All posts by tammylfinch

6 Keys to Unlocking the Potential of Front line Managers

Things are finally starting to pick up economically, slowly.  As this long overdue turn around gains momentum, one key segment of the working population needs some attention and nurturing, the frontline managers in your company.

Because of all the cutting, squeezing and lean operational moves necessary for survival, this particular group has been through a LOT of stress and perhaps even neglect.  Understandably so.


So, how to get them back on track, in a more positive place, with less stress and more smiles in the workplace?  And with the obvious business benefits of better retention rates down the road, less absenteeism, higher productivity, etc etc.???

The best information I have seen in awhile comes from my business partners at Profiles International.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s take a look at some of the key points they shared with me and use it accordingly, where and when we can.


6 Keys to Unlocking the Potential of Frontline Managers 

The effects of poor frontline management may be particularly damaging at service companies, where researchers have consistently detected a relationship between the attitudes and behaviors of customer-facing employees on the one hand, and customer perception of service quality on the other. In service industries, research has found that three factors drive performance:

�         the work climate;

�         the ways teams act together and the ways that things are done;

�         And the engagement, commitment, and satisfaction of employees.


Leadership-particularly the quality of supervision and the nature of the relationships between supervisors and their teams-is crucial to performance in each of these areas.

1.       Identify employees with the capability and interest to be good managers by: 

  • Using assessments to identify employees who demonstrate the behaviors and interests that will make them successful managers.
  • Helping managers understand the core behaviors, capabilities, and preferences of the people they manage so that they can adapt their communication and management styles to get the most from their people.
  • Helping managers develop the mindset that they will be more successful if the people they manage succeed. This helps managers become invested in the success of each individual.

2.       Help managers clarify their teams’ goals and roles by:

  • Using these goals to create a personal dashboard that helps the manager set his own priorities that drive results.
  • Creating tools to help your managers communicate these requirements and track progress toward these goals. Seek direct input from frontline employees in the form of employee surveys and 360� management assessments to determine if the message is getting through.

3.       When helping managers better understand the people they manage, consider these points:

  • Human beings are complex creatures that can be very hard for the average manager to read, especially in the early stages of the working relationship. Ironically, this is when the manager needs the most help. A valid assessment process can be very helpful for an organization to develop a deeper and more objective understanding of its people.
  • Helping a manager to understand his people’s skills, behaviors, and interests helps him build on his people’s strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. It helps the manager communicate better with the employee, zero in on the employee’s most critical developmental needs, and focus both informal coaching dialogue and formal training and development investments in the employee.

4.       Help your managers understand themselves and how they impact their people.

  • Management is all about people, and this requires a high degree of self-awareness. Managers should go through the same assessment process as their employees in order to understand how their innate behaviors, interests, and skills either complement or hinder their personal interactions.

5.       Don’t assume your managers know how or even when to coach. These two action steps can help:

  • Develop the fundamental coaching skills of your managers, and develop a culture of coaching.
  • Help your manager understand his leadership style and motivation. Many of us have a number of key leadership qualities, but we still need feedback so that we can build on our strengths and fortify our weaknesses.

6.       Try to minimize administrative work to give managers more time to develop their people by:

  • Thinking very carefully about the administrative tasks you assign to your frontline managers and be sure that they add sufficient value.
  • Making the information easy to obtain so that they aren’t spending too much time aggregating and formatting spreadsheets, etc.


Let’s get back to the frontline folks now before it’s too late – in a different, more positive way.  After all, they are the face of our organizations!

Coach Early & Often

Gorason business coach

Here we are again, at the start of a brand new year.  This is a great time to put into action new plans, ideas and methods.  Since we received so much positive feedback on our last newsletter about employee engagement, let’s continue to touch on that key point.


There’s lots and lots of talk, evidence and research around the various age groups in the workforce.  Especially Millenials!!  The funny thing is that the more I read about that specific group, the more the identified needs of that group seem to stretch across all age groups today.  It is constantly stated that “they”(Millenials) need to have lots of personal contact, recognition, internal coaching, mentoring and most important of all a specific, tailored development plan/career path. Without that we are told we will lose their interest or engagement as an employee and performance and ultimately, their retention as an employee, will suffer.


Based on my experience in a variety of work environments, that same need or concern can apply to almost all age groups today.  Why?  We are leaner than ever.  And in turn expect more of our employees than ever before.  We have added many new duties to their job responsibilities.  And we expect them to perform this all at a high level with minimal complaining.  Oh, really!


The following is a reprint from a friend and business associate, Bud Haney, President of Profiles International.  Bud offers some great thoughts I fully support on how to manage, coach and develop our employees in today’s workplace.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article I received from him and wanted to pass it along to you.  The key that strikes to the core of what GCI believes and preaches every single day is COACH EARLY AND COACH OFTEN.


Coach Early and Often

Even the best organizations want to improve employee productivity in order to grow overall business performance and corporate value. But the tool most often used to evaluate and improve performance-the performance review-really isn’t capable of helping organizations reach their overall goal.


The biggest strike against performance reviews is that they are the equivalent of looking in the rearview mirror to see where the employee has been-and perhaps failed. Why not look ahead to see where the employee can successfully go?


Additionally, since performance reviews occur once a year, if at all, they require us to look back over a long period of time. They make the manager look petty (“Let’s talk about your performance on that project nine months ago…”), and even if viewed positively, any corrective solutions are generally too late to do any good.


Here’s a helpful idea: Coach early and often. Early, to catch potential problems before they happen. Often, because the continuous interest shown in, and feedback given to, employees through coaching guarantees better performance.


Coaching provides counsel in real time and clearly identifies goals in the context of the employee’s job. Good coaches understand the current reality of the employee’s world, and are aware of issues that might prevent a worker from reaching his or her goals. Good coaching provides the right environment to development strategies that allow an employee to achieve his or her goals.


Imagine a husband and wife sitting down on their anniversary each year for a formal chat: “First, let’s review all the things you’ve done well over the last year and then we’ll set goals for the coming year.”  Doesn’t sound like much of a relationship, does it? I’m certainly not suggesting that a manager should be married to his or her employees, but a healthy marriage is a relationship built on daily dialogue and frequent two-way communication. The same culture of dialogue can benefit employees and managers alike. Conversely, a once-a-year meeting more likely resembles a gripe fest: while one side lists frustrations and shortcomings, the other side could be taken aback and either retreats or goes on the defensive. The bottom line is that no one wins.

Create a Culture of Engagement

Over the past couple of years, challenging economic conditions have required organizations to tighten belts and do more with less. While we all accept these measures as necessary for survival, the added stress on rank-and-file employees has been excruciating. Leaders need to do all they can to ensure they foster an engaged workforce that will continue to move forward in spite of the challenges that lie ahead. Those that can pull people together will survive and thrive when times improve.
What is employee engagement?
The difference between engaged and disengaged employees may seem to be a matter of style or personality, but they are based on decisions rooted in loyalty and commitment to one or more levels of the organization. Disengaged employees not only negatively impact the bottom line, but they also misrepresent an organization and its culture.
There are three different levels that can be identified as locations of engagement in the workplace:
1. Organizational – Mission, core values and overall strategy of the
2. Managerial – Leaders and managers in the organization.
3. Employee – Front-line employees and teams
Addressing engagement at each of these unique levels requires different actions. The remainder of this report will examine the different ways leaders can address engagement and motivate employees to be more committed and excited about their daily tasks.
1. Engagement at the organizational level
Improving employee engagement at the organizational level is strategic and tactical. Before you can attempt to change your organizational culture, you first must examine the current culture of your organization. An organization’s culture is its unique personality: the company’s core values, ethics and norms. The mission, vision, and strategy of your organization are important in identifying whether or not the culture of your organization supports engagement.
After identifying and defining your organization’s culture, you will need to implement five different actions that will help improve engagement at the organizational level:
Identify opportunities
Simplify solutions
Take action
Hold employees accountable
Commit to developing your employees
2. Engagement at the managerial level
Recognizing that the actions of senior leadership, managers, and supervisors are the key drivers of engagement, the act of engaging should be a part of every leader’s job profile and leadership skill set.
Engagement may not be solely an internal motivation issue. There are job factors that affect the engagement of every employee. Ask yourself these questions: * Do I have the right people in the appropriate leadership positions? * Is leadership development an issue? * Is it both of the above?
3. Engagement at the employee level
One way to increase engagement at the employee level is to make sure you have the employee in a position where they can thrive and grow. This will result in greater productivity and commitment.  To survive the demographic changes in the workforce you must rethink your workforce strategies and transform your management and human resource practices to attract, engage, and retain workers of all ages.
Target engaged employees: A target employee is one who has a good fit to his or her current job, is fully engaged on-the-job, and whose performance exceeds your expectations. The target employee not only
achieves the goal, but has the ability to elevate the performance of other employees, team members, departments, and divisions.
Challenge and train employees: You may also need to think differently about challenging your employees. Research shows that managers are up to four times more engaged than front-line employees. This is due to the additional challenges managers face. Provide your employees with stretch goals, avoid micromanaging, and let them learn from their mistakes.
In order for employees to remain engaged, they need to be continuously stimulated. Every new experience you create for your employees is an opportunity for growth.
Bringing it all together
It is impossible to create a culture of engagement without knowing the personality and characteristics of your employees and managers. Leaders must be aware of the engagement levels of their employees.
Assessments provide an opportunity to learn more about each employee and how they fit into their job and the organization.

7 Tips for Increasing Your Productivity at Work

With the start of the New Year you are probably making resolutions on how you can improve yourself and one of your goals may be to increase your productivity. If so, here are some tips that will help:

  1. Make a plan for your day, setting a goal for reaching a certain point by lunchtime, giving yourself a break and small treat or reward when you reach that goal.
  2. Your treat or reward from #1 can be taking a break by walking around or going outside, especially if it is a sunny day. A 20-30 minute break will leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to get back at it.
  3. Start early or stay late to make the most of your time. You know whether you are more of a morning or an evening person and use that to your advantage, working during the times when you are most productive and there are fewer outside interruptions.
  4. If you work in an area of cubicles, use noise-cancelling headphones to keep out the sounds in the office, allowing you to focus on your work.
  5. Bring some healthy snacks for your lunch or break, don’t eat a lot of sugar or carbs that can cause you to “crash” later in the day.
  6. Make sure you get enough sleep. Do not work or use your phone/computer in your bedroom, make this an area that is off limits from possible interruptions of your sleep.
  7. If your workload seems overwhelming, don’t focus on the entire workload. Instead, just focus on the next small step.

It isn’t always easy to be productive and at times it is impossible due to unforeseen circumstances that may arise. If you are persistent and practice the tips above, you will be able to make the most of the time that you have at work, rather than working more hours at a less than productive level.

New Ideas for Employee Relationships with Engagement

Employee relationships start at the beginning with Human Resources. Human resources should be friendly, welcoming and understand the needs and issues of the employees. They should understand what motivates an employee and how to create a win-win situation for the company and the employee.

Managers should make sure that employees receive recognition or praise when it is deserved, monitor performance and provide support when it is needed.

Zappos is one company that has gone above and beyond at creating an extraordinary experience for employees:

  • Co-worker bonus program – reward your co-worker that helped you out with a $50 bonus
  • Grant a wish program – grant simple wishes of their employees – a fishing trip, an outing, etc.
  • Zappos Zollars – earn zollars to spend on Zappos shirts and products with the company logo.
  • Job Shadowing – learn about your co-workers job.
  • New Hire Scavenger Hunt – this is a fun way to learn about your new co-workers.
  • Classes that teach soft skills, such as projects, communication, and finance.
  • Zapprenticeship – spend 90 days in a new role and then mutually decide if the new role is yours, if it is not for you, you can go back to your original position.

Zappos is a good example of going the extra mile to make sure that everyone feels connected. Think outside of the box for some new ways to develop relationships with your employees.

How Executive One-on-One Coaching Helps New Managers

One-on-One Coaching is a great way to learn executive competencies and over time these leadership and performance skills become ingrained and a part of the routine for the new manager. Having someone to use as a sounding board and offer their objective opinion helps the new executive to learn. Here are some of the benefits that one-on-one coaching offers for the new manager:

  • Learn the process and methodologies of management
  • Build relationships/develop listening skills
  • Develop and accomplish goals
  • Develop their own management style

In addition, the organization will benefit by having continued growth and success with consistency in management and support for the organization succession plan.   The new managers avoid years of trial and error learning that could be detrimental to the organization and they have a support system in place that insures their success.

Doing Succession Planning the Right Way

Whether your company is large or small succession planning is important – what if something suddenly happened to your current leader(s)? Would there be any one that would be able to take charge of the company? What is the risk to your organization if that were to happen?

Succession planning is similar to insurance for your company leadership and it usually starts with Human Resources leading the process to identify the requirements for your next leaders. Current leaders and board members should be assigned roles and accountability in succession planning.

Once the leadership requirements and key roles are determined, current executives should be evaluated, not only in terms of their current roles, but also the potential to assume larger roles in the company.

Potential leaders can be assigned coaches and/or mentors to begin the process of transition to new leadership. Third party coaches bring a fresh perspective and a degree of objectivity in succession planning.

Conflict Taboos you should Break

Conflict seems to be a negative word, but actually it is a part of life, whether it is your personal life or your life in the workplace. Conflict is an opportunity for growth with improved communications and better relationships as the payoff.

The key is how you respond to conflict, depending on your response you can either escalate the conflict or resolve the conflict– here are some tips:

  • Listen – this is most important, give the other person your respect
  • Deal directly with the person you have issue with – do not talk to anyone else
  • Don’t make it personal, be objective
  • Be calm and sincere, show empathy and validation

Sometimes you have to end up agreeing to disagree, but remember it is not about who is right or wrong, but finding a solution that everyone can live with. Having an outside facilitator that is impartial can be helpful. In the end if your conflict is in the workplace you will see improved performance and productivity and a reduction of stress.