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Video: Why “Family” Workplace Is A Bad Idea March 8, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in advice, attitude, build a better workplace, business strategy, coaching, culture, Facebook, family, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, relationships, team, team-building, workplace.
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This week, let’s take a look at the concept of trying to build a “family” in your workplace or imposing “team-building” on your people. The truth is, most of your staff have nothing in common with each other except where they work. So don’t force them into becoming a family or a team. That just creates a disconnect.


Video, Kindle and Embracing Change February 1, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in business, business model, change, communication, corporate culture, culture, expert, invest, kevin burns, keynote speaker, meetings industry, speaking industry, training, workplace.
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Workplace Expert, Kevin Burns, talks about recent predictions and current realities when it comes to change. Cisco predicts that by 2013, 90% of Internet traffic and 64% of cell phone traffic will be to watch videos. Kindle format books now outsell traditional paperbacks and hard-covers. Change is upon us. Are you ready?

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.

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.

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.

When Managers Interview Over Their Heads November 17, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, career, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture fit, culture of high-performance, customer, engagement, high-performance, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.
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It really isn’t a tough concept to wrap your head around – the chance that a manager is at some point going to interview a job candidate who is clearly superior to the manager in every way: charisma, performance, communication skills, relationship-building skills, leadership qualities, knowledge, experience, etc. So what does a manager do when interviewing someone like this?

The truth is, most managers would be afraid that hiring someone who clearly outperforms them would be simply hiring their own replacement. And so, sadly, many really great people get passed over as “overqualified” because of a manager’s own insecurities.

The truth is, a high-achiever might be just exactly what your organization needs – but here is the caveat – only if the Culture fit is right.

Hiring shouldn’t always be the best person – but should be the best person for the company Culture. Having a highly-focused, customer-focused, high-achiever on staff might be just the ticket to get the rest of your people to build a new customer-focused Culture of high-performance.

But most times this doesn’t happen because if a manager hasn’t been able to build that Culture already, then he or she obviously doesn’t know how to do it. That makes it unlikely that they could recognize good talent and Culture potential if it came along.

But nowhere is it written in the management handbook that a manager can not learn from an employee. Real good managers, employee-focused managers will do what is best for their employees and won’t act out of fear of looking poorly or inept. But the moment you pass over a great potential employee because of insecurity is the moment you look incredibly inept.

How Managers Poison New Hires November 17, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, attitude, boss, career, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, Employee Engagement, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, mentor, middle manager, onboarding, performance.
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managers poison new employees while onboardingThe truth is, new hires will get sucked into the Culture of the workplace faster than formal training will stick.

Managers who welcome new employees on their first day then promptly hand them off to any employee because they have a meeting to run to, run the risk of doing two things:

  1. giving a very poor first impression that staff and their contributions don’t matter – meetings do, and
  2. potentially poisoning your new hire by foolishly choosing some random employee and having them learn the real “attitude” of the place from someone disgruntled or actively disengaged.

You say you want to increase employee engagement and reduce employee turnover, yet you hand off a newbie to other staffers without a plan. What are you thinking?

Who is the employee with the best attitude, the best performance, the best engagement and the best intentions? That person is your new on-boarding mentor. Have a conversation with the potential mentor and tell them that because of their performance, you are placing new hires in their care to learn the correct way of doing things around here. Give your people positive responsibility and you will find that they rise to the occasion.

The first relationship that a new employee strikes up is usually the longest lasting relationship. Make sure your new hire gets mentored by the right attitude, the right work ethic, the right performance and the right engagement levels.

If you want to ensure the future Culture of your workplace is headed in the right direction, don’t just willy-nilly leave new hires with your staffers. The first few days are important learning times for new employees – especially for improving Culture. Make this a strategic move. You will have made your own job much easier down the road.

3 Ways To Manage Procrastination November 15, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, assertiveness, boss, business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of accountability, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager, procrastination, time management.
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Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have identified traits of procrastinators:

  • Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators: they don’t pay bills on time, they don’t cash gift certificates or checks, they leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas eve.
  • As a culture we don’t take procrastination seriously as a problem. Because we are so nice; we don’t call people on their excuses (“my grandmother died last week”) even when we don’t believe them.
  • Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner (time management) is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up,” insists Dr. Ferrari.
  • Procrastinators are made not born. Procrastination is learned. Managers may reinforce (and sometimes even create) procrastination because they tend to be tolerant of excuses.
  • Procrastination predicts higher levels of consumption of alcohol among those people who drink – the effect of avoidant coping styles.
  • Procrastinators lie to themselves such as, “I work best under pressure” or that time pressure makes them more creative. But in fact they do not work best under pressure nor do they turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources.
  • Some are thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush. There are the avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them. They would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.

Here are 3 ways to manage procrastination (taken from my new program, Tweak™ – the Future of Management):

  1. Eliminate long deadlines for project completion – in the same way that manufacturing ramps up daily production over a longer term (5000 more widgets over 25 days = 200 more widgets per day) you must break down projects into daily steps. This forces the procrastinator to engage NOW! Tomorrow is always the deadline. This way you don’t get blindsided by being too far behind. You can correct immediately.
  2. “Show me what you have so far” pop quiz in public – risks embarrassing the procrastinator. Knowing that you might ask at any time for status reports forces the procrastinator to have something prepared. Always ask for status. Inspect, don’t expect. Procrastinators fear embarrassment. Use this to your advantage.
  3. Deliver consequences and don’t buy excuses – last-minute efforts produce mediocre results at best. If a procrastinator is not pulling his/her weight, take project responsibilities away from them and swap project responsibilities with a good worker. Give the procrastinator’s project responsibilities to the good worker and give good worker’s mundane tasks to procrastinators so that the good worker is not punished by having to pick up the slack.

What are your thoughts on procrastination? What has worked well for you? Leave me your comment below.

What Good Managers Know November 10, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, engagement, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager.
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Your own kid has probably played some sort of organized sport. You’ve probably already figured out that there are some very good coaches and some that are just awful. The problem with bad coaches is that they can instill some bad habits and behaviours early on which can make breaking them more difficult later on. A good coach will have to first undo what the bad coach has done.

Playing for a bad coach can hurt motivation and the Culture of the team to the point that the players simply don’t want to perform anymore. Hey, you’ve seen it in pro sports too.

Some coaches play to win – others play not to lose. Two very different philosophies that become readily evident in the performance of the team: one team offensively makes things happen regardless of what their opponent may be doing and the other team plays completely in defensive mode, their play dictated by what the other guys do.

Just like sports, the poor performance of an employee is a perfect reflection of the manager’s ability to coach that employee to a better performance. Every employee can be coached but not every manager can (or will) coach. If you can’t (or won’t) coach, you, the manager, are in the way and are solely responsible for hurting the performance of your department. Don’t blame your staff – they are working with no direction.

Oh, and trying to look superior isn’t coaching. Come to think of it, it has absolutely nothing to do with management either.

Good managers know that the manager of the future (the future starts now) is a coach first, manager second. If you don’t know much about coaching then you know little about managing. If you won’t improve your game, why should your employees improve theirs? Lead by example.

When Managers Do It All Themselves November 8, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in boss, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager, middle manager, performance, supervisor, teamwork.
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What would happen if in an orchestra, the lead violin player wasn’t playing as well as she is capable? Would the conductor step down off of his podium and relieve the violin player of her violin to play it himself?

If a top goal-scorer on a hockey team wasn’t producing during a game, would the coach run to the dressing room to dress in the uniform, don a pair of skates and go take that player’s place on the ice?

In both instances, it’s ridiculous to think that the conductor or the coach would step in during a performance or a game and do it himself. So why is it that a middle manager, during a performance (also known as a workday), often steps in and does the job himself instead of the employee he is responsible for coaching and managing?

Look, the manager has enough to do during an average workday: reports, fires to put out, coaching, inspiring, offering instruction, etc. Who has time to be doing the job of both the manager AND the job of the employee?

Here’s what happens when a manager jumps in and takes over for an employee: it makes the manager look like a self-important dolt and makes the staff member look like an incompetent fool. If a  manager jumps in and does the job himself, it says to the staff that no one can do the job as well as you. And if no one can do the job as well as you, no one is even going to try because it is virtually impossible to live up to the expectations of a “do it all” manager. No matter how well you can do the job, it will never be good enough.

You can’t build a solid workplace culture of high-performance if only one person (the manager) is doing any work. Your job as manager is to manage – not to perform the job yourself. If you find yourself having to constantly do the job of your subordinates then two things are wrong: you’re hiring the wrong people and your ability to manage is suspect.

If highly skilled athletes can’t perform and a highly skilled orchestra can’t perform then don’t think for a second that the problem is all of the athletes and all of the orchestra members. That only leaves one person left.

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