Jennifer Holley : Maintaining Your Assets

I met Jennifer Holley several years ago when she was the Manager of The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas and I was Director of Hotel Operations also at Wynn.  We immediately connected and have been friends ever since.  I value my relationship with Jen so very much and find that we often get in conversations about work ethic, commitment, and empathy.  Plus, she’s super fun to go shopping with!

 I asked Jen if she would offer some words of wisdom on encouraging leaders to create an amazing employee and customer experience.  As expected, she knocked it out of the park!

 Thank you Jen for your contribution, and please, enjoy Jen’s article:


Now that Alyse has set the stage and we have outlined a company culture that supports a healthy work environment, trust, motivation, empowerment and accountability, I want to discuss how we create longevity and sustainability of that environment. Specifically, what is being done to motivate the motivators?

Companies commit time and resources to recruiting and capturing management talent but they often fall short in nurturing and inspiring the talent once they’ve gotten them. You can have the best foundation in place for your company, but if your leaders do not feel a personal connection to your company goals or vision, eventually it will negatively impact your employees and ultimately your customers. Have you ever heard the phrase “People quit their bosses, not their jobs”? Managers leave because on some level, they do not feel connected or valued. Connecting with your leaders can be accomplished in some of the simplest ways. Let’s break it down into three different categories: Time, Talent and Treasure.

Time

The best example of using time as a way to connect with leaders comes from a large corporation where I previously worked. Our Executive Vice President would schedule a lunch or coffee with a different member of management from his team once a month. This allowed the EVP an opportunity to learn about his subordinates in a way that a department meeting would never permit, and it provided the manager direct access to a member of the Executive Team. The investment is minimal, but the impact is tremendous.

Talent

In a well-rounded management team, each person has a unique set of strengths. It’s zoning in on those strengths and identifying how they can be leveraged that can help build connection with your team. One way to leverage individual strengths for the success of the team is to identify a challenge one of your teams is currently facing. Identify a team that is excelling in that area and assign the head of the successful team a ‘special project presentation’ to explain their success and possible hurdles they had to overcome to get there. Then provide a forum to workshop, brainstorm and collaborate. By encouraging peer information sharing in a structured and measured way, you find approachable solutions to obstacles and challenges, highlight valuable talent within your team, and make your teams feel valuable and empowered.

Treasure

Not every company can afford raises, profit sharing or 401k matches. There are creative methods to recognize employees that are meaningful (and effective) and do not require a large investment. For example, my company awards each manager with an additional $100 for every year they have worked with the company, on the anniversary of their hire date. It is accompanied with a card with personal sentiments of gratitude hand-written by our owners and CEO. They also send hand-written cards for birthdays to each manager. My husband’s company also sends hand-written cards with personal sentiments and a gift card (for coffee or lunch) from the CEO on birthdays and work anniversaries. If you are able, award experiences or products as incentives, better aligning your team with the experiences of your customers.  Any of these methods inspire pride and validation. In turn, your team is more inclined to remain loyal to the company and motivated to contribute at a higher level.

Good leaders inspire, motivate and encourage. When they feel supported, valuable and appreciated, their spark is ignited. It is paramount to find ways to support their spark to prevent them from burning out or disconnecting all together.  Having a clear plan in place to continuously connect with your management team will ensure that their personal growth is aligned with the growth of your company. It does not have to cost a lot, but the return on investment is priceless.

Please join the conversation….

 

Vol X: Accountability

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The final question I ask in the article, Setting the Stage is whether accountability exists within your organization, ensuring your employees feel fairly treated.

Accountability is being responsible for what you are expected to do and for the actions you take. Holding yourself and others accountable ensures that everyone fulfills their responsibility, and that there is fairness, making sure actions are applied consistently and without prejudice.

Understanding what you are accountable for.

The exact responsibilities will naturally vary based upon a persons role, but at a high level it breaks down into two categories:

Individual contributors or team members are responsible for their work and for supporting the rest of their team.

Leaders are responsible for the work of their entire team as well as for how they hold their team members accountable for their actions.

Understanding the expectations of one’s role sets the foundation for accountability. When your team members understand what you expect from them and what is expected of their peers, you’ve set the stage for creating consistent accountability. My article on Clarifying Expectations has some examples of things to consider when setting those expectations.

The next step, once expectations are clear, is to ensure your team members understand how they will be held accountable. There are two sides to accountability, most people think about the negative accountability – what happens when someone does not meet expectations; there is also a positive accountability – what happens when someone does a job well, or exceeds the expectations.

When employees do not meet the expectations that you’ve clearly defined, they should understand what that means in terms of coaching, feedback, and discipline.

For more ideas about positive accountability, I’d refer you to my last two articles: Motivation Through Recognition and Creating a Recognition Program.

The most important thing is that accountability, positive or negative, needs to be clearly communicated and applied consistently.

To evaluate your own accountability process, consider these questions:

  1. Does everyone have clear expectations of what their role is and what you need from them?

Without clear expectations, you have no foundation for accountability. Remember not to assume here, not everyone approaches situations the same way.

  1. Do you give feedback to employees? Do other leaders in the organization provide feedback? Do team members have an avenue for providing peer feedback?

Self-awareness is difficult for most people. If you are not giving feedback on performance, an employee can think they are doing something well, even if you do not agree.

  1. Do you have a consistent method of tracking employee performance? Is an employee’s performance transparent to them?

In environments where an employee may be supervised by several different leaders it is important that any coaching or feedback is documented so other leaders are aware and meaningful follow up can occur without being redundant.

  1. Is retraining or job shadowing available to help build performance for those who need it?

Not everyone gets it the first time. Having an opportunity to retrain employees after they’ve had some on the job experience might help an employee who didn’t quite connect the lessons of training with the real world environment.

  1. Are the steps that you take with one employee the same for all employees?

To be fair to all employees, the same steps should be taken, regardless of the person. For example, if with Mark you give several coaching opportunities and many chances but with Jane, her mistakes result in write-ups you are being unfair. That’s not to say that you need to write Mark up right away, but are you giving Jane the benefits of your time and feedback?

Employees want accountability to be consistent. By ensuring accountability is fair, employees can trust your actions and comfortably perform at higher levels.

Please join the conversation…

 

Vol IX: Empowerment

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In my article “Setting the Stage”, I asked whether employees feel empowered to help customers and whether they have the tools to do so. Empowerment manifests itself many different ways, in this article I’ll focus on empowering employees to successfully navigate service recovery.

When I was charged with the responsibility of a hotel front desk, there was an existing empowerment policy where agents could compensate a guest up to a certain dollar amount without a manager’s approval. There was nothing wrong with the guideline per se, but front desk agents were quick to compensate their allotted amount and avoided what the customer was really seeking: an apology, empathy, and compassion. Ultimately, while the customers got compensated, they weren’t satisfied, and while the agents stayed within the budget, they weren’t truly helping the company build customer loyalty.

I’ve always found that genuinely listening, apologizing regardless of fault, coming up with personalized solutions, and following up with a customer is the recipe for great service recovery.

Ensuring your staff feels empowered to help a customer is about more than money and tools, it’s about how much your employees feel like they can take responsibility for fixing mistakes and righting a wrong.

Here are some questions to think about when you consider if your team feels empowered:

  1. Does your team do a good job of listening to customers when they are dissatisfied? Are they able to act empathetically and compassionately to customer concerns?

Employees that are quick to jump to conclusions instead of truly listening may miss important details about what is important to that particular customer.  Service recovery is best when a customer feels like someone personally connected to them, if employees are rushed or made to feel like it’s not okay to spend time listening, they will likely not address the customer’s true concerns.

  1. If a mistake is made, do your employees take responsibility on behalf of the entire company even if they or their department did not make the mistake?

From a customer’s perspective, internal divisions within your company are irrelevant, and pointing fingers doesn’t help the customer.

  1. Do you have a policy that clarifies for your staff what compensation they are able to provide for given situations?

Letting employees know what they can and can’t do gives them the freedom to act without looking over their shoulders or worrying about being second guessed. Having too many layers of approvals necessary for an employee to provide compensation or other solutions to a customer may keep short term expenses down, but could ultimately wind up hurting long term revenue opportunities.

  1. When an employee goes above and beyond to help a customer, what is the response from leadership?

An empowered employee, if they are within the guidelines of your policy, should be thanked for helping the customer. If the employee made a decision that seems out of line with policy, treat it as a coaching opportunity, not an inquisition.

Empowered employees develop a sense of ownership and pride from doing their job, representing your company culture, and ensuring that your customers are satisfied.

Please join the conversation….

 

Vol VIII: Creating a Recognition Program

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In last week’s article, Motivating through Recognition, I discussed the importance of recognizing employees as a form of gratitude and a teaching tool. One of my suggestions was to personalize the recognition, to make it more meaningful for the person receiving it. This week, I’d like to share the guidelines I follow when setting up a recognition program that helps make it meaningful.

Do you even need a recognition program?

It’s OK to ask if it’s necessary, but ask yourself these questions:

  • Is recognition happening consistently?
  • Can others learn by example?
  • Do your employees FEEL like they are being recognized?

If each answer is not an immediate “yes” – then putting a recognition program in place could reinforce those behaviors until they become habit and are happening organically and consistently.

Is recognition sustained?

There is nothing worse than starting a great recognition program, making a few people feel really special, and then having it be forgotten or lost to other priorities. Having a process that is open and communicated will ensure recognition is sustained.

Here are some questions to ask about any process you set up:

  • Is it explicit that leaders look for opportunities to recognize as part of their normal routine?
  • Is recognition documented, staying with employees for future opportunities like promotion or annual evaluations?
  • Do employees know what your form of recognition looks like?
  • How is recognition shared with others so that they can learn from it?

Answering these questions can help lead you down a path to determine if your recognition program is sustainable, purposeful and deliberate.

Is recognition personalized?

Many companies use employee profile systems to allow for staff to express their personal preferences, whether it’s their favorite coffee order, their hobbies or any other information which you can use to personalize the recognition experience if they are to be recognized and thanked for a job well done.

A couple of low/no budget examples:

  • For an employee who likes to read, maybe instead of a traditional thank you card, you create a fun ‘thank you’ bookmark.
  • To recognize someone who takes a regular “coffee break” maybe you can accompany them to get their favorite coffee drink.
  • For someone who offers ideas at meetings, maybe providing some one-on-one time with decision makers so they know their ideas are being listened to.

By learning from and listening to your team members, you have the opportunity to personalize your recognition.

Is recognition fair?

People who are consistent high performers may get recognized multiple times, and you don’t want to play favorites, but it’s not true recognition if everyone “gets a turn” regardless of their contribution.

Here are a couple of ways I look to balance recognition:

  • Recognizing an improvement rather than an absolute contribution.
  • Recognize someone who was able to think outside their normal boundaries for a solution.
  • Recognize someone who is consistent and dependable.

If you have no reason to recognize an employee, you should consider whether they need coaching to get the behaviors you want to reward. The communication, attention, consistency, and support you provide will likely make a significant difference in their job performance.

Recognition connects people

People want to feel connected to people and personalizing recognition helps build relationships. In thinking about recognition, remember that not everything happens naturally and sometimes you have to be deliberate. By creating a program that is sustainable, consistent, personalized, and fair, you can ensure that your employees feel appreciated and valued.

SE V: How Do You Manage Your Boss?

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I have a good friend who recently started working for a small but successful business where the owner is very involved in the detailed decisions.  My friend is struggling with adapting to the differences between the large company she left and the small ‘family run’ business she joined.  One of the things we talked about was how to “manage her boss”.   I know that sounds backwards, ‘managing your boss’ – but it’s essential, especially in a smaller business.

Here is some friendly advice I gave her on this topic:

  • The owner is your boss and has final say in whatever decisions they want to chime in on – regardless of what you think.  It is good to share your opinion, offer suggestions, and explain your reasoning, but at the end of the day, the final say is still theirs.
  • While you want to contribute and be valuable to your employer, you’ll want to do so in a cooperative manner.  If you contribute in a way that makes your boss feel left out or incapable, you’ll be doing more harm than good in the long run.  Ultimately, no one wants to keep someone around who makes them feel bad about themselves – regardless of your value.
  •  If there are disagreements, choose your battles wisely – pick the battles that you feel passionate about, protect the company, the employees, and the customers.  Fighting back about everything won’t ultimately build trust between you and your boss.

Going from large to small companies, or vice versa, is an adjustment on many levels, understanding your own reasons for making a change, and determining the scope of your role will help smooth the transition and help you learn to navigate the space you are in.

Please join the conversation…..

Vol V: Building & Keeping Trust

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In last week’s article, Building Trust Means Being Trustworthy, I highlighted 6 attributes of trust. This week, I want to show some examples of how to put those attributes into action. Even with the best of intentions, if you don’t follow through on all the attributes in your decision making process, you can wind up hurting trust rather than improving it.

For our first example, suppose you are a team leader and one of your employees approaches you about their work assignment. They don’t like the area they’ve been assigned to. The easy decision would be to swap their area with a coworker. That might make that employee happy, but what happens when we look at our trustworthiness attributes, specifically, Fairness?

Making a swap for one employee may make that employee happy, but what about their co-workers? Are you showing favoritism for that employee? Even if you aren’t, will others perceive it as favoritism?

You could avoid any pitfalls by having a systematic way of assigning work and schedules that includes how employee requested transfers will be handled. This process would ensure that everyone knows the rules and they know the rules are being followed consistently – this builds trust.

Our second example highlights Transparency. In the airline business getting planes out on time is essential, there are a lot of factors that go into getting planes out on time, and not all of them are visible to customers. In one case, maintenance crews were finding that customers often flushed the paper towels used in the aircraft lavatories which created clogs and delayed flight departures in order to fix the problem. The problem was researched and the paper towels were replaced with a more biodegradable option, causing less clogs and less delays. Problem solved, right? Except… the biodegradable paper towels were thinner and lighter, and the flight attendants did not know why the change was made, they thought the change was a cost-savings initiative and saw it as the company being ‘cheap’. If the airline communicated transparently this change would have been viewed by all parties as a positive and not a negative.

In both of these examples, a few simple questions would have helped the outcome. Here’s my checklist of questions I use when making important decisions to ensure that I’m working toward building and keeping trust:

  1. How is this decision going to be perceived by employees?
  2. Am I looking at the big picture and how others will be affected?
  3. Am I communicating in a way that answers all potential questions proactively?
  4. Have I considered how this decision could appear to my customers?
  5. Is there a way my actions can ensure buy in and consensus without losing the intent of the decision?

The goal of these questions is to ensure that when making decisions, we look at the big picture. When taking other’s perception into account proactively, we can often build and maintain trust.

Please join the conversation….

Vol IV: Building Trust Means Being Trustworthy

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In my previous article, Setting the Stage, I highlighted trust as one of the keys to having a team work together successfully. I asked “Do your employees have trust in your leadership team?” – as an abstract question, it’s easy to answer “of course”, but delve a little bit deeper into what behaviors generate trust, and you may find areas of strength or areas to improve.

Here are 6 personal attributes that help others to see us as trustworthy:

  1. Reliability – you do what you say you’ll do and other people can depend on you to deliver when you make a commitment
  2. Sincerity – you are sincere and genuine – you mean what you say and you say what you mean
  3. Fairness – you don’t play favorites, you give everyone the same opportunities, and you are consistent in your actions and decision making
  4. Transparency – you are honest and open in your communications, you don’t lie or hold back important information, no hidden agendas. When you make decisions you are clear at communicating “why” as well as “what”
  5. Integrity – you understand what the right thing to do is and you do it, because its right
  6. Strength of Conviction – you do the right thing, even if it means you must take chances to do so.

If you consistently demonstrate these behaviors when working with your team and encourage others on the team to do so, you’ll find that your team will work confidently in the knowledge that they can trust your vision and each other in their ability to execute it.

Please join the conversation…

 

Vol III: Clarifying Expectations

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If you are following this blog then you know that so far we have discussed the importance of defining and communicating our “True North”, and we have examined the employee experience by asking 6 important questions. Let’s look at the first of those questions:

Do employees have clear expectations of what you want from them?

Do your employees know:

  • how to deliver the customer experience you envision?
  • what you want them to say?
  • how you want them to act?

Here’s an example:

There is a clothing store I frequent and when I enter the store a sales associate welcomes me. Sounds great, right? However, during most of my experiences there, the sales associate is somewhere stocking or folding and maybe even behind a display. So, when I walk in and hear someone welcome me and I can’t see that person, I feel confused instead of warmly greeted.

It may sound insignificant to include a training detail like: “when greeting, be someplace where the customer can see you”, but the sales associate is probably being told that their priority is to keep the displays neat and folded. Ultimately the sales associate is attempting to greet every customer, but are they doing it so that your business is getting the impact, or experience you were hoping for?

We often expect everyone on the team to “get it” but the truth is only some people have the natural ability to make others feel valued and important. For the rest, we have to be very clear on what that looks, sounds, and feels like.

Take a moment to review this list of face-to-face behaviors and take the time to determine if you have clearly defined these for your team:

  • Initial greeting –
    • What does “welcome” sound like? Formal or casual? Is it scripted or can the employee ad-lib?
    • How close should they be when they make eye contact? 10 feet away, 5 feet away, as soon as the customer enters the establishment, etc.
    • Is there anything else necessary to convey the experience you want your customers to have? Body language, facial expression, tone of voice?
  • Initial Interactions
    • What do you want to communicate in the first contact? Specific information or just the general culture?
    • Should the employee initiate the communication, or start by listening and responding appropriately
  • Customer Satisfaction
    • Do your employees know what they are empowered to do for a customer?
    • If a customer has a specific request beyond what the employee is empowered to do, how should they handle it?

Take the time to define these behaviors for your employees and you can save yourself the coaching and correcting and the business will benefit from the clarification.

What are your thoughts… please join the conversation.

 

 

SE II: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone

609-employee-satisfaction-billboardI am lucky to call some amazing women my friends.  On a recent evening out, one of these amazing friends shared her story of leaving a company she was at for 10 years after being recruited within her industry.  On her last day she was told she is on the short list for a promotion and they offered her more money to stay.

Another smart woman at the table, a lawyer, shared that when she left her firm in NYC to move to Chicago, again after being recruited by another firm, she was offered junior partner to stay.

So why didn’t either of these companies make their appreciation for these employees known prior to them being wooed by another?

Do you feel appreciated at work?  Are you having conversations about your next steps?  Are you having conversations with your employees (if you have direct reports)?

You may think your team will stay with you even without praise or advancement… but when there’s a knock at the door, what do you think they would do?

So, employers: Make it a practice to give regular feedback to your employees.  Be honest, even if it’s not all good, chances are by building awareness you’ll get better performance.  Also, be fair in terms of compensation. If you are willing to pay more to keep someone after they tell you they are leaving, would you be willing to pay to show your appreciation for their continued loyalty (before someone else comes calling)?

 

Vol II: Setting the Stage

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In my last article, we discussed the importance of clarifying expectations by defining and communicating the company’s “true north”, the directional vision your employees can look to in order to better understand performance expectations.

Clarifying expectations and communicating them effectively is the start to a successful employee and customer experience.  It is equally important to create the right employee environment.  The time we spend at work often outweighs the time spent with friends and family.  To have a team work together successfully they should feel valued, respected, recognized, and there must be trust.

Over the years, I’ve heard leaders say things like, “they get paid to do that, why should I recognize employees for doing their job?”, and “we don’t have time to do anything extra, it’s just too busy”, and worse, treat employees inconsistently – unintentionally playing favorites.

From the outside looking in these statements seem ridiculous – how can a leader think this way?  It’s really not that surprising… when we specify our goals in terms of getting the job done, money, time, and efficiency, our leaders respond to those priorities.  For those leaders who have trouble multi-tasking and have trouble with empathy, how we treat our co-workers can take a dead last in comparison.

Building a strong employee culture, environment, and experience is not easy because it may require change, but understanding where you are today and where you need to get to is a good first step.  In determining if the employee environment has a strong foundation, you may have to do some corporate-soul searching:

  1. Do employees have clear expectations on what you want from them?
  2. Do your employees have trust in your leadership team? What is the relationship between leaders and frontline employees?
  3. Are conditions for employees valued – should they be improved or innovated?
  4. Do employees feel recognized when they do a good job?
  5. Do employees feel empowered to help customers? Do they have the tools to do so?
  6. Does accountability exist so that employees feel like everyone is treated fairly?

These are some of the questions you can ask yourself and leadership team to determine if you have a strong foundation for your employees.  If you are a customer-facing (frontline) employee, what would your responses be to these questions about your workplace?

What are your thoughts… please join the conversation.