mean appealing to pop culture—a marketing firm implementing metaphors or examples from “Mad Men”—or the office culture. Integrating culture into training reinforces a sense of community, but it can also be played for humor. Does the office have a notoriously small kitchen? Is there a row of coveted parking spaces in the lot? Use these as corporate “in-jokes” to reinforce the content of your presentation.

2. Take advantage of simulation training

It doesn’t matter how important the information being taught is if it’s not put into practice. Simulation training allows you to teach, test and improve your team’s habits for quick decision-making in high-pressure situations without the risks of an actual crisis.

Customized simulation training solutions engage a team more than standard presentations because they force employees to learn and apply the information in real-time. With multiple team-based training sessions, simulations can give your team experience by testing how they’ll work under accelerated time lines. For example, by turning weeks into minutes within the realm of the simulation, the ticking clock function of simulations allows employees of a pharmaceutical company to balance Food and Drug Administration approval deadlines with website redesign projects ahead of launch within a span of a few hours. This allows employees to have real experience about prioritizing one project over another and managing time and resources.

3. Leave room for improvisation

While practicing a training exercise or presentation is important for effective execution, Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications, explains in Training magazine that leaving space for improvisation in your presentation can be an excellent tool for engaging a diverse team. Yorton suggests starting light and negative. Discuss ten bad team management ideas that people have experienced. This can be fun and will bring people into the conversation. From here, you can talk about why these didn’t work and bridge the conversation to new ideas that will work. Everyone’s brains will be firing on all cylinders as they improvise fresh ideas.

By using the same techniques that improv comedians use, Yorton argues that corporate managers can think better on their feet, be more receptive to new concepts and come up with cost-effective solutions that are out-of-the-box. This method engages employees because it’s focused on participation from everyone and thinking about concepts from different angles.

4. Incorporate cross-training or cross-teaching

It’s important for team members to understand their own roles. Set some time aside during your training to allow each member to teach or explain their role and how it affects the other employees. Not only will this improve communication among team members, but increased understanding can help streamline tasks through the project. Rather than burdening the project manager with questions, team members may be able to better communicate issues directly among one another.

Cross-training or cross-teaching improves interaction among team members in multiple ways. Not only do they get a chance to learn about other positions, they’re also involved as presenters within the training session.

Think back on the most memorable lectures, classes or training sessions you’ve experienced. Chances are, they hooked you because they shared certain qualities: entertainment, a feeling of inclusion, hands-on practice or improvisational exercises, to name a few. Take these qualities to heart and make them a part of your own memorable management training.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/4-engaging-techniques-to-improve-team-learning/

Optimize Your Training by Engaging Your Employees More Effectively

Senior executives can commit vast resources in time and money to manage their employees, but if the staff does not feel valued or engaged in the business, it’s likely that the desired results may not be achieved.

Improve employee engagement with training and professional education.

According to a study from Gallup Inc., titled “The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders,” effectively engaging and retaining employees is one of the biggest challenges that leaders can face. Over a three-year period, from 2010 to 2012, the research firm surveyed more than 350,000 respondents, Forbes magazine reports.

The findings indicated that 70 percent of American workers are “not engaged” and are disconnected from the workplace, which in turn can make them less productive. This lack of engagement can be significantly detrimental to business profits. Gallup estimated that disengaged employees can cost companies between $450 and $550 billion per year in lost productivity. These employees can also negatively influence their fellow employees, drive clients away and miss workdays completely.

With only 30 percent of employees working at their optimal potential, leaders need to begin improving their engagement strategies to retain staff and bolster their productivity as a business.

Trickle-down engagement

Rather than focus strictly on lower levels of the organization, Gallup suggests that management leaders center their efforts at the top and have it disseminate throughout the company. As mid-level managers and employees feel empowered, they can begin to identify barriers to effective engagement and help develop methods for organizational improvement. Staff members can be the most knowledgeable when it comes to the company’s processes and clients, which might result in better performance when given the right tools for the job.

The training process can be an area where leaders engage their employees effectively for the betterment of the company, according to Training magazine. Merit Career Development offers a range of teaching techniques that engage employees and increase learning retention. To learn more contact us by phone, 610-225-0193 or send us an email.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/optimize-your-training-by-engaging-your-employees-more-effectively/