How Much is Too Much?

Last week on The Business News Hour I had a conversation with Brad Dwyer the founder of Bad BossHatchlings a game application that now has millions of users. The theme of our interview was employee productivity and creativity...when the boss is bossing remotely. If you would like to listen to the interview you may do so here.

Brad was out of the country on an extended business trip to Asia...like for six weeks. During that time he was connected, remotely, to his thriving business. He told me it was both a necessity and an experiment: "I was really interested to learn if my team could continue to be productive and creative without me being there to direct every move."

What did he learn?  His staff not only rose to the occasion they were even more productive and creative without him being there.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece that centered on employee engagement and a Gallup Poll that says only 31% of employees are "engaged in their work". While that is bad enough those 69% of disengaged workers costs American business about $11 billion a year.

What causes such high levels of disengagement?  Let me offer one thought.  Recently, while doing an interview for a future broadcast I became aware of a growing company that workers there say management has replaced casual rules with "micro-management". New rules and regulations that, in the words of several employees, has "stifled creativity and productivity" among many of the long term workers.

While none of the rules were egregious they did, in the minds of many employees, chip away at trust and replaced leadership with regulations that one employee said felt "downright Orwellian". To make matters worse the changes came about rapidly over just a few weeks and bosses became less approachable relying more on process.

Two very different experiments in leadership.  Who would you rather work for? 

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Expect to Be Disappointed

I have a good friend who once said to me, "I wonder when it became normal, in business, to Man Boredignore doing business. Every interaction I go into I start by expecting to be disappointed."

Wow...kind of a negative thought or is she on to something?

When we look at the statistics regarding the engagement of employees and see that, according to a Gallup Poll only 31% of employees are "engaged in their work". That stunning 69% of disengaged workers costs American business about $11 billion a year.

Is it a wonder that business fails to respond to voice mail? Is it a wonder that employees fail to respond to emails?  Not long ago I asked a client of our why his firm had trade-marked the phrase, "We get things done!". He told me because the response from others in his profession is so lousy that time after time clients would tell him, "We're amazed that your firm actually gets things done on time."

Tragic huh?

Let's start to change that. Here are four tips to better engagement:

  • Lead Responsively - When the leader is responsive to the appeals, efforts and requests of his/her employees those employees feel as if they matter. Being responsive is always better than ignoring...anything;
  • Conduct Stay Interviews - Learn why people have made the decision to stay with the company rather than leave. When employees understand that you want to assist in their career they are more likely to be engaged;
  • Model Behavior 24/7 - Being a leader means you are "on" 24/7. Once you get home you can kick the cat but in public you are constantly being evaluated and so too is your business brand;
  • Eradicate Unfairness - Nothing demotivates more than when getting ahead is more about who you know that what you know. Employees have a keen sense of unfairness and so should you.

Four quick tips that may help your business escape being...disappointing.

If you've got others...please share!

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Branding: Professional Not Stuffy

I'm astonished at how informal and non-professional we've become. This trend, I believe, has a Man Snob negative impact on the business brand.

The way in which we answer phone calls, leave voice mails, return (or choose not to return) phone calls, set up our out going voice mail message, emails...it is, for the most part...awful. And, being awful and non-professional has a direct impact on your brand. Best news, it's easy to fix.  Here are a couple of tips:

  • Phone Branding - What and how you speak has a direct bearing on your business brand. That's not to say you have to be formal but you do need to be professional. Smiling when talking actually works. And if the phone call is not so friendly making sure each party is aware there is actual listening going on is important. Oh and voice mail? Return those calls, change your outgoing voice mail message (daily we recommend) and don't tell me my call is "very important" because it's highly likely...you won't call back. It's all branding;
  • Email Branding - I have several clients who always, always address each email with a proper greeting. "Hello Michael", "Good Morning Michael" or sometimes just "Michael". And, know what, that extra two seconds says so much about their professional attitude and abilities. We always answer those emails using the same language; 
  • Names & Branding - If you have a customer or client that has a name that CAN be shortened but you know it is not...poor form to then call Susan "Sue" or Patrick "Pat" or James "Jim" or (yes it happens) Michael "Mike". It tells the other person you are not paying attention or, worse, you think you are becoming "buddies". No, you are not;
  • Dress for Success - I'm astounded at how some business people dress. It doesn't matter if you are running for congress or making a marketing meeting show up as if you're going on a job interview. In public I can always spot the successful business person and the successful brand often by just looking at their...shoes.

None of those examples will cost you more money. They will, however, polish your brand image and, in the end, that matters to your customer, employee and client.

Perhaps you've got other examples...fire away!

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The Friday Wrap - June 15, 2012

No, it's NOT the "Fish Wrap" but The Friday Wrap where we look at some me business/marketing/advertising news you may have missed...or seen but without our comment.  Today in The Friday Wrap:

  • Got...Gas? - We figured our friends at Hy-Vee would have learned with "Drug Town" that it's all in the...name.
  • Political Attack Ads - Do we really hate them?
  • Cheap Advertising - It's available but it takes work.
  • Decision Making - Small should mean...quick but...
  • Guts - Do you have the guts to be/stay in business?
  • Smart Consumers - Are they "too smart"?
  • Baby Sale - Confusing the consumer
  • Worst Ad of the Week - And now you know...

Thanks for coming by and that link to these stories is right here.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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Martin Luther King, Jr. - 2012

I was struggling with what to write as we mark the national day ofDr King MemorialDC remembering Dr. King.  While the his life and work will, today, be celebrated across the country and here in Des Moines, Iowa at the Iowa Historical Building I was searching for a way to connect Dr. King to business and...leadership.

That search brought me to a piece written by Hitendra Wadhwa for Inc.  The title is "The Wrath of a Great Leader - How Martin Luther King, Jr. wrestled with anger and what you can do to learn from his example."

If you are in business you know frustration and anger.  How you channel that toward a productive, rather than a destructive, result is priceless.  Nuf said...

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 If you would like to connect, leave a comment here or on Twitter it's @MichaelLibbie (personal and business) or @InsightADV (business only) and here is our Insight Advertising, Markerting & Communications Facebook Page.  Have a superior day! - Michael