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Family Wealth Alliance Webinar – Sept 14

15 Aug

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Criticism–used well, this powerful leadership tool can promote positive change and strengthen relationships in business and life. Is it possible to use criticism at work without breeding resentment?

Dr. Deborah Bright, best-selling author and business coach, joins Family Wealth Alliance CEO Tom Livergood for a free webinar and fireside chat about the highly misunderstood topic of using criticism positively in the workplace.

Dr. Bright offers valuable techniques from her most recent book, rated by getAbstract as one of this year’s top 5 business books! She pulls tips from her book The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change to help us:

  • Understand the essential role of criticism in the workplace
  • Overcome common mistakes made when giving criticism
  • Gain insights on handling difficult work-related situations

Register now for this free 1-hour webinar on September 14th, 2:00PM EDT. Turbocharge your workplace and career by learning to strengthen relationships and enhance performance with criticism!

Note: Dr. Bright’s 30-minute fireside chat will follow Bob Legan, of Whitnell & Company, discussing unique issues and planning opportunities with family owned or closely held businesses.

Are the People You Work with Truly Your Friends?

6 May

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Are your co-workers genuine friends?  This is a much easier question to raise than it is to answer. Depending on who you ask, you would probably get a different response. Most of us think of a “friend” as someone  we can trust and who we think trusts us.. We might even think a friend might be someone we can depend on to help us when times are tough. While we may categorize friends on a sort of scale that runs from “occasional” to “good” to “best” to “very best”, in all cases they are persons we respect and feel comfortable around and with whom we  share some degree of intimacy.  Very importantly, we expect a friend to be truly happy for our successes and is uplifting and fun to be around.

But when it comes to the workplace, we may want to take a slightly different perspective. Friends that form in the workplace are joined together  because of the mutuality of the work and the workplace itself.  That commonality leads to a lot of conversations.  What is oftentimes overlooked or dangerously underestimated is that underlying a friendship at work is the fact that the workplace is competitive. Because of the competitive nature in the workplace, when push comes to shove if someone needs to or has the opportunity to enhance their position in an organization, workplace friendships may oftentimes take a backseat or, to put it mildly, not be at the forefront of individuals’ priorities.

This ambition factor can manifest itself especially as it regards people of lower ranks in the workplace who are friends of those in upper ranks. As a result, it’s important to think about whether or not to differentiate workplace friends from just friends.

The idea that today we are friends and tomorrow we are forgotten often times depicts workplace friendships.  Think about what happens when  a co-worker leaves. The common bonds that once  held the friendship together wither rapidly or they simply are  no longer there. That’s because mutual interests really never went much farther than workplace matters.   Over time, the relationships that were once vibrant and full of chatter tend to fade away as the parties realize that they have very little in common outside of the workplace. Reflect on your own workplace experience when co-workers retired or found a new position in another company;   how many of your fellow colleges have you stayed in touch with once they have left?

Co-workers do need to embrace those elements that friends share such as respect and trust. These are factors that are very necessary among those who work together. … and they may be even more necessary in a working relationship than they need to be with just friends.. If you are a manager, it’s imperative that you address this issue with your people who work with you and with one another. People don’t have to be friends to get along and work with one another, In fact they don’t even have to like each other! But, they do have to respect and trust one another or the working relationship will never work.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

“Personal Responsibleness”: The All-important Active Ingredient In Personal Responsibility

29 Feb

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Part Two: Personal Responsibleness vs. Personal Responsibility

If you have been watching the news at night, as I have, you may have heard from some reporters and politicians, alike, the argument that our citizenry needs to take more responsibility and rely less on handouts from the government. Similarly, a few of my clients have complained to me about how their employees need to take more initiative. While the sources are very different, what they have to say has a lot in common. When you combine the need for initiative with that of responsibility you come up with personal responsibleness. Perhaps, personal responsibleness, which is in the dictionary, hasn’t typically been in use because it’s quite a mouthful. However, after repeating it several times, it begins to roll off your tongue.

What is personal responsibleness and how does it differ from responsibility?

Personal responsibility is something that we take, or is given to us. In contrast, personal responsibleness is a state of being. It describes a characteristic that engenders an inherent competence and trustworthiness dedicated to the maximum fulfillment of responsibilities.

Perhaps a simple example will help to illustrate the difference. A manager asks an employee to send an e-mail to notify a client of a meeting cancellation and to offer some new dates. The manager after several days hears nothing. The manager asks the employee for an update and the employee responds, “I sent them the e-mail, as you requested.” That’s an example of taking on a responsibility. Someone with Personal Responsibleness would have kept track of the e-mail request. If the client hasn’t received any word, the employee would take it upon themself to call the client to make sure the e-mail was received. Perhaps it went into the Trash folder or was blocked. After all, what’s important is not sending the e-mail but making sure the client receives the information and that a new date is established. That’s making sure the end result is achieved and a valuable difference is realized.

 

Through law and ritual, society can impose responsibilities on its citizens, but ultimately it’s those citizens who must discipline themselves and adopt personal responsibleness if laws are expected to be followed. Fulfilling responsibilities entails just doing specific things for others. With personal responsibleness, when individuals are given or assume a task, they look not only at how they can fulfill the responsibility but also, how they can use their energies and personal expertise to ensure the result and make a valuable difference.

Personal responibleness is a characteristic that defines one’s being. Hence, taking initiative, where one accepts the power or right to do something, falls right in line with the person who operates with personal responibleness. The reason is because the motto for those who operate with personal responsibleness is, “it’s up to me to make things happen … unless that is made impossible by circumstance beyond my control.”

If you are reading this blog while spell check is on, you may have noticed that spell check wants to delete the word “responsibleness” and regards it as non-existent. Well, as a manager or supervisor or someone with responsibilities, you must make it not only exist, you must make personal responsibleness a key part of your working vocabulary. So, in today’s times, in addition to giving people responsibilities, what’s needed if we want the best results is personal responsibleness. It’s time for this word to enter into our dialog because we want people to take initiative and we want people to look not only to themselves, but to family, community and place of work to strive to add value.

For a more in-depth look at Personal Responsibleness see Chapter Three of my book On the Edge and In Control.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

“Personal Responsibleness”: The All-important Active Ingredient In Personal Responsibility

22 Feb

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Part One: Introduction to Personal Responsibleness

Most of us realize that it takes a very special kind of person to get through Special Forces training or flight school in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force. These schools take the most qualified candidates they can find and each one that they choose must be a genuine team player who can be trusted by his comrades. But, early in their training, as much as they trust one another, deep down they learn to trust themselves the most when it comes to packing their parachutes on flight missions. For if that parachute is not packed and prepared perfectly, it’s failure to open will be the fault of no one but the one who packed it.

Now, while in your own job and in your own life you may never need to worry about the reliability of a parachute, there are always going to be times and situations where you will have to count on someone else to act on your behalf for something that is crucially important to you. So, take 15 seconds and think hard about this: Among all your friends, fellow workers and associates, which ones, if any, would you put your trust in when it comes to “packing your parachute” regarding a matter that is very important and where a failure would cost, maybe not your life, but, a lot of money, prestige or embarrassment.

Your 15 seconds are up!

After you pick this person, think about what the true traits are that they seem to have that all the others don’t when it comes to your trust in them. It’s likely that you’ll conclude that they have a value structure that seems to guide what they do most of the time. They are probably the kind of person who puts doing what is right before what is simply most beneficial to them. More often than not they take the initiative to move the ball forward for the benefit of all and stand ready to celebrate the success of the overall mission of the organization rather than their own contribution.

This type of person is described by most who come in contact with him or her as “having responsibility”. But wait just one minute! A lot of people have responsibility but what exactly do they do with it? Generally speaking, “having responsibility” refers to something that is just given to us. What we do with responsibility is where our character, self esteem, values, and degree of reliability come into play.

And that is what Personal Responsibleness is all about. It describes a characteristic that engenders an inherent competence and trustworthiness dedicated to the maximum fulfillment of responsibleness. In essence, it’s the acceptance of control!

More about Personal Responsibleness in my next blog.

 

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

You Don’t Have to Like Those You Manage

16 Oct

It’s yet another reorganization and, as the manager of the customer service department, you now have Marilyn reporting to you. It doesn’t take long before you secretly decide that you don’t like her. She has annoying habits that get under your skin. For instance, like most people, you hate to be interrupted and invariably, when speaking with her, she frequently, and unhesitatingly, boldly cuts you off in the middle of a sentence.. To make matters even worse, in meetings she has the habit of correcting you in front of others over the most trivial of items. She also anticipates what you are going to say before you have a chance to finish your sentence. She’ll say, “I get it,” when you believe she really doesn’t. Keeping this picture in mind, what do you need to do to motivate yourself to work with and develop this employee?

Let’s be honest, you need not think of yourself as the only manager who has had to come to terms with a situation like this. While it may take a lot of energy on your part, here are some tips to consider before you actually go into action and approach this type of employee.

Tip #1: Liking a Marilyn is not a prerequisite to dealing with a Marilyn

To begin with, even though you dislike this employee you must not be discouraged from managing her effectively. As a manager, no one ever postulated that you have to like the people who report to you. Your job and role as a leader is to work with them. If you have ever played competitive sports or acted in a play, you’ll easily recall how important it was to focus on the overall goal and to pull together, even if all the players didn’t like one another. It’s a similar situation here. Once you adopt this mental framework, you’re now ready to create an atmosphere of acceptance for criticism. That’s right! Once you realize that by using the proper application of criticism as a way of diminishing the behaviors that get in the way of the major goal of working effectively together, it is then that you are on your way to a successful working relationship. At this point, you are not pointing out Marilyn’s behaviors that annoy you. Instead you are investing time and energy to build a common understanding of how best to work together, so that future conflicts will be minimized and any criticisms delivered will be perceived as helpful.

Tip #2: Create an Atmosphere of Acceptance for Criticism.

Like most people, you might think that criticism of others is a sure way to invite conflict. But, the truth is that criticism, used properly, can be one of the best and most effective learning tools available to managers. It can actually enhance trust and respect in relationships. Most people fail at the effective use of criticism mainly because they do not first create the atmosphere in which it can thrive to everyone’s advantage. To establish an atmosphere of acceptance means taking some time to develop a clear understanding of how best to approach each other when criticism becomes necessary . What’s important to emphasize during your discussion with Marilyn is the role criticism plays at work and how it is linked to helping her to grow and develop. This is a valuable discussion to have because most employees have received little to no training on this subject. Furthermore, if your organization has painted over the word ‘criticism’ – like so many have – then like others in the workforce, Marilyn will be very confused and will need to understand this essential aspect of communication. To further encourage a two way exchange, find out if Marilyn has encountered bosses in the past who have engaged in candid conversations about her performance and what she can do better. By taking this broad approach you are positioning yourself to enter more easily into a discussion about how best to approach Marilyn with criticism. You should never have to guess about how best to approach her. During you exchange, the focus is to develop a common understanding of expectations. If you are wondering whether or not Marilyn would be able to engage in a conversation where she expresses her preferences for how best to be approached, fear not. It’s been my experience that every employee knows what turns them off and what turns them on. They just need to be asked. Millennials, in particular, are looking for feedback. What they are sensitive to is how it is delivered. It needs to be digestible.

Tip #3: Have a Marilyn’s Best Interests in Mind

It’s also essential for you to let Marilyn know you have her best interest in mind so she readily recognizes that the criticism is meant to be helpful. One way you can convey this is by making sure you always show value when delivering criticism. In order to show value, you need to link the criticism to what’s important to Marilyn or to her career goals. Let’s say in the six weeks that you’ve worked with Marilyn you’ve learned from talking to her that she places importance on being respected. Knowing that makes it possible for you to point out to Marilyn how her interruption of others sends the wrong message. More specifically, point out to Marilyn that interrupting others is not only rude but also conveys the notion that what she has to say is more important than what they have to say. It also communicates that she is not interested in listening to what the other person has to say, and that indirectly says she doesn’t respect them. Perhaps your reminded of the following expression, “I wouldn’t give you the time of day if I didn’t respect you.” So listening without interruption sends an indirect message of respect. Now, Marilyn will readily understand where you are coming from as opposed to concluding incorrectly that what you have to say to her is trivial or that you are picking on her.

By taking care to create an atmosphere for effective and acceptable criticism you are ready now to communicate with the Marilyn’s out there and turn them around from someone who is tough to work with to someone you can get along with and go forward. By putting these important tips to work you will immediately find that being open and transparent will be interpreted as helpful and that’s motivating, not only for Marilyn, but for everyone on your team who has to interact with Marilyn.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Empowerment criteria

27 May

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Once again, we’ve been talking about empowering our employees. Last time, I mentioned that not every employee or team can be empowered where they are extended the trust and the necessary resources to execute on a particular task, project, or objective. How do managers assess the worthiness of an employee or team to extend that level of trust?

When conducting the National High Tech Management Study that led to my writing Gearing Up For the Fast Lane: New Tools for Management (Random House) in 1993, we uncovered specific characteristics by surveying over 1000 workers and interviewing 300 executives and HR professionals. These characteristics still endure and apply to all involved in the empowering organization:

  • An unrelenting willingness and ability for all to do what they say they will do
  • A commitment toward keeping higher-ups voluntarily informed
  • A welcoming and consistent atmosphere of availability both up and down the organization
  • A proactive attitude along with a willingness to admit errors and accept responsibility
  • A possession of good self-evaluation skills
  • An understanding to appropriately use money, time, space, personnel, and other resources
  • A potential or demonstrated expertise in the area of control that is under consideration

Managers need to be confident about their decisions and ready to tolerate mistakes by those they are empowering. Managers also need to be able to stay out of the way, especially when it comes to how the empowered employee or team goes about achieving the task or project. It’s also the manager who needs to be self-assured and confident enough to share the glory by giving due credit to those who did the work.

More than ever, activating empowerment in today’s times is an essential leadership skill – especially given those recognition- hungry Millennials who are in the workforce and who are desirous of being challenged and want to have opportunities where they have a part to play in the department’s and organization’s success.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Empowerment to the Workers!

26 May
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We’ve been talking about empowerment in a previous blog. Interestingly, empowerment as a management practice gained prominence in the early 80’s. It came about when organizations joined the trend toward flattening their departments’ top down structures of reporting. Empowerment differs from the process of simple delegation (which gives fairly specific task assignments), in that it allows more of a climate of passionate engagement and promotes decision-making among a wider span of control. It fosters an atmosphere where the lower level employee can bring their expertise, experience, and passion to a task or objective.

A good example to clarify where I am coming from with regard to the difference between delegation and empowerment is looking at a coach of a football team. The coach is delegating when he calls all the plays for the quarterback to execute. If the coach creates the climate in which the quarterback has the savvy and commitment to call as well as execute the plays, the coach has empowered the quarterback. A workplace example used in my last blog where the employee took the initiative to develop a software program to establish much needed metrics in a financial institution exemplifies empowerment that is well entrenched in an organization because the goals and activities originated with the employee. It allowed inventiveness and the origination of ideas and opportunities never considered by the boss.

When creating an environment of empowerment, the question often arises – who is the real star when it works well? Is it the employee, enabling boss, or organization? This is such a tough question to answer because empowerment requires relationships of mutual trust, respect, and good judgment.

If I had to make a choice as it regards today’s business environment, my choice would be the empowering manager. After all, the manager is still responsible for the outcome and pays the ultimate price of success or failure. The buck still stops with the boss. It’s the boss who creates the environment for employees to go beyond fulfilling their daily responsibilities and instead feel a part of the larger organization where they can think about ways to add greater value. Most importantly, it’s up to the boss to accurately assess the talent on his or her team. Not everyone can be empowered. The boss needs to accurately assess whether the employee or team demonstrates a worthiness of being empowered.

What do you think? How would you answer the question?

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).
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