Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Setting Leaders up for Success with Manager Contracts

Years ago I learned the importance of setting expectations between managers & new employees through the tough lesson of not asking the right questions on management style of a new employee. I had managed an employee through a 16 week full time summer contract and they were one of the most pessimistic people I had ever worked with. I felt like I was constantly trying to keep him and his teammates motivated as his attitude seeped onto others.  At the end of the program, I sat down with the employee to do their evaluation and so many discussions points came out I wish I had known from day 1. I realized I was trying to drive positivity and results by challenges and incentives – I thought this was motivating to him as had a very competitive nature & always rose to win the challenge. In the review, it came out that he didn’t feel motivated on the program as he wanted increased responsibility to grow additional skills. At first I was frustrated with him – why didn’t he tell me this at some point over the 16 week program? Then, I stepped back and realized that as his manager, this onus was on ME to ask the right questions!

Though it was a tough 16 weeks, I learned a very important lesson that summer as a new people manager. I now believe that as a manager you should be a chameleon and adapt your management style to those that report to you. From this situation, I developed something I call the “Manager Contract.” It is a 2 page document that everyone I work with fills in as it facilitates a discussion on what we both need to have a successful working relationship. I personalize them to each and every direct report.  
The document is broken into 2 sections: section 1 is on expectations for each of us in our roles and section 2 is open ended questions around the topic of personalized coaching. In the expectation section, it reviews the top 15-20 expectations I have for that person in their role. This includes things like answering voicemails/emails within 24 hours and then specifics about team management, problem solving, being a role model etc. Following my expectations on them, it then reviews the expectations they should have of me as their manager. This is a 2-way relationship after all!

My favourite part of the contract is actually part 2, which is about personalized management. I typically keep these open ended questions the same for all direct reports though may edit out a few if that employee is not a people manager. I ask questions like:
-          My best working environment includes
-          I need the following from my manager
-          My goal in my role is
-          My personal career goal is
-          My strengths are
-          My growth opportunities are
-          I will be the following type of leader
-         Etc

I then include a section where I, the manager, answer similar questions about:
-          My best working environment includes
-          I need from those who report to me
-          I will help you achieve your goals/successes by

The process is that I create the template of the contract and then forward it to my direct report to personalize and send back to me. We then have a meeting to walk through the document and set ourselves up for success in our new working relationship. This is a living breathing document so if one member feels the other isn’t keeping up their end of the bargain, then we can pull it out and review; we also refresh/update the contract every 6 months as projects and priorities change. 

I learned my lesson about asking the right questions a LONG time ago and for over 7 years I have had a management contract with every single direct report. I now use the contract more as a reminder of the right questions for myself but use it as a great tool for all of my direct reports who are managers as it sets them up for success with new direct reports.

What do you do to set up new managers and direct reports for success? Do you coach your teams to ask the right questions? Do you want your managers to tailor their style to direct reports or vice versa? Remember templates act as a guide and are a great training tool for new managers!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Happier Employees are More Productive: How Corporate Social Responsibility Contributes

More companies are recognizing that having a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy and activities is not only about creating a favourable public image but is a key component in candidate recruiting & employee retention.  Starting in 2009, the 50 Best Employers in Canada Survey (by Hewitt Associates) included CSR as a factor affecting employee engagement. “According to Hewitt, the higher the overall level of engagement, the more your staff will:  Consistently say positive things about your organization; Intend to stay with your organization; Strive to achieve above and beyond what is expected in their daily role.” In summary, happy employees are more productive. Additionally, employees who are happy at work will share their excitement and build up your employment brand. This helps you recruit other great employees. It’s a simple Win-Win.

There is no one definition for CSR activities but it generally includes the integration of economic, environmental and social activities. The goal is to embrace responsibility of a company’s actions and encourage positive impacts.  Investing in social responsibility not only creates happy employees but can improve your bottom line as engaged employees will work harder.  The interesting thing is most studies show that the importance of CSR is not limited to one generation but affects ALL of your employees.

Similarly to the Hewitt Best Places to work survey, a report by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) on CSR activities states that “investments in CSR programs boost employee satisfaction, retention and loyalty.” The report polled 2,215 workers globally and found that employers want to be proud of their company and if they were proud, they were eager to discuss the positive deeds of their company with others. Thus, within your CSR plan, a communication strategy is also very important. This empowers your employees to act as ambassadors for your company and build up your employment brand.  Train those involved in CSR activities on your communication strategy and ensure to use social media platforms like a blog, Facebook & Twitter to ensure the messages go viral. Potential employees want to hear what their future colleagues think of the company versus PR messaging. What better way to show how great your organization is than share how you give back to your community? Retweeting tweets of employees volunteering, having those involved in CSR activities write blog posts for your website, sharing photos of employees volunteering or highlighting your green efforts online are important to gain value from your CSR activities for recruiting new candidates. Ensure your website features your CSR activities and messaging from your employees as candidates today want to know that their perspective employer cares – for its people, environment and community. 

Here are some of the things that I think are important to consider as you build out your CSR policy:
-     Poll and engage your employees in the process to understand what social activities mean something to them; they are likely more interested if they help design the direction of your CSR policy
-     Consider allowing employees to volunteer their time during company hours
-     Create committees internally to own the pillars of your CSR implementation; empower your team
-     Design Key Performance Indicators to measure your CSR 
-     Provide company updates regularly as part of your internal communication strategy.
-     Ensure your communication strategy considers using multiple platforms and update your website to showcase your CSR activities to support your recruiting initiatives
-     Evaluate and update your CSR policy regularly

Having a CSR doesn’t only make business sense but it will pay out in recruiting, retention & employee productivity. After all, isn’t every company after happier and more productive employees?

Good article about Hewitt Associates Employee Engagement Study: http://bit.ly/ieJEfo
Learn more about the CCL report at: http://bit.ly/h5tV4Q

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Building an Online Brand

Building an online brand doesn’t happen overnight – be it a company/product or your personal brand. I dedicate a minimum of 5-8 hours per week working my online network be it reading interesting articles to stay current and relevant, monitoring or contributing to my LinkedIn Group or participating in other’s group discussions, tweeting, or reading/researching/writing blog posts. It takes time and strategy.

Here are my tips for building up your brand:
1.   Know your Positioning/Vision –What’s your purpose? Why do you want to be online? What do you want to share?
2.   Know your Audience – understand who you are targeting and then design content that is relevant to them. This will keep them coming back for more!
3.   Have a Strategy & Set Goals – I go on and on about the importance of having a social media policy. Don’t just jump in and be a split personality online with spastic messaging and no relational content or consistency. Decide why you are online (related to knowing your vision) and understand what tactics will help you meet your goals. You should visit this vision, tactics & goals often.
4.   Balance Mediums – don’t limit yourself to one online platform. Spread the wealth with multiple audiences; however, don’t go crazy and spread yourself too thin at the same time. Pick the sites that make the most sense for your message and understand where your target audiences spends time online & then spend time in the same place. Creating a listening campaign where you seek to understand where people in your space exist will help you know the spaces you should be playing in.
5.   Use your Offline Network to Build your Online Network – extend your real life relationships into an online space. Connect with friends and colleagues on LinkedIn, ask them to follow you on Twitter and to follow your blog. Friend’s are a great support to help you build up your online reputation. Additionally, seek out others who are similar to you in online spaces, engage with them and build new online relationships. Encourage their online efforts and in turn, hopefully, they will support yours! Don’t be afraid to ask for this support. When I write a blog post that I know someone will enjoy, I’m not afraid to send them a tweet or an email asking them to comment & spread the word. Balance these reach outs as they will fail to have impact if you inundate your friends or network.
6.   Create conversations – Remember that having an online brand is not about pushing out your messaging it’s about engaging with your followers or fellow group members and creating conversations about your product or about your opinion. Ask questions, participate with others and engage versus just pushing out PR based messages.

Good luck & let me know what your key strategies or techniques or for building up your company bran/product or personal brand online. Cheers!