Avoid Days of the Living Dead…addressing the workplace zombies and promoting engagement one person at a time.

Avoid Days of the Living Dead…addressing the workplace zombies and promoting engagement one person at a time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. Kate and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. 

Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time. These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.

KNOWING YOUR ZOMBIES

Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:

  • Negative zombies – Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
  • Minimum-contributor zombies – They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
  • Status-quo zombies – These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
  • Shortcut zombies – They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.

IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE 

To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:

  • The ready-made zombie story:  People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
  • The we-did-it-here zombie story:  Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
  • The retired-on-the-job zombie story:  These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
  • The abandoned zombie:  Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.

MAKING THE CHOICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE 

When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management. Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory. Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.

TAKING ACTION 

Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.

Step 1

Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.

Step 2

Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.

Step 3

Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs. No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.

Step 4

Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.

Step 5

Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.

ASK

  • Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
  • Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
  • Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
  • Do managers confront negativity?
  • Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
  • Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
  • Does a strong zombie-screening interview process exist?
  • When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?

The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.

7 Common Communication Blunders

7 Common Communication Blunders

Have you ever said something at work you wish you hadn’t? Sometimes the wrong words just blurt out to employees or with the client. The first step in fixing common communication blunders on the job is to know what those blunders are. Then you can say something the smart way and not the dumb way.  Verbal communication expert, Greg Alcorn, CEO of Global Contact Services (GCS) of Salisbury, NC, is the author of 7 Dumb Things We All Say and speaks to thousands of people each year on improving verbal communication at work.

 

BELOW, GREG HAS LISTED THE SEVEN BIGGEST BLUNDERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE USED, BUT HAVE DEFINITELY COME ACROSS!

ONE:  Using Bad Bookends. The biggest blunder is starting and ending what you say with the wrong phrasing. Conversation bookends are the small comments or questions just before or right after a full statement or request for action. Be better with your starting and ending bookends. Pre-sentence bookends as a tool can be engaging, demeaning, or distracting. Names are great bookends. Starting a sentence with the name of the person you are talking to warms that person up. “Mary, may I put you on hold?” Saying your name last in your introduction makes it easy for the person you are talking with remember your name. “This is the help line; my name is Jack.”

TWO:  Starting with Wrong First Words. Are you familiar with the adage, “Getting off on the wrong foot”? Conversations have first impressions, and they begin with your first three words. Hint: one of the words should be the other person’s name. Using names is important when speaking on the phone, especially conference calls. Conference call principle number one is if you’re going to call on somebody, start with the name. Instead of saying, “What were the metrics on our operations yesterday, Frank?” ask the right way: “Frank, what were the metrics on our operation yesterday?” If you don’t start with the name, you might catch the person by surprise. It certainly catches people’s attention when you say their name first.

THREE:  Not Choosing Your Words Well. The words you choose paint a picture for the listener. Your words express your attitude and your personality. Keep it positive. Don’t start a sentence with the word “no.” Even in introductions, you can’t go wrong with saying the person’s name first. A person’s name followed by the four words “I need your help” is a winner. “Rachel, I need your help.” This is especially powerful when it’s in a situation in which you might be the boss and the other person might be a manager, or you might be in a perceived superior position.

FOUR:  Poor Questions and Bad Listening. Meaningful questions always stay on subject, keep a conversation moving forward, and ensure the other person feels heard and understood. Becoming a better listener is easier than you might think. It starts by committing to be a great listener and making an active choice to listen. Ask good questions and really listen. This is the “You have two ears and one mouth” principle.

FIVE:  Focus-on-Me Attitude. Making it all about you is a turn off for them. This is not a technique; this is an attitude. The best way to describe a benefit is to describe the feeling received. “I came by as soon as I heard you lost the sale; I’m sad.” The fellow employee can recognize the extra effort and surely appreciates the sentiment. It’s a powerful sentence. A special visit, a sense of urgency, and a sincere feeling (sad). Empathy shows feelings.

SIX:  Wrong Tone. People feel more comfortable with pleasant, variable tone quality. Voice tone is made up of rate, pitch, and volume. Think tone and don’t drone. The tone of our voice helps others to hear our empathy. The rate, pitch, and volume of our statements of empathy helps express feelings. Usually, but not always, we hear implied empathy when somebody slows down speech and lowers the pitch and volume. Say, “I am sad to hear that you lost the supermarket account,” and I’ll bet you will automatically say it slow and low. The same with excitement at the opposite end of the spectrum. Say “Team, we won the hotel account!” You can’t help but say it fast, high, and loud. Tone expresses empathy.

SEVEN:  Not Diffusing Difficult Drama. Stressful conversations, or drama, can be avoided by mastering word selection, listening, and questioning skills. Drama can be inevitable, however. Most stressful situations can be defused when you apply the three Rs: recognize, restate, and reassure. Ask others: “What would you like to see happen?” Those are seven magic words that can defuse difficult drama: Words are just a tool, like electricity is a tool. And like any tool, they can be used for helping or for harming. Electricity can cook a person’s dinner, or it can burn a person’s dinner. Words can turn people on or turn people off.

Here is the bottom line: Nobody wants to say dumb things. But we all do. The first step towards reducing the number of dumb things you say is to know what the dumb things are. Then don’t say that, say something smarter.

 

How to Obtain the Best Business Negotiation Results

How to Obtain the Best Business Negotiation Results

Written by Executive Leadership Coach, Denise Louise Jeffrey 
Whether pushing for promotion, bargaining for extra budget or trying to convince a client to get on board, negotiation is a necessary part of business life. Most of us aren’t born with this skill, but it’s well worth taking the time to conquer for the benefits that it can bring – from forging better business relationships to reaping great rewards… whatever they may look like for you.  With insight from Executive and Leadership Coach Denise Louise Jeffrey, here’s how to influence your way to great negotiations and seal the deal:
BE PREPARED…
One of the most important things to do when negotiating, is to put in the groundwork before anything begins. A common combination, and a vain one at that, is to be overconfident but under-prepared. Always take time to put the research in, and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you know who you’re meeting, carry out some background research, perhaps familiarizing yourself with their role and career trajectory. Also educate yourself on the project at hand, so that you’re well positioned to address any questions that may arise, and provide answers backed up by cold, hard facts.
BE ATTENTIVE…
Being attentive takes on many types of meaning in negotiations. No matter who you’re up against, always take the time to listen and show that you’re taking on board what they say. This is a two-way street, and there needs to be a mutual respect and understanding for what one another wants from the meeting. But being attentive also means being observant of their behavior, and as Denise suggests, you should use this to negotiate “with an outlook of achieving different outcomes that could be acceptable for all, depending on the style of bargaining your counterpart pursues.” Being able to pay attention to and, recognize their tactics, is key. This leads us onto the final step
BE ADAPTABLE…
As Denise tells us, negotiation isn’t a one-solution situation, and what works for one person may not work for the next. Being able to adapt based on your negotiator’s behavior is a key part in increasing your likelihood of success in the transaction. According to Denise, you can do this through noting their negotiation traits, which have been broken down into four archetypal types: The ‘My Way or the Highway’ type, the ‘Sweet Talker’ type, and the ‘Devil’s in the Details’ type and the ‘Let’s Not Rock the Boat’ type. The key is to then meet them on their level, unless – and this is one exception to the rule – they are being inappropriate or aggressive, in which case, call them out for their unprofessionalism and part ways. Denise’s recommended negotiation approaches are tailored to each category.
Ultimately, the most valuable skill a negotiator can possess is “being able to adapt and negotiate in all styles – not just the one you are most comfortable with.” Being prepared, attentive, altering your behavior based on theirs, and adapting accordingly on the day, is what will give you the highest chance of the best possible outcome.
 

The One Form of Marketing That ALWAYS Works

The One Form of Marketing That ALWAYS Works

By Ted Janusz
Can you relate to this?  John Wannamaker, the Philadelphia department store magnate, said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”   But there is one form of marketing, that ALWAYS works … what is it?
WORD OF MOUTH!
Of course, now with the internet and social media, you could call it WORLD of mouth marketing.  People are six times more likely to rely on the word of other people when making a buying decision rather than advertising.
In fact, 80% of consumer buying decisions are based on personal recommendations.  Here’s why it works …
The average American adult knows 400 people … people you work with, went to school with, or people you know socially.  If you assume each of those 400 people know 400 others (of course, there will be some overlap – but let’s keep it simple), you now have an immediate network of 140,000 people.
And if you assume those 140,000 people know 400 others, you are up to one-third of the US population.  And what will people spread about your business, good news or bad? Right! Bad news!
Your average satisfied customer will tell 5 to 8 others. But your average upset customer (if you have any) will 10 to 16. In fact, one in five will tell 20 people how upset you have made them.
In their book Creating Customer Evangelists, authors Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba say, “Competition for entertainment dollars – where Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he competes – is fierce. To succeed, he must continually focus on increasing the average lifetime value of a Mavs season ticket holder. In 2002, that figure was $300,000, according to Cuban. “The Chicago Cubs, you’ve got to wait in line to get your season tickets,” he says. “That’s the goal … then I don’t have to spend lots of money on salespeople and all kinds of support efforts – I’ve just got to keep [customers] happy. It’s a lot easier to keep ‘em happy than to go out and get new ones to replace ‘em.”
Now the lifetime value of one of your customers may not be $300,000 like it is for the Dallas Mavericks. But once you determine what that value is for you, you’ll realize how important to keep those customers happy – since they, bar none, are your best source of marketing.
Ted Janusz, MBA, CSP is a Certified Speaking Professional who has delighted audiences for more than 5,000 hours, in 49 of the 50 United States, in Canada from Halifax to Vancouver, in Australia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at www.januspresentations.com.
 

Four Technical Skills Marketers Should Learn

Four Technical Skills Marketers Should Learn

By Amanda Peterson, Enlightened Digital
The marketing landscape is nothing near what it was 10 years ago, or even 5. As technology continues to evolve and expand its capabilities, marketing has transformed into an industry that requires constant learning and adaptability. It demands an increased aptitude for technical skills, so it’s vital that marketing professionals hone their technical skill set. TEKsystems Digital reports however, that 95 percent of surveyed marketing leaders have been negatively impacted by the lack of qualified talent.
With technology advancing at rapid speeds, it might seem like there’s a lot to master— but there are also some great ways to get your technical expertise up to speed quickly. Here are four of the top technical skills that marketers need to learn.
1.  DATABASE QUERYING 
Learning how to run database queries is one of the most important technical skills a marketer today can have, as it enables them to understand how customers and prospects are behaving. Most companies use SQL-based databases, which are used to query, insert, update and modify data. For example, if a marketer wants to know the average transaction value within a certain time frame for a user within a certain demographic, having the ability to perform database queries means they can answer these questions on their own.
Learning to query a database independently means that marketers can consistently understand how their customers are changing and reacting to a product. It allows marketers to make data-driven decisions, make decisions faster and unpack key insights that lead to more efficient and effective marketing.
2. HTML
As digital marketing tactics become more prominent, marketers can benefit from learning some coding basics. HTML provides the structure of a web page and outlines the elements each page will contain. For example, HTML might specify that a web page contains a site title, navigation bar, sidebar and content in the form of page copy or a blogroll.
Whether it be writing blog posts or designing a new product page, many marketing roles involve a great deal of online content creation. Learning HTML will expedite the process of getting that content set up correctly, and looking good. You no longer need to wait for a developer to tweak an email template, format your landing page or make an important update on your website. Even if your role never requires you to write code, being familiar with HTML, at the very least, can make cross-team communication much easier.
3. MOBILE VIDEO PRODUCTION
Online video marketing has grown significantly in 2018, as it’s been popular for both consumers and brands alike. As social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube expand their features for livestream and short-form video, many brands have recognized and capitalized on its potential to boost consumer engagement. As Amber van Moessner, Director of Content at Livestream, states, “Audiences spend more time with live video, and are willing to show up, participate, and join the conversation on social media more so than with VOD (video on demand) or blog content.”
Marketers that master video production for mobile platforms can ensure that these videos are as polished and compelling as possible. Learning how to produce this style of content can put brands ahead of their competitors and capture the attention of today’s mobile-focused consumer.
4. SEO
While you don’t have to be an SEO (search engine optimization) profesional, it’s important to have a general knowledge about how SEO operates and how it relates to marketing. Organic search results have the potential to be much more powerful than paid ads, especially if they make it to the first page. This is vital for marketers to improve their brand recognition or generate leads. In fact, 57 percent of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative.
Best practices for SEO are constantly evolving, so this is one skill that might require consistent refining. Marketers who do understand SEO best practices however, can create content that increase engagement, site traffic and sales conversions.