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Take The Christmas Party Away From The Office December 16, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, christmas party, consequences, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, morale, office party.
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You can’t erase a memory because once that memory has been committed to … uh …memory, it’s there forever. And that includes the Christmas celebration drinks at the office and the consequences and responsibilities that follow.

If you want to toast with your co-workers, pick a neutral location away from the workplace. Do not, under any circumstances, allow alcohol to cross the threshold of your workplace.

In addition to being responsible for the behavior of your people under the influence, allowing alcohol into the office makes you responsible for virtually everything that your people do between the time they leave the office and actually arrive at home. That includes how they get home. But host an event in a bar or hotel ballroom, and then the responsibility is on the host facility to ensure their guests don’t get too drunk and disruptive.

Do not host a party in the workplace. Your workplace is for working. Bars are for drinking. If you want to have your people enter into a high-performance mindset when they walk through the doors each day, don’t allow them to come out of that mindset while they are in the office by creating a memory of drunken or lascivious behavior fueled by alcohol. Focus.

Build your culture of high-performance by keeping focused. Assess every activity (including the Christmas party) to ensure that you are not sending your people mixed messages. Doing so creates difficulty for managers and hurts your Culture.

If you want to celebrate with your people, take it outside.


How To Finish Christmas Shopping 10+ Days Early December 15, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in advice, corporate culture turnaround specialist, giving, goals, innovation, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, online shopping, planning, retail, speaker, stress, think.
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I’m finished my Christmas shopping altogether. In fact, I finished 12 days early and it took me all of a few hours to get it all done. Every gift was well thought out, well planned and the day went virtually stress-free. Did I mention that I’m a man?

Each person on my list will get an appropriate gift and gifts that have meaning for them. How? They told me what they wanted.

I carry a Blackberry and over the course of a year, I have many interactions with the people on my Christmas gift list. In conversation, they will usually give up some piece of information about something they’ve seen, heard about or just gotta have. I simply enter that information in my Blackberry. Then, come Christmas shopping, I simply pull out the Blackberry and purchase a few items from their individual lists. Hey, it’s exactly how Santa does it. You know the “making a list and checking it twice” thing. At the heart of it all is a list. Make one and you take away your stress.

Look you can’t manage Christmas or your family but you can manage how you find the perfect gift – pay attention all year long. Write it down. Get it into a list or a database of some sort. Then, in a few hours, after you’ve mapped out your stores geographically, you are done in no time.

The busiest and most stressful time of the year are the 10 days leading up to Christmas at the malls. Why, if there were a better way, would you put yourself through the stress year after year? You get to enjoy quiet times at home while others are losing their minds at the mall.

Now give yourself a daily reminder on your Blackberry starting December 26 to pay attention to the conversations going on around you. Don’t worry, once you start entering things into your lists it will simply come naturally.

Meanwhile, good luck out there. I’m home with my cup of tea, feet up, stretched out on the leather sofa watching the original Miracle on 34th Street on the big screen. Yes Virginia, there really is an easy way to be Santa.

Has Casual Friday Gone Too Far? December 14, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, casual friday, communication, conversation, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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The backlash has started. Companies across North America are fighting back and actually placing rules and stipulations on Casual Friday attire. The Reason? Apparently people can’t be trusted to make their own appropriate clothing choices. But more likely, managers have been completely ineffective at establishing and communicating a set of boundaries for staffers to operate in.

Some organizations are refocusing and re-naming their Casual Fridays “First Date Fridays” and encouraging their employees to dress as though they were attempting to impress a first date by wearing something appropriate and sophisticated. Others are banning jeans outright so they don’t have to deem one pair of jeans acceptable and another not. No flip-flops, no tank tops, no shorts, no halter tops and yes, underwear … always. Other organizations are offering their employees the chance to dress down (just a little) for a donation to a charity.

Right now the data is being gathered to determine whether Casual Day is leading to a slide to casual service, casual language and casual productivity. I will bet it does. If you lower the standard in one area of your workplace you end up lowering the standard in all areas. Casual is casual no?

The problem is that for the employee, Casual Fridays make the day all about the clothes (or lack of them in some cases) and not about the work anymore. If your people aren’t grasping the whole “dress responsibly” thing, it’s likely because you, as a manager, have been ineffective in getting the message across.

Casual Fridays is as much a test of communication and Culture as it is about wearing your comfy clothes for a day. If you want your people to dress appropriately, articulate effectively what you would like to see. Otherwise, you’ll be putting out fires from staff members who are offended by the dress of other staff members.

Casual Fridays can work but like the other four days of the week, there are standards that must be adhered to.

Oh, and for a chuckle, watch this short clip from CBS’s The Office about Casual Fridays.

When Managers Make People Wait December 9, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boring, boss, communication, corporate attitude expert, corporate culture turnaround specialist, Employee Engagement, engagement, initiative, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager, middle manager, Tweak, waiting.
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Don’t you just hate standing in line? Banks have that long cattle pen (moo). Airports have the same line, even though you’ve already checked in AND put your own luggage tag on your luggage you still have to line up to give someone the bag. Huh. And now even stores like Best Buy make you line up like cattle (moo) if you want to return something to their store. It seems that buying is efficient – returning will eat up a good chunk of your life.

Organizations have become quite competent at making customers wait and you’re likely quite aware of how long your customers are forced to wait. But have you considered how much your employees wait?

Employees who are forced to wait, especially waiting for fellow workers, cause your people to think. When they think, they reflect on how bored they are waiting, When they discover how bored they are, they blame the job. When they discover how boring the job is, they disengage.

But you, as a manager, can Tweak™ the disengagement out of your people and get them to actively engage. Tweak™ing can identify problems and boredom before they become problems. Tweak™ Management creates dialogue between employees and managers.

Remove wait times for your employees and they actively engage. But only managers who communicate with their people regularly will be able to eliminate boredom. Otherwise, your people sit around waiting to speak with their managers about how long they are forced to wait.

Mission Statement or Vision Statement? December 7, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, engagement, ideas, kevin burns, keynote speaker, manager, mission statement, vision statement.
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In my mind, both are important but NOT interchangeable at all. If asked which were more important, I would say, “it depends on who you’re asking for.” Here’s why: the Vision Statement is the long-term forecast and goal-setting of where you would like to be in 1 year, 2 year and 5 year increments. Mission is how you get there – daily.

For the organization as a whole, Vision is the more important of the two as it sets up where you want to end up.

However, for the employees, Mission statement is far more important as it determines what needs to be done today.

The problem is when organizations have such a bland and generic Mission Statement, no one knows what they are supposed to be doing. It’s called a Mission statement because it’s the mission: what you’re supposed to be doing. When a good Mission statement spells it out, it makes it easier for employees to make the right decisions.

Would your Mission Statement allow your people to make the right decisions or is it so muddled and mundane that your people don’t take it seriously?

Every department of an organization should have their own Mission Statement that specifically outlines the duties and Culture of the department within the larger framework. A departmental Mission works because, when in doubt, your people can look to the Mission Statement for the right thing to do. If it isn’t spelled out, your people will do whatever they think is best – based on their perception of the right thing to do.

Managers, if you want to be spending less time putting out fires and more time being able to coach your people better, develop a Mission Statement for your department that keeps your people focused, on-task and engaged.

How Managers End Up With Average Staff December 7, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude, attitude speaker, coaching, communication, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, management speaker, manager.
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Take stock of your employees right now. You are about to separate your people into three categories.

  1. Category 1: how many of your people could you consider to be the best in your industry – the high-performers?
  2. Category 2: how many of your people would you consider to be at least average (competent) and do decent work?
  3. Category 3: how many of your people would be considered below average?

I will bet that the largest number of your people end up in Category 2.

So why is that? Why are you hiring and managing only average people to turn out average work?

Most managers will make the excuse that 80% of workers are considered average – when in fact it is 1% of workers who are average (right on the mid-point) and 99% either above or below average. It is nothing more than an excuse because it lets managers off without having to try harder to coach their people to become higher-performers.

This is how managers end up with an average staff – they accept that this is the hand they have been dealt and then make excuses for not wanting to make it better – because it seems like a lot of work. But then those same managers complain that their staff members aren’t engaged on the job. Huh. Imagine that.

It’s not workers who have an attitude of “good enough,” it’s their managers who have it. Good enough lets you off the hook of having to coach better, communicate better and to take more of an active interest in their development.

Yes you do have the time. You just have poor priorities. You’re not a paperworker or a meetinger. You’re a manager. So manage – priority one. Make your people better and want to be better. You are the coach – they are the players. Are you going for an average season or are you going to attempt to win the championship.

The job is “people-work not paperwork.” Re-prioritize.

People-work Not Paperwork December 2, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, communication, corporate culture turnaround specialist, Employee Engagement, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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It’s the simplest management philosophy ever: people-work not paperwork.

Your job as a manager is to manage people. Make your people your first priority – always.

Your paperwork and meeting with other managers should be secondary to managing your people. After all, the title is Manager – not paperworker, not meetinger. So do just what the title says – manage.

  • Move your meetings with other managers to off-hours and lunch-hours.
  • Stop hiding behind paperwork in your office.
  • Stop making phone calls from anyone but your people more important than your people.
  • Start engaging your people the same way you want them to engage themselves in their work (if you won’t do it, why should they?)
  • Start giving your people honest, consistent feedback.
  • Expect them to trust you not because you’re their manager but because you take an active interest in their success.

If you aren’t touching each member of your team at least once a day, you’re doing it wrong. Someone’s going to do it better and your good people will be inclined to go to work for them instead.

People-work not paperwork. Now get out of your office and go meet the people you’re supposed to be leading.

How Managers Get Labeled Racist and Bigot November 30, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, communication, confidence, conflict, corporate attitude expert, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, honesty, integrity, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.

It would so easy to blame your life circumstances on your mediocre teachers of your childhood. Hey, if they had no real understanding of success and how to achieve it, how could they possibly prepare you to be successful right?

So why is it that people are so quick to blame their bosses for not getting ahead at work? Nothing irks me more than hearing that incessant whining of “not being recognized” or “my boss plays favorites and I’m not it” or “it’s because I’m (gender, sexual orientation, race, age, weight, etc.).”

Those comments are the result of owning an “entitlement” mentality: you think you are entitled to be further than you are and now you are blaming others for not just giving it to you. Truth is, you are also entitled to be unemployed.

Managers who give credence to the people playing this game for fear of being labeled as a bigot, racist, etc., are just as guilty of keeping this entitlement mentality going.

Look, people who say this stuff do so because no one has told them any different. If they are not being promoted because they aren’t competent, then they deserve to be told they are not competent. Saying nothing for fear of offending allows employees to pull stuff out of the air, to make stuff up in the absence of information – and then you have twice the work to do in straightening it out.

If you speak with your people every single day (and that really IS your job – not paperwork and management meetings, contrary to what you might think) and let them know how they are doing in simple ten-second conversations, you end up eliminating a lot of the backlash that could come later. People want to know how they are doing and in the absence of information, they will make stuff up based on what they THINK is the truth. My Tweak™ – The Future of Management program addresses exactly this.

If this is happening to you as a manager then you’re not managing, you’re defending. And you can’t help your people get any better if you’re constantly defending yourself. When this happens, you are in the way of your people getting any better. Now you need a new manager to start over. Maybe you should have just told them the truth: that their work is mediocre and not worthy of promotion.

Who Gets Your Ear? November 30, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in communication, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture of accountability, kevin burns, keynote speaker, manager, middle manager.
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You’ve heard the term “getting one’s ear” haven’t you? It’s a term to describe how one person may get the attention of someone else and be able to influence that person. Presidents and other high-powered officials must choose wisely their counsel and be very selective about who gets their ear.

Wrong decisions can be made by listening to the wrong people. In fact, I recall a friend of mine who asked me to join into an investment group a few years ago. I researched the person in charge and found that he had a criminal record was banned him from securities investing. Just a few months ago, he was arrested for heading up a ponzi scheme. I hope my friend made out OK and got out after I sent an email with a link to the criminal’s past.

Not just anyone should be able to get to you. You must be selective of the voices you allow to speak to you. And as a manager, you had better be listening to the voices who have something to teach you – no matter what it costs. You, the manager, will be responsible to influencing the ears of others. I hope you’ve got your facts straight and only people in the know get your ear.

A Filter-Free Fairy Tale November 19, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, advice, assertiveness, attitude, corporate culture turnaround specialist, decision, engagement, family, filter free friday, giving, greatness, health, integrity, kevin burns, keynote speaker, passion, relationships, standards, success, truth, wisdom, work-life balance.

Part of the reason behind Filter-Free Fridays™ is to give you a chance to tell your team members, fellow employees and the really important people in your life how you really feel about them – especially if they impact your life in a positive way.

Everyone should have at least one person who impacts their life in a positive way. If you don’t have one, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. I have one in my life that, over these past two years, has made a tremendous contribution to my life in helping me be better – every day.

Her name is Trish and we have known each other since Grade 4. She got pushed ahead the year after we met allowing her to skip Grade 5 so, come high school, we never took any of the same classes. But I saw her everyday. Once, I asked her on a date when I was 15 – she said yes. I took her to a school dance but never asked for a second date only because I thought she was just being nice by agreeing to go out with me – she wasn’t. My self-image as a teenage boy needed some work. So I had to live with my crush on her and never acted on it for fear that she might say no.

Going to a small high-school of 200 students in a small town, everyone knew everyone else. We had the same teachers, went to the same church, had the same friends, knew each others’ parents and came from the same economic background. We had history and a keen understanding of each other’s values. We came from the same place physically and philosophically.

After high-school graduation we went our separate ways: her off to university and me off to Kapuskasing, Ontario to take a radio job. We never spoke again for 30 years – until a high-school reunion. We developed a great friendship over the following six months seeing each other only once in that time due to living 2000 miles apart.

Over these past two years, Trish has become my mentor, my confidante and my best friend. There isn’t a day where we don’t laugh to the point of tears or just relax and feel safe to just be who we really are. There isn’t a day where something ever goes unsaid or that a dream goes unspoken. There isn’t a place we don’t visit together or support each other to be healthy and happy. And if she leaves to do a little shopping, a little part of me goes missing for that few hours while she is away.

Tomorrow, in Gatineau, Quebec, I am going to marry the girl I asked on a date some 35 years ago – and she is going to marry me. She said yes. We will be surrounded by our families and close friends – many from high-school. Trish’s 20 year-old daughter will be Maid of Honor and my 25 year-old daughter will be Best Man.

But the lesson we offer to our children is to set a standard and never settle. Keep your standards high and always believe that if your relationship seems like a struggle, it may not be the right one. The right one makes loving easy.

So pardon how long my gushing might seem, but once in a lifetime, someone comes along who just rocks your world and, in the words of Jack Nicholson, makes you want to be a better man.

Tomorrow, I will prove it when I simply say, “I do.”

And that, my friends, is a glimpse into my personal life – Filter-Free. Do the same for yourself.

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