Archive for the ‘Employee Motivation’ Category

To Tell or Not to Tell

August 7, 2013

That is the question we are sometimes forced to answer.  It is not usually easy to speak up when you see something that is not right, but to remain silent is to condone bad behavior.  Accessory after the fact if you will.

On Friday I stopped in at a casino to kill some time while my husband shutterstock_45972664was playing golf with a friend at a nearby course.  It was late afternoon and a delivery driver for a major company came to play at the same blackjack table.  How did I know he was a delivery driver for this company? Simple, he was IN UNIFORM.  I checked my watch, perhaps he had just gotten off work.  No, he had his big mobile communication and delivery tablet with him on his belt.  I was pretty sure they left those at work when they turned in the truck at the end of their shift.  To blackjackremove all doubt, he got up from the table and checked it once.  He sat back down and said “I just got a call for a pick up.  I’m still on the clock.”  Yes, he was gambling in uniform while admittedly “on the clock”.

The entrepreneur in me just groaned.  A friend of mine just retired from an executive position with this same company.  I asked myself, “Would I want to know if this were one of my employees?”  When I answered “Yes” I began to discreetly gather more information about this wayward employee.  Armed with a description, date and time of incident, office he works out of and territory he covers, I was confident a manager would be able to determine who the person was even without a name.  And yes, I felt compelled to pass the information along to management even though it’s not my company, my coworker or my employee.

What would you have done?  I would hope you would have done the same.  Employees who abuse the trust of an employer in this manner don’t deserve a good paying job with benefits.  There are plenty of Americans out of work who would gladly deliver an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.   This is stealing as surely as if he were taking merchandise home with him rather than delivering it to the intended recipient.

Several friends work in hospitality.  They “mystery shop” – both positive and negative feedback to upper management when they visit sister properties.  Anyone who takes pride in their company should do the same.  It’s not tattling – it’s being a responsible adult and holding everyone to the high standards expected of all of us.

No, I don’t think you should run to your boss every time a team member takes a person phone call, is 10 minutes late to work or other minor issues.  Use good judgement. osha-employees-must-handsHowever, if there are items customers would (and do) notice or serious policy violations, you should say something.  When tables go uncleaned in a restaurant for over an hour, a food service worker doesn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom or someone pockets cash from the till – take a manager aside and have the courage to speak up.

If you get in trouble for your integrity – you work for the wrong company or at least the wrong manager!  Report the incident – and the reaction to being informed about the situation to top management or ownership on your way out the door!

When we are hired, an employer has placed the reputation of their business in our hands.  I for one, do not take that trust – or responsibility lightly.  I hope you won’t either.

“Not Long Enough”

June 26, 2013

On a recent trip to Hawaii, we visited Kualoa Ranch.  The tour guide/vehicle driver for our “Jungle Expedition” was Brandon.  No, this isn’t a post intended for my Travel Queen blog, this is really for all my business readers.  I typically chat with the staff at most places we visit.  My most common questions are the two I asked Brandon which inspired this blog.

Sunny:  “So Brandon, how long have you lived in Oahu?”
Brandon:  “All my life.”
Sunny:  “How long have you worked here at Kualoa Ranch?”
Brandon:  “Not long enough.”

Wow.  If I asked that second question of YOUR staff, what would the answer be?  Sure, some people would say the length of time whether it was a few months or many years.   Often long term employees will state the years with a tone of appropriate pride.  Sometimes the answer – in words or tone – is simply, “Too long”.


Sure, you might think it’s easy to love a job that lets you drive around in a cool, rugged vehicle through the rugged terrain or past famous movie sites.  You might say “I’d love any job that let me live in Hawaii” but in truth, that’s just not the case.

Too many employees don’t love their jobs or don’t love the companies where they work. These apathetic workers – even worse, disgruntled workers – cost us business every day.  Even if they are never asked point blank as I asked Brandon, customers can tell when employees are unhappy or even just disengaged.

So how do you get more Brandons on your team?  Of course, it starts with hiring people who display a genuine enthusiasm for the work and your company.  Did the applicant do any homework on your business before applying for a position or are they doing the “shotgun application process”?  Ask why they want to work specifically for your company.  If they can’t give you a good, thoughtful answer, look for someone who can.

With your existing team, you can do a lot to build morale by providing frequent, appropriate recognition.  Giving team members an opportunity to contribute in terms of feedback will help foster a sense of ownership even among hourly workers.  Lastly, make a regular habit of saying out loud to your team when you have group meetings that well beyond the tasks each carries out, they serve a much greater role in the organization.  That is the role of “Good Will Ambassador” for your business both with customers and in the community at large.

When you hire someone, you have put the reputation of your business in their hands.  Make sure both you – and they – take that responsibility seriously.  In the case of Brandon and Kualoa Ranch – job well done on every front!

Everyday Champions

June 12, 2013

We have champions in our midst!  They are bagging groceries, making beds and installing faucets, blinds and more.  Yes, there are championship competitions for all sorts of jobs many of us take for granted.  Typically they are sponsored by national associations such as the National Grocers Association.

BaggingChampMy local Metropolitan Market boasts the 2013 National Bagging Champion.  They put up banners and dedicated space on their electronic reader board to his accomplishments.  Even though I’m in the store a couple of times a week, I have never met Andrew (the champ) and I haven’t been fortunate enough to have him personally bag my groceries.  However, his influence is reflected in the bagging prowess of every team member of this store.  He has raised the bar and it shows.

Angel_WinnerThe National Apartment Association sponsors Maintenance Mania and we have a finalist from our area going to compete in San Diego later this month.  Angel Munoz of CTL Management was named the Region 7 finalist out of over 4,000 participants in over 60 competitive events held throughout the 2012-2013 season.  The Washington Multifamily Housing Association did a press release and has him featured on their website.


Are there competitions held in your industry or area?  Check with the national association to find out if you aren’t sure.  Once you get the information, encourage your team members to participate.  There are always plenty of prizes to provide incentives well beyond bragging rights.

Why do you want your team members to spend the time to participate in such competitions?  

First and foremost, it elevates what are often considered mundane and lowly positions in the eyes of customers, team members in other departments and the employee along with their family and friends.  This renewal of respect for  essential services will encourage pride among departments, improve morale, reduce turnover and encourage others who strive for excellence to seek employment on your team.

Secondly, it raises the bar for your entire team.  Even if no one earns a spot in the finals – or if only one person does – everyone benefits from the spirit of competition and the encouragement to strive for excellence.

Who benefits?  Of course the winning employee benefits in terms of prizes and recognition, but other team members benefit as well.  Pride in one’s work cannot be measured but should never be discounted.  You customers benefit from the emphasis on excellence.  And of course, your company’s reputation benefits as well from the publicity that accompanies such a “win”.

Be sure to post updates on your website, your Facebook business page and send Tweets to both encourage your participant and maximize the positive exposure for your business.

We have everyday champions on our teams.  Competitions are just another way for owners and managers to encourage them, help them grow and develop as well as give them well deserved recognition for a job well done.

Revolution Brewing

June 5, 2013

I’ve had so much bad service lately I couldn’t begin Customers in Lineto detail each incident.  Long lines, frazzled team members and cranky customers as a result.  When it has FINALLY been my turn, I engage the staff and try to be pleasant.  In showing a bit of empathy, they have all quickly revealed that the lines are the result of how management has elected to cut expenses. Customers are surly by the time they reach the counter and  take it out on the only staff they see.   An employee revolution is brewing and by the time the economy fully recovers and they go elsewhere, the damage to your business and the reputation of your business will already be done.  

I ask questions and here is what I have learned from YOUR team:

1.  They think you are clueless about the situation you have created.  While they are out there taking the heat from customers, you are in your office.

If the economy has frozen hiring, supervisors and managers should pitch in and help ease the burden during peak times.  Seeing you working alongside them will do as much for morale as it does for moving the line.  Who knows, perhaps if you see the damage being done with your customers as a result of your decisions, you may find less conspicuous ways to save money.  If you have to lobby up the corporate ladder for resources, this will give you first hand experiences to bolster your position.

2.  They don’t feel valued.

Recognition is and always has been the single greatest motivator of people.  It doesn’t have to be a plaque or a ceremony like Employee of the Month – any form of recognition from a bottle of cold water, a bite size Snicker bar (your efforts are nothing to snicker about) to a sincere word of appreciation.

3.  Their feedback is not welcome.

Sure, a business is not a democracy.  Everyone doesn’t get a vote and no one wants to listen to the same complaint over and over.  However, a vehicle for employees to share their constructive suggestions could give you a gem of an idea to solve a problem.  Even if not, it would help the team feel heard.  Consider a form they can opt to not put their name on in a real or electronic suggestion box.

4.  As soon as the economy recovers, they are GONE!

TakeThisJobAndShoveItHow expensive is it for you to recruit, hire and train new team members?  How expensive will it be when the economy recovers and everyone is competing for the best hires?  Perhaps an investment of your time, attention and empathy NOW could help you prevent the exodus looming on the horizon.

The more you can bring your team into the fold and both get their suggestions for solving problems and express empathy for the situation the more likely they will feel included and valued.  The investment you make in your team is the best thing you can do TODAY to improve the customer experience and insure the position of your company for the future.

Your Right Hand

April 24, 2013

I spent the first half of my working career as an administrative professional.  Of course, we were known as “secretaries” in those days.  No matter what you call them, they are often the unsung heroes of a business.

While they may not be a direct member of our sales force, PresentationMaterialsthey likely are the ones who prepare professional looking presentation materials used in the sales process.  They follow up with vendors to insure critical elements of a project are on time and track shipments.  They generate the invoices that get us paid and review invoices we receive for errors.  They are also our eyes and ears throughout the organization, often aware of problems or concerns before they are obvious to us.

In many cases, they speak to our customers and our vendors more often than we do!

FilingThis is the week designated as “National Administrative Professionals Week”.  They had to give us a week rather than simply a day (which is today, Wednesday) because they knew without our “right hand” nudging us, we’d forget.  This way we have 5 days to do something in recognition and still have it count!

What should you do?  At the very least, a card or FloralArrangementhandwritten note of appreciation.  Other popular choices are flowers, chocolates and taking them out to lunch.    For your own standing in the office, it should be something visible.  Flowers on their desk are seen by coworkers as a sign that you are a caring supervisor.  Same for being seen taking your assistant out to lunch.

OliveGardenIf you are not one who is comfortable socializing with others over lunch, consider flowers and a lunch or dinner gift card.  I actually like this idea because it offers what I call “quality of life enhancements”.    Simply put, your “right hand” makes your work life better by all the little things they do for you so it’s only fitting you do something to make their life a little better too.  An evening out with their loved ones on you (dinner gift card) is a great way.

BillEngvallSame goes for concert or theater tickets if you know there is something they have been wanting to see.  I just got our assistant tickets to see Bill Engvall this summer at the Snoqualmie Casino’s outdoor concert venue.  The additional benefit to you is that the “home team” also enjoys the quality of life enhancement.  This can encourage the support necessary to reduce turnover – think about it – do you have time to recruit, hire and train a new right hand???

shutterstock_46764385There are countless good reasons to embrace Administrative Professional’s Week.  Your coworkers are watching and evaluating your leadership, you have an opportunity to cement employee loyalty and of course, your “right hand” deserves it!

When News Encroaches

April 17, 2013

I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t read this blog today.    Like most of you, I have been engrossed by the terrorist attack in Boston on Monday.  That being said, I firmly believe the best way the average citizen can combat terrorism is to go about their daily lives undeterred by the senseless acts of others.  So here I am, writing my blog even if this week no one reads it.

March MadnessAs a business person, manager or owner, what do you do when the news of the day encroaches?  Productivity suffers whether it’s something as serious as Monday’s events or trivial (though before Monday it didn’t seem trivial to many) as “March Madness”?

First, I think it’s important to not ignore it.  In the case of a lighthearted event such as the college basketball finals, circulating bracket forms and posting results in the break room is a good idea for some workplaces.  In the event of a natural disaster or major terror attack, people are going to get the information one way or another.  With the internet on our desks and our phones, we are going to search for updates – even if we “sneak” to do it.

It’s always better to address ANY issue, even a news encroachment, head on.  Pull your team together, tell them you are deeply saddened by the news from Boston.  Remind them that while we are all anxious to have the perpetrators caught and punished, we still have customers to serve, orders to fill, business to do.  Point out that by going about our daily lives with as much gusto as we can manage, we are in fact, fighting terrorism.  Then encourage them to get the latest news during their breaks and lunch, maybe even set up a television in that area tuned to an all news channel for updates.

Even Google, known for it’s whimsical renditions of it’s logo on the main search page not only went back to it’s actual logo but also added a link for “Resources related to the Boston Marathon explosions”.


GirlsRunTake proactive steps.  Is there something you can do to make a difference?  Would organizing a blood drive, clothing collection or Red Cross donation be productive even if not directly impacting?  Perhaps signing up to be a “Running Buddy” for your local Girls on the Run Chapter would be a proactive step.  Doing something helps combat the feeling of helplessness.

If you have employees traveling on business, remind them to allow extra time over the next days as all airports are on high alert and security is tight resulting in delays and long lines.

In times of crisis, we look to our leaders for reassurance.  In the workplace, YOU are that leader.  Show compassion and concern.  If possible, take proactive steps to help employees feel more in control.  But above all else,  encourage your team to continue to move forward.

Management Grade Card

March 6, 2013

A few years ago I changed dentists.  Why?  Because every 6 months when I came in for my cleaning and routine check-up, there was an entirely different staff.  We aren’t talking one team member out on maternity leave or someone leaving every few years – we’re talking every hygienist and administrative staff every 6 months.

FailingGradeEmployee turnover is management’s report card.  How are you doing?  Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you have an issue which needs to be addressed.

1)  How long have you been in your management position?

2)  How long have each of your reports been with the company?

3)  If there has been turnover, was there an obvious personal reason for the change (ie:  spouse transferred out of state, staying home with a new baby, military obligations)?

If you are growing and adding new people, great.  But if you have lost veteran employees or don’t have team members who stay very long, these are indications of management failure.

Even during tough economic times, people will leave because of their boss!  In a recent interview, the CEO of WEX talked candidly about turnover, its cause and what they did to curb it.

Another recent article suggested a one question exit interview.  Most ask, “Why are you leaving?”  The more critical question cited in the article is ”  “What made you start looking for another job in the first place?”

If you are the manager, it’s best to have someone else conduct the exit interview, even a senior administrative professional is more likely to get candid feedback than you.

If you think you have a problem, what can you do about it?  First, you need more information.  Why are people leaving?  If they haven’t left yet, are they considering it?  What are they unhappy about?  Do an anonymous survey using SurveyMonkey to get to the root of the problem.    Once you have feedback, you can take steps to address the problem areas.  Doing an annual survey will help you keep on track going forward.

CanaryEmployee turnover is the canary in the coal mine for your business.  If you employees are not happy, do not feel empowered, don’t have a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work – customers feel it.  They may not be able to pinpoint what is wrong, but they perceive it all the same.  In time, the employee discontent will spread to vendors and customers alike causing your business to fail.  The time to turn the tide is NOW!

Delegating Dilemma

February 27, 2013

Most entrepreneurs have trouble learning to delegate.  This stems from the early days when they had to “do it all” coupled with the control freak streak prevalent in those who choose to work for themselves.  It’s also common among managers and supervisors, especially those who rose through the ranks.  The transition from task performer to manager often does not come easy and failure to master delegation can be disastrous for a career or a business.

Sure, I know you can do it faster and better yourself and that you are too busy to train others right now.  However, if you don’t make time to train others you are limiting how productive your team and business can be.  Working for an owner or manager who micromanages is a top reason for employee turnover.  Would you rather continually be recruiting and hiring or train the staff you have?

New challenges and responsibilities give employees a sense of purpose and accomplishment which leads to long term, productive employees.

The easiest way to train?  Let an team member shadow you through a task and think out loud.   This simple process helps others to understand the thought process behind what you are doing and why so they can make decisions for themselves next time.

As a basic example, I had my housekeeper help me pack for the last couple of trips we’ve taken.  I take great pride in my packing prowess but as we travel more frequently with shorter turns in between, it was time to delegate.

We did it twice together with me thinking out loud through the process.  “Now if I fold them this way, there won’t be a lot of wasted space, things won’t shift around en route and I won’t have to press everything at the other end.  We’re making two stops and I don’t want to have to fully unpack and repack so let’s put the things we’ll need for the first stop in the top zipper section and the rest in the bottom.”  You get the idea.   This week, I pulled the clothes we wanted to take then left to spend the day with friends.  I came home to find everything beautifully folded and both suitcases perfectly packed and ready to go!


She told me that after the last time we did the packing together she helped another of her clients get ready for a trip using her new skills.  That client was very impressed, especially considering our mutual housekeeper rarely travels.

StoreDisp;ayWhether it’s preparing the Power Point presentation for a client, arranging new merchandise on the store floor or setting the table for a dinner party, every time you delegate you share knowledge and skills with others making them an even greater asset to your organization.


You also free yourself up to do other things to grow your business – even if that is playing a round of golf with customers or prospects.  How’s that for a reason to learn to delegate?

Golf with customers

Scrooge’s Holiday Party

December 5, 2012

After several years of no holiday parties, many companies  are opting to celebrate again, just not at previous levels.  A recent blog in the Wall Street Journal details why.  If the economy has taken a toll on your business, how can you share the spirit of the season in a cost effective way?

Holiday LunchLunch is always cheaper than dinner for a variety of reasons.  Restaurants offer sandwiches, soups and salads as meals for lunch rather than steaks and chops so the meal itself costs less.  There’s no expectation to bring a spouse or significant other to lunch. Same with alcohol.

Reserve a section of a local restaurant for your holiday lunch.  You can even work with the restaurant ahead of time and print special menus on your office printer with a limited selection and no prices.  Depending on the size of your group, this can help the restaurant in terms of preparation and keep your party on budget.

No good restaurants near your office?  Consider catering.  There are lots of low cost options to include hip food trucks you can book for your parking lot.  BBQ places often also offer lower cost catering and popular menus.

Don’t overlook the Costco or other warehouse club option.  Look in the deli and at your neighborhood grocery store for a catering menu.

I’m not a big proponent of pot lucks though that is an inexpensive option.  I feel everyoneHoney Ham has enough to do at the holidays without having to worry about a covered dish for the office party.  If you have people in favor, at least spring for a Honey Baked ham or turkey for the entree.  Again, on line shopping makes this easy even if there are no locations near you.

TreatsCoffee, tea and assorted holiday desserts and treats can make for a low cost mid-afternoon “Holiday Tea”.

When you are all together, let the team know that even though business has been challenging, you didn’t want to miss the chance to say thank you for their dedication and hard work.  Raise a glass (soft drinks work fine) to a brighter future ahead. 

Batting Averages

October 31, 2012

The World Series just wrapped up in a surprising show of power by the San Francisco Giants.  Throughout the season there was a lot of both airtime and column inches devoted to the batting averages of many Major League players.


One such player, New York Yankee Derek Jeter, got a lot of attention this summet for his 3,000 hits.  Not routinely mentioned along with this career milestone was another staggering statistic.  This great hitter also has some 9,000 outs.

If you take a look at YOUR career, what’s your “batting” average?

Worth remembering is that success is the result of many failures.  Whether you are in sales, run your own business or are looking for work there’s inspiration to be found in the number of OUTS as well as the number of HITS.

You don’t end up in the record books sitting on the sidelines. You have to be willing to step up to the plate and – win or lose swing for the fences.

As a manager or business owner, remind and encourage YOUR winning team both through the hits and misses to improve your business batting average.

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