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    5 Creative Ways for Women Business Leaders to Engage Employees

    April 8th, 2013

    If you’re looking for an edge for your enterprise, look no further than your team: Motivated employees can give your business a major advantage.

    There are many ways for women business leaders to inspire your team, but every method has a single goal – to build an engaged workforce that delivers the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Leadership guru Holly Landau outlines 5 creative ways to effectively engage employees in a recent American Express OPEN Forum article:

    1. Give employees a voice: Front-line employees are in touch with customer needs, so they’re a great source of suggestions on how to increase customer satisfaction. And when you ask for their input, employees feel a greater sense of ownership and tend to display more commitment.
    2. Bring out your employees’ inner entrepreneur: Do your customers have unmet needs? Again, your staff may be aware of opportunities that you’ve missed. Engage employees by asking them to identify products or services customers need that you aren’t currently providing.
    3. Engage employees in efficiency and sustainability initiatives: Ask your team for their ideas about how to improve operational efficiency and reduce your company’s carbon footprint. Going green can benefit the planet and your business. And by soliciting staff input, you make them part of the solution.
    4. Ask open-ended questions: Women business leaders are accustomed to solving problems – finding answers is an important part of what you do. But true leadership also entails bringing out the best in your people by asking questions. When you ask open-ended questions, the resulting discussions help your team discover new ways to help your business thrive. It also elevates employee engagement.
    5. Coach and mentor all team members: Whether full- or part-time, traditional employee or contract resource, all team members need clear direction. It’s crucial that you make sure all team members understand their role, know your expectations and receive frequent feedback.

     

    By asking your employees for their input, encouraging them to serve as customer advocates and making sure they understand what is expected of them, you can build and sustain a highly engaged workforce that will give your business a competitive advantage.

    Reader Holly’s full article, “Management Tips from Holly Landau.


    3 To-Dos For Women Leaders To Surround Themselves With The Right People

    November 30th, 2012

    Women business leaders should evaluate the company they keep, both within the business day and socially.

    Have you ever spent time with someone and wondered. “Why am I wasting my time?” There is an old proverb that reads, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”

    Quite often we become like the people we’re around. Based on that, we must be cautious about whom we surround ourselves with because of the short- and long-term implications.

    I have worked with people who looked for negative alliances. A group of actively disengaged employees would hang around together, waiting for the opportunity to talk about how bad things were.

    We all know that if you hang around people who don’t like their jobs or their lives, you’ll become like them.

    Clint Swindall, president and CEO of Verbalocity, a personal development company, suggests 3 “to dos”  to help you surround yourself with the right people:

    1. Analyze your crew

    Surround yourself with people who support and challenge you. Create a support system of  people who enhance your life and will help you reach your goals. Do an analysis of your circle of friends and evaluate whether they add to your life or take away from it. Measure their successes by what you are aspiring to.

    2. Filter out the negativity

    You know that you have good instincts – use your antennae to find the negativity and them make sure that you keep it as far away from your life as possible. Refuse it. Not only does it impact our perspective regarding our own lives, it impacts our mental health.

    If there are negativity supporters or exponents in your organization, you need to have a serous talk with them. If they refuse to change their attitude, you have to get rid of them. They can foster and fester a cancer that will spread through your company and kill your goals, dreams and, ultimately, your livelihood.

    While your success can be determined in part by whom you surround yourself with, it can also be determined in part by whom you choose to not surround yourself with.

    3. Dedicate time to the relationships

    Our lives are so busy that sometimes we have to dedicate the time to interact with the people who mean the most to us. If you need to schedule time to keep in touch with friends and family, put it on a calendar.

    If you’re around someone with a cold, you’ll probably catch the cold. What are you catching from the people around you? These relationships in your professional and personal life are as important to your success as the work itself. Do everything in your power to surround yourself with the right people.

    Summary

    Not often are successful businesses run by one single person; generally you’ll need a very strong support staff that is committed and faithful to the goals of the company. If there are naysayers or negativity artists on board, success will inevitably be derailed before the train gets a full head of steam.

    Use your intuition to select people around you who will compliment and contribute to your goals and boot the detractors off the train before any serious damage is done.

    Read Clints entire Forbes.com article, Surround Yourself with the Right People.

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    9 Simple Ways Women Business Leaders can Reach Their Goals

    September 26th, 2012

    As women business leaders, we have all achieved some kind of goal, but I have been wondering how intentional these milestones really are. For instance, I had never been a runner, but I was inspired by the New York City Marathon while living in New York. Watching the ecstatic runners cross the finish line, I decided that it was going to be me the following year. Having set this goal I was able to plan, train, visualize myself finishing, create milestones while training, make friends with other runners, track my progress and have real clarity about the outcome. I wanted my identity to be a “marathon runner.”

    Reading these tips from Celestine Chua on Dumblittleman.com really made sense when I compared them to how I achieved a random goal – becoming a marathon runner. Think about your own goals and try some of these tips to help make your own goals become reality.

    1. Concentrate on 1-3 goals
      If you constantly have trouble keeping to your goals, maybe you’re spreading yourself too thin. Pick 1-3 goals that are most important to you, and stick to them.
    2. Create a vision board
      A vision board is a collage of pictures and images that represent your goals and dreams. Creating a vision board helps you to visualize your end goals more clearly, which inevitably inspires you to take consistent action.
    3. Create milestones
      If you just set one huge goal, it can be discouraging – especially when you don’t achieve it after a short while. I find it’s helpful to break a big goal into smaller goals.
    4. Create a plan
      The best time to work out your plan is when you set the goal, because that’s when your motivation is the highest.
    5. Track your results
      It’s important for me to track the results of what I do. Otherwise it feels like my actions are not making a difference. Every time I work on a goal, I will identify 1-2 performance metrics, and then track those metrics daily/weekly.
    6. Have goal buddies
      Goal buddies are people who share similar goals with you. They help to remind you about your goal, cheer you on when you feel unmotivated, give you new ideas on how to achieve your goal and keep you on track.
    7. Start documenting your goal pursuit
      Having a blog or private diary to document your goal pursuit can be a therapeutic experience. When we write out our thoughts, it helps us to get clarity on our issues and renews our interest in the goal.
    8. Be clear on why you’re pursuing the goals
      For me, if I’m really serious about a goal, I keep hammering away at it, regardless of the obstacles, until they give way and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor.
    9. Learn to say no
      Do you often put your goals aside for other people? You can’t put your life on hold for others! Learn how to say no and you may find a bigger pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

    I realize now that I instinctively used many of Celestine’s tips in planning and focusing on my personal goal to become a marathon runner. But these tips can easily transfer to your business goals, as well.


    How Women Business Leaders can Spot a Liar

    September 23rd, 2012

    While I hail from a rather dramatic, perhaps dysfunctional (as we all do in some ways) family, two values were etched in my character: Never break a promise and never tell a lie. As a woman business leader and business owner, these values have helped me stay grounded throughout my career. I have to admit, though, that the drama also comes with a license to exaggerate – but only for the purposes of a good story, of course!

    Consequently, spotting a liar has been very difficult for me. I think these tips I’ve condensed from an article by Bill Rosenthal and Carolyn M. Anderson are very helpful.

    When evaluating a potential liar, consider these three behavioral signals — that is, both what they say and how they say it:

    Discomfort
    Does the person seem uncomfortable about what she is saying? The visible anxiety may be caused by guilt or fear of getting caught, which leads liars to hurry to end the discussion and even look relieved when it’s over. Their feet might be pointing in the direction of their getaway — perhaps a doorway or a hallway. They may also put a barrier — such as a briefcase or purse — between themselves and you.

    Evasiveness
    Someone who withholds information or keeps the conversation vague when you ask for specifics might be lying, particularly if that person finds it hard to remember something that should easily be remembered.

    Manipulation
    Is the person using data that’s suspect? When you ask her a question, the liar may answer with much more detail than is needed. She may also use overly explicit language for emphasis: Adding lots of detail is a common trick of con artists, for example.

    New Research
    Aside from those three behavioral clues, you should also consider if the speaker is more likely to lie. You’ll find plenty of new research on this subject. For example, a person who is under pressure is more apt to stretch the truth than someone who is not.

    I hasten to add that these tips are just guidelines and to use them with careful consideration and thought. Just keep in mind – not everyone who exhibits some of these behaviors is lying. They just might be nervous or have to visit the ladies room!


    How Women Business Leaders Can Create Effective, Sustainable, Healthy Organizations

    September 21st, 2012

    These are the basic principles that will apply to any organization, whether it exists to make money or to fulfill its mission. As a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I am passionate about my business and the causes that I am involved in. I find these tips from Fredia Woolf extremely relevant to the health of either.

    I’ve summarized Fredia’s “7 Essentials for an Effective, Sustainable, Healthy Organization” and added my thoughts for you here:

    1. Leadership ability and commitment
      Fredia notes that, “At the heart of every successful organization lies the quality, competency, vision and drive of its leader or leaders.” I think most of us have experienced lackluster leadership, whether in businesses, schools or government. It shows in the lack of enthusiasm of employees, students and staff.
    2. Strategy
      Without clarity and direction, says Fredia, it’s difficult for employees and staff to feel as if they are part of the process. Leaders need to communicate the organization’s strategies so that team members can set goals that are aligned with the corporate goals, and work together to achieve them.
    3. Communication from and visibility of senior leaders
      According to Fredia, “Highly capable leaders who craft a brilliant strategy yet stay in their offices … will not create high performance or healthy organizations.”  Not only should good leaders be the voice of the organization to the outside world, they should communicate often and openly with their team. Keeping staff informed and updated helps them to feel part of the overall success of the business.
    4. Accountability
      Fredia makes a good point, noting that many times leaders either micromanage their team or don’t offer enough support or direction leaving employees to flounder. Finding balance between those two extremes makes sense not only from a productivity standpoint but also from an employee satisfaction standpoint. Empowering your team to make decisions but also holding them accountable for their work will create an engaged and purposeful team.
    5. Remove structural impediments
      Rather than referring to office walls and closed doors, Fredia is suggesting that there may be political, organizational or even personal agendas in a business that hamper it from growing and adapting. Healthy organizations will acknowledge internal impediments exist and work towards a goal of removing them.
    6. Creating a sense of team and trust
      While it is important to gather employees that have the technology and technical expertise to help your business stay profitable and current, Fredia cautions that companies cannot afford to forget about teamwork and trust. You can employ great technical minds, but if your team doesn’t communicate and trust one another, your organization will flounder.
    7. Focus on coaching and development
      Fredia’s last point is so important, and something I feel strongly about in my own business. Coaching and mentoring your team to help them reach their full potential not only helps your business by maximizing the talent your team already possesses, but it fosters team members who will go the extra mile for you when the going gets rough.

    Rather than think of employees as expendable or as a business asset, grow a culture of trust, communication and mentoring to create a team culture that fosters healthy effective sustainable organizations. Here are a few of my favorite blogs on mentoring, “7 Way Women Business Leaders can Mentor and Motivate Others”, and “Itzhak Perlman Inspires Pointers on Perfection for Women Business Leaders.”


    6 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Avoid Making Employees Miserable

    July 24th, 2012

    I pride myself in having  a heightened sense of “women’s intuition”.  Women business leaders can benefit not only from their intuition but by using their feminine sensitivity.

    Suzanne Lucas raises a great question in a recent article, “Are you trying to make your employees’ lives miserable?”

    From her article, here are 6 simple ways to use your feminine sensitivity to avoid it:

    1. Build consensus around your decisions.

    Instituting an unpleasant policy without explanation or input makes everyone unhappy.

    2. Don’t ignore your bad employees.

    Don’t  ignore the problems of a bad employee; this will make your good employees unhappy.

    3. Don’t make blanket changes rather than deal with the problem.

    Deal with the perpetrator of a problem – don’t subject the entire team to a lecture/action based on the behaviour of one bad employee.

    4.Don’t make employees suffer in bad times, but not profit in good times.

    Employees are willing to suffer in bad times to maintain their jobs and save the company.  But when things pick up and you’re still using the austerity program you set up last year, your employees will resent you.

    5. Don’t hold your good employees back.

    Make sure that you support the professional growth of employees. This will keep them happy and more likely encourage their loyalty to you and the company.

    6. Don’t think only of the customers and not the employees.

    Customers generally come first.  But not all customers are worth keeping and some will drive off your best employees.  Before you accept their unreasonable demands, think about how many good employees you are pushing out the door.

    In summary you have the feminine power of being sensitive to issues. You can avoid having unhappy employees but you also have the ability to improve the overall experience in the workplace.

    I would encourage you to read Suzanne Lucas’s entire article, Are You Trying to Make Your Employees’ Lives Miserable? | BNET.

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    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Embrace Their Femininity

    July 22nd, 2012

    Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    My daughter started her career in a high stress male dominated industry. We were reflecting on how a woman can succeed in this environment  without becoming masculinised. Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    The truth is that women have been liberated. We no longer need to spend our energies proving that we’re equal. We own our own companies, we assume leadership roles and we don’t have to wear ties to work.

    Here are 5 ways to create this balance while getting respect from both males and females:

    1. Don’t pretend that you’re one of the boys – you’re not. But at the same time don’t play the “us girls” game.  Work at your individuality as a person. Use your unique leadership strengths when dealing with an issue.
    2. You shouldn’t dress provocatively but you also don’t need to wear a burka.  You have a wonderful opportunity to express yourself  and your femininity.  Make sure that you are dignified and professional and let your gender work for you.
    3. It’s OK to talk about kids, make-up and hair but please consider your audience – these discussions may be boring to whomever is listening. Be yourself but remain sensitive to the situation.
    4. Respect both male and female employees. Disparaging remarks about men set a feminist tone and put a line in the sand when there may not have been an issue to begin with.
    5. Watch out for “womens only groups” why would you want to segregate ideas and talent. Position yourself as an entrepreneurial leader rather than a proponent of  “Women rule”

    You have a real advantage as a woman running a business – don’t blow it by  wearing workboots and snarling at men, rather walk around in your stilettos with strength and conviction.

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    5 Reasons Why Women Make Good Business Leaders

    July 19th, 2012

    Women Business Owners have inherent skills because of real life experiences.

    I had the pleasure of raising a family and view the intricate balance of my team as an extended family. I have found that the skill set that I developed running a household has shaped how I run my company.

    In a recent article, Bob Schmidt,  provides his top five reasons that women make good business owners:

    1.  Multi-tasking Pros…

    Women business leaders and managers are constantly pulled from one decision to the next.  Have to multi-task in similar manner to every mother who has raised a family. Most women are accustomed to constant interruption and distraction.

    2. People Skills…

    The people skills learned by women as they negotiate peace between siblings, and helping their children negotiate through the early years of life epitomizes skills needed to work with clients and customers.

    3. Attitude…

    Although attitudes vary a great deal from one person to another, it might be said that many women may have a greater desire to succeed than their male counterparts.

    After having been viewed as housewives and mothers, some women have great desire to feel respected for other accomplishments. Being marginalized by society is frustrating and may fuel tremendous dedication to business success.

    4. Consumer Preferences…

    The customer base of many types of businesses prefer to deal with women. Most men are not suited to deal with things near and dear to the female psyche. In addition, some women do not like to deal with men and prefer to work with women. From a customer viewpoint, it is likely that women have some advantage in many marketing areas.

    5. Diversity…

    Because of the history of the world of business being male dominated, women have added value due to past under representation in businesses excepting at lower levels. Professional female employees can be seen as an asset in ways that are difficult to quantify.

    Summary…

    Women offer skill sets that men cannot because of their gender, and the experiences that result from it. This is not to say that me do not have skills, but finding the balance of both genders in the workplace is probably “A woman’s job”.

    Read Bob’s entire article, Unique skills that women bring to management positions

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    How Women Business Leaders can Create Better Meetings

    July 1st, 2012

    Photo by Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg

    I have reached a point in my life where I am experiencing “meeting overload.” I really like the idea of collaborating and I am also committed to accountability. In my blog for women business leaders about making meetings fun and effective, I talk about the various characters around the table. Knowing whom you are dealing with helps frame your approach to the meeting. I always like to have an agenda, a meeting goal, expected outcomes and a system for tracking tasks and themes for the follow up meetings.

    In an American Express blog by Barry Moltz, he outlines some great meeting tips gleaned from Al Pittampalli’s new book, Read This Before Our Next Meeting. I think these meeting suggestions should be incorporated into all businesses meeting plans:

    1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made
    The successful meeting must have “a bias for action.” According to Pittampalli, a meeting should only focus on two activities: Resolve conflict and to lead coordination of action.

    2. Move fast—end on time
    Set a time limit for each meeting. Pittampalli reminds us that “Every meeting costs a fortune. Spend it wisely.” Start and end on time by only discussing the relevant issues and actions that need to be taken right now.

    3. Limit attendees to the meeting
    The more people attending a meeting, the more people that need to agree to take an action. This slows down the meeting process. Pittampalli believes every attendee needs to ask themselves two questions before attending: Do I add critical value sitting in the meeting? Can I give my opinion in advance of the meeting?

    4. Reject attendees that are unprepared
    Create an agenda and send material in advance for everyone to be prepared. This way, the discussion can begin at the start of the meeting and no one needs to be “brought up to speed.” Pittampalli says that agendas need to state the problem, the alternatives and what decisions will be made at the meeting.

    5. Create committed action plans
    Pittampalli insists that every meeting should have a plan of action at its conclusion including: What action is being committed to, who is responsible for each action and when will it be completed?

    6. Work with brainstorms
    Pittampalli has detailed guidelines around how brainstorming exists inside effective meetings. These include only inviting people that are passionate about the idea and who can praise other people’s ideas liberally. Most importantly, use a strong outside facilitator that can lead a timely brainstorming session.

    I know it’s a challenging list considering all of the meeting-happy businesses out there, but I never met anyone yet who says honestly that they “love meetings.”  I am always thinking of ways to make the meeting process less painful, and I’d welcome your tips in the comments below.


    Tips for Women Business Leaders to Disagree in a Positive Way

    June 29th, 2012

    Photo by takomabibelot

    For women business leaders, understanding yourself is the key to evaluating how you will react in group situations where you may not agree with what you are hearing. I was recently challenged by someone who was not happy with an action that I had taken. My immediate reaction was to get into a defensive position by defending my actions. I came away from the encounter feeling insecure and angry. When I actually stopped to analyze what had taken place I realized that, firstly, I had not been approached with diplomacy and secondly, my reaction was emotional.

    This is what I should have done; listen, process and buy time by saying, “I hear you but I may not actually agree with you.” This would have taken me beyond emotion into a logical place where the issue may have been efficiently solved.

    Here are some positive ways to intentionally disagree, condensed from a Forbes blog:

    Share your knowledge so others benefit
    Speak up to share your knowledge and expertise, and don’t let the fears of disagreement stop you. Make yourself a part of the conversation. People want to hear what you have to say.

    Mirror the person who is disagreeing
    When the person who disagrees with you speaks, make sure to respond by repeating what he or she has said word for word. For example, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you are saying is…” Once they’re under the impression that others are listening to and understanding them, they are then able to listen more carefully to what you have to say.

    Validate the person who is disagreeing
    As you respond with a conflicting opinion; first explain to the person that you understand what he or she is saying with a phrase such as “It makes sense to me that.” It helps you understand more fully the point of view that is different from your own. And it lowers people’s defenses so that they are open to what you have to say.

    Be prepared for contrary viewpoints
    Before attending a meeting in which disagreement might occur, imagine some potential reasons why others might question your point of view. Then come up with sound and logical arguments to counter these viewpoints.

    I know that I have to intentionally disconnect my feelings in tense situations, but it is not always that easy. The ideas here can be used as your own personal exercise prior to meetings to help prepare for potential disagreements. What techniques do you use to diffuse disagreements?