Archive for the ‘Working Together’ Category

Are You Creating a Great Place To Work?

April 15, 2010

What makes a great place to work? Is it the people? The management? The relationships? The culture? All of the above and more!  And according to the Great Place to Work Institute – there are many great places to work in Canada – as they just announced their 2010 list.

Congratulations to Environics Communications for placing first in the list!  Kudos to Bruce Maclellan, president and founder of Environics Communications (and a friend of mine who was my very first boss when I began my career in Toronto many years ago). Bruce created a workplace culture that has earned this recognition along with the energy, loyalty and passion of a great team that does great work. I first met Bruce, when he was my first boss at Hill and Knowlton (who also placed on this list) and then I worked with him Environics Communications in the very early days of its start-up.   I know him to be a great guy – very smart and very dedicated to creating superb work for clients. He knows you can’t do that unless you create a great workplace so people can bring bring their best to the task.  So a well-deserved shout-out of congrats to Bruce and the whole gang at Environics – well done!

So what does it take to become a ‘great place to work’? According to the Great Place to Work Institute’s 20+ years of research, they say: 

At the heart of our definition of a great place to work – a place where employees “trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with

They measure the quality of the three, interconnected relationships that exist including: 

  • The relationship between employees and management.
  • The relationship between employees and their jobs/ organization.
  • The relationship between employees and other employees.

So, how’s that going for you in your workplace?

If you want to create TGIM attitudes, aptitudes and altitudes – then time to pay more attention to these and other factors.

Btw, and btw, I can help……if you think you’d like to do a bit better in any or all of these areas 🙂

To a TGIM work-life!

Eileen

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Soup’s On! …for Employee Engagement

February 4, 2010

Who doesn’t like a good bowl of steaming, home-made soup? Especially during the cold winter months – soup can really warm up the soul.

(My own home-made beet borscht!)

Well  – turns out soup can also warm up the ‘soul’ of a company according to internationally acclaimed Diamond + Schmitt Architects. Featured in the Toronto Star, this company has “soup day” every Thursday in the third floor kitchen of their office. But this isn’t soup to order: each week a different employee dons the chef’s hat and is responsible for brewing up the batch – from scratch.

Selected as one of Canada’s best-managed companies, Diamond refers to this initiative “a culinary project on workplace convergence.” And according to Jack Diamond, head of the firm, “..activities like this create a sense of community at a time of day the staff might otherwise be stepping out to a cafe or stressfully hunched over their desk with a sandwich.”

 Now that’s a recipe for collegiality and inspiration!

Is there something about builders? They seem to get it. Another builder who gets it is Tribute Communities – they earned an International Coach Federation Prism award for their Engagement at Work initiative. Disclaimer: I was involved in coaching and leading that project. 

Soup is one (great!) idea. There are so many more. One of my clients in the financial services industry was out last week with her co-workers building a house with Habitat.

So how about you? What are your experiences with activities that are meant to rally the troupes and build more ‘community’ at work? What’s working? What’s missing that may offer an opportunity to address?

I was interviewed for an article on this topic that was published in the Canadian HR Reporter. You can read it here.

In the meantime, to soup and other strategies to foster that TGIM work-life!

Eileen

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In the News: Bring Thanks to a Thankless Culture

July 22, 2009

See today’s Globe and Mail Careers for my latest “Mentor Minute” column in a response to a reader question on how to survive in a thankless work culture.

See article here: Bring Thanks to a Thankless Work Culture – Globe and Mail July 09

To a TGIM work life!

Eileen

It’s Mental Health Week. How Are You Feeling?

May 5, 2009

It’s Mental Health Week in Canada. How are you feeling?

A survey released yesterday confirmed what most of us already know. The recession is taking a toll on our emotional wellbeing.

No wonder. People are either overworked (the survivors) — or have no work at all (unemployed). The stress is hitting folks on all levels: Emotional, financial and physical.

overwhelmed

The Desjardins Financial Security National Health Survey sponsored by Desjardin and the Mental Health Association revealed that as a result of the strain, absenteeism and disability are on the rise. Presenteism too — that’s when folks show up but aren’t really engaged and giving it their best…in some cases they barely even give it anything at all. 

Bad for people. Bad for business.

Michelle Nowski from Desjardin Financial Security says: “By investing in their workers, companies are investing in themselves. A mentally healthy workplace typically has fewer disability claims, lower absenteeism and better productivity,” said Nowski. “It really becomes a partnership between employees and employers because employees also have a responsibility to manage their health and stress levels.”

Well said. I agree the accountability is on both sides. Employer and employee — each have enormous stake in keeping their employees hearty, resilient and well.

There are many ways to help employees and employers deal better with the uncertainty and challenging times: communicate often and meaningfully; allow for some flexibility (i.e. perhaps some telecommuting, etc); foster team spirit and a sense of community at work; show acknowledgement and appreciation for the hard work people are putting in — and generally find ways to be supportive to colleagues, direct reports and anyone you are connected with in your work and life.

Another powerful strategy  is to develop coaching skills in leaders (see last post). Having a coaching culture at work with leaders as ambassadors of a positive culture with an appreciative approach to work and developing people -not just pushing projects – can go a long way in good and tough times.  I do a lot of work in this area.

AND…Never before has fluency in emotional intelligence (EQ) been more important. Empathy, Optimism, flexibility, perspective, resilience, independence and teamwork…..equally important for employee and employer….for the leader…and the worker bee.

EQ fluency (for individuals and organizational cultures) and coaching skills for leaders:  These are the areas that I focus on in my coaching practice at Big Cheese Coaching. Yes, a resounding self-promotion (but hey, personal marketing is ‘it’ in today’s economy).

If you are wondering how you can shore up your own EQ or help those you work with cope better with stress and pressure associated with work and life — get in touch! As well, there are and will continue to be resources here with tips and strategies. So stay in touch…

To a TGIM work-life (in all economies)

Eileen

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It’s All About the People….

July 20, 2008

A client of mine (on the communications/PR side of my biz) recently retired from her role as VP Communications of the organization she’s worked with for the past 10 years.  I’ve had the privilege of working with her these past 6 years (I provide communications counsel) and have come to know her quite well.  In the days leading up to her farewell party – and at the party itself — I’d heard her reminisce about her career and repeatedly say: “It’s all about the people.” In her parting words, she counseled her younger staff to remember how important and valuable relationships are in one’s work-life – in many cases, even more important than the actual work!

“It’s all about the people”.  I couldn’t agree more. To read more -><> (more…)

Now Where Was I Again…..?

July 7, 2008

Hello again! Remember me? I know, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted. I confess, I’ve been MIA (missing in action). I haven’t been much in the blog writing mode these days because I’ve been in the major “DOING” mode. Busy, busy…..espousing/talking/working….TGIM work-life in a variety of workshops/retreats/webinars.  It’s all been great fun — with a lot of work — but lots at once, so a little less time to blog (sorry folks!).

In any case, I thought I’d share a quick snapshot of where I’ve been recently wrt to workshops, presentations, etc. :

Ministry of the Environment: I delivered a 1/2 day workshop: “Strategies for a TGIM Work-life” — Tips and strategies for engagement. See here for testimonials.

Centennial College: Lead a two and a half day retreat for the college’s most senior leaders: “Reflective Leadership Forum” — exploring strategies to build reflective practice in one’s daily work and life. See here to read what they had to say.

Project World / Business Analyst Conference: Lead a two day workshop for project managers and business analysts: Coaching Skills for Leaders.  See here to read what they had to say.

Upper Canada Law Society: Participated in a panel discussion on Work-life balance at their 3rd annual Solo and Small Firm Conference. Great feedback – soon to upload.

Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA): Presented a Webinar :“Assertiveness at Work” (which I’ve written about in previous posts – and am in process of planning a follow-up teleclass – details to be announced but likely in the fall).  If you’d like to listen to the archive – click here. And to read some of the great feedack – see here.

Financial Planners Standards Council (FPSC): Presented a Webinar: “Asking the Right Questions for Career Success”. Testimonial.

AND ALONG THE WAY…and in between I had all my other work — I’m not complaining, actually I’m quite grateful for all my clients and the terrific work opportunities I’ve had. But (yeah, there’s a ‘but’)….it has been BUSY so I’ve been time-challenged these days,

Now that summer’s here….I hope to slow down just a bit for a little while. Time to reflect on all that ‘doing’ and the learning along the way. I’ll be back….will write about the experiences, learnings, insights, etc.

But for now….I’m honouring my TGIM work-life needs and catching my breath.

To a TGIM Work-life!

Eileen

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Making Social Committees Work

March 17, 2008

Social committees can serve many purposes. Certainly they can add some ‘joie de vivre’ at work (a sense of fun). And they can also help build a more engaged internal ‘community’; encourage teams and departments to work together; give people opportunities to stretch their skills outside of their particular job role — and more.

HR Reporter interviewed me for an article on the topic. If you are interested, have a read.  And as always, would love to hear your thoughts.

To a TGIM work-life!

Eileen

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Ask the Coach: What to Do With a Poor Performer…

February 18, 2008

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) online newsletter. If you have a question of your own, please send it to me — see Coaches Corner for options on how to connect.

 Q. I’m in a difficult situation. I hired a fellow about a year ago who came with excellent referrals and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the role. He (let’s call him “John”) seemed to have all the technical skills for the job and for the first six months was doing great. His work was good quality and he seemed to be getting on well with the team and was gaining their respect. Then things changed. For the past six months his work has become increasingly sloppy. He’s been late on a few too many occasions and just not on the ball in many respects. On several occasions I have communicated to him – often through email — that he needs to shape up. He needs to bring his work and behaviour back up to standard. I’m at the point of not knowing what to do. I don’t really want to let him go but if things don’t change, I may have to. How do I handle this?

A. I understand how disappointing it can be when an employee doesn’t seem to be living up to their potential or worse, is underperforming. While I also understand that quality work and dependability are important, I wouldn’t give up on him too quickly. He has shown in his first six months that he is capable of performing at that standard, and so I wonder if something has changed in his personal situation that is impacting his work. I encourage you to explore that further before making any concrete decisions.

In addition to being accountable for the quality of work (in your department), a big part of a leader’s role is about managing, developing and supporting the people who work for them. Rather than judging John’s work in isolation, a more productive place for you to start would be to try to understand what’s going on with John — i.e., what’s underneath and influencing this shift in his behaviour. With that understanding, you’ll have a better sense of what to do next either in terms of supporting him and/or making other decisions.

There are probably many ways to go about this. Here are a few thoughts:

Focus on the person, not just the work and start with an appreciative stance of John and his potential
In considering the situation, make sure you are reflecting on John as a person and not just on his current performance. Remind yourself of his attributes and character before he started to slip. Sometimes things happen outside within lives that unfortunately do impact our performance at work (e.g., a marital issue, health problems).

Employers that attract, retain and engage top talent find ways to be supportive of their people during tough moments. If you can understand John’s situation more fully, you might have a broader range of possibility to work with as you deal with the performance issues.

Have a conversation with John directly
Email isn’t the best way to communicate at this point. I’d recommend you have a direct conversation with John, ideally in person. It will allow for a more productive exchange. Acknowledge respectfully that there continues to be an issue with his work but focus the conversation more towards gaining an understanding rather than further admonishment — i.e., ask questions that illicit understanding about his situation and emotional mindset.

Establish Trust come from a place of empathy and inquiry rather than judgment
If John is to open up about any issues, he needs to feel safe in the conversation (and overall relationship) to disclose.  Empathy is an important attribute in leaders. While he may not disclose the minute details of his situation (nor is he obligated to), it is important that he feel safe to share at a high level what he is going through (if that is the issue). The kinds of questions you ask — your tone and your listening — will be very important in this conversation.

Communicate from an appreciative stance of who John is and his potential
If John is going through a tough time, it might be helpful for you to remind him of his strengths and character when he is at his best. From there, perhaps the two of you can work out what he needs to get back to that place. Focusing exclusively on what’s wrong can be very demoralizing.

Tread sensitively, respectfully and honestly
Whatever John’s situation is, it is important to handle this sensitively and respectfully. It’s also important to be upfront and honest if there are implications related to his employability. Balancing all this will take skill — and might be an important time to test your leadership communications ability.

Consider who else can support this situation
Depending on what transpires from your preliminary conversations, you may need to enlist the support of others in your organization. For instance, HR may be able to provide guidance, counsel and additional support (e.g., EAP programs).

Ask yourself: what kind of leader do you want to be right now
The exact steps you take can’t be predicted until you know more. But the most important question you can ask yourself at this stage is: What kind of leader do I want to be right now? What parts of your own character strengths do you want to bring to this situation? If you found yourself in a situation like John’s, how would you want to be treated?

I’m confident that if you bring yourself fully to the situation, in both heart and intellect, you will handle this situation well. Good luck to you both.

 —

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Superbowl Lessons for Today’s Leaders

February 1, 2008

Worth noting… an interesting article in today’s Globe and Mail Careers section about the “perfect coach”.  In light of Superbowl Sunday, Brian Christmas wrote a feature about Bill Belichick’s success coaching the New England Patriots.  I confess, I’m not an avid football fan but I love the article because it explored many of the traits in Belichick’s successful leadership that are relevant to leaders of all kinds in today’s workplaces.

Christmas interviewed experts who gave credit to Belichick for: drawing the players to his vision and keeping them focused week in and out; finding the right players to fit the various team roles; mentoring the talent; paying attention to detail while empowering team members to think on their own; having a solid competitive strategy; communicating  clearly and giving feedback constructively (not personalizing)….and more.

One of the last quotes in the article really stood out for me. Professior John Phelan, an adjunct professor in Organizational Behavior at Queen’s University School of Business spoke about Belichick’s approach to empowering his team “From an employee’s perspective, that shifts them from a compliance to a commitment.”

The leadership team at Tribute Communities will love reading that one. “Commitment – Not Compliance” was one of the key guiding principles behind its employee engagement initiative (which earned the Prism award from International Coach Federation — read more here).

Another quote worth repeating: Chris Shultz, a football commentator for TSN said  that it appears Mr. Belichick understands that “there’s football players, and there’s people who play football,”……implying that the coach focuses on the latter….i.e. coaching the person not the ‘label’.

Coaching people as people….another theme and guiding principle that I distinguish regularly with many of my clients who are leaders and have responsibility for supporting and developing others.

Accountants aren’t just accountants. PR professionals aren’t just PR professionals. Construction folks aren’t just construction folks.

A good coach recognizes they don’t coach people’s roles or titles. We coach who they are in the context of their work. There’s a difference.

A big difference.

We are all more than the widgets we build or professions we represent.

Leaders who recognize this will be more effective at empowering, inspiring, challenging and growing their people.

Questions for Reflection:

What do you notice from some of your team sports observations and/or participation? What lessons can you draw for  your own leadership? What leaders do you think stand out and why? When you support others in  your team do you think of them as whole and unique individuals — or see them more narrowly – strictly through the lense of their ‘job description’ ?

Food for thought….perhaps after all the tailgating this weekend has subsided.

To a TGIM worklife and to leaders who get it right!

Ask the Coach: Developing the Leadership Team

November 5, 2007

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source — the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants  (CICA) online newsletter. Although I write that column for a newsletter that is dedicated to members of the accountancy profession, the issues addressed are relevant for many others in various sectors and professions.  Enjoy and if you have a question of your own….bring it on (see “Coaches Corner” on this site).

Q. About six months ago I took on a new role managing a company and inherited a group of six senior-level executives who make up the management team. As I’ve been observing the company, I’ve been pleased to see that each of the executive leaders are quite capable and strong performers in their own respective areas – both functionally and in their general leadership. However, there seems to be a lack of cohesion and energy when this group comes together as an executive team. We have regular meetings, but I don’t see the energy and common focus that would define a high-performing team. I think there’s more potential here – but thought I’d check to see if you have any starting advice.

A. You are on to something here. The group dynamic of your management team is as important as the individual performance of the executive leaders. The old adage: “the sum is greater than its parts” is so true when it comes to actualizing an organization’s best potential. A team that works well together works better for the greater good of the organization.

Here are a few thought-starters to consider as you focus on building a higher performing management team.  

Start with inquiry – how do the leaders on the executive team feel about the current team dynamic?
It might be a good idea to gauge how others feel about the team dynamic. There are different ways to go at this – both formal and informal. You might have conversations with each member individually, or consider a third party to assist – either through a formal survey and/or more in-depth conversations. Whichever route you choose, it is important that the leaders feel safe to speak candidly so you can get a true picture of where they stand on this issue.

Invest time in building a ‘team’, not just building a ‘biz’
A stronger management team will ultimately be better for the business. If the regular meetings to date have been focused exclusively on business issues, then you may want to invest some time to focus more specifically on team building. I recommend having time that is solely dedicated to this rather than mixing it up with the usual meetings. This will send the message that it’s important.

Enrol your leaders’ commitment though engagement
Mandating the team to work better together isn’t a viable solution. Rather, enrol their interest and commitment by inviting them to co-create a vision for how they see the opportunity to work as a more cohesive and higher performing team.

Some ideas that might be helpful (perhaps led by either an internal or external facilitator/coach) include:

  • Have the group establish clear intentions and commitments for how they want to work together; identify specific expectations with respect to their participation and behaviour as members of the team.
  • Co-create meaningful group goals that they will collectively be accountable for. Find ways to make them measurable.
  • Incorporate the company’s core values into this work if these values have already been articulated. If not, consider engaging the group in identifying the core values that will guide their work, behaviours and mindset.

Develop mutual and personal accountability for team objectives and performance
Build in appropriate personal and team accountability assessments for both the goals of the team and the overall behaviours. Some companies are incorporating this kind of accountability into performance reviews and compensation models.

Encourage the team to bond and to get to know each other better – as leaders and as people!
Trust and engagement are critical if the group is to work together in a more meaningful and collaborative way. Create opportunities for the team to get to know each other better both professionally and even personally as people. A few ideas:

  • Consider a session or exercise that allows the team to identify and acknowledge each member’s individual strengths. Each executive has their own unique set of talents, skills and personal attributes. By acknowledging the breadth and depth of talent in the group, the team can operate with more collective bench strength. It’s also a very affirming exercise to have your colleagues acknowledge you for your unique strengths.
  • Invest some time away from the office to allow the team to get to know each other as people. Whether it’s a team-building exercise or simply a more casual social opportunity, knowing people beyond their ‘working widget’ self can build more productive and trusting relationships. It also adds to the camaraderie experience, which for many people is an important fulfillment factor in their work lives.

Review, support and celebrate
As you grow your business you’ll also want to continually grow your people. This effort should be continually revisited, nurtured and supported to ensure your executive team is actualizing its potential on an ongoing basis. Consider opportunities to review, support and celebrate the objectives, goals and successes of the team – just as one should for others within the broader talent pool of the company.

Enlist the right support to do this right…
If you don’t feel comfortable or have the right expertise to get this process going, consider hiring a third party with expertise to help you coach your team in this work.
Remember the purpose behind all this is that a strong, cohesive and collaborative executive team will bode well for the business. As I said before, your observation has already put you on the right track. Go with it and trust that if you work on this together, you and your team will generate great success.

Best of luck!