The Power of an Apology

apology

 

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone saying that they felt that I wronged them with something I did. I was faced with two options, defend my position and dig my heels into the ground or accept the fact that my actions unintentionally offended the other party, take responsibility and apologize for offending them, and right the wrong that I had committed. This is something that we’re all faced with every now and then.

Through our lifetime there have been, and will be many more, instances where our actions unintentionally hurt someone else’s feelings. Our actions were so non-deliberate that we are completely blindsided when someone approaches us with a claim that we did something wrong to them.

The easiest reaction, and often our initial reaction, is to become defensive and either reject the other person’s claim as an over-reaction or returning their message with a “You completely misunderstood me.” or “You’re completely wrong!”. By deflecting the blame back onto the other person, we negate their feelings and blame them for the way that they feel. This rarely defuses the situation and more commonly escalates the matter into a full out argument and leaves both parties feeling worse about the situation.

We need to realize that what the other person is doing is not launching a personal attack at us, but instead he/she is expressing the way that they felt as a result of something that we did. How can you argue the way a person feels? Feelings are emotions and emotions are not always logical, although in this particular case they were logical.

By arguing with the way a person feels you’re attaching YOUR logic, or sometimes stubbornness, to THEIR feelings – that’s a recipe for disaster. YOU are not THEM and THEY are not YOU. Put in the exact same situation chances are that you both would react in very different ways. Usually neither of those ways are wrong or right, they’re just coming from two different people who lived different lives, experienced different things, and therefor have different perspectives on day to day events and interactions.

Getting back to my situation from the other week, I took the second stance. I sought first to understand their perspective before trying to get them to understand mine (Thank you Stephen Covey!). After listening to his point of view, I understood how my actions unintentionally wronged him. I took responsibility for my actions, apologized for the harm that I caused him, explained my reasoning and noble intentions, apologized again, and I followed through on my commitment to right the wrong.

A few weeks later we went out for coffee, and developed not only a personal friendship, but also found ways to help each other grow from a business standpoint.

Rather than gaining an enemy I made a powerful new friend and business ally.

Here are my two favorite books on the topics of effective communication, integrity, and interpersonal relationships:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie –

Steven Tulman

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This Could Be the Most Underrated Tactic for Boosting Employee Morale

compassion, heart

 

 

 

 

 

There is plenty of advice out there about how to boost employee morale. Some saycompensation matters most. Others say it’s more about empowering workers. But there could be a fix that’s vastly underrated: Try showing employees more compassion.

Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade and George Mason University assistant management professor Olivia “Mandy” O’Neill conducted a 16-month study on the effects of “compassionate love,” which includes empathy, caring for someone’s feelings and life, and listening to a person’s needs, at a long-term health care facility with 185 employees, 108 patients, and 42 patient relatives. The study revealed, as reported in Knowledge@Wharton,University of Pennsylvania’s business school blog, that compassion can increase employee morale and a sense of teamwork, and even trickles down to boost customer satisfaction.

Barsade and O’Neill conducted a second study with 3,201 employees across seven industries and found similar results–a culture of compassion increased employee commitment, accountability, and performance.

And if you’re confused, professional compassionate love doesn’t involve snuggling, kissing, or hugs. The technique is more subtle–and appropriate–than that. It means simple acts of tenderness and affection, from asking how an employee’s family is doing to grabbing an extra cup of coffee and putting it on someone’s desk when you get one for yourself.

“[Management and executives] should be thinking about the emotional culture,” Barsade told Knowledge@Wharton. “It starts with how they are treating their own employees when they see them. Are they showing these kinds of emotions? And it informs what kind of policies they put into place. This is something that can definitely be very purposeful–not just something that rises organically.”

Below, read how showing a little compassion, tenderness, and affection at work can improve your organization.

Fewer Sick Days, More Engagement

Barsade and O’Neill’s two studies found that being careful of listening to employees and being aware of their feelings can reduce sick days and burnout. By making the office more loving and less stressful, employees will feel more comfortable and appreciated.

During the first study, the researchers tracked employee withdrawal by asking workers about their feelings of emotional exhaustion and looking at absenteeism rates. Groups of employees who had higher levels of compassionate love had lower levels of exhaustion and sick days. The groups with higher compassion rates were also more team-oriented and satisfied with their jobs.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Barsade and O’Neill also measured the effect of a culture of compassion on the patients and their families. By tracking the patients’ health, the first study found that patients who were taken care of by employees in the compassionate culture had fewer trips to the emergency room. Satisfaction rates also increased. “Even though this has to do with how employees are treating each other, and not necessarily how they are treating their clients, we argue that if they treat each other with caring, compassion, tenderness, and affection, that will spill over to residents and their families,” Barsade tells Knowledge@Wharton.

Lower Work-Life Issues

These two studies have also spawned similar ones in different fields of employment. O’Neill has just teamed up with Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard to study firefighters. What they have found is that compassionate love on the job can decrease instances of negative effects a job has on the employee’s family. “What we see is that companionate love acts as a helper for the problems they struggle with at work and outside of work,” O’Neill says. “For example, [firefighters] tend to have high levels of work-family conflict because of the stress that comes from the job. Companionate love actually helps to buffer the effect of job stress and work-family conflict on other outcomes.”

BY WILL YAKOWICZ

10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent

If there’s one word that’s almost certain to appear somewhere on every business’s website, that word is talent. Companies of every size love to talk about talent! They can talk about talent all day long.

It’s easy to talk about talent on a website or in a recruiting brochure. It’s easy to say “We value talent more than anything!”

Talk is cheap. Attracting talented people into an organization and hanging onto them — now that’s another story.

Most employers, sad to say, do a better job of driving talented people away than reeling them in, both during the selection process and after the talented person comes on board as a new employee. They don’t do it intentionally, of course. They can’t see how their systems, policies and attitudes frustrate and repel great people. It starts with the ugly and tedious, Black Hole processes by which new employees get hired.

black-holes-belong-in-space-not-recruiting

Those Applicant Tracking Systems are horrible talent repellents, but most of their owners don’t know they serve the same function as massive, barking, teeth-bared attack dogs at the gate.

Fearful people who believe they don’t have any power in their job search will submit to those awful systems. Switched-on people with alternatives will quickly say “Yikes, I’m not sticking around here” and apply for a job somewhere else.

Bring-Yourself-to-Work-Poster-from-Human-Workplace-poster-size

Once a newcomer starts the job, there are more talent repellents waiting. Some of them are cultural. Some of them are operational.

Here are our Top Ten favorite Talent Repellents — ten ways employers drive brilliant people away from their doors.

ZOMBIE-FIED JOB ADS

If your firm likes to talk about talent, first take a look at your company’s job ads. Most job ads do a better job of explaining what the candidate must have than of selling the job to a possible applicant! If your job ads don’t use a human voice and spend as much time selling the job as tossing around Essential Requirements, all the talent-talk is merely lip service.

BLACK HOLE RECRUITING PORTALS

If it takes a job-seeker an hour to complete all the mind-numbing fields in your Applicant Tracking System, the best people have already fled for greener pastures. If you’re a Recruiting Director or a curious CEO, ask your ATS vendor what the abandonment rate is on your recruiting site. How many people, in other words, start the process and then drop out of it? There’s your talent on the hoof, off to a friendlier welcome mat than you were able to lay out.

ROBOTIC COMMUNICATION

Once you start to communicate with applicants in the selection pipeline, what kinds of messages do you use? The evil Passive Voice type (“Your application has been received”) is a surefire talent barrier. Why not say “Wow! Thanks for applying for a job with us. Give us a few days to look at our openings and your background. We’ll be back in touch, either way!” Then, actually close the loop. None of this mealy-mouthed “If we want to call you, we will” stuff meets the Human Workplace test. You can do better than that.

INFLEXIBLE TIME OFF POLICIES

Once a new hire comes on board, he or she can only dive into the job whole-heartedly if the rest of his or life is attended to. A client of ours took a job and quit on the first day, during orientation, when she asked the orientation leader “How would it work if I have a court case three weeks from today, a half hour away in the city? I only need to leave an hour early.”

The orientation chickadee said “There’s no provision for that. You have to come in. You don’t get time off benefits for sixty days.”

The new employee, sensing danger, said “No problem, I’ll talk to my manager about it” and the orientation gal said “I’ve already noted your name and the date. You must change your personal schedule that day.”

The newbie bailed, her hiring manager called her to say “But I would have figured it out for you!” and the ex-employee said “Culture is everything. I’m not taking a job with a manager whose response to Godzilla process is to sneak around it.” If you don’t find your voice in a case like that, when will you ever do it?

HEAR NO EVIL FEEDBACK SYSTEMS

My science friends tell me that entropy is a feature of closed systems. When no new information comes in, things break down. So it is in corporations where there’s no upward feedback, such that executive leaders are spared the inconvenience of reacting to messy reality and permitted to bask in the awesomeness of their delusional plans undisturbed. If your employer doesn’t have robust, active, constant feedback mechanisms in place and an appetite for hearing about life on the street, you’re pushing away talent as we speak.

SCROOGETASTIC COMPENSATION PLANS

I was a corporate HR leader for decades. If you want to gauge an organization’s ability to snag and keep talent, look at its pay policies. When you knock the ball out of the park and your manager says “I’m really sorry, but I can only give you a two percent raise, because, you know, it’s our policy,” you’ve learned all you need to know about the importance of talent in your shop.

HEY, YOU STOLE MY IDEA

They say information is power. If people use information like a club to beat one another with, nothing good will happen for your clients or shareholders. If your organization is the kind where people keep quiet about their ideas to prevent them from being stolen, the universe wants you to hightail it out of there. If you’re in charge of a joint like that, you’ve got some trust-building work to do.

GODZILLA PROCESSES

Some processes are good, but lots of them are cumbersome, slow and stupid. Check out our Nine Signs of a Bad Process wheel below to see what I’m talking about. If people who come to work ready to rock it are prevented from doing their work because some fear-based process is gumming up the works, I guarantee you’re losing talent. People might be sitting at their desks when you walk by, but their hearts and brains are elsewhere.

nine-signs-bad-process

CONSTRUCTIVE SNIPING

Leaders who can coach and inspire employees are one in a million, and thank God for them! Leaders who pick and quibble and snipe are people who fear that a Mojofied team might threaten their own petty power. If your environment is a snipe-fest, good people won’t stay. How can you get anything important done in a place like that?

TRIUMPH OF THE BEST AND BROWN-NOSIEST

The last Talent Repellent on our list is a culture that rewards brown-nosing and punishes honest dissent. Most of us have seen organizations like this, where Yes Men and Women are exalted and passionate people asking tough questions are silenced. Life is too short to work in a place like that. The world is too big, there are too many meaty problems to solve, and too many brilliant people for you to collaborate with in trust-based, forward-looking organizations for you to waste another femtosecond among Godzilla’s handlers.

In your job search and on the job, only the people who get you deserve you. Your gut knows the difference. Can you listen to it? -Liz Ryan

How to Eliminate Habits Holding You Back From Success

how-eliminate-habits-holding-back-successHumans love routine. When it comes to achieving measurable goals,  this means we tend to do what we’ve always done, how we’ve always done it, in  the same order as always.

This also goes for our habits when working in teams. You’ve  probably been working with your team long enough to feel like you know what to  expect from them. You’ve developed habitual patterns in the way you interact  together. And probably, the feeling is mutual. Maybe it’s time to shake up those  impressions.

To be a better manager, it’s important to take risks and introduce needed  improvements. This often means identifying what’s working and what needs  improvement. Sometimes discovering those specifics is as simple as asking three  questions:

  1. What habits have gotten you where you are today?
  2. What habits may be holding you  back from reaching your next desired  accomplishments?
  3. Is it time to ask for feedback?

Taking a close look at your habits provides wonderful insight into what has  worked so far. It allows you to make conscious changes. My friend and mentor,  Marshall Goldsmith, wrote a book whose title says it all: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. What habits are  you currently using that might be keeping you from reaching your next level of  accomplishments?

Here are a  few places to start: Do you start meetings on time? Do you  listen to comments fully without interrupting? Do you ask clarifying questions?  Do you look at the person talking or keep your eyes on your digital device? Do  you offer acknowledgement for a job well done or for new ideas? What habits have  you gotten into that serve you well? What habits need to be changed to help you  move forward?

Next, ask yourself what you’re doing that is getting in the way of achieving  your goals. I know an entrepreneur who recently realized he was using the first  hour of his day to try and catch up on email and touch all his social media  profiles. As a five-day experiment one week, he focused that hour in the morning  only on reaching out to new vendors to support his buisiness. This one simple  change allowed him to move his launch date up by three full weeks.

One way to discover what is and isn’t working well when it comes to your  habits is to ask for feedback from those around you. Asking for feedback won’t  signal that something is wrong. Rather, it shows you are open to new ideas and  approaches.

Asking for feedback can also fast-track your efforts. Feedback can maximize  your focus, energy and time so that you get more of the right things done. Time  and again, I’ve seen how entrepreneurs who were doing fairly well managed to  supersize their productivity and get even more out of their day and efforts  simply by being receptive to a bit of feedback.

To know if your habits are working or not, clearly define the results you  want. When you fully understand what you want to accomplish, you can reflect on  how your actions over the past few hours, days or weeks can get you closer to  your goal. -Jason W. Womack

 

The 7 Sleep Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

 

Sleep

We all know lack of sleep is harmful to our health — sleep affects mood, increases risk of psychiatric disorders and depression, cardiovascular disease and lowers immune system health. Yet the stress of running a company and long working hours means entrepreneurs often find themselves functioning on little sleep.

Evanston, Ill.-based sleep expert Dr. Lisa Shives says getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is a critical component of entrepreneurs’ business success. “Sleep affects our executive function; the area of the brain responsible for decision making, creative thinking, memory and reaction time,” says Shives.

Follow these seven sleep habits and dream your way to business success:

1. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. 
While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it will affect the quality of your slumber. “Sleep is lighter, you have less REM (the deepest stage of sleep),” says Shives. Alcohol can also wake you up in the middle of the night. “Many people wake up after about four hours, because that’s how long it takes to metabolize alcohol, then they have trouble getting back to sleep,” says Shives. Although studies have shown a glass of wine at dinner can have positive effects on cardiovascular health, Shives says to avoid drinking any alcohol within three hours before bedtime.

2. Turn off electronics before bedtime.
Shives recommends shutting off gadgets an hour before bedtime. “The light that’s emitted [from the screens] slips your neurotransmitters into an awake position,” says Shives. Our gadgets also force our brains to stay active when they really need relaxation time to distress before bedtime. Shives recommends using the hour before bed to do something relaxing and enjoyable like reading a book or having a chat with your partner.

3. Write your worries away. 
If you find yourself lying in bed stressing about the events of the day, Shives recommends keeping a worry journal to write down the issues that are bothering you. For those who find their heads swimming with to-do-lists, Shives says putting the list on paper rather than thinking about it can help to clear your head and shut off your mind before bedtime.

4. Create the perfect sleep ambience.
The optimal sleep environment is one that’s cool, dark and quiet. “Part of becoming drowsy in the evening is that your core body temperature starts to drop,” says Shives. Eliminate noise and light distractions by charging smartphones outside the bedroom door to avoid the glow, the ding and the temptation to get up and check on something.

5. Exercise. 
Exercise promotes healthy sleep patterns by releasing serotonin and dopamine. These are the same neurotransmitters that are important for regulating our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.

 
6. Avoid sugary snacks before bedtime.
If you have a hankering for a snack, Shives recommends grabbing a bite containing protein and fat such as yogurt rather than one containing starch or sugar. “[Protein and fat] have very low glycemic levels which means they will give a steady release of energy throughout the night,” says Shives. Simple carbs or sugary snacks give you a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash which can disturb the quality of your sleep.

7. Wake up to the light. 
The morning is just as important to your sleep habits as the evening. Getting sunlight when you wake up re-sets your body’s circadian rhythm, helping to ensure you’re more tired at night. Enjoy your morning coffee sitting next to a large window is a great way to start your day right.

Entrepreneur Magazine Sept. 2013

5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

employees, boss, leadership, relationship, retention

 

Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.