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  1. Is Work-Life Balance REALLY Achievable?

    December 2, 2014 by Jenna

    When you look at the term ‘work-life balance’, you may wonder if there really is such a thing. Now while there is no ‘perfect’ way to find work-life balance, we shouldn’t aim to believe that it isn’t achievable. So what’s the solution?

    An article published by Alyssa Gregory discusses three important elements to consider when creating a work-life balance compromise:

    Firstly, when you think of the word balance, you think of weighing scales. Your work life on one side and our personal life on the other. It can add extra pressure to continually be striving to find an even balance between the two on a regular basis. Alyssa challenges you to get rid of the ‘balance’ aspect of the term and instead focus on ‘compromise’. Imagine compromise as a means of aiming for a level of give and take that satisfies all of your needs in the best way possible.

    In order to do this, there are three essential things you need to keep in front of you to make our struggle for acceptable compromise achievable.

    Priorities

    The first essential element involves taking a long, hard and realistic look at your priorities. You will then need to rank the level of importance of all aspects of your life, whether it’s work commitments, family, hobbies etc.

    It’s also important to recognise that your priorities will change, sometimes frequently, and if you’re not clear on what parts of your life need your attention first, achieving an acceptable compromise will be a struggle.

    Flexibility

    Being able to react and adapt to changes and unexpected surprises are vital as nothing is ever set in stone. Regroup and shuffle your priorities, and change directions when necessary. By doing this, you’ll gain the flexibility you need to move with the changes.

    Acceptance

    The reality is that some days are better than others and some priorities will be easier to satisfy than others.

    The key is to remember that with a constant give and take, and the goal of doing the best you can at any given time, you can trust that it will eventually all even out in the end.

    I personally agree that if all three points outlined above are applied, the outcome you want can be achieved.

    If I don’t set out my priorities in order of importance then I won’t be able to balance the time and energy I need to put towards them. If I’m not flexible or adaptable to changes in my work or personal life, then I will find it harder to move forward in the right direction. And if I don’t accept that some days I will kick a goal with my checklist and other days I won’t, then my expectations of perfection may add further pressure on myself and to my workload. So why not apply these methods and see what happens?

    Do you believe that work-life balance is achievable? If so, what do you do to make it work?


  2. Losing the Losers – Is Employee Turnover Always a Bad Thing?

    September 2, 2014 by Jenna

    Typically, the term ‘employee turnover’ has negative connotations, usually related to cost: the cost to re-hire and the cost to re-train.

    However, is an organisation with low or no turnover really a good thing? Perhaps it is due to one of the following reasons:

    • Lack of employment opportunities within an organisation.
    • Financial constraints preventing employees from moving.
    • Bad company image that keeps recruiters away.
    • A high concentration of older workers reluctant to change jobs later in their career.

    Dr John Sullivan, the internationally known HR thought-leader, writing on ere.net, classifies employee departures into desirable, neutral and undesirable outcomes. Below are some of his key points for consideration:

    Desirable Turnover
    Studies show that at least 25% of turnover is desirable. Situations where this may occur include:
    • A low-level performer leaves on their own accord (therefore avoiding the need to terminate them).
    • An average or lower level performer gets replaced by someone that becomes a superior performer (referred to as a talent swap).
    • An employee with key skills working in a non-critical job/business unit transfers to a strategic job/business unit.
    • A lower-level employee is replaced by promoting someone inside that needed more challenge or growth to develop (thus improving the organisation, increasing internal movement).
    • The exiting employee is a retiree who led a fulfilling career and has agreed to consider ‘fill-in’ work during retirement.

    Neutral or OK Turnover
    Such situations include:
    • Turnover of an employee or contractor who was hired to provide short-term coverage.
    • Turnover by an employee who provided sufficient notice, enabling an exceptional replacement to be sourced, hired and trained prior to the employees exit.
    • Turnover by an employee leaving a more generic role with a short learning curve.
    • Turnover of a top performing employee who has a high probability of returning in the future.
    • Turnover of an employee who left as a result of major illness or something that could not be predicted or prevented.

    Critical or Highly Undesirable Turnover
    This is the key area upon which focus retention efforts on. Situations falling under this category include:
    • Turnover of a top performer with little or no advance notice.
    • Turnover of a critical team leader or manager.
    • Turnover of an employee that possesses the only knowledge or experience in a critical field in the organisation.
    • Turnover of an employee in a revenue generating or revenue impact job.
    • Turnover of a top performer or a key individual that goes to a direct competitor.
    • Turnover of a high-potential individual who left due to a lack of development opportunities.
    • Turnover of an employee who subsequently files a credible government or legal complaint against the organisation.

    Labelling turnover ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depends primarily on the business impact caused by the departure of the employee. If employee turnover means losing an individual who is a ‘bad actor’, the impact can be beneficial to your company. For the remaining staff members, the departure of an employee with a negative attitude can seem like a breath of fresh air. For the business owner, it means no longer having to deal with the problems that employee caused. Employee turnover can also have a positive impact if it means replacing a long-term employee who is simply going through the motions or biding their time until retirement.

    By regarding turnover as an opportunity, employers can rest easy knowing that new staff will ultimately bring new life to their businesses, nurturing its growth and development.


  3. What can we learn from great leaders? By Stephen Crowe

    May 27, 2014 by Jenna

    The world is full of books and articles on leadership. They are written by the leaders themselves, biographers, academics and hacks like you and me. They extol a variety of approaches to the issue of convincing other people to follow a path.

    But the books and articles I’ve read appear to have some common themes that form the foundations of leadership. These themes include:

    Leadership is a fusion of both the heart and the head – great leaders have learnt that although leadership involves analysis, logic and reason, at its heart it is a humanitarian pursuit. So without passion and empathy in combination with logic and reason you will not succeed in the long run.

    Leadership is a learned skill, not a genetic gift – great leaders are not born they earn their stripes through effort and anxiety just like the rest of us.

    Leadership takes discipline – great leadership in any pursuit is not easy, it takes strength and discipline and it’s not necessarily the big decisions that require the discipline (they usually present themselves once you have done your homework). It is the myriad of small turns and forks in the road that are encountered each day that test the resolve; those are the decisions that set the example for others to follow.

    Leadership is different for every leader – there is no one formula for leadership success –how can there be? If leadership is about people and each one of us is different how can there be one correct pattern for success.

    All Leaders make mistakes – as Michael Jordan (maybe not a great leader but a fantastic basketball player) said – “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

    So am I saying that the multi-billion dollar “leadership industry” is a sham? Not at all. Just because our paths are not identical does not mean that we can’t learn from those who have excelled. To the contrary great leaders are always learning from others and applying the lessons to their own unique circumstances.


  4. Do you need some help to just get started?

    October 9, 2012 by Jenna

    Do you find yourself battling with the art of procrastination? Have a to-do list that just does not appear to be getting any smaller? Want to just get started on that task that somehow keeps reappearing day after day on your to-do list?

    Unfortunately getting started can sometimes be easier said than done, especially if your schedule changes on a daily basis. But have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique?

    The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue. Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name. After each pomodoro you can take a 5 minute break time and after four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

    This technique not only keeps the mind fresh and focused, but also helps you to get through projects faster and enforces you to adhere to strict timing within your working day. It also helps you to overcome distractions. But most importantly it helps you to just get started. We all know that once we get started it is easier to get that task finally, finally off of our to-do list.

    Now this technique can be subject to personal preference, but if you are struggling to get started or meet deadlines and want to try something, anything to help you manage your time then what do you have to lose?

    And let’s face it, having better time management can:

    • reduce stress
    • give you a sense of achievement
    • increase energy
    • increase productivity’
    • stronger financial stability
    • more time for the things you love doing!

    What time management techniques do you use? Or perhaps you have used this technique before? Speaking of procrastination, don’t miss our newest monthly poll on Why do you put things off?


  5. What are the ways in which you effectively manage your time?

    May 2, 2012 by Jenna

    Time Management. Isn’t that the word we all love to hate sometimes?

    Let’s face it, we can all be guilty of it from time to time. I’ve been reviewed in previous jobs for time management because I wouldn’t handle those difficult tasks first and by not speaking up soon enough which would result in it coming back to bite me.

    But we need to effectively manage our time, otherwise, when will we be able to find balance in life outside of our working environment? We are not machines, so why not get the most out of our time at work so that we can then find the time for our families and friends (and a life!)

    Everyone will have a different tactic or strategy that they like to follow, and for some people time management comes more easily than it does to others.

    I used to work for a company that tried the use of a GO ZONE, where we would take an hour at the same time every day to strictly work on the very important tasks on our priority lists without allowing any distractions. This meant we would have to close our emails if need be, set our phones to voice mail, and not make any attempt to interrupt our fellow colleagues until we set that time for our tasks. For a while I found it was working too, but in the world of events it was not an easy strategy to follow, because as you can imagine, every event held is different, and there is always something last minute or urgent that pops up that you have to drop what you are doing to look after.

    One website I reviewed called smallbusiness.chron.com outlined the common signs of bad time management:

    • Procrastination – avoiding the bigger issues/tasks of the day
    • Tardiness – being late for work or appointments as a result of too many tasks to complete or lack of sleep due to stress
    • Stress and Fatigue – Not having enough hours in the day, therefore longer hours result in less sleep and stress will also prevent a good night’s rest.
    • Lack of Preparation – Poor time management can result in reports not being in on time, presentations not being properly researched, or meetings with clients/customers not going as planned because of the lack of preparation.

    Recently I attended a breakfast event on Managing Your Time – The Recruiters Guide. Even though it was targeting our line of work specifically, there were still a lot of ‘common sense’ steps that could apply to any business and it was good to be reminded of this. The presenter stated, ‘Productivity is a measure of how much you accomplish, not how busy you are.’ Haven’t we all been there where we have so much work and yet it doesn’t feel like we are getting anywhere?

    He also mentioned about our body and how we have natural highs and lows in our energy and motivational levels and we should prioritise the client face to face time or telephone calls during that high period and perhaps set aside the paperwork, data entry, and more routine tasks to our low periods of the day. I have a friend that told me that he doesn’t officially wake up until midday, so I guess you could say his client/customer time would be in the afternoon!

    Another good point which I am often guilty of is ‘Deal with the worst/hardest task of the day first’, something I think we are all aware of but often avoid. And to be honest, if we did those hard tasks first then we would not have to think about it and let it distract us and build up until we finally take the plunge and do it.

    And of course diary management, especially when multi-tasking, is always the best reminder of how are working day will be set out, not to mention a helpful reminder for appointment times. And really there is no excuse when it comes to diary management. We have Microsoft Outlook Calendars, Phone reminders, Written Diaries, Wall Calendars, you name it! At any quiet time of the day you can lay out a plan of your working week, even set appointments way in advance.

    I put together these key points in last week’s poll to see what you as the respondents would rate them on in terms of importance:

    • By doing the most time consuming and least favourite tasks of the day first, allowing you more time to effectively manage the rest of your day – 58% agreed to this
    • Having a GO ZONE where you set aside an hour or two to do your tasks without checking your email or phone allowing distractions – only 21% agreed to this
    • Setting your diary for meetings so that you can better balance the time period in which to complete the remaining tasks – 47% agreed to this
    • You don’t have time to come up with set strategies, you take on the tasks of each day spontaneously – 16% agreed to this

    Everything has a different deadline, I prioritise according to the size of the task and proximity to that deadline. Hasn’t done me wrong in the past! Or if nothing is particularly urgent… I do the fun stuff first. I find it motivating to be able to mix my day up so that it suits me.

    Another website I reviewed called www.thundersgarage.com listed some top tips for effective time management:

    1. Spend Time Planning And Organising

    2. Set Goals

    3. Prioritise

    4. Use A ‘To Do’ List

    5. Be Flexible

    6. Consider Your Biological Prime Time

    7. Do The Right Thing Right

    8. Eliminate The Urgent

    9. Practice The Art Of Intelligent Neglect

    10. Avoid Being A Perfectionist

    11. Conquer Procrastination

    12. Learn To Say ‘No’

    13. Reward Yourself

    While a lot of these points may seem very straight forward to you and you may have heard this all before, as we can sometimes slip out of the organisational stream or become easily distracted I think it is important to often be reminded of effective time management skills.

    This blog will link with this week’s poll: What are the best ways to cope with workplace stress? which will put you in the draw to win a Hoyts Cinema Double Pass so don’t delay!

    Haven’t had your say? Why not add a comment below.

     

     

     

     


  6. What qualities do YOU think represent a remarkable boss?

    March 28, 2012 by Jenna

    Have you ever wondered as an employee if you were given the opportunity to be ‘the boss’ for your workplace, what you would do differently? Would your approach to the role be even more remarkable than just managing tasks?

    On the other hand, you may also be in the position of ‘the boss’ and have your own methods and qualities that you have learned over the years that you have found to work really well in the workplace.

    Regardless of where your position is currently, in last week’s poll I listed what I thought to be some key qualities which were:

    • Strong leadership qualities
    • Someone who has the ability to be diplomatic in difficult situations
    • Someone who can motivate their staff
    • Someone who can adapt to changes in the workplace
    • Someone who is reliable

    Of course the list of qualities can be endless depending on your personal preferences, however, based on the list above, the top two choices that received the highest votes were: Someone who could motivate their staff (76%) and Strong Leadership Qualities (74%) with reliability coming in third.

    I was also happy to read your responses to see how important you found the value of having a close relationship with your employers, having someone who is ‘genuine’, ‘approachable’, ‘trustworthy’  and with strong ‘listening skills’ when it comes to their staff. Someone who can also promote their staff, developing them within their roles by being a mentor and sharing the company vision.

    ‘The most outstanding bosses I’ve ever had, don’t generally see themselves as ‘the boss’. They see themselves as one of the others and act accordingly. Obviously they put on their boss hat when needed and can mentor me and guide me, but we can then go to lunch and laugh together about common things.’

    I remember once in a previous role, an email was sent out with different levels on management CC’d in the correspondence about a particular event that I was running at the time. The person who distributed this email had made a comment, which appeared almost like an accusation, about a situation that had not been handled properly directed at myself without first corresponding with me on the situation.

    As we all know, tone can often be misread in emails, but needless to say I felt humiliated, especially since higher levels of management were included on this email and I did not have a chance to explain myself before being blamed for something that was actually a false conclusion.

    Without even having to ask, my boss responded with a ‘Reply All’ to that comment, as I had been liaising with her on all aspects of the event, and in a very professional and assertive manner explained the accurate details of the situation and put that staff member in their place. We later had a meeting with that staff member and we never had a miscommunication on email again.

    I know how busy employers can be, but wow did I ever feel valued as an employee that day. I was very lucky to have such open environment for communication with my boss because otherwise who knows what the outcome of that situation would have been.

    A recent article posted on www.inc.com listed ‘The 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses’ as the following:

    1. Develop every employee – not just reaching targets, but providing the training, mentoring and opportunities that your employees need and deserve.
    2. Deal with problems immediately – Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed.
    3. Rescue your worst employee – Before you remove your weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead. Find out what is going on and work together on improvement strategies.
    4. Serve others, not yourself – If it should go without saying, don’t say it. Your glory should always be reflected, never direct.
    5. Always remember where you came from – In the eyes of his or her employees, a remarkable boss is a star. Remember where you came from, and be gracious with your stardom. If an employee wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential, try not to blow them off, as they are seeking you for a reason.

    I personally like number five. Sometimes we have been in a particular role for so long that we often forget that we were once in a junior position. We forget how important it was to seek someone that we looked up to who could guide us in the right direction, especially with our future careers. How can we ever know what potential the junior staff have if we do not allow them the opportunity to seek that advice so that they can grow?

    So maybe the strongest quality of all as the boss is to be ‘human’. If employers can’t relate to their staff and are just trying to reach deadlines, more will be at a loss then what you could gain through working together. If interaction/communication is lacking, then all employees may as well be ‘robots’ in the daily grind. Fortunately, as individuals, we are much more valuable then machines.

    Haven’t had your say? Please do not hesitate to express your feedback below, otherwise I have launched our new weekly poll: Would you hire someone based on potential or experience?

    The results for this poll will be published after 10th April 2012 as I am off to New Zealand to take part in my walk for charity so stay tuned and have a wonderful Easter! If you have time this weekend, feel free to have a look at the progress of my team The Bush Ramblers.


  7. Is it OK to do your makeup during the morning commute?

    December 13, 2011 by Jenna

    I suppose I should begin by coming clean and explaining why I chose this as my topic for last week’s online poll and, subsequently, this week’s blog post. 

    Last Monday, I was sitting on the train during the morning commute and I became riveted whilst observing a young lass applying her makeup. And I don’t mean daubing on a bit of lippy, I mean her whole makeup routine, from foundation and concealer on those unsightly dark circles and areas of uneven skin tone through to a dusting of loose powder over her face and neck, from eyeshadow, eyelash curler and mascara through to lip liner and lipstick. A final dab with a tissue and she was ready to face the world. It was quite instructive in a way. 

    However, I felt somewhat sorry for the gentleman sitting beside her (at least I think it was a gentleman – it was difficult to be certain given the cloud of powder he was cloaked in, magician-like). 

    Personally, I do not like it. At all. I can cope with a slick of lippy and a dab of powder from a compact, but the whole routine from go to woah? No no no. No. 

    Am I overly sensitive? Should I just build a bridge and get over it? I just had to know what other people thought. I first posed the question “Is it OK to do your makeup during the morning commute?” on my Facebook profile. Reponses were mixed, but were essentially divided between “no, I hate it, why don’t you do it at home or in private somewhere?” and “yes, who cares, as long as the person is not encroaching on my personal space”. 

    I then put it out there to our eNews readership and visitors to our website’s homepage

    And again, it was pretty much evenly split between YES and NO. The few respondents who chose “Other” were basically smart alecs who said they were okay with it as long as they could shave / brush their teeth / squeeze their pimples / pluck their eyebrows / cut their toenails. 

    Gross. 

    One respondent enjoyed the fact that applying lipstick whilst on a moving vehicle was rich in comic potential: “how amusing is it to watch the application of lippy go horribly wrong as a result of heavy braking?” 

    Another respondent had no issues with a quick touch up but drew the line at anything heavily scented or that released clouds of powder or particles that might be irritating to other people or even cause allergic reactions. Fair enough, I say. 

    Another was quite adamant in their response: “Who cares what you do in your personal space on public transport! As long as it doesn’t disturb anyone else, why should it matter?” 

    And ultimately, I suppose that is the crux of the issue – we should always ask ourselves “Is what I am doing right now in this public space going to p*** the people around me off? How would I feel if someone, especially a stranger, was doing this very close to me?” 

    And that extends beyond rampant makeup application to playing computer games without using headphones, wearing headphones whilst listening to music that you may as well not be wearing because your music is so bloody loud that everyone on the carriage can hear it anyway (and why is it somehow worse when you can ONLY hear the tinny treble track or the tortuously repetitive bass track?), taking part in endless, inane conversations rendered even more so because only on side can be heard, sending text messages on a mobile phone that is not set to “silent” … I could go on. And I KNOW I am not alone in finding this list of things maddening. 

    What annoys you when you’re on the bus or train? Leave your comment below!

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  8. Working After Baby: how have childcare issues affected your return to work?

    December 6, 2011 by Jenna

    Now, at the risk of offending stay-at-home dads, this is and will probably remain for some time to come an issue that almost universally affects women. 

    As a woman, and a mother of a three-year old, and expecting another baby soon, I feel very fortunate that: 

    a) I work for a flexible and supportive organisation and boss who enabled me to return to work at a time and pace that suited the changing needs of my small child 

    b) I was, after some effort and waiting and getting in early, able to secure a place two days a week for our son at a local childcare centre we remain delighted with 

    c) I have parents and parents-in-law who are besotted with their grandson and are able to care for him when extra help is needed 

    I was also very pleased to read the comments of two of the respondents to our most recent online pollHow much did childcare issues impact on your return to work? – reproduced below:

    – “Keeping a very organised schedule and ensuring our daughter attends a very good Early Learning Centre, childcare has not impacted on my return to work. I am now back at work 3 days per week. My daughter thoroughly enjoys the Early Learning Centre that she goes to and I thoroughly enjoy being back at work. The childcare centre follows a weekly learning program and my daughter loves all the activities that they do.” 

    – “A combination of a very supportive family, as well as great flexibility as far as my husband’s working hours, meant my return to work (when the baby was only 3 months old) was seamless. It did however mean that I hardly ever saw my husband!” 

    However, the news is not that great for a huge number of women. Another poll respondent recounted her struggles: 

    – “Because child care was too expensive, I relied on my parents and grandmother to look after my children. I also took on casual jobs where I had no super, no regular and secure income and no stability, just so that I could do the hours that suited my family’s needs. I also worked night shift so that I could be home with my children during the day; my husband then took over at night. Again, this was very difficult for me and my family, but financially it helped as the night casual rates were higher.”      

    Even for women with family support and access to care, the decision to leave their child can induce intense feelings of guilt and a deep sense of “missing out” during their child’s early years. A contact I spoke to regarding her experiences said that while she had no return to work issues relating to finding care (her father looks after her baby at home three days per week) or her company’s parenting policies, she finds it extremely challenging to juggle work, home, commuting and caring for her family, not to mention emotionally wrenching every time she departs. She would in fact, if she could afford it financially, remain at home. 

    An extensive poll conducted earlier this year by the online businesswomen’s network group sphinxx “found that children and careers fail to mix. Almost half of those surveyed (48%) said the cost of childcare had negatively hit their careers but not their partners – 71.6% said their partners hadn’t been held back at all. Almost three quarters of respondents (74%) agreed that quality child care is hard to come by.” [Source] 

    The poll also revealed that 92% of respondents cited the rising cost of childcare as a top policy issue in the next election. The founder of sphinx, Jen Dalitz, said “said both political parties should be seeing childcare as a top policy issue if they were ‘fair dinkum’ about helping women stay in the workforce and support more choices in the childcare industry. ‘It’s crazy that you can deduct expenses for laptops, iPads and cars, but receive no tax breaks for family day care or in-home care, especially in emergencies,’ she adds.” [Source] 

    Promoting the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Women Business Owners Poll, Ita Buttrose commented last week that “businesses are mad not to have more women in decision-making roles and has urged them to pay for nannies to ensure their female staff don’t fall off the career ladder. ‘I am a great believer in packages that include some support for the mother, whether it is a nanny or a housekeeper or whatever,’ she said. ‘You might not get the shares, or you might not get the car, but you balance one out against the other. Of course companies can do it. Women who want to continue their careers and have families should ask for that package from their employer and the workplace needs to think about how they are going to offer it.’ [Source]                                                      

    Further illustrating this issue, another respondent to the sphinxx poll commented: “Issues to do with availability and cost of childcare plague our mothers group. So much so that two teachers, a HR professional and an IT Manager have decided they cannot go back to work. That is four highly skilled women now removed from the workforce because childcare in Australia is too complex and cost prohibitive. And this is just one small group – there are many more. If the government is honestly trying to address female participation rates in the Australian workforce and fix the skills shortage, they will look at childcare as a matter of urgency.” [Source]

    What do you think? What has your experience been? Leave your comments below …

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    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …


  9. Does your manager really care what you think, and is their door really ‘open’?

    November 8, 2011 by Jenna

    Personally speaking, having worked four metres away from my manager for the last eleven years has meant that she has little choice but to care about what I think, because I certainly tell her! A lot. About everything. Like recipes, movies, novels … and work-related issues, too. Sometimes. The other day I started to talk to her about a family member and promptly burst into tears. Very professional … 

    Being physically the closest team member to her also means that I am usually, alas, the first to hear uttered those dread words: “I’ve been thinking …” 

    I was really heartened by the overwhelmingly positive response to our latest online poll: Does your manager really care what you think, and is their door really ‘open’? Almost 92% of respondents said “YES”. 

    If you’re a manager reading this, you might like to refer to the article featured in this week’s edition of The Challenge Consulting News, Articulate and Inspiring Managers Motivate Employees, in which the report cited states that “nearly half of Australian employees (48%) rate the ability to motivate and inspire as the single most important attribute of a successful leader … Often executives and managers do not realise the profound effect their words and actions have on their employees … Leaders who are able to effectively communicate their organisation’s strategic direction can have a massive influence on employee engagement levels.” 

    Two poll respondents had some very striking feedback regarding the open style of their management team:

    – “I feel confident speaking on everyone’s behalf by saying that no one team member feels intimidated or out of place by wandering (or Moonwalking) in to her office to discuss anything. Big, small, personal or business.”

    – “Our managers have a ‘Know Your People’ workbook. My manager knows that I love pugs and chocolate. Likewise, I know she hates dirty shoes but loves rom-coms and Max Brenner’s hot chocolates.” 

    Lots of studies have been conducted on why people stay with and leave companies. A quality that organisations who do manage to retain employees seem to share is really caring about the wellbeing of their employees. From the top of the company structure all the way down, there is a genuine sense of caring, listening, involvement. Employee engagement is strong, retention is high, productivity is excellent and people get along. 

    The other quality these organisation seem to share is that they are careful about who they hire to lead employees.

    They understand that the managers have to be compassionate, caring, and nurturing while still having the ability to hold employees responsible for high levels of performance. These managers aren’t afraid of developing relationships with employees. Those relationships sustain employee satisfaction even when difficult issues have to be addressed. 

    Think about it. Are you more likely to give your best to a manager and an organisation who just wants to extract as much out of you as possible in the short-term, or one who invests in your professional development, allows you to grow into your role, and gives you time to learn so you can perform at your best and give your all?

    This week’s online poll is now LIVE and wonders: Where do you go first when you’re looking for a job?

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  10. Are we relying too much on email, rather than actual conversation, to communicate?

    November 2, 2011 by Jenna

    Latest online poll results:

    Yes – 80% 

    No – 20% 

    First, I would like to convey my thanks to everyone who responded with comments this week – obviously this issue struck a chord with lots of you, and there was some very thoughtful, heartfelt feedback!

    It is, naturally, a fact of living and working in the 21st century across cities, states, countries and time zones, that email communication has become a toll of communication that cannot be avoided.

    And, as with all forms of communication, email is not an all-encompassing evil. Sometimes it is the best and most efficient way to convey information. However, when it is used to ask simple questions when it would be faster to pick up a phone, or when people hide behind it, or when they copy in huge contact lists of irrelevant people, it becomes silly and annoying.

    I loved the anecdote shared by one poll respondent: “In my office, the IT lines went down for two days. Suddenly there were people at my door wanting to chat, and I had numerous marvellous conversations on how to do things better. People were walking around the corridors, having a laugh at the photocopier, and the whole atmosphere in the building lifted. Now with the IT lines restored, I sit in a silent space, no one chats, and even the colleague right next to me sends me an email with a simple question. Bring back the conversations!”

    As another respondent said: “there is no substitute for having a conversation to stimulate ideas and creativity.”

    Indeed. Getting everyone around the table, brainstorming, sharing ideas, laughing, asking questions, listening to each other, is unarguably more stimulating and fun than a series of silent, staid emails.

    But, a single email sent to all participants afterwards listing the main discussion points and action items is, equally, an efficient and effective way to convey the ideas generated and itemise the next steps for everyone involved to take.

    Email is also an excellent way to keep a record of an important exchange between colleagues, or between yourself and a client: “In the workplace, I prefer to communicate via email. I like that I have information in writing (both from what I have sent and received from clients) to refer back to.” Further: “Emails should be used as a confirmation of a conversation, and not as the main form of communication.”

    However, there are some situations where an actual conversation, either face-to-face or via telephone, is supremely preferable to an email exchange. “Too many people rely on emails to issue orders, bad news and to address employee issues. Excessive email usage kills the art of spoken communication and removes the opportunity for someone to respond to a certain situation.”

    No one enjoys difficult conversations, such as performance managing someone. We all have a client or contact we loathe speaking with. It is always so tempting to simply shoot off an email. But, of course, these are precisely the situations where a conversation is the best approach.

    How many times have you changed the tenor of what you will say next because of the reaction to your last statement?

    Would a problem with a customer be handled more quickly if the customer’s response was immediate? The nuance of the spoken voice includes information you would miss with electronic communication.

    Some organisations have initiated “no-email Fridays” and encourage people to pick up the phone for a conversation on any day of the week or to see others in person. These organisations report they soon experienced better problem-solving, better teamwork, and happier customers.

    I also found it interesting and somehow reassuring that listed amongst the dozens of titles in our new range of online skills tests is one that assesses Office Telephone Etiquette: “The focus of this assessment is on evaluating a test taker’s communication skills along with their ability to recognise proper telephone etiquette and the best way to handle calls.”

    What do you think? Leave your comments below or, of you feel moved to do so, please give me a call! 

    Our new poll is live! Tell us: Does your manager really care what you think and is their door really ‘open’? Results published in next week’s ChallengeBlog …

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