If Silence is Golden, Then Listening is Platinum

July 24th, 2017 Comments off

listening

Within the past month, I have come across two fascinating articles that discussed the art of listening. One article focused on relationship building and the other, the importance of listening in the sales industry. My rationale for comparing platinum and listening is twofold.  First, platinum is both a rare and precious item.  Secondarily, gold is much more abundant than platinum – so much so that all the platinum ever mined could fit into one room inside an average sized home.

I have made a concerted effort to focus on my ability to listen to a person versus hearing a person.  Often I am ridiculed about the pause that occurs when someone speaking to me finishes talking.  I am hardly offended by these comments, as I am simply trying to make a conscious effort to practice good listening skills and show the person that I am listening to them.  This is something I try to practice, as I have not perfected this skill and it can always be improved upon.  After all, it is difficult to be distracted by all of the many handheld devices available to us.

Whether it is building a personal or a professional relationship, it is important to listen to a person and truly understand their position or the motivation/reasoning for what they are saying.  Professionally speaking, specifically in the sales industry, listening will enable you to understand the ‘pain’ that a person is experiencing and allow you to develop an appropriate solution.  It has been well documented that people buy based on emotion rather than logical thought processes.  Therefore it is extremely important to truly listen to what is being said and build the rapport necessary to get to that level of emotional purchase.

As stated in one of the articles, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. I highly recommend that you take a minute to read, The Power of Listening to Make Sales, by Kirk Heiner.

 

 

Building A Comprehensive Contingency Plan

May 25th, 2017 Comments off

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Terrorism, natural disasters, corporate scandals, labor strikes and industrial accidents have plagued corporations for decades, and more and more businesses realize the critical role that a well-developed contingency plan can play. They also realize that now – more than ever – it is not only what happens that adversely affects the business operations, it is how you deal with it and the message sent to the public. Companies cannot afford to be caught unprepared for a business setback. With the correct plan, you can mitigate your risk and preserve your brand. A good contingency plan will include allowances for the necessary specialized security, human impact resources, supplemental personnel needs, a robust communication/public relations plan and solid operational strategies.

You need to create a contingency planning committee that represents all stakeholders to oversee this effort. Ideally, have an outside expert review the plan to ensure proper goals have been established, workable timelines have been set up, and the logistics are accurate. The result should be a comprehensive plan, accessible to all team members and ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice.

Regardless of the reason that your business is in potential turmoil, you are going to need individuals with the required skill sets to address all facets within the plan. The personnel you bring on board should have experience that allows them to make sound decisions in less than ideal conditions. You must thoroughly review your company’s facilities, operations, and existing business practices to identify your strengths and vulnerabilities. For business continuity, you may also need to provide for people’s personal needs. The plan should also include provisions for family members of your company’s management team and employees. Depending on the nature of the business interruption, your company may need to not only address these issues but also interface with emergency response agencies. In this case, you should meet regularly with these agencies and have ongoing open communications.

Special amenities may be required that include things such as mobile workstations, appetizing meals, clean and comfortable sleeping and shower arrangements and laundry facilities. In a natural disaster, you may have to hire temporary workers from outside of the affected area, as it could be a matter of economic survival. Plan ahead and identify the working resources you will require, and then internally fill those positions with existing resources or work with a company that can provide personnel with those skills. Should you work with an outside resource, that company should supervise those employees on your behalf so your company’s managers can concentrate on returning to business as usual.In uncertain times, it is extremely important to communicate. You need to let your employees, clientele, business investors, and internal management team know how you are handling things and how you will continue to address any difficulties or problems encountered. Nobody likes being left in the dark; it can make them nervous and cause them to question your intentions and authority. Be up front, available and honest. All sorts of people will want to know what’s going on – so let them know.  Open and frequent communication is vital!

 

 

 

A Disney ‘Release’ They Don’t Want To Promote

March 20th, 2017 Comments off

Even one of largest global organizations in the world is not immune to the US Department of Labor laws.  Disney has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in back wages to employees at two theme parks in Florida.  It was determined that Disney violated labor laws by deducting uniform/costume costs from their employees causing wages to be below the standard minimum pay.

This illustrates the importance of having a firm understanding of US labor law, ongoing educational programs for your Human Resources/Labor Relations departments and a strong employment labor attorney.  The nuances of US labor legislation and policy implementation happens frequently, and organizations big and small must not take their eye off the ball on these matters.  I am sure that Disney, as well as other organizations, never intended to impact those valued employees negatively; however, the responsibility lies with the company to adhere to labor laws.  This unintentional situation has resulted in both negative press and strained relations with the ‘happiest place on earth’ valued team members.

The bottom line is – no matter how good of an organization you are or intend to be, one misstep can erase years of positive employee relations.

For more on this topic, click the following link.  http://www.newsy.com/stories/disney-to-pay-back-millions-after-employee-labor-dispute/

‘The Lochte’

September 23rd, 2016 Comments off

With the popularity of the TV show Dancing with the Stars, specifically, the buzz surrounding Ryan Lochte as a contestant, it made me think about the entire ‘Olympic situation’ again.

As I was watching the Olympics, I noticed how often specific actions are named after the competitors.  For example, ‘The Biles’, ‘The Amanar’ and ‘The Onodi’ in gymnastics, ‘The Cryuff’ in soccer and ‘The Fosbury Flop’ in track and field.  These events or sports, along with diving, lend themselves to the potential of this phenomenon.  Swimming, on the other hand, was not one of those sports, until recently. We all witnessed the birth of ‘The Lochte’.  Ironically, this action is not performed in the pool where this athlete normally competes; nor is it limited to highly trained athletes.  This ‘move’ can be performed by anyone and at any time.

In the business world, ‘The Lochte’ is often demonstrated and many times perfected, as recently shown by the EpiPen maker Mylan and the banking giant Wells Fargo.  The essence of ‘The Lochte’ is rather basic and easy to execute.  Just as any athlete trains diligently to reach his or her goals, businesses also strive for success.  This commitment can culminate great accomplishments.  However, years of diligently improving and achieving success can come crashing down in a heartbeat with one perfectly executed ‘Lochte’.  Employees can be negatively impacted, customers can be lost, and revenue generation can take a tremendous turn for the worse. Yes, these events are devastating; but the true character of a company and the leadership is how they recover from the ill-timed ‘Lochte’.

It will be interesting to watch how Ryan Lochte, and those companies who perfectly executed ‘The Lochte’ recover (or do not recover) from the negativity of their actions.  If we as individuals are wise, we will all pay attention and learn the best way to respond and properly handle should we perform ‘The Lochte’.

Penny Wise, But Pound Foolish

June 23rd, 2016 Comments off

In recent months, I have run across the following scenario more than I ever have in my combined 20 years in the industry.  Companies looking for a ‘contract security‘ company to provide labor dispute security services.  From a fiduciary responsibility standpoint this may seem to make sense; however the intangible consequences can be catastrophic.  The ability to avoid a ULP (unfair labor practice) charge is paramount in these situations.  Using a contract security firm during a labor dispute may appear to be economical; however the lack of expertise could be damaging.

A contract security company offers guards that lack the following essential training:

  • Legal right & responsibilities
  • Labor relations
  • Tactical communications
  • Professionalism & ethics
  • Public relations (dealing with the media)
  • Relations with law enforcement agencies
  • Code of conduct
  • Passive & aggressive communications
  • Note taking & report writing
  • Evidence collection & documentation (i.e. verbal, material, documentary evidence)
  • Response options to violent situations and persons
  • Components of communications
  • Roles of persuasion

A contract security company will not understand the following:

  • Picket line protocols
  • Affidavits & testimony in court
  • Union’s legal strike rights
  • Management’s legal strike rights
  • Picket line crossing procedures
  • Continuity of evidence procedures
  • Preparing sworn affidavits for legal counsel
  • Video evidence procedures
  • Highway traffic act procedures
  • Transportation
  • Educational seminars for client management & third party contractors who will be crossing picket lines

During a labor dispute, third parties and those organizations sympathetic to the union, may support the union that is on strike.  A contract security company will not have the required understanding of that third party’s habits and activities. Personal relationships between the security officers and particular employees may exist, thus creating an uncomfortable dynamic once the strike is over. In fact, the contract security guards may even be unionized themselves.

The bottom line is that a contract security company is not as qualified as a specialized security organization in providing strike security services.   A local resource may be more economical on the surface; however, one wrong action can have a detrimental long-term financial impact.

 

My Parents…One is a Sneaker and the Other a Dress Shoe

May 26th, 2016 Comments off

Recently, I was on a business trip and like many traveling on an airplane, I began thumbing through the airline magazine.  As I mindlessly scanned the pages, an advertisement for shoes caught my eye.  The ad was promoting how comfortable the company’s dress shoes are.  The tagline at the top of the ad read, “My Mother was a Sneaker, My Father Was a Dress Shoe.”  This got my mind going thinking about how this simple phrase can be parenthetically tied to actual life.

Think about how many times throughout your personal and business life where you must present yourself in one manner; yet be agile enough to change direction or strategy.  Your intent is to be perceived as ‘dressy’ and put together, but the reality calls for you to be ‘comfortable’ and ‘flexible’ to be effective. You must demonstrate the outer persona of a dress shoe but have the internal inherent qualities of a multi-functional sneaker.  This is not an easy skill set to master and can take years to perfect, however, once perfected it can be a valuable and enviable quality.  There is a host of parallels in life that are attributable to having this talent, such as parenting, business, sports and having long-term personal relationships. This quality applies to professions in the military, law enforcement, security, and in the boardroom.

I am just thankful that the following adage does not apply, My Parents…One is a Sandal and One is a Slipper!

Eight Months of Vulnerability?

April 25th, 2016 Comments off

Although this political season surrounding the forthcoming presidential election has been entertaining, we must remember that it will be a vulnerable time for the United States.  This vulnerability not only exists within the country but more importantly on the world stage.

This period between nominating a political party candidate for the presidency and the transition of power following the election will be critical, both domestically and regarding US foreign policy.  Many world leaders and heads of radical groups can use this time to position themselves during a perceived time of confusion and instability within the United States.  This cannot only impact the United States but our allies as well. Especially when you have two divisive frontrunners from each party.

Many foreign governments can use this period to enhance their military position or improve their economy through aggressive measures while the attention is focused on the United States’ current events.  With a lame duck president in power, leaders can find themselves in a very convenient situation.  This is not a new concept and has been played out in previous elections specifically during the Jimmy Carter administration and the Iranian relationship.

As far as the current US presidential primary, I relate this situation to the Reagan/Carter presidential race; where one leading candidate is a known politician, and the other is someone from outside the beltway.

One thing is for sure; it will be an interesting next eight months.

The Bowler Philosophy

February 24th, 2016 Comments off

On Monday evening, my wife and I have arrived at the local bowling alley for our weekly bowling league with our friends.  For those who are not familiar with a bowling league, there is about a fifteen to twenty minute period for individuals to warm up before scoring begins.  Being the hardcore bowler that I am (not); I usually roll a couple down the alley and then spend the rest of the time sitting and waiting for the actual games to begin.

On this particular evening, I spent the majority of my time just watching all the others bowl, particularly the vast array of personalities and styles of bowling.  You have all the socioeconomic classes represented in a bowling alley, along with the varying spectrum of skill levels and styles. For example:

  • The straight ball technique – the person throws an absolutely straight ball down the lane and minimizes all the components of a bowling technique
  • The hard curve ball technique – the person delivers the ball at a high speed and puts a spin on the ball which causes it to curve from one side of the lane to another when it strikes the pins – all about the power
  • The soft curve ball technique – the person delivers a slow rolling ball down the lane with a spin that moves the ball from the outside of the lane towards the middle as it strikes the pins – more finesse than power
  • The ball dropper – the person can use either the straight ball or curved technique but lofts the ball down the lane, which lands with a thud instead of a graceful roll – function vs. how their actions are viewed

The other epiphany that came to me was that these techniques were not limited to one type of person, or the success of a higher scoring game.  In essence, you can achieve the same result by approaching a task from many different perspectives.  I continued to think about this philosophy and how it transfers to the business world.  Individuals within an organization employ different techniques. As a result of every individual’s unique techniques, businesses should be vigilant in doing background screening for a comprehensive understanding of their candidates. Whether you manage a large or small group of people, or work as a peer within an organization, everyone should consider the ‘bowler philosophy’ and try not to box people into a specific style or approach.

Does this ‘strike’ a cord or are you saying ‘spare’ me?

A New Year Means Resolutions…But For Whom?

January 21st, 2016 Comments off

Well, it is that time of year again when people look back on the previous year and make vows, (New Year’s resolutions), to improve some aspect of their life.  Whether that is to take better physical care of themselves, improve a relationship, be more tolerant or a number of other objectives.  These commitments are introspective and generally made by individuals.  However, these resolutions should not just be limited to individuals but also include businesses as well.  Yes, I know, businesses are made of a compilation of individuals and if theses individuals (employees) improve on themselves, then the business will indirectly see the benefits.  Although this may be true to a degree, good business leaders should also take the opportunity to make business resolutions as well.  These resolutions are generally going to be top down driven objectives and it is incumbent of business leaders to drive these resolutions.  This can be accomplished through a formal business or departmental improvement plan or an overall corporate culture initiative.

In our company, the senior management team identified improvement areas and chose three of those ‘resolutions’ to address in 2016.  The key, just as in a personal resolution, is to not commit to something that you know is unattainable but still challenges an individual both personally and professionally.  I recently read a great article in Forbes that addresses this issue and provides suggestions if you are struggling to identify them yourself.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of these ‘habits’ I already practice and know they work. Below you will find some of those items outlined in the article:

“No micromanagement”

So easy to lapse into yet so rarely effective.  A recent study pointed to pesky micromanagement as a primary reason behind talent departures – with employees who felt micromanaged being 28% more likely to look for work elsewhere.  Of course there’s a difference between close supervision when needed and chronic micromanagement when not: one is constructive, the other destructive.

“No playing favorites”

Anyone who’s managed a day in his or her life can tell you this is an easy trap to fall into.  Some people are just easier to manage, while others can be downright hard… but that doesn’t mean the ‘harder’ employee isn’t valuable to your organization.  In fact, he or she may be even more valuable.

“Don’t hesitate to hire people smarter than yourself”

As a leader who wants to optimize team performance, it’s critical to hire the best people you can (plus people you feel will work well together).  Management is no place for the insecure.  Hiring people who have talents you lack will likely boost your team’s overall performance.

“No ducking conflict”

This is an-all-too-common challenge.  That should come as no surprise – conflict is unpleasant.  It involves tension, confrontation, and firm direct communication.  But, make no mistake; handling conflict effectively is invariably a core task of management.  If you’re in management and can’t abide conflict, chances are you’re in the wrong business.

“Set an example that’s easy to follow”

This is probably the simplest – and best – action you can take in the New Year.  Just set an exemplary example.  It always has the same cost – zero dollars and zero cents.

 

I highly recommend and urge any business leader to take the opportunity to identify the business resolutions you wish to tackle in 2016!

 

 

Workplace Violence – How to Deal with a Disgruntled Ex-employee

December 31st, 2015 Comments off

You are an executive working intently in your office when your assistant calls and informs you that a disgruntled ex-employee has shown up at the facility with a weapon and is threatening employees.  Will you know what to do, or better yet, what not to do?

Workplace violence can be defined as any act that creates intimidating, hostile, and offensive or a threatening work environment through unwelcome words, actions or physical contact.  As we have seen on multiple occasions, workplace violence and active shooter occurrences have been on a steady incline in this country.  Are you and your company prepared?

There are two types of workplace violence that need to be taken into consideration. First is the external variety – criminal activity from a non-employee, client or customer.  Second is the internal variety of a problem employee, employee personal relationship, hostile individual due to disciplinary actions or a facility closing.  Be prepared by taking some very easy measures:

  • Have a  written policy that is known throughout your organization
  • Take the position of ‘no tolerance’ for this activity
  • Train employees and provide ongoing training
  • Make sure your plan protects first, then concentrates on compliance
  • Understand and effectively communicate the legal implications

The potential deadly situations are reasonably foreseeable and this should be the standard used for compliance and determination of liability. Understand what data you need to assist in the prevention of workplace violence.  You not only have a legal responsibility but the obligation to your workforce.  Negligent hiring, high-risk terminations, retention, security, and poor training open you and your organization to the possibility of a workplace violence incident.  Human resources plays a key role in your workplace violence plan through effective pre-employment screening, establishing discrete communications channels, an Employee Assistance Program and coordination with your security personnel regarding response plans.

Do not allow yourself to make these five critical mistakes:

  • Denial and avoidance
  • Not having a threat response plan
  • Acting too hastily
  • Lack of total workforce participation
  • Insufficient assessment process

Coordinate a case assessment team and make sure they understand their purpose, make-up, objectives, and documentation measures.  The need to recognize the behavioral warning signs that signal potential trouble and that evaluation of behavior is not ‘profiling’.

Protective measures include:

  • A facility security audit
  • Obtaining local crime statistics
  • Recording a history of incidents
  • Personnel training
  • General security awareness training
  • An established liaison with local law enforcement.

Remember, ignorance does not relieve an organization of responsibility.  In summation, an organization has a Duty of Care responsibility to their employees and must plan, train, recognize, manage and respond to this growing problem within the business community.

 

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