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Relevant Managers vs Irrelevant Managers October 5, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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Irrelevant managers say things like: I don’t have time to read management books. I don’t have time to subscribe to management Blogs and email newsletters. I don’t have time to get away to attend that seminar on working with the new generation. I don’t have time to work with social media. I don’t have time to coddle every one of my employees just to tell them they’re doing a good job. I don’t have time to go over it and over it again just because a few don’t get it.

Relevant managers say things like: I make it a point to read at least 4 new management books each year to stay current. I subscribe to a handful of solid management thought-leaders by email and Blog because they inspire me with new ideas. I have worked out a schedule to attend at least one seminar or training session each year that can help me help my employees. Since I started working with social media, I now see how employees and customers use it to communicate better. I reach out to each employee everyday so that they feel value in the work they do and valued for the contribution they make. I will do whatever I have to do to make sure that every employee gets it right and does it right because our customers deserve our best.

So, are you too busy for the people who depend on you to be your best or are you just too self-absorbed to really care? If you cared, don’t you think you’d do something about it?

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New Productivity Tool October 3, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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I don’t often openly endorse a product but this one is a brilliant tool for anyone wanting to help build better performance for themselves and their company. And it’s FREE.

http://idonethis.com/ is a brilliantly simple program to get you focused on not just keeping busy … but more importantly, being productive. And I am using it and loving it.

I get an email at the end of each work day asking me to take a few moments to itemize the things that got done today – hence the name “I Done This.” Then, by simply replying to the email, my accomplishments are placed on a calendar of things I got done. Once you register, you can view your calendar of accomplishments and all of your past history at any time.

Anything that didn’t get down today gets moved to the top of the To-Do list (your own list) for tomorrow. This is so much MORE than simple time management.

This is about that voice in your own head that forces you to make decisions, take action and get things done. And did I mention it’s free?

Start focusing on what you DID get done and stop placing too much emphasis on what still needs doing. You, like me, will find yourself working smarter and getting a lot more done in the same amount of time.

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All The Time In The World To Complain September 30, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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I want to follow up yesterday’s post Fixing Tomorrow’s Problems With Yesterday’s Ideas as I have received some concerns by email.

What I was referring to yesterday is how we hire, manage, communicate and build workable cultures has changed from 30 years ago. Unfortunately companies are still hiring, managing, communicating and are not making any adjustments to culture any different than 30 years ago and yet are throwing their hands up in the air and complaining about turnover, poor retention, absenteeism, lack of loyalty, poor engagement, poor work ethic and a terrible entitlement mentality in their employees.

They are lost for answers and end up hiring outside consultants who also still employ 30 year old philosophies.

We are in the information age but no one seems to want to do the work to keep current or to read anything for fear that they might have to make changes to how they do things.

The key to building better workplaces is NOT in reacting to changes in the marketplace but in being AHEAD of those changes. That requires a commitment to learning and a commitment to keeping current.

Sadly, most will say they don’t have the time to keep current – but apparently they have all the time in the world to complain about it.

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Fixing Tomorrow’s Problems With Yesterday’s Ideas September 29, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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Thirty years ago there were no smart phones, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Blogging, no Generation Y in the workplace, no retiring Baby Boomers, no handheld GPS, no laptops, no tablet computers, no MP3 players, no workplace drug testing, no perpetual job-hopping, no workers’ smug sense of entitlement, no focus on ergonomics in the workplace, no leadership development for middle managers, no outsourcing to third-world countries, no growing use of part-time and contract employees, no instant access to training videos on YouTube, no text-messaging at work, no telecommuting, no Corporate Culture initiatives, no succession-planning strategies, no anti-bullying programs and no stringent workplace safety programs.

It is a different workplace today than it was thirty years ago.

So why then, are so many organizations and so-called experts clinging to outdated models of management and organizational development when the workplace is clearly a different place today than it was 30 years ago?

What worked thirty years ago will not work today. And it certainly wont work tomorrow. If you’re not keeping up – then you’re falling behind.

The world won’t stop changing just because you’re not up to speed. If you’re not prepared to read the Blog posts, the books, view the videos, attend the seminars and take a portion of your day, everyday, just to stay current, then you’re in the way. You’re holding up your organization or, at the very least, giving your organization some very bad advice.

If you don’t want to do the work of staying ahead of the changes instead of always having to react to them, then maybe it’s time you stepped aside and let someone else take your place – someone who is prepared to offer real-world, current solutions to today’s challenges.

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How To Define Workplace Success September 28, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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It’s very simple to define a great workplace. A great workplace is one that has a lineup of high-performers wanting to come work there.

Plain and simple, that’s all that’s necessary. No need to talk of management, money or culture. Any workplace that has a lineup of people willing to come over and work obviously is firing on all cylinders: management, money and culture.

Let me put it this way: who would you rather do business with? A company that has attracted all of the industry’s top performers or a company that struggles to attract the leftover mediocre employees?

If you want to build a better workplace, you have to start with the end-goal in mind – creating a lineup of high-performing job-applicants – and point everything you do at that. Simple.

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Delicate Little Egos At Work September 26, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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Funny how people only seem to want to hear compliments and not necessarily listen to good advice. Because of insular and delicate little egos, constructive criticism is increasingly being viewed as criticism – which in the receiver’s mind isn’t constructive – it’s destructive.

You were told by your parents, lovingly I suppose, that you are special. Well, the workplace surveys would say that most workplaces don’t hire special people. Largely, workplaces hire mediocre people with mediocre past employment and mediocre resumés touting perhaps competence but certainly not excellence. Very few people achieve excellence. For those who do achieve excellence, well, they’re not standing in the same job-line as you. It is rare that those people need to line up with resumé in hand to compete for a mediocre job.

So, how do you move from competence to excellence? You ask for constructive feedback.

But your co-workers say nothing (the reason 360 degree feedback rarely works as advertised) for fear of creating animosity. Your co-workers don’t want to get on your bad side because they’ve seen how vindictive you can be when your delicate little ego gets bruised. Your managers say little because they weren’t trained properly in how to build trust with you resulting in any input they offer as sounding like a personal attack. And, customers never tell you why they chose another vendor because you never bother to ask, so that you can avoid hearing that there was something wrong with you and not the product or the price.

So unless you’ve done something wrong, you’re likely to never hear a thing from anyone – which, if you did, you would probably interpret as criticism – a personal attack. Remember how you acted the last time someone attacked you.

Y’know, once upon a time, you asked people’s advice – people who have been where you are and who have been successful. But now you don’t because you have YouTube – the perfect way to avoid being judged. Now, unless you ask or click, you don’t want to hear what people think.

You especially don’t want to hear that its your fault – especially if it is. And when you do ask someone else to chime in, you only want to hear compliments – not necessarily what you NEED to hear.

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Why Working Hard May Not Be Rewarded September 22, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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You’ve heard it before. That person who feels that just because they “worked hard” they deserve to be rewarded.

So let’s say you started out driving from Detroit and drove for ten hours. You should end up in New York after 10 hours of driving. But you could just as easily end up in Des Moines, Iowa after ten hours because you made one incorrect decision leaving Detroit. You still drove for ten hours. The effort remains the same. The result? Very different.

So if you end up in Des Moines, do you deserve to be in New York just because you drove ten hours?

Working on a complex Algebra equation for hours only to end up with the incorrect answer doesn’t get you a passing grade just because you worked hard.

Working hard on the wrong thing doesn’t get you a reward, a raise or a promotion. It may get you ridicule though – especially if you whine that you should be rewarded for your effort.

You don’t get rewarded just because you’re busy. You get rewarded for your results. Keep that in mind when you get passed over for promotion or a raise. Working hard and getting results don’t always coexist. Sometimes they do but not always.

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Front-line People Reflect Their Managers September 21, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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I worked with and addressed a group of retail managers this morning. The first message that I made abundantly clear was this:

“To become an outstanding retail manager, you need to first become an outstanding retail customer. Once you’ve experienced both good and bad service alike, only then can you differentiate. Only when you have set a standard of how you wish to be served can you demand of your staff any sort of standard. If you show apathy in being a customer, you will show apathy in how you train, apathy in how you hire, apathy in how you communicate and apathy in how you manage. The people on the front-line of service are a good reflection of their immediate supervisor’s willingness to train and develop his or her people.”

You know, come to think of it, this doesn’t just apply to retail.

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Playing The Odds With Customer Service September 19, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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The printing order I needed on Friday arrived the following Monday. I had placed my order nine days previous and had chosen 7-Day Expedited Shipping and paid a premium for it. They, VistaPrint, missed the deadline because they shipped it by standard mail.

First they first offered a re-order – which seemed pointless since I hadn’t yet received the first order. Then they offered a credit which I refused as I didn’t want a credit, I wanted a refund – especially since they promised guaranteed delivery and then missed it. They complied and I was refunded.

Upon thinking about it, it seems that they are a company playing the odds. Here’s what I mean: by offering a premium purchase option for delivery within 7 days, if they were to ship by Express Post, they would be guaranteed to have it delivered within 3-5 days. But standard Expedited Parcel usually arrives within 7 days. So instead of actually paying extra to ensure every parcel arrives on-time, they are playing the odds – the odds that they only have to pay out on the rare occassion that the Post Office doesn’t get it there within 7 days. Do the math. This questionable practice could be a huge financial saving to them but they are taking a risk with their customers.

The third option, a full refund is the only costly option for them and ONLY when their customers say no to the first two options.

I will not do business with them again because they failed in their promise and their web site has no contact info, phone numbers or email addresses. I used to be a regular customer. But this time, I had to Google to find a phone number and got it from a third-party web site whose users complained about the same things as I did here.

So let me ask you, are you treating your customers in a similar way? Do you hide behind your email, voicemail, phone trees and hidden contact info on your web site? Do you make your customers work hard to reach you? Can you think of anything more rude? You know it irks you when it happens to you so why do you do it to others? You are NEVER too busy for your customers.

Here’s my commitment to my customers and prospective clients: if you want to reach me directly, my direct telephone number to MY desk is 403-770-2928 and MY email address is abetterworkplace@gmail.com. I answer my own emails and I answer my own phone. I have voicemail, sure, but it gets delivered as an MP3 file directly to my iPhone when I am out and I can call you back as soon as I get your message. I AM available to you.

By the way, I wrote this while waiting on Hold to speak to someone at the phone company, Telus. So far, 48 minutes on Hold and counting….finally, someone. Gotta go.

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Titles Don’t Make You A Leader September 15, 2011

Posted by Kevin Burns in build a better workplace.
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Leadership. The word conjures up images of men in suits in high-powered corporate positions leading their companies through the minefield of competition. But yet, leadership has nothing to do with companies or competition or even men in suits.

Corporate America has somehow stolen the word leadership and equated it with executive position within an organization. That has done a huge disservice to the concept of leadership by dumbing it down to a simple philosophy of title equating to leaders. There are many struggling and failed CEO’s who fancied themselves leaders but couldn’t convince their employees and shareholders to follow. It boils down to this simple premise: if you have no followers, you’re not leading – and just because you pay them doesn’t mean that your employees can be called followers.

There is no governing body that administrates leadership, leadership consultants, leadership courses or books and media dealing with leadership. You will, however, see re-branded management courses touting themselves as leadership courses and offering certificates in leadership if you pay your tuition and spend your time in the classes. But is that leadership really?

People don’t follow a certificate or a diploma (sorry to rain on your parade MBA’s). No, leadership is something more than checking items off of a list. Leadership is an ATTITUDE. Leadership is an attitude in the way that you conduct yourself in the world – a way in which you carry yourself and the way you think and treat others.

People follow people who deserve to be followed – not because they have a title.

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