Creating a Learning Culture

A learning culture consists of a community of workers trained with a “growth mindset.”  In these environments, people not only want to learn and apply what they have learned to advance their organization, they also have a passion to share their knowledge with others. Edward Hess, a University of Virginia business professor says, to unlock learning, organizations must recognize key constraints that prevent people from reaching their full potential.  What steps can leaders take to create learning cultures, helping individuals reach their full potential?

Learning cultures hire smart.  Hiring managers and recruiters understand how to use structured interviews and behavioral assessments to evaluate candidates.  For example, leaders ask questions which uncover individuals who are intrinsically driven with the capacity to figure out what needs to be done, and finding ways to do it.

Learning cultures teach “how” not “what.” Bridgewater Associates LP, has 15,000 employees.  Once an employee is hired, the company spends 18 months acclimating individuals into the company’s learning culture.  Focusing on “how” allows the company to transform individuals into independent thinkers.

Learning cultures encourage openness and difference.  Learning cultures feature flat hierarchies, which inspire high levels of openness and engagement. Tough questions are welcomed. People think outside the box, and go outside of formal reporting lines to discuss ideas and issues without fear.

Learning cultures support risk-taking.  As long as individuals are taking acceptable risks, learning cultures are supportive, even when individuals fail. These cultures encourage mistakes as long as they support learning and growth, as opposed to making repetitive mistakes.  In other words, it’s impossible to learn without the possibility of failure.

Finally, learning cultures build teams not individual superstars.  A culture that is rich in learning fosters creative tension by giving teams assignments, which require innovation to master new skills. Since people learn more when they are supported by others, these environments reward and recognize teams rather than individual performance.

Learning cultures develop people who learn because they want to, rather than learning because they have to. Click here for more information on creating a learning culture.

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Engaging Employees in the Workplace

Finding and keeping great talent can be challenging. Therefore, organizations must be willing to reinvest in talent, with successful onboarding and training. Despite this knowledge, many organizations are not progressively active in this area. What steps can leaders take to engage employees, increasing retention while helping employees reach their full potential?

Recent polls indicated that only 30% of employees in the United States feel they were engaged with their companies. Today, these numbers have not significantly improved. Although many organizations rely upon the talent of their managers to keep employees engaged, many leaders do not possess manager-level qualities. Therefore, it is critical that organizations have plans in place which focus on developing effective managers who have the skills to keep employees engaged and energized about their future, as well as ensuring the organization has a new generation of managers prepared to lead.

Engaging employees requires creating individual development plans. It is important to sit down with an employee and determine their interest and goals. This will help to identify which activities the individual should be partaking in, since everyone does not share the same perspective. Development plans provide a roadmap for the employee, which includes measurable goals, and a realistic timeframe to achieve them.

Second, engaging employees requires removing organizational barriers. Many organizations are rigid in their structure and processes which can make it difficult to implement cross-functional development and facilitate high performance training. Today’s workers are accustomed to open work environments that allow them to explore. Organizations should remove barriers and watch people flourish.

Third, engaging employees requires outlaying resources. Employees are an investment from which an organization expects a return. Resources such as training, online learning, and coaching are well worth the monetary investment, particularly when they are aligned with the organizations strategic goals, and the individuals development plan.

Finally, engaging employees requires leaders to set the example. An employee will see the value of the development process when they see their current leaders continue to develop personally and professionally. By modeling this behavior, leaders build credibility and trust among their employees, demonstrating to employees that development is a part of the culture.

Engaging tactics should be used within an organization no matter how large or small it may be. Click here for more information on engaging employees in the workplace.

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Developing Human Capital in the Workplace

Although it is necessary for companies to focus on various aspects of organizational design, people are the only resource within an organization that appreciate over time.  Therefore, the purpose of organizational development is to leverage human capital, creating an organization which engages its intelligence, and motivates employees to exceed a company’s competitors. What steps can leaders take to develop human capital, and increase a company’s bottom-line?  

Senior leaders must see the need to function as a cohesive team.  As executive teams build experience, each member must share the responsibility for building the entire organization as well as managing their specific areas.  In other words, leaders must develop a holistic mindset which requires developing interpersonal skills to help collaborate more effectively.  When leaders understand and practice constructive interpersonal and team principles, it is easier to develop a high performing organization.

Second, leaders must develop communication systems to share information.  One of the keys to motivating employees is to empower individuals, making them “contributing partners” in an organization.  When employees are given strategies, plans and information about the organization in which they work, they become partners in helping to build and improve the organization. Sharing such information is an ongoing process which requires spending time with people, to ensure they have the necessary understanding and training to implement information properly.

Third, leaders must move from controlling, directing, and top-down decision making to encouraging participation, developing people, to allow people at all levels of the organization to take greater responsibility in the company.  Although it can be challenging for leaders to make this shift, it can be accomplished through focused support and training.

Finally, leaders must achieve self-mastery.  Masters are the victors of life who step up to challenges with courage, purpose and wisdom.  Achieving self-mastery means a leader is taking personal responsibility for his/her choices and personal growth, and contributing to the growth of others around them.

Building human capital builds organizational success. Click here for more information on developing human capital in the workplace.

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Tips on Giving Effective Feedback

Part of a leader’s role is providing effective feedback. Although giving feedback can be challenging, ongoing feedback is necessary and important to individuals and teams in the workplace.  What are some tips for providing effective feedback?

  1. Catch people when they are doing the right things. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only giving feedback when people are doing the wrong things.  However, make it a point to acknowledge people when they are doing the right things.  Focusing on the right actions, trains employees to repeat the behaviors you want to see, rather than repeating things you don’t want to see.
  2. Look beyond the surface for opportunities to provide feedback. People will not always ask for what they want.  Many employees desire to have feedback, but may hesitate to ask. Be alert for hidden signals.
  3. Give feedback as early as possible. The sooner you provide feedback, the more effective it will be.  Whether negative or positive, feedback should be given at the earliest opportunity. When feedback isn’t timely, it can be a complete waste of time.
  4. Focus on individual behavior. When providing feedback, pay attention to how employees behave, not the person, or the intent.  Individual behaviors will either increase or decrease productivity.
  5. Check to make sure feedback is understood. Don’t assume employees always understand your feedback.  The most effective way to ensure you have been understood, is to ask the person to repeat what you have said.
  6. Don’t expect employees to read between the lines. Many managers are hesitant to confront employees, or they do not want to take the time to schedule feedback sessions. Consequently, managers may make short comments or bundle feedback in an email, which may not be clear. Vague comments leave room for employee confusion and interpretation.
  7. Be consistent. To be useful, feedback must be consistent. If employees are to adjust their performance successfully, the information given to them must be stable, accurate and trustworthy.
  8. Allow employees the opportunity to share how feedback might be improved.  Be open and ask employees how you might improve feedback provided to them.  When they share, allow them the opportunity to respond authentically, truthfully, and openly.

Effective feedback brings about lasting change…Click here for more information on developing employees in the workplace.

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Characteristics of Great Leaders

A great leader is one that has passion for a cause that is larger than himself.  By seeing what can be and managing the goals of how to get there, what are some of the most common traits of effective leadership?

Great leaders make important but unpopular decisions therefore, effective leadership requires focus.  In essence, great leaders do not spend time majoring in minor things therefore, they are less distracted than the competition. These leaders focus on a few selective things by developing “selective ignorance” not allowing trivial things to drown them out.

Great leaders are honest. Being responsible for a team of people requires that you raise the bar. Since business and employees are a reflection of their leaders, it’s important that honesty and ethical behavior are key values, so your team will follow suit.  Emphasizing higher standards by displaying honesty, results in a healthier environment.

Great leaders delegate appropriately. Creating an effective and efficient organization is important however, leaders who cannot trust their team with their visions may never experience sufficient progress.  As a business grows, delegation is one of the most important tasks a leader can acquire. The more you stretch yourself, the lower your work quality, resulting in lower productivity.

Great leaders communicate effectively.  Knowing what you want to accomplish is one thing however, knowing how to explain it is another.  Oftentimes, what may be perfectly clear in your mind, may not be relayed clearly to other members of your team.  Great leaders are able to clearly and succinctly describe what they want done.  They listen and understand others, making sure their team is on the same page.

Great leaders show commitment to their brand or cause.  Good leaders keep the promises or commitments made to their team.  Staying true to these commitments encourage employees to work hard and fulfill their obligations.  By proving your commitment to your brand and your role, earns the respect of your team, and also instills the same hardworking energy in employees.

Great leaders are creative.  Decisions made by a good leader are not always simple.  Having a creative side can allow exploration into areas that have not been considered, transforming a bad solution into a better option.

Everyone can be a leader, but not everyone is a great leader. Click here for more information on developing leaders in the workplace.

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Talent Management Systems

Many executives are generally focused on basic talent management, including hiring and retaining employee talent.  However, driving optical levels of success requires engaged high performing employees. The key to inciting a high performance workforce is aligning your talent management with the company’s business strategy.  What are some of the benefits of building a strategic talent management system?

Attrition continues to remain a major concern for many organizations, and those that fail to retain top talent are at risk of losing out to their competitors.  Talent management systems help organizations retain top employees by recruiting, developing, retaining and engaging quality employees. Engaging employees in the workforce, creates greater employee ownership.

Talent management systems helps leaders produce better hiring.  The quality of an organization is directly linked to the quality of the employees it possesses.  The best way to build talent is to develop it from the bottom up.  Over time, the investments made in developing talent decisions leads to greater employee loyalty and retention.

Talent Management Systems help leaders better understand employees. Employee assessments can provide deep insight into employees and clarify job roles for individual employees. Once job roles are defined, leaders can identify essential skills to be developed in employees and minimize training costs by focusing on key developmental areas.

Talent Management Systems help leaders improve professional development decisions. Many business leaders have a difficult time deciding if they should invest in training and development for individual growth, succession planning or performance management etc. Talent management systems help organizations identify high potentials. Consequently, it becomes easier to invest in professional development.

Leaders who implement the best talent management processes are better prepared to compete in a global economy, capitalizing on new opportunities. Click here for more information on developing talent management systems in the workplace.

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Managing Diversity in the Workplace

Successful leaders recognize that people have differences whether they be physical, generational or cultural.  Effective management of these differences requires leaders to break down preconceived barriers, while celebrating differences among employees.  Since diversity is important to business what strategies can leaders adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace?

Managing diversity requires endorsing fairness versus uniformity.  Fairness and uniformity are not the same.  Leaders must recognize that treating everyone exactly the same does not necessarily mean you are demonstrating fairness.  Respecting diversity necessitates leaders to treat people fairly, while respecting the differences that make individuals who they are.  For example, diversity can be emphasized by avoiding scheduling mandatory meetings on cultural holidays.

Managing diversity requires developing self-awareness. Leaders must learn to manage their own attitudes and behaviors.  For example, when conducting a job interview, be aware of self-imposed assumptions towards certain ethnicity or gender as well as, be cognizant of how you respond to certain communication.  Self-awareness is critical to developing a safe, fair workplace for diverse groups of people.

Managing diversity requires conducting honest employee assessments.  Leaders often conduct employee reviews and assessments.  When preparing for a review, you must examine employee attitudes in relation to how they work with others.  If you notice that an employee is only delegating tasks to a certain race, or if an employee only caters to the ideas of a certain age group, it is your responsibility to address the issue.

Managing diversity requires encouraging interaction. When diversity-related issues occur, effective leaders discuss concerns in a non-confrontational manner.  For example, employees should be encouraged to work with others of different backgrounds and generations.  Initiating interactions such as this encourage employees to discover different communication styles, talents, and goals.

Promoting diversity has many benefits upon a company’s bottom-line. Click here for more information on developing diversity in the workplace.

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Building High Performance Organizations

Today’s workforce is emerging into a paradigm known as high performance work systems. In these organizations, employees are defined as contributing partners bringing enormous energy, creativity, and talent to their work. In essence, successful organizations are moving beyond attempts to control, to organizing around collaborative networks, trusting and empowering people with resources, information, tools, and skills to create value while managing customer relationships.   What are the basic principles of a high performing organization, and how do these principals bring value to an organization? 

High performing organizations view employees as partners, versus tools of management.  People are an organizations greatest asset and should be trusted and empowered.  Organizations that empower employees allow them to have input and power over their work, as well as give them the ability to share suggestions and ideas about the organization as a whole.  When employees feel confident that their input is valued, they are more likely to share ideas to benefit themselves and the organization.  Therefore, empowered employees are often more committed, conscientious, and loyal.

High performing organizations focus on team planning and coordination versus management planning and coordination. Involving your team in a planning process creates a sense of ownership, and ensures everyone is on the same page.  When employees feel they have a part in the direction of the company, they are typically motivated to perform.

High performing organizations focus on total employee development versus technical skills. Studies show that 39.3% of today’s job seekers consider growth to be a top distinguishing characteristic.  Many companies fail to recognize the importance of continuous training and development of their workforce as a whole.  As a result, they fail to maintain their success and experience higher turnover.  Employee development programs show employees they are valued.  In turn, they feel appreciated, challenged and are more satisfied with their jobs.

High performing organizations jobs are more broadly defined and employees possess multiple skills versus specialization and narrowly defined skills. Cross-functional teams and networks are a natural by-product of high performing organizations, since teams are responsible for managing the tasks and processes utilized to accomplish the business goals of the organization.

Research and experience indicate that companies organized by principles of high performance consistently outperform their traditional counterparts. Click here for more information on developing a high performing organization.

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Tips for Effective Coaching

Since traditional training methods may not always be effective, coaching is one technique leaders can use to bring about growth, and influence the next generation of an organizations management potential. What are the essential components of a coaching relationships and how can leaders utilize these elements to positively impact behavior in the workplace?

Define the boundaries of the coaching relationship. If coaching is to be effective, the coaching role must be established between the parties involved. For example, leaders can provide coaching for various reasons, such as obtaining 360-degree feedback, or developing actions plans to increase leadership capabilities. Whatever the reason, the coaching role must be agreed upon between the two individuals.

Build a partnership, rather than control. The HR Manager or leader should be seen as a resource to help the individual accomplish his/her goals. In other words, leaders who are coaching should not seek to control the actions of the person being coached. Ideally, the coach should develop a partnership which enhances personal growth for the individual, resulting in good choices for the organization.

When in doubt, be honest. When you don’t know the right answer or you are speculating the right course of action, tell the truth. It is better to say you don’t know, and get back with the person than to appear to have all the answers and give bad advice. Your role as a coach is to strengthen the individual’s competencies, rather than demonstrate your level of knowledge.

Help the individual own their solutions. People typically know the right thing to do. A coach’s role is to draw the right course of action out of the individual. The more answers you provide, the less likely the individual will take ownership. A good coach will provide options, or recommendations but ultimately, the answer lies within the individual. Asking questions such as “Have you considered doing…?” or, “What do you need to do?” can help the individual own the solution.

Coaching helps individual’s discover what’s important. It doesn’t bring answers, but rather brings a process for individual’s to discover answers…click here for more information on developing leaders in the workplace.
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Stress Reduction Tips

Stress is a routine expectation in everyday events and can be very persuasive in overwhelming every other aspect of life. However, with successful stress management strategies, most people can overcome or at least minimize their stress levels to a significant extent. Effective stress management is all about taking charge of your lifestyle, emotions, thoughts and the approach you take to cope with problems.

Limit Self-Judgment. Talk kindly to yourself and turn off the negative tape player. Saying things such as “I am stressed, and this too will pass.” Reverse negative ideas and focus on positive outcomes to help reduce tension and help you to achieve goals.

Get help from others. Tap into support systems to help you feel understood, capable and nurtured. Oftentimes, expressing your feeling will help lower your stress.

Express your feelings. If you can’t express feelings with a support network, express them through writing a journal or compose a letter that is never mailed.

Do just one thing at a time. Switching from one task to another wastes time and decreases productivity. Start a new assignment only after you’ve completed the first one. Your stress level will only increase when you are overwhelmed by many things that need to done at the same time.

Make it a priority to do something low pressure and enjoyable. Get crafty, listen to music, get outside or give yourself a few minutes from what you are doing and simply do nothing.

Be present. Slow down and take five minutes to focus on only one behavior with awareness.

Learn to practice relaxing. Relaxation is the body’s antidote for stress reduction. Relaxation lowers blood pressure, respiration and pulse. Combining several techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and mediation can significantly reduce stress.

Know and accept your limits. Learn to say no to those things that are not really that important and focus only on what is really important.
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