Are You an A, B or C Player? What Kind of Players Do You Have on Your Team?


Are you an A, B or C Player? What kind of a player are you in your chosen field, organization and industry? What kind of players do you have on your team? What kind of players do you want on your team to ensure your team performs fluidly and meets its goals successfully. As a manager, what is your responsibility toward the various players you have on your team? How do you maintain the balance and coach your players to play as a team? Let’s dive into the episode and find out…

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Frontline Employees — The Crucial Link to Customer Loyalty and Retention!


An organization & its performance is dependent on the day-to-day functioning of its frontline employees who generally make up the bulk of its workforce. The frontline staff is the first line of customer interaction & is responsible for creating that crucial first impression of the organization, its products, and services. Yet, they are the ones that are affected by several challenges. Let’s understand frontline performance management & what it means to the top-line, bottom-line, and organizational ethos!

For more episodes, go to www.planb.live

Or

On iTunes: https://lnkd.in/d6vFqWb

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2LueJmU

Stitcher: http://bit.ly/2YeYqQQ

Google Play or Google Music: http://bit.ly/2SrbZr9

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Nurturing High Impact Decision Making…


Decisions, decisions and more decisions……

Voluntarily or involuntarily, consciously or unconsciously, there are numerous decisions we make every day. Big and small, they all collectively design our lifestyle, our personal and professional relationships and pave way for our life to unfold.

The larger the decision, the more profound its impact, the more cautious we should become to think through, deliberate and finally arrive at a decision before its executed. And, the smaller decisions that do not have that much of impact, should come to us pretty naturally. 

Why do you think so?

Is it because, when impact does not have much of an influence in the larger scheme of things, we make them quickly? Or is it because we do not have to think through much when we frequently take smaller impact decisions or because, if they do go wrong, there’s not much at stake and it can be easily corrected?

Take a moment, and reflect on this.

Decisions whose impact will be felt long term, which can be far reaching for years to come and can determine the course of our own or several other lives; require in depth deliberation before they are made and it is a very unique skill, that is not much recognized. We generally tend to sweat the small stuff more. Decisions with smaller impact are what we end up wrapped in. However, there are also larger decisions with long-term impact that get made without as much deliberation on our end. That is because they are decisions that have been made, perhaps numerous times by others and each has its own impact on the decision maker’s life and yet, they are made time and over again without as much deliberation by others because they are happening all around us.

It’s also important to note that all decisions are not made with a clear view of all details influencing such decisions. Many a time, though we may strive, there is information missing that allows for a more robust decision. And yet, the decision needs to be made. The best approach to take is to review the best possible, worst possible and a mediocre result of a decision before deciding on it, knowing that it’s a decision being made in imperfect circumstances. This will allow us to review the far reaching effects of the decision and help make a choice, where we can see ourselves live with that decision falling somewhere in the band of best to worst we have created.

While decisions are made to maximize the value of what we are set out to do, over time the values may change or shift and review of such a decision may still hold its viability in this situation.

Every success, failure, opportunity availed or missed is the result of a decision made or missed.  Making decisions quickly, consistently and effectively is the cornerstone of making strides in the right direction.

Decisions, although seem to be making us resolute at the point in time they are taken, they are instrumental in shaping us into who we will be. However, is it the same as who we want to be? That’s where our cognitive skill of decision making comes into play and its uniquely you, who determines whether who you want to be and who you will be are on the same path.

Testing Leadership Mettle…


I am sure you have heard, more than once, that every individual is unique. The hot buttons of each one of us are different. However, we all aspire for and come together as teams and organizations, in pursuit of the achievement of objectives much larger than our individual selves. Some tend to do it better than the others. While we work together toward common objectives, there are multiple threads and hot buttons that need to be managed at the team and individual levels. This ultimately constitutes leadership and its varying degrees of efficiency that determines the health of the organization.

The premise of leadership is founded on the universal notion that a leader can motivate individuals and energize them to go from their current state to a desired state of optimal productivity. However, to do that, a capable leader needs to understand individual motivational needs and be able to work on them. Without intervening at the individual level, optimal productivity and more importantly, a willing pursuit of common objectives of the team or organization at the highest levels, is not possible. It should be a prerogative of every manager to understand their individual team member motivational needs and to be able to act on them, to bring common objectives achievement into focus.

While we all have finite time and energy to do a multitude of tasks, an important aspect of management is the ability to interact with teams and its individual constituents. Many a time individuals themselves do not have a clear understanding of their own motivational needs. This is where the need for a mentor becomes clear, in order to help the individual grow. Mind you, I say a mentor who can help individuals identify their own needs and help them focus on fulfilling those. External motivation has limitations and the focus should be on awakening internal factors of motivation for the individual and igniting the spark within to have them act on their own needs.

The best form of motivation however, is inspiration. If the leaders embrace the principles they spout and act in ways to show that they embrace what they preach, it goes a long way in inspiring others, that look up to them and respect them, to follow and reflect better selves.  Do note that a leader cannot actively try and inspire someone; it is for the others to get inspired. Hence, leaders can do themselves a favor by not always focusing on external motivation for their teams, but embracing ideals they would like to propagate within the cultural fabric of the organization. These will find ways of spreading through the organization as inspiration. And inspiration allows willing changes that individuals make in how they act and behave, purely because they believe and also out of respect and the need to see themselves in the same frame as those they look up to.

A leader’s effectiveness is determined by the inspiration they can invoke within their team. A key aspect that leaders need to take note of is that not all individuals are made equal. Some are motivated to do the minimum for a paycheck and others, to do just enough to hold on to the job. Inspiration may not awaken in them due to multiple personal complexities and it becomes important to recognize and understand, that a team is made of individuals with varying levels of motivation and it’s the leader’s job to ensure that this mix doesn’t affect the team objectives in a detrimental way at any time. The key is to work on individuals feeling engaged in their roles, for that is when they have the freedom to be creative and express themselves through their work in the best possible ways.

While setting an example and inspiring the individuals is the highest tenet that a leader should hold themselves to, communication is a two way street, where they should be willing to listen to the feedback and act on it, for the benefit of everyone involved. Transparency and empowering individuals to unleash their creative freedom in their roles goes a long way in bolstering their attitudes and getting the best out of them. Caring for each other, is finally the one aspect that cements a great relationship between everyone where no matter the challenge, they will all rise up together to take it on.

Frontline Performance Management-What​ it means to the top-line, bottom-line ​ and organizational ethos!​


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An organization and its performance are dependent on the day-to-day functioning of its frontline employees who generally make up the bulk of its workforce. The tactical stewardship of execution is in the hands of the frontline staff that reflect the company culture and its values to the customer. And generally, these associates who are the majority of an organization’s workforce are the ones affected by several challenges across industries – low levels of motivation, economic and emotional stress, stressful work goals and management pressure to meet them, poor growth prospects, all of which result in high levels of attrition.

Today’s organizations are moving toward building their future prospects on customer experience. According to a recent article I was reviewing, an estimated 90% of all organizations are expected to craft themselves around customer experience by 2025. With customer experience becoming such an integral part of an organization’s success, it’s important to re-focus on the frontline staff who are the face of the organization to the end consumer. Although technology in its various forms is making in-roads into customer experience, the human element is still very much an integral part of the value an organization provides to its customer base. Be it retail, airlines or business process outsourcing, frontline employees play a major role in day-to-day activity and customer interaction.

With customer experience playing such a vital role in the performance and growth of any business, productivity and progress of the frontline staff becomes that much more important and its imperative to focus on them to ensure that there is a fair exchange of value going on.

With a slew of challenges, from financial wellbeing, poor work environment, boredom, and lack of challenges to stimulate creativity, poor growth prospects and high-pressure micromanagement to reach goals established by management without any space to induce their own personalities in what they do, the frontline employees continue to paint a poor picture of the organization to the end consumers, and move between jobs frequently trying to find a suitable position and organization to work for. As a result, management challenges include finding the right associates, coaching and training them to only lose them and work on the next while also battling work goals that need to be met. Dealing with the revolving door continues to be an impediment that affects operational and financial goals of organizations.

How can an organization double down on and tackle this issue, especially in these times of renewed focus on consumer experience to drive the engines of an organization?

That is where building a culture of empowerment comes into play. The frontline employees are the visible face of the organization. Development of a culture of performance through focused drive, clarity of mission and vision, and imparting value individually and as a team, should become the tenets of frontline management.

Better pay and employment conditions are the first tenet. It’s important for organizations and management teams to understand that the first line of employees on the job is the most vital arm of an organization and its long-term success. Since these employees are on the lowest rung of the ladder, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be the lowest paid, more importantly, they should be paid to have a decent living base, without the worry of day to day financial challenges in their personal lives which tend to have an impact on their performance at work. All employees should be treated as an extension of one work family. Equanimity of base pay and benefits go a long way in improving employee morale. Pay for performance, whether positive or negative has some implications on performance, but not necessarily long term.

Next, support through training and coaching is important to ensure clarity of purpose for frontline employees. Each individual needs to understand, not just their work but also the impact it has on the larger scheme of things. They need to understand their contribution and value they bring to the organization, to own it and impart it on a daily basis to their best. Coaching, especially through peers or managers on a one on one basis reflects the investment the organization is willing to make in them, as valued employees, to learn about their strengths and weaknesses and help them cope to get better, and more importantly to advance in their careers. Frontline employees should be coached to look at their roles, less as jobs and more as careers where they have opportunities for advancement, provided they work on their specific strengths to take the lead as opportunities come up within the organization.

Empowerment is also a vital aspect of this puzzle. Generally, frontline roles are treated as jobs with high attrition and to be easily replaced with the next person coming in. It is also assumed that the role is a set of repeated tasks to be performed thus boxing in the role. That notion has to change. These are probably, the most important roles within an organization as the first line of customer interaction. Empowering the frontline employees garners multiple benefits for the individuals in the roles as well as for the organization. By empowering the employees to identify challenges, think creatively and come up with ways and means to interact with consumers, find and execute solutions to the challenges, the organization gains to improve upon its frontline as well as other specific challenges, finds new ways of interacting with consumers, thus raising customer satisfaction and loyalty with the organization and also helps identify the difference makers within the employees and offer them better career growth prospects. This empowerment also boosts employee morale as they feel challenged and in control of their work execution, thus bringing the best out of them. Productivity boosts can be seen in employee work ethic and improved influence on organizational performance resulting in higher revenue at the same or lower costs and better profit margins allowing the organization to experiment further and provide better opportunities to its employees. Further, the brand recognition and goodwill gained in the market is invaluable.

All of the above alleviates stress from the work environment, focuses on training, coaching and empowerment than micromanaging, using positive and negative motivators that have a limited shelf life and more importantly, brings the employees and management closer as one work family out to succeed together, working on a unified mission and vision, that they all take pride in.

Rules of Engagement and Realm of Influence


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It’s the people, human resources that are the most important asset of any organization. It is these associates, employees, contractors and those engaged in various capacities that turn the wheels of the organization every single day in the direction of its aspirational mission. These associates come together in various roles, manning several myriad functions that together create the structure of the organization.

The roles and responsibilities of such associates, often times are overlapping and most definitely closely inter-twined to form the fabric of the organization. That is where rules of engagement and the sphere of influence come into play. Rules of engagement vary for every role within an organization and are based on their core responsibilities toward the organization. The job description lays a framework of expectations from a role & its associated responsibilities as well as expectations from the incumbent. However, rules of engagement are unique and evolve based on several factors. The role and its connectivity to other roles as well as the overarching organization are crucial. But what makes it unique, is the personalities occupying those roles. Every person is unique and is a sum total of their experiences at a given point in time. Their understanding of the role, responsibilities and inter-personal dynamics are unique as well. Their interpretation of this has an impact on their framework of rules of engagement. They engage and act based on all that they are influenced by.

In order to succeed at a role, it’s a given that one has to have clarity of vision of their role’s expectations and responsibilities, but more importantly, they need to develop a keen insight into the unique organizational dynamics at play and learn to shape their transactions accordingly, to the benefit of what they are set out to achieve as a part of their role with an eye on the big picture mission of the organization. This helps them maneuver well in reaching their professional as well as personal goals. Rules of engagement and the realm of a role’s influence, although have a rough framework; they are extended, expanded and emphatically executed by the unique personalities occupying these roles. The incumbent’s unique understanding and engagement with these rules, which, predominantly is influenced by their personalities, shape the fluidity and flexibility of a role’s influence. It is for this reason that several factors are looked at when recruiting people to occupy roles. It’s never just about the role that is vacant. It’s also about organizational fit. Beyond that, it’s the organic evolution of Darwinism within the organization, evolution by natural selection.

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Fostering Team Camaraderie – It’s NOT always about the mission!


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Fostering team camaraderie is no easy task. For many, the team leader-member relationship is that of someone who leads and directs and others who follow. Nothing can be farther from truth than that. You can argue that a good leader leads from the front, is empathetic and so on and so forth. But, that’s not what I am here to discuss today.

I am here to discuss how to invigorate, spread and share the same essence of doer ship and direction across the team, to do one’s best to ensure that each team member is touched by it and dwells in that spirit, so that ultimately, the whole team moves in one direction toward one mission. That’s the stuff great teams’ and great organizations are made of. It takes them over and above individual needs and wants, the organizational benefits and aspirations and toward pure execution to attain a unified mission as one team. It’s an experience par any for the proud members of that team which they cherish forever.

Like I said, getting everyone on the team to think like one is not an easy task. Not easy, but definitely possible! While all individuals have different hot buttons that motivate them and it’s the job of the leader to ensure that they are being actively responded to, its these individuals that come together as a team, to act on one unified objective. The leader and the team members have shared responsibility in helping each other align closer with that mission. And that comes about in several forms of interactions from group to individual settings. Not everyone needs to see the big picture but everyone does need to see the picture from where they stand and understand very clearly their part in fulfilling it. At the same time, team dynamics play a crucial part in how effectively a team performs. This is where the unique differentiator between teams lies. Team dynamics is not strengthened, just by focused concentration on the work at hand. It gets stronger and more effective when the team interacts socially and participates in activities besides work. I am not talking about hitting the bar and sharing silly jokes. For some, that might work to an extent. I am talking about doing things besides work that strengthens their bond and fosters mutual respect and awe for each other. This could mean, sharing hobbies and other skills, connecting to discuss and act on social and volunteer projects, opening each other to new avenues and opportunities, thus fostering learning and cultivating new horizons for the team.

This goes a long way in forming true friendships and bonds between teammates. It takes the relationship to the next level where they draw inspiration from each other. It helps members recognize new strengths and skills in each other, allowing them new found respect for their peers. All of this comes through eventually, when the team acts as one and takes on a challenge head on, in not just successful accomplishments, but accomplishments of a greater quality and higher caliber. This elevates their professional interactions to a new level, helps them find better and more capable personalities within themselves, and most important of all, true happiness in what they do and who they work with everyday.

Image Courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spontaneity in innovation – Does unbridled exuberance lead to success?


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Spontaneity, that eureka! moment, when it seems that the whole universe is prodding you to succeed, is a key factor in innovation. However, it’s not that it comes to you right out of the blue. Behind it is years of research, struggle, experience, application, trial and error, call it whatever you want. Whether active or passive, much has gone into bringing on that one idea with which you shall change the world.

However, the debate has been whether innovation thrives in an unstructured environment where you let it come to you unannounced or in a more structured environment where you create the ambience for innovative work focused on revealing what the next big thing is. Perhaps in a step-by-step fashion and eventually, it will unfold and show returns.

Studies have shown that with more formal innovation structures and processes, there is higher satisfaction and better outcomes. However, there needs to be some chaos, the ability to imagine and dream, even within formal structures in order for the unconventional to reveal itself, break the mold and set a trend. It’s important to have a product management and development structure within organizations but, its more important to separate the people focused on current products and releases that follow schedules to meet current client needs from those whose role is to imagine, dream, try to test out new things without the pressure of supporting ongoing business needs. Ensuring there is an open line to receive client feedback on current products can help influence the direction of research to keep it close to the markets being served. However, there is a balance that needs to be drawn here to ensure that the influence is not so much that the team ends up serving client custom needs but is actually focused on creating better products with better outcomes, sometimes in a sense that may even create a new pivot.

High cross functional collaboration, greater risk tolerance appetite, research driven organizations with supportive eco systems tend to do better than those that are narrowly focused on bottom lines. The truth is that true innovation results in improved employee morale, spontaneity and better bottom lines naturally.

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Who’s Got Your Back?


You got my back and I got yours!

Individuals, Teams & Organizations the world over seem to have taken this adage to heart as they strike deals and alliances, a few in writing, more in word & much more as an untold principle while they work feverishly to be successful. In order to embrace this principle, you do not necessarily have to be on the same side; rivals are known to have leveraged this undercurrent as well. 

Glance at the world of business and politics around you. You will find examples galore. It is just that those who are outside such an alliance are not too pleased. Well, if you are the one left out of a party, how would you feel? 

In every realm of society, be it corporate, social or political, forming such alliances and moving forward has become a norm. I don’t have anything against them. In order to progress and make better, it is important to have, know and work toward these unpublished agendas. But, on the contrary, as we have often seen, these alliances can be exploited to get more than a fairly deserved share. But, that’s another discussion for a different day. 

Today, let’s look at the positivity of these totally present, some visible but mostly invisible relationships. Together, as a team, one can grow and help others in the team grow as well. There are so many corporate examples of executives & their teams built over years of working together, and the end result, all of them growing together. You can see that kind of symbiotic relationship in government as well. Further, there are several family businesses that have grown and flourished so long as the family remained united and stood together. Once they break up and try growing their individual shares, they have discovered how difficult and slow a process it can be. Besides, the vultures waiting to nibble away at their pie take flight and there are none but just them guarding their pie. 

There is an interesting observation that comes to mind. Frogs in a well; when one of them tries to climb up, the others pull the one down by moving from beneath him. In the case of ants, in order to reach up to anything, they form a chain and help each other by walking over other ants. That’s the spirit of winning as a team first, and then as individuals of the team. 

As an old saying goes, “Unity is Strength”. As an individual, there is only so much you can do to influence your own progress. Find people who can complement your skills, find true partners and well-wishers in your friends, peers and mentors and form your team. Work together, work with and work through them to reach your goals and at the same time help them reach theirs. It could be an active partnership or one of those in principle, where you have their back and they have yours. Together, you form a formidable team and will succeed beyond your wildest imagination.

Would you rather lead from the front or follow through?

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Leaders and Followers are both vital to the fabric of any organization. As much as you need leaders to set the path and motivate others to follow through, you also need productive followers who are willing to listen, learn and execute on the plan set before them. No organization can do without one or the other.

The world is mostly made up of followers and a subset of leaders. Of course, leadership is a learned trait and most of us play both roles within certain limits.

Leadership is about:

  • Developing a vision, sharing it and building support around it.
  • Strategizing and planning execution to realize the vision.
  • Leading execution of the strategy while overseeing the completion of planned goals.

These tenets are universal to any organization and are mostly measured through fiscal success, I mean EBIDTA, profits, market share, stock value etc.

But, true leadership has other dimensions as well; corporate social responsibility and emotionally intelligent people management being two of these.

An organization that aspires for success ensures that every associate in the organization knows and lives the true reason of its existence. In order for this to happen, every leader in the organization, from the CEO to line management needs to imbibe and practice the principles of valuing the people assets of the organization. Customers and those that serve them are equally important to the organization. Motivating associates to perform to their potential by managing their individual hot buttons and then, channeling this work to meet the needs of the clients is the salient execution principle of any successful organization. This ultimately leads to the realization of organizational goals, the yardstick it measures its success by.

At all levels of management, a prime factor of success is optimal people management. The amount of effort put into strategizing and planning an organization’s path also has to be put into managing and growing the people assets who are instrumental in realizing the plan. With leaders that share in the vision and willing followers, any organization is destined to meet its set goals!

Finally, an organization has to think and act beyond itself.  Making an impact in the community it thrives in and standing up to be a pillar of the community’s progress enhance the perpetuity of the organization and take it beyond the plans it was conceived with. That, in sum is the true culmination of its existence and success.

Now, ask yourself some key questions to understand where you are and how you need to fine-tune your work style to get where you want to be;

  • What do you do for work? Do you believe in the vision set forth by your organization?
  • Are you a leader or follower?
  • As a leader,
    • How much do you value your team? Do you take time to listen to them or are you just giving instructions most of the time expecting follow through?
    • Do you treat your team with the same respect that you expect of them?
    • Is your team totally sold on your idea of execution so that it will be a success?
    • Do you know your team members’ hot buttons so you can work on keeping them motivated and provide direction and help in the realization of their goals?
    • Do you exhibit enough appreciation for what your team does?
  • As a follower,
    • Do you truly believe in the vision and plan set forth by your leadership? If not, do you question and make suggestions?
    • Do you listen and follow through per expectations? Do you go beyond?
    • Do you feel a valued member of your team? If not, do you express concern and work with your leader to ensure mutual transparency and work to build a plan to help get there?
    • Do you offer suggestions and new ways of doing things?
    • Can you be the best lieutenant your leader can ever find?

Find your answers, make your course corrections and let me assure you, the journey towards your goals will be as fulfilling as attaining them!

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