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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?

Video: Where To Find The Best Employees May 25, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace, building a better workplace, business strategy, committee, corporate culture, Employee Engagement, engagement, high-performance, HR, human resources, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, management, productivity, workplace.
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Where To Find The Best Employees from Kevin Burns on Vimeo.

Kevin Burns, Workplace Expert, shows you where to find the best workers. Do you HONESTLY think high-performers who are happy with their work are going to be checking the newspaper want ads or paying any attention to your “Now Hiring” sign in the front window? The only people who are likely to respond to your ads or your Help Wanted sign are the people who are already looking for a job – the available. And there is a reason that they’re available.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Bad Managers Are About To Be Found Out November 4, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in career, coaching, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of high-performance, Employee Engagement, engagement, future workplace trends, high-performance, kevin burns, keynote speaker, management, manager.
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This is the end of the road for autocratic managers who hide in their offices and avoid their own people and decisions. This is the end of the road for managers are quick to blame, who offer poor communication direction and instruction. Because you can’t build a solid corporate culture by busying yourself with meetings or pretending to be swamped by stacking papers on your desk, filling out time sheets, pushing paper and constantly holding a phone to your ear. You’re not fooling anyone by starting your own fires just so you’ll have something that makes you look busy and important.

No, the job of a manager is to coach, to inspire, to motivate them to spend a little time each day improving the little things that add up to big performance. A manager’s job is to tweak performance.

Employees dislike being told constantly what they’re doing wrong. Managers should already know that. So by knowing that, why is it that so many managers still spend so much time harping on employees about what they’re doing wrong? Because there are a lot of managers out there that have no idea what they’re doing. And up to now they have been able to hide it. But, they are about to be found out. And that single fact alone should scare most managers and organizations as a whole.

The truth is, employees want to be coached in the same way athletes are coached. Sports coaches spend time each day with their athletes fine tuning and adjusting their performance. Think for a second about how well a professional athlete would do on the sports field if all the coach ever did was harp on them for what they were doing wrong.

Get with the program managers: there’s a new generation of worker that is expecting to be coached not crapped on. Your people don’t want you to do the work for them, they want to offer suggestions as to how they can do the work for themselves. Your job as a coach is to find a way to uncover the little a-ha moments of your people that makes them want to be better, to get focused and to engage themselves in their work.

And if you as a manager don’t think that you are able to act as a coach to your people because you’re too busy, then you’re in the way. Step aside and allow someone who can do the job to coach your people to the next level. Your people deserve better.

21 Management and Culture Contradictions October 20, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in accountability, business, communication, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, culture of excellence, culture of high-performance, customer, engagement, excellence, high-performance, hiring, HR, kevin burns, keynote speaker, leadership, loyalty, management, morale, performance, results, sales, senior executive.
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What organizations say they want and what they do is in complete opposition:

  1. you say you want your people to become leaders and independent thinkers but you send them to cookie-cutter leadership schools making them followers of someone else’s doctrine.
  2. you say you want to attract people with strong skill-sets but advertise titles and job descriptions and base who gets an interview on looking simply at a resume.
  3. you say you want to attract, hire and retain the best but you take out mediocre ads just like everyone else and post the same “Now Hiring” signs as everyone else – attracting the available, not the best.
  4. you say you want to have a strong Culture of Excellence in your organizations but at the first sign of financial crisis, you cut, slash and burn budgets that would help build morale.
  5. you say you want to have strong managers capable of handling issues but you force them into pointless meetings and force them to fill out reports no one looks at.
  6. you say you want to have your front-line staff be more engaged in their work but you don’t empower them to make decisions.
  7. you say you offer an innovative place to work but institute blanket policies and refuse to be flexible with work hours, job duties and telecommuting.
  8. you say every person is important but don’t encourage senior executives to get out of their ivory towers and press-the-flesh with front-liners.
  9. you say you have open-door policies but won’t say the hard things that need because your fear of offending or hurting is greater than your need to be honest.
  10. you say everyone in the company is equal yet senior management act like they’re members of an exclusive club of perks and benefits.
  11. you say you encourage ideas and free flow of thoughts but rarely implement employee’s ideas or even respond to many of them.
  12. you say every employee is important but you only give awards to and reward your salespeople.
  13. you say you offer superior customer service but when polled, only 8% of customers agree.
  14. you say you want more sales built on your value proposition but at the first sign of competition, you crumble on your value cut the price.
  15. you say you want fewer meetings but you keep on meeting to find ways to reduce the number of meetings.
  16. you say you have the best staff but you put hiring in the hands of old-school HR departments who, by their very results to date, have proven incapable of finding that staff.
  17. you say you want high-performers but don`t arm middle-managers with the skills to coach high-performers.
  18. you say you want to grow but aren’t prepared to make a major investment in that growth without absolute certainty.
  19. you say that you want to be the best but compare yourselves to mediocre and low-performing competitors.
  20. you say that you really care about being better than you are but no one is prepared to take the risks and make the moves that elevate the organization for fear of personally looking foolish.
  21. you say that you want loyalty from your employees but slash their jobs when shareholder profits are in jeopardy.

You say a lot of things. But the measure of organizational success isn’t in what you say – it’s in what you do. So what will you do today?

How Motivational Speakers Can Ruin Culture October 7, 2010

Posted by Kevin Burns in business model, conference, consultants, corporate culture, corporate culture turnaround specialist, culture, high-performance, hiring, kevin burns, keynote speaker, morale, performance, speaker, speaking industry.
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Which do you think would be a better use of your time and resources: watching an episode of reality show Big Brother with backstabbing and in-fighting or hiring a professional speaker to speak to your staff? The answer may not be so simple.

What if it was a choice between a two-minute YouTube inspirational video on Gratitude or a bad motivational speaker spouting platitudes like “fake it ’til you make it” or “wear a smile until you feel happy” or him spewing outdated information from twenty years ago that doesn’t work anymore?

The last one is a no-brainer isn’t it? You’d choose the YouTube video for sure. So how do bad speakers get hired to spew bad information to good organizations and risk making the organization worse? It happens when the people who hire consultants, speakers and trainers don’t do their due diligence.

You can NOT afford to be taking these kinds of risks with your people. Do NOT let regurgitations of old, worn-out, passed-due-date ideas infiltrate your organization. You would never let ten year-old refurbished vehicles be the choice of a company car. You would never purchase ten-year old computers and software to give to your people to improve their performance. Why then would you allow old, tired “motivational” speakers get in front of your people without checking them out first? Think people. Think!

Start following blogs of experts, consultants and speakers and follow and read them religiously. If you like their ideas after a few months, hire them. If it’s the same old tired crap that you know doesn’t work anymore, stay away from them. Simply “unsubscribe” from their blogs and newsletters but do NOT hire them just because they are “speakers.” You have no idea of the damage you could do to your people and your Culture.

Just like your industry, there are a handful of high-quality speakers and then there is a majority of terrible speakers. Make sure you know who you’re hiring. Oh, and just because someone might be a member of a professional organization, shouldn’t make them an easy pick. No speaker is “perfect” fit for every organization regardless of what their website might say. Don’t ever hire from a web site, a brochure or even a referral. Find out for yourself. Do the work. This is important.

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