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Video: Why Mid-Managers Are The Lifeblood June 14, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace, building a better workplace, business, business strategy, coaching, communication, corporate values, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, management, management speaker, manager, middle manager.

Why Mid-Managers Are Lifeblood from Kevin Burns on Vimeo.

Kevin Burns, Workplace Expert, says most middle managers get very little training and are thrust into a role that most are ill-prepared for. It is the most thankless job and the one with the highest “hassle” factor. Add to that, when the economy tanks, middle managers are usually the first to go. The truth is, I am on the side of middle managers. I want them to get better.


Video: You Call Yourself A “Professional?” June 8, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace, building a better workplace, business, business strategy, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate values, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, management, manager, workplace.
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You Call Yourself A Professional? from Kevin Burns on Vimeo.

Kevin Burns, Workplace Expert, tackles the subject of being a “professional.” How can you call your people “professionals” when you only give them formal feedback once a year? Do you think Tiger gets one golf lesson each year? How about Kobe or Sidney Crosby? You say you run a “professional” organization but do you really?

Fighting The 5¢ Fee For Plastic Bags October 13, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude of service, business, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, corporate social responsibility, corporate values, culture, culture of accountability, culture of service, customer, customer service, eco-friendly, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership.
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Request from a reader: Would you please address the issue of paying 5 cents for a bag to put your purchases in before leaving the store? I’m sure there is enough markup to cover the cost and carrying out the items un-bagged leaves me, the consumer, open to charges of shoplifting and is also opening the door to easier shoplifting for those that take part in this kind of thing.

Response: I agree with you that the 5¢ charge is ridiculous. In fact, I think the charge should be 25¢ and it should be imposed at every store – not just a few. I understand your point of shoplifting so put magnetic anti-theft strips on every item (a cost covered by extra bag fees). Bags were free when we didn’t think about the cost of cleaning up all of the free plastic bags in landfills.

But the market is changing and so must we.

I think the discussion really has nothing to do with whether or not a store can cover the cost of a plastic bag. The question is whether a store can cover the cost of what the plastic bag does to the environment in the long run? The bag fee is to make consumers decide whether they REALLY need a bag in the first place. And, if the bags continue to be free, you’ll probably see a 3% jump in your property taxes to cover off the the cost of cleaning up all those free plastic bags in the landfill. You’re going to pay one way or another.

But the discussion shouldn’t be just about shopping bags. There should be another 25¢ charge levied on each plastic disposable diaper (not 25¢ per box but each diaper individually) sold. In addition to the 82,000 tons of plastic a year and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp — 250,000 trees used to make a year’s worth of disposable diapers, these materials are trucked away, primarily to landfills. It is illegal in most U.S. states to dump human waste in landfills. That law is simply unenforced when it comes to diapers.

I am all for charging 5 cents for each compostable vegetable-gluten bag in the stores – a fee I would gladly pay. These bags break down in landfills in less than a year.

Customer Service isn’t just about fawning over customers and trying to kiss their butts. It’s about being a “service” to the lifestyle of the customers and customers’ families now and in the future.

Every organization needs to have a conscience in today’s marketplace. And every organization needs to have that conscience drive both their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy as well as their Corporate Culture initiatives. Personally, I think it is incumbent on business to re-shape how the consumer thinks – not just bow to what consumers are used to. Consumers only demand what they know – not what they don’t know. So change their minds and make a difference. Your employees will carry the torch of their work meaning something.

When It Is Time To Quit September 10, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in #fff, #filterfreefriday, boss, career, change, communication, corporate values, engagement, filter free friday, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, manager.
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sometimes quitting is the right thing to doWhen I was a smoker (hey Barack Obama is still a smoker) I would use this excuse: “Quit? The whole world hates a quitter.” People would laugh. But then I quit smoking. What I learned is that sometimes it’s OK to quit.

Here are some other examples of when it is OK to quit:

  • when you don’t find any joy whatsoever in your work
  • when you fight thoughts of hurting someone physically
  • when your spouse is a serial cheater
  • when your boss or co-workers are abusive
  • when your values don’t line up with what you do or who you’re with
  • when you finally come to realize that the path you’re on is not where you want to be (change university majors, etc)

Then there are times when it’s OK to encourage other people to quit:

  • when they display unhappiness about their work
  • when they complain constantly about the people they work with
  • when they are holding back the team
  • when you can see that they are going the wrong way and won’t admit it to themselves
  • when the rest of the staff refuse to work with them
  • when their values clash with the corporate values
  • especially when they need a little nudge to get out of the no-win cycle because they’re afraid to do it themselves

On Filter-Free Fridays™ it’s your task to tell the truth: to yourself and to others. Sometimes you just need to finally quit in order for you to be able to go do the thing you’re supposed to doing. Every person has some sort talent but sometimes you end up staying in something that you’re not right for, just because you’re too afraid of what the future might bring. Being familiar is not necessarily the right thing to do.

Sometimes you hire not the “right” person but the “right now” person. Sometimes the “right now” person needs a “right now” job instead of the “right” job. And sometimes you end up with Mister or Mrs. Right-Now instead of Mr. or Mrs. Right. In instances like this, when the fit isn’t right, quitting may be the right thing to do.

As a manager, sometimes you need to occasionally encourage a staffer to quit when you know that they are always going to struggle with the job, the hours aren’t right, the values clash, personalities clash, you get the picture. On Filter-Free Fridays™, sometimes you just have to cut people free so they can go find what they are right for.


When Managers Suffer Upward Bullying August 31, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, bully, career, competencies, complain, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, corporate values, culture, culture of accountability, decency, diversity, environment, hiring, HR, human resources, kevin burns, keynote speaker, labour, management, manager, middle manager, senior executive.

managers suffer upward bullying tooA bully is a bully and it doesn’t matter who the victim of their efforts is: co-worker, subordinate or manager. According to a Chartered Management Institute (CMI-UK) Bullying At Work report:

  • 39% of all managers have been bullied in the past three years
  • 49% of middle managers said they had been bullied, making them the most bullied among the UK management population
  • 70% of respondents said misuse of power or position was the number one form of bullying
  • 17% of bullying was through physical intimidation or violence, making it the least used form of harassment
  • 54% of women said they had been victims of bullying compared to 35% of men
  • Only 5% said they would talk to HR first if they were bullied

Add to that the fact that this year, women accounted for 51% of management positions in the workplace and you can see where the real threat is to see the numbers of upward bullying incidents rise.

To create positive corporate cultures, senior management needs to become aware that upward bullying is on the upswing and must take immediate action to do 2 things:

  1. to initiate bullying awareness campaigns throughout their workplaces (remember bullying can run both upwards and downwards so managers also need to take the training), and
  2. to institute tough guidelines that bullying, either up or down, are immediate grounds for dismissal – and to stick to it no matter what

The problem is when middle managers approach senior managers to discuss issues of being upward bullied, they may be seen as unfit to manage or, at least, not capable of reigning in their staff causing many issues of upward bullying to go unreported – allowing the bullying to continue. A senior manager turning a blind eye to a mid-manager’s cry for help could be interpreted as a misuse of power or position – another incident of bullying.

It’s these types of sensitive issues which can decide whether you have a strong corporate culture capable of attracting high-performers and top talent or whether yours is just another mediocre (possibly awful) place to work masquerading as a professional organization that cares about its people. Great thing is that you get to decide.

Consider Kevin to address this issue at your next meeting. Call us toll-free in North America 1-877-287-6711 or visit us at www.kevburns.com

How Managers Can Avoid Staff Revolt August 24, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, Baby Boomer, boss, business, career, contribution, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, corporate values, culture, culture of excellence, Employee Engagement, entitlement, Gen x, Gen y, generational differences, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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titles can hurt cultureOn the web, when someone posts a video up on YouTube, do you ever ask if they graduated from Film School? When you read a Blog post that resonates with you, do you ask whether the author has a degree from Journalism school? When you hear of or read a practical piece of business advice, do you question whether the source of the good advice is an MBA? You don’t … unless you have one of these degrees yourself – only then does it become important – but by ego more than substance.

You see, if you expect your staff, your employees and your co-workers to respect you because you have a title, then you are the worst manager ever. Thinking that people will respect you because you have a title is arrogant and divisive. It will ruin your Culture and create higher rates of turnover. The new generation doesn’t respond well to following a title. But they will follow someone who has something of substance to offer. That’s why professionally produced YouTube videos rarely get near the same number of views as a lone-figure video, shot in a basement with poor audio. The professionally produced video is going for the “look” while the lone guy in his basement is going for the “feel.” The “feel” usually resonates more with viewers than the “look.”

Remember that lesson. That’s an important factor in the Culture you create. Your people want to “feel” what they do and you’ve got to find a way to deliver that. And if as a manager, you want to avoid a staff revolt, remember that fact.

The reality is that in the Generation Y (soon-to-be) dominated world, titles don’t matter because virtually every one of them has graduated university as well. They need university just to keep up – unlike Boomers who got a degree with an expectation of an executive job (along with the power and perks that come with it).

The new measure is NOT how much time you spent in school. The new measure is NOT what title you have. The new measure is what you CONTRIBUTE. That puts a first-year Gen Y and a seasoned Boomer with 30 years experience on the same footing. Attempting to keep down a good idea from a Gen Y because they “don’t have enough experience” just insults an entire generation and they will quickly be searching for other work.

On the radio, a good song is a good song, regardless of whether it’s Top 40, country or folk music. In the workplace, a good idea is a good idea, regardless of how long the employee with the idea has worked there.

Let’s not get caught up in tenure and seniority and pompous arrogance to the point where it affects Culture.

How Senior Execs Can Look Like Dicks August 10, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, billionaire, bonus, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, corporate values, culture, culture of excellence, Employee Engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, money, warren buffet.
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Business is not a reward system for senior executives. It’s not an old-boys club anymore – which really sucks for those who have spent the better part of their lives trying to get to the C-Suite to cash in on the opulence and drunken orgy of delights (the way some senior execs run their shops) only to find out that once they get there, the rules have changed.

The Gordon Geckos of the world are far fewer in number – although not quite extinct yet. Even Trump isn’t the icon he once was. In fact, this past weekend saw a monumental signal of the change in corporate values. Led by Warren Buffet, 42 of the world’s billionaires vowed this weekend to give half of their money to charity.

Stop taking big bonuses for cutting jobs. Stop making other people’s pain a way to score points for your financial reward. It’s sending the wrong message and your Culture suffers – not to mention you look like a dick.

When you cut jobs and create pain to reach your bonus targets, you create an Us-Versus-Them Culture. When people stop working WITH you and instead work FOR you, they treat the work like just a job. When it’s just a job, they no longer engage in their work. When people no longer engage, costs rise, productivity drops and so does your bonus because the margins get skinny.

Smarten up and start making the work about the people you serve. As a senior executive, it should be your honor to serve the people you work with. Don’t think for a second that they should be serving you. That’s not how it works – if you care about the Culture that results from that thinking.

3 Business Questions To Ask Right Now July 15, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in business, business model, change, coaching, communication, conversation, corporate culture, corporate values, culture, customer, customer relations, excellence, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, mediocrity, performance, teamwork.
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It’s summer and for most businesses, it’s a little slow – except for companies like road construction, golf courses, air conditioner repair and sales. You get the idea. If your workplace is a little less hectic at this time of the year, why not start some conversations to generate some new ideas and give your organization an honest rating of how you are doing?

Here three questions every organization should be asking itself. All of your people should be involved in the conversations – they are part of the problem and solution:

  1. Are we serving our customers the very best that we can or are we taking the “easy” way (identify what the easy way is)?
  2. Are we talking to each other enough and creating that Culture of teamwork (identify what you should be talking to each other about)?
  3. Are we actively finding the very best talent to join us or being lazy and just accepting those who apply (are you getting the best or the leftovers – this should identify where you stand in your industry)?

The difference between mediocrity and greatness is in the answers to those three questions. Why not start some of the conversations today.

Approaching Tomorrow With Yesterday’s Training June 22, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude, business model, corporate culture, corporate social responsibility, corporate values, customer relations, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, sales, training.
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Old training programs are sadly out of date for new young marketI’m guessing you’ve noticed that the new staff at your workplace are getting younger – or are you just getting older? Either way, the truth is that the workplace is getting younger, staff are getting younger, customers are getting younger, clients are getting younger, suppliers are getting younger and managers are getting younger. But for the most part, training is getting old. You can’t run the same training program you’ve been using for years – certainly not if you want to be ahead of the uptake of the new youth in the market. If you’re still using your old training programs and vendors, you’re building a poor corporate culture right from the start. And that’s going to be a problem.

Training programs today need to:

  • reflect the changing market for customers who are already researching you on-line before you speak with them the first time
  • reflect that your business hours may need to undergo examination to better reflect when your younger customers are working (it isn’t 9-5 anymore)
  • reflect that most people don’t even answer their phones, let alone return voice mails – are you reaching your customers the way they want to be reached?
  • reflect that niche marketing is a reality and where you once bought all of your office supplies from one vendor, three or four are now better suited to serve niche needs
  • reflect a new set of values through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives – if you don’t have one, the younger workers won’t apply to work there
  • reflect the fact that the Old Boys Club is dying and that the new workers don’t do business like the old boys – you need to get respect not woo them with golf
  • reflect that management training had better be more focused on mentoring and coaching than policing new workers – they don’t respond well to “command and control” management

In 2015, 75% of the workforce will either be over 50 years of age or under 30 years of age. And the under 30’s are going to control the market shortly thereafter. So what are you doing to better reflect a new attitude in the marketplace?

The Effect of Ethnic Cultures On Corporate Culture June 16, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in attitude strategist, business model, career, corporate, corporate america, corporate culture, corporate values, diversity, hiring, human resources, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, morale, performance, USA Today.
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help your people celebrate your culture and you will build a solid corporate culture

The workplace of the future is going to be colorful. Here’s why: record levels of births among minorities in the past ten years are moving the USA a step closer to a milestone in which NO ethnic background commands a majority.

According to USA Today:

  • minorities accounted for almost 49% of U.S. births in the year ending July 1, 2009, a record high
  • 48.3% of kids under age 5 are minorities today
  • only 19.9% of people 65 and older today are a minority

That means that in 15 to 20 years from now, those kids under 5 today will be entering the workforce. Almost half of the workforce will be minorities – meaning there will be no real majority. There will be a lot of diversity in the workplace.

Senior managers, your workplace of the future had better have a culture of “culture inclusion” if you want to be able to attract the best and brightest.

We all come from somewhere. We all have our backgrounds and diversities. Expecting your people to not celebrate where they came from is not good business.

You can’t hire a high-performer and expect him or her to perform to a high level by stripping away everything that made them who they are. They are not workers – they are people who come to work. Don’t forget the people part if you want to build a strong corporate culture.

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