The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace
By Cy Wakeman
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Author Cy Wakeman urges readers to take control of their work lives and “choose to be happy” by embracing real accountability. Wakeman’s prescription for better productivity and greater satisfaction includes evaluating your own real worth in the workplace, ditching drama (including the drama you create yourself), realizing that your opinion matters far less than your actions and seeing change as an opportunity rather than a threat.
The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace focuses on facing reality, starting with how you really contribute to your working world. Wakeman guides readers through a three-step assessment to evaluate their current performance, future potential and “emotional expensiveness”—the tendencies toward venting, negativity, complaining, oversharing or other dramatic behaviors that make an employee a drain on others and himself.
She follows up with five rules for thriving at work:
- “Your level of accountability determines your level of happiness,” Wakeman writes. Employees are personally accountable for both their own attitudes at work and how well they do their work. She notes that companies “have gotten off track by focusing on trying to raise your engagement when they should have been working with you on your accountability.” Employees now expect employers to make their work circumstances ever better, in exchange for the employees deigning to give the employer the “gift” of their work, Wakeman adds.
- Readers learn how commitment, resilience, ownership and continuous learning all contribute to accountability. The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace pushes the idea of changing a “Why me?” mindset to an attitude of “What can I do to get the information I need?” or “How can I support the change the boss wants?
- Drama doesn’t have to exist at work. “Suffering is optional,” Wakeman says, so stop it. She offers strategies to curtail workplace dramatics of your own making: Deal only in facts and not in emotions. Stop assigning motives to other people’s actions. Eliminate “should,” and stop judging how others ought to do things; accept things as they are. Learn to distance yourself from co-workers’ gossip, fear-mongering, venting and general dramatics. With examples and ideas, Wakeman advises readers on handling all these situations.
- “Your action, not [your] opinion, adds value.” Resist the temptation to offer your opinion; instead, offer your support. People express frustration with having to implement plans for which they didn’t have input, but, unless input is part of your job, you have to implement the plans anyway. The book looks at the value of buying into what the employer wants done and curbing defensiveness and resistance.
- Change is an opportunity. Wakeman provides steps for embracing change, from staying prepared for change at all times to reframing negatives as positives (what can you gain from the change, rather than what will you lose). Learning to move on after mistakes is a critical skill for handling change.
- You can succeed in spite of extenuating circumstances. Wakeman covers this in what she dubs her “anti-excuse” chapter. She lays out common circumstances that you might not be able to change but aren’t allowed to use as an excuse: “My boss is a jerk” may be true. But if you can’t change your boss, you have to change how you operate so you still succeed. You may have a truly dysfunctional team or a company culture that is negative or problem co-workers, but the book offers ideas for coping with all those circumstances rather than letting them drive your working life
The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook
By Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe
John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012
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Trust among those who work together feels good and makes life easier, but does it really have specific benefits for businesses? “Trust may be a soft skill, but its economic results are anything but soft,” say the authors of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, and they lay out how trust can increase revenue, reduce costs, improve relationships with clients and suppliers, and build employee loyalty and retention.
But making the business case for trust is only part of this workbook’s aim. Writers Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe provide practical tools, worksheets, exercises and to-do lists that leaders can start using immediately to build others’ trust in them and to build trust within their organizations.
Green and Howe aim their book at any professional in any industry. They note that being trusted is “a leadership quality that is neither cyclical nor faddish nor role-bound.” They also tell readers to treat this volume as a workbook to be dog-eared and scribbled in, and they urge readers to use the book as a daily resource, picking out whatever applies to their needs of the moment.
Among the lessons in the fieldbook are these:
- What are the basic skills for building trust? Readers learn five fundamental trust skills and get a self-assessment to evaluate their current skill level.
- What are the basic rules of trust and trustworthiness between people, and how does influence work?
- How do you overcome the adversarial relationships of business (buyer and seller, client and consultant, etc.) and conduct business with trust from the start?
- How do you curb your own ego, the one thing most likely to get in the way of trust in relationships?
- How can you navigate organizational politics better, build trust from a distance where others aren’t located near you, and work with difficult partners whom you might feel aren’t trustworthy?
- How do you create an organization where trust is paramount? Learn techniques for creating a culture of trust, building trust among team members, and balancing the urgency of business demands and the need for long-term trust in a business organization.
- Can you transform a relationship that has soured? Can you deal with people who are simply untrustworthy? Tactics for reframing problems and confronting people constructively teach ways to salvage, or at least deal with, such difficult situations.
The book’s structure lends itself to quick, practical use. Case studies come packaged in short sidebars. Tips and steps are in easy-to-use lists. Worksheets let users apply the book’s lessons to their own situations.
Make Difficult People Disappear
By Monica Wofford
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012
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How can you make that bothersome colleague disappear—without going to jail for it? You probably can’t, but you can change how you understand your problem co-workers and how you work with them, says trainer and consultant Monica Wofford of Contagious Companies Inc.
She illustrates her point with a fable. In Make Difficult People Disappear, Wofford tells the story of two days in a manager’s life and how that manager adjusts her attitude to stop seeing difficulty all around her.
“Who … has a voice inside your head that has convinced you that someone you work with is difficult beyond repair?” a fictional trainer asks as the story unfolds. The complainers, the barrier-builders, the indecisive workers, the needy people who want constant attention—they’re the difficult ones, right?
Most people aren’t naturally difficult, Wofford notes. They’re different from us and from each other, and by expecting them to be like us, we make them difficult for us to deal with. We too often expect co-workers to behave as we would—even though we know they won’t. Then we fault them for simply acting like themselves.
Everyone labels other people, so it makes sense to apply labels that are meaningful, useful and positive, Wofford advises.
Wofford’s fictional characters use a real tool, the CORE Multidimensional Awareness Profile, to examine their own and others’ personal traits. Attributes can classify people as assertive, decisive Commanders who can shade into bossiness and anger when stressed; orderly, thorough Organizers who can become narrow-minded or withdrawn; extroverted, spontaneous Entertainers who under stress can become argumentative or impatient; and cooperative, supportive Relaters who can turn passive or overly sensitive under stress.
In the book’s imagined training sessions, employees learn that some people combine traits from different types, and many people suppress their natural tendencies—like natural Commanders who try to fake being Relaters. Some types are simply wired in ways that make them more likely to be in conflict with other types—something it’s useful to know before rejecting co-workers as “difficult.”
Understanding personality types helps you mold how you talk with others so they can understand you better, Wofford notes. Knowing how someone else might react under stress can help you prepare not to take those reactions personally.
The book’s characters learn how to apply the types at work. For example, how does a detail-oriented, logical Organizer with a need to be right communicate to a Relater that the Relater needs to be more professional when talking to customers? The Relater craves reassurance, direction and stability, while the Organizer doing the coaching isn’t big on those things. What does the Organizer need to say to reach the Relater?
Another case: A customer complains. Do you send a Commander, who will focus on getting the fix done and getting out of there, or an Entertainer or Relater, who will also rebuild the relationship with the customer on a personal level?
The book looks at how managers can work with employees’ personality traits to manage them better—for instance, by being more specific with Organizers or keeping Entertainers more focused. Managers can learn to consider the leadership potential of all types of employees, not just Commanders.
Readers also see how personality type can help managers craft coaching, motivation and recognition more effectively. Different types of recognition—tangible or intangible, public or private—appeal to different types of workers.
Wofford’s characters learn about phrasing communications to best reach those whose styles are different from their own. They also learn to examine their best performers and identify traits that contribute to those workers’ success, as benchmarks to duplicate. Employers can use profiling tools and personality type information to tailor training for maximum engagement.
The CORE profile and other CORE assessment tools are products of NaviCore International Inc. and include more detailed and comprehensive online assessment tools.
Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk
By Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden
John Wiley & Sons, 2012
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This revised and updated version of the 1998 book on employee engagement delves into why organizations still need to engage their workers—even after economic woes seemed to take the focus off engagement and put it on corporate survival. This time around, authors Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden provide more examples of “Contented Cows,” companies whose workers’ positive engagement keeps the business strong.
The case for engagement is clear: Contented Cow companies made money and performed well even during years when the overall economy was in trouble. Catlette and Hadden note that employee engagement isn’t about altruism, it’s about capitalism.
Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk not only profiles successful firms but also guides managers wanting to improve engagement at their own organizations. The writers find that truly engaged employees have three chief characteristics: They are committed, they are cared about, and they are enabled. Readers learn how those three characteristics work and how to replicate them in their own organizations.
Commitment involves letting employees know what the company does and what it values, and where their work fits into the big picture. Manager communication in Contented Cow firms lets people know, all the time and in every way, what the company is about. To be committed to the job and the employer, employees need “good and compelling reasons” for their work and a cause that is clear to them. The book outlines obstacles companies create that keep them from conveying the big picture to workers, and it profiles firms that have succeeded at communicating well with employees.
Making employees feel cared for is the second major characteristic of a Contented Cow workplace. Catlette and Hadden offer examples of how employers show care: A company doing dangerous oil-spill cleanups makes safety its highest priority, and workers respond with loyalty. A tiny café keeps the same employees for years because the owner treats them so well. A manufacturing executive sees that a factory’s workforce is disaffected and performance is lagging, so he finds ways to treat the employees with respect—and the factory becomes the “best place to work in Mexico.”
Truth-telling and benefits are two other forms of caring for employees. A chapter on truth at work examines the toll of giving good reviews to poor performers. Truth also includes taking responsibility for problems, admitting to mistakes, and handling issues quickly, from helping a relocating employee to informing the workforce honestly about layoffs. Truly useful benefits that help the employer compete for the best talent also help employees be more productive.
The third key to employee engagement is empowerment, which recognizes that employees are adults who probably already know the best ways to do their jobs. The book urges readers to “give people back their work” and remove the policies, procedures and managerial roadblocks that prevent employees from simply doing their jobs as they know best. Training is vital to empowerment and keeping employees engaged, and examples show how different organizations use training effectively.
Negotiation At Work
By Ira G. Asherman
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With 60 activities and exercises ready for immediate use, this book helps facilitators start training anyone in negotiation beginning today.
According to author Ira G. Asherman, negotiation requires self-awareness; good skills in questioning, listening and resolving conflicts; and the ability to understand others’ needs and interests. The training exercises in Negotiation At Work cover all those skills and more.
Exercises are packaged from start to finish. Facilitators get a list of each exercise’s objectives, the time required for the exercise, group size guidelines, a list of materials needed and a step-by-step procedure for performing the exercise. Exercises can include case studies, discussion questions, role-playing guidelines, worksheets, transcripts of real negotiations and more.
Topics include exercises aimed at:
- Preparing for a negotiation, including considering possible concessions in advance.
- Using creative thinking to solve issues in negotiations.
- Understanding the needs, interests and agendas of parties in a negotiation, including your own.
- Practicing assertiveness and avoiding aggressiveness.
- Assessing different negotiating styles and determining your own style.
- Learning to ask “productive, information-gathering and clarifying” questions.
- Learning how to open and close negotiations and how to make concessions.
- Dealing with difficult people during a negotiation.
Asherman structures the book so readers can turn to whichever exercise they most need now, but the book also can become a course on negotiation, from general exercises on the nature of negotiation through detailed studies of how to respond to an opening bid or how to close a sale.
Employers with sales staffs will find that the book emphasizes sales negotiations, with 10 exercises designed just for sales employees.
The ACE Advantage
By William A. Schiemann
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Are the following some of your own beliefs about talent? “High engagement solves most issues.” “Talent is readily available.” “Employees need policies and rules to guide their behaviors.”
These are among the “myths about talent management” that author William A. Schiemann pulls apart in The ACE Advantage and replaces with a more realistic talent blueprint for today. Schiemann’s “ACE” stands for Alignment, Capabilities and Engagement, and in this book he demonstrates how to use those three categories to optimize talent.
Alignment covers the link between the person and the organization’s goals, customer expectations and more. Do employees truly understand the brand? Do they know the company’s direction? Are they in sync with other parts of the organization and other people there?
Capabilities are more than just employee competencies. This area includes competencies but also the information needed for the job and the resources required to make things happen.
Engagement means having employees who “exert extraordinary effort and act as advocates for the organization.” Just having satisfied employees who are positive about their jobs isn’t enough. Will they also take extra steps to deliver creative customer service?
Schiemann, who also wrote Reinventing Talent Management, applies these three areas to all aspects of workforce management—starting with building support at the top:
- Get critical stakeholders on board. Educating the top executive team, managers and HR professionals is critical to getting their backing and input, and the book provides tips on ways some organizations have persuaded top brass to see the value of ACE. HR in particular can boost ACE in the organization, monitor and assess its use, convince management of its value, and bring its components to the workforce.
- Measure ACE. The book includes survey questions and examples to help you assess the “talent health” of your organization. A talent scorecard helps relate alignment, capabilities and engagement to the areas of customer service, productivity, financial performance and other outcomes.
- Manage the “talent life cycle.” Learn to coordinate and measure progress across all stages, from recruiting through retention. Review how your organization attracts and acquires talent, and learn how to improve those processes. Develop processes for building employee productivity from the first day on the job.
- Attract and get great talent. Learn what a “talent value proposition” is and why developing one benefits the organization. Get specifics on how to choose the right people and assess whether they fit well with the work and the organization.
- Pay attention to onboarding, training and performance evaluation. New hires need help getting aligned with the organization’s goals. Successful training must include the right competencies. Performance systems are too often burdened with poor metrics, and forced rankings and are too dependent on individual managers’ ability to use them. Schiemann offers ideas to improve these systems but also advises dumping them if certain hurdles can’t be overcome.
- Develop leaders and keep your best performers. Leadership development needs to start when the employee starts at the organization and continue throughout the person’s career. Schiemann also examines strategies for retaining top performers and getting back those who have left.
Building a Magnetic Culture
By Kevin Sheridan
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What keeps employees engaged at work? The aspects of workplace life that most influence engagement are the same in organizations of all sizes and industries, and across demographic lines of age, gender, job level and more.
Whatever their jobs or backgrounds, employees value the same things: Recognition. Career development. A boss who knows how to lead. The autonomy to contribute to the organization’s success. The right resources to do the job well. These and more are the key drivers of engagement, and, in Building a Magnetic Culture, author Kevin Sheridan shows employers how to use those drivers effectively to create a truly engaging workplace.
Responsibility for engagement should be shared by employees and managers, Sheridan says, and he provides specific steps for building a culture of engagement.
Employers need to teach employees what engagement means and about its benefits. Employees need to understand what increases or decreases their personal engagement at work. Managers and employees should meet one-on-one to discuss engagement, developing specific action plans and deadlines in areas that improve the individual’s engagement.
Managers must assess employee progress and follow through on changes they promise to make. Organizations should market the idea of engagement internally, making employees aware of engagement efforts.
Next, managers need to understand the top 10 drivers of engagement. Pay isn’t among them, Sheridan notes, because while pay does motivate people, it does so in a different way from the engagement drivers.
Sheridan outlines how each of the top 10—as determined by extensive employee surveys—makes employees feel more connected to the job and the organization. Among the key drivers of engagement are the level of visibility and concern demonstrated by senior managers, satisfying job content, positive relationships with co-workers, and flexibility and work/life balance.
Recruiting and hiring are not often thought of as part of the engagement effort, yet they are vital to it, Sheridan says. He offers a four-step process for improved recruiting, including the importance of educating job candidates about the realities of a job.
Assessing turnover and understanding why people leave provides insight into where engagement isn’t working. The book covers how exit surveys can help you understand employee departures better. It also lists some early warning signs that turnover may be coming.
Other topics include:
- Challenges managers face in increasing employee engagement, and ways to overcome those challenges.
- Detailed discussion of compensation, including best-practices examples from real firms.
- Engagement in a unionized workplace.
- Diversity and how it can improve engagement.
- Trends in engagement, such as recognizing and dealing with employee stress, improving work/life balance, relaxing dress codes, and using humor in the workplace.
- Steps for developing a recognition strategy.
The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace
By Gary Chapman and Paul White
Northfield Publishing, 2011
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Gary Chapman, author of the best-seller The Five Love Languages, turns to the workplace in this guide. He shows managers how to motivate workers more effectively by tailoring appreciation and recognition to individuals’ real needs.
With co-author Paul White, Chapman examines five types of appreciation—words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts and physical touch. Managers can identify types that are most meaningful for their employees, White and Chapman write, and can learn to apply the language of appreciation daily.
The book includes the “Management by Appreciation” inventory or MBA inventory, a tool that managers and supervisors can use to assess their own primary style of appreciation.
Appreciation often fails to motivate employees, the authors note. For some employee, words of appreciation or public recognition are not enough; they would prefer time with the supervisor to float new ideas. For others, getting tickets to a sports game as a reward doesn’t motivate them; they would feel more appreciated if someone stayed late with them to finish a project.
In case readers think of appreciation and rewards as just a nice extra without much bottom-line impact, the book lays out a business case for appreciation. There is a real return on investment when managers and supervisors apply appreciation effectively, and research backs that ROI, Chapman and White note.
Readers learn not only how each of the five types of appreciation works but how and when to use them.
- Words of affirmation: Specific praise naming specific positive behaviors is more motivating than general “Good job!” praise. Verbal affirmation can focus on the employee’s actions, character traits, or strengths such as optimism, neatness or initiative. Managers learn to adapt verbal affirmations as private talks, public recognition or written praise.
- Quality time: Some workers want the boss’s undivided attention. That makes quality time the best motivator for these employees. Tips on giving quality time include giving these employees full attention, affirming their feelings and not interrupting. Shared experiences both at and outside work also can build quality time between manager and employee.
- Acts of service: Some employees feel most appreciated when others reach out to help them. Managers and co-workers can reward these people by pulling together with them on a deadline, offering to take tasks off their plate, or providing extra support staff for short-term help. This form of appreciation requires the giver to be caught up on his own work and willing to help voluntarily—the employee won’t feel appreciated if the giver is balky or helping out only under duress.
- Tangible gifts: Give these to the people who appreciate them, Chapman and White write, and be sure the gift is one the person values: Learn what employees really like and want. And remember that time off is often a highly valued gift.
- Physical touch: “Is there any place for physical touch in the workplace?” the authors ask. In a litigious world, can managers really touch anyone? There is a role for appropriate touch, but managers need to observe employees to see if they freely pat others’ backs or if they stiffen at the slightest touch.
Chapman and White cover the limitations of traditional recognition and reward programs, which can have high costs and still fail to recognize people in the ways they most value. The book also examines how different industries can apply appreciation, from small businesses to schools to manufacturers.
Managers also get a primer on what to do when they truly don’t appreciate their team members—when they have workers who just aren’t doing their jobs well.
Crucial Conversations, Second Edition
By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
List price: $18
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The stakes are high. Opinions differ. Emotions are high, too.
These are the three criteria for a “crucial conversation,” the kind of talk that can become either a positive breakthrough or an irretrievable disaster.
In a workplace, these conversations might be unfavorable performance reviews, a critique of a peer’s work, an attempt to stand up to a bullying co-worker or boss, or a discussion of an employee’s behavior or even hygiene. These talks can affect a career or a whole organization.
How do you approach these conversations? In Crucial Conversations, readers learn the most common mistakes people make when the conversation turns crucial; how to figure out what they want from conversations; how to recognize when a discussion is declining into stubborn silence or angry attack; and how to stay in dialogue, be persuasive and listen to others.
Mastering tough conversations starts with figuring out what you want from the talk, and the authors help readers dissect their goals for tough talks. Readers also learn the warning signs of when safety is at risk—with safety, here, meaning a conversational atmosphere that’s open and nonthreatening. They learn to identify their own and others’ “silence and violence” responses, where participants either clam up or try to attack, label or gain control.
Readers can take a self-assessment quiz to figure out their personal style under stress so that they can get a handle on how they react. A section on making it safe to talk about any topic looks at how to step out of a conversation to get some perspective, how to renew mutual purpose and mutual respect during a difficult talk, and how to get everyone back to a common goal if things are going astray.
A chapter on staying in dialogue even when you’re angry, scared or hurt leads readers through tips for analyzing your emotions rather than acting on them. Other chapters advise on how to speak persuasively and how to listen to others effectively.
The book also includes a chapter on handling particularly thorny issues, including sexual harassment, failure to live up to agreements, lack of trust, insubordination and patterns of long-term problems.
How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals
By Dick Grote
Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
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Ever heard of “the feedback sandwich”? It’s when you give an employee positive strokes about his or her performance, then insert comments on what needs improvement and end on a positive note.
How about “SMART goals,” those “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely” goals applied to performance expectations and ratings.
Both are tools used by individuals who evaluate others’ job performance. But author and consultant Dick Grote says SMART goals are not necessarily wise ones when it comes to performance management. And the feedback sandwich is just “colossally bad advice,” he writes in How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals.
This book provides guidance on having discussions that truly change performance. Among the topics:
Reviewing common appraisal practices. Grote outlines the uses of goals, rating scales, competencies and more. He also examines practices he would like to see used more widely—such as assessing how well managers do appraisals, firing poor performers quickly and training appraisers for effectiveness.
Goal setting. Grote shows readers how to create useful goals and provides detailed examples of well-constructed ones. He also dissects what he calls six bad ideas in goal setting, including SMART goals and the balanced scorecard.
Determining key job responsibilities and competencies. Keep descriptions of responsibilities simple, and don’t focus too much on finding quantitative, numeric performance measures, Grote writes. Use descriptions and examples to show what good performance should look like. Grote provides examples of effective competency descriptions that lay out the behaviors the employer wants to see.
Providing coaching. Frequent coaching “lowers the fear factor” of the annual appraisal because it spreads out the performance discussion over the year. Grote advises on when to coach and what coaching really means—providing advice, guidance, support, confidence and competence—as well as what it doesn’t mean: It isn’t counseling or discipline. The book includes an example of an entire coaching session, with an analysis of how it worked.
Evaluating individual performance. Grote recommends creating a simple tracking system to use all year long for recording performance as it happens. He debunks the idea that objectivity requires having quantifiable measures of performance.
Grote advises throwing out the “feedback sandwich” in favor of what may be his most radical idea: Discuss only strengths with star performers and journeymen, and discuss only weaknesses with those deemed “failures, lovable losers and prima donnas.”
What beef does he have against the feedback sandwich? Grote says good workers will hear only the criticism sandwiched in the middle of their appraisal and will become disheartened. Meanwhile, poor performers will hear only the positive messages and not the “needs work” core of the appraisal.