Saturday, August 25, 2012

Are You Proud of Where You Work?

These are happy men whose natures sort with their vocations. - Francis Bacon

According to a survey reported on in People Management ( the number of employees who are ‘proud’ to work for their organization has fallen from almost half of workers at the start of 2012 to just two-fifths.

A survey of 1,114 office staff, by recruitment firm Hyphen, suggested that question marks over the reputations of some employers may have dampened employee engagement. The number of women disenchanted with their employer has grown to more than a quarter (27 percent) compared with only 17 percent who admitted they were not proud of their firm at the beginning of the year.

At a time when employee engagement is as critical as ever this survey sheds new light on the need for employers to be engaged with their employees and to step up in their leadership roles. It is simply not enough to be aware of employee disengagement. It is incumbent upon those in leadership to understand why.
Zain Wadee, managing director at Hyphen said the findings made a strong case for employers to invest in engagement, adding that organizations and managers must work hard to foster a strong culture of inclusivity at work in the coming months.

Engagement is critical to the life of your business or organization. When team members feel valued, respected, and included it goes a long way in creating a positive work environment. Here are three simple tips to help get leaders engaged with their employees and boost morale.

Walk among your people. It is when you get out from behind the desk and the safe confines of your office that you learn what is truly going on in your organization. The only way to build employee engagement is by personal engagement.

It is when your team sees that you are with them not just in words but with your presence that you can begin to turn around the engagement deficit. Your “open door” policy should not be designed for your team members to come in to your office, but for you to get out. Walk among them and get to know them.

Listen to your people. You have now taken the first steps to engagement by coming out of your office. Now is your opportunity to learn from your team. Engagement that will build the morale of your organization begins by listening to your people. It is when you demonstrate genuine interest in what they are doing that you can reclaim the pride of your people.

Listening to your people builds relationships. It shows that you place value in their opinions and builds the kind of relationships that will see you through good times and bad. Think of the positive benefits you can reap when you gather informally with a group of employees around the table in the break room and simply have a conversation? When you respect your employees enough to listen to them they will take pride in where they work because you have taken pride in them.

Respond to your peopleWhen you walk among your people and listen to them, you are in better position to respond to their needs. It is easier because you have built relationships, placed value in their opinions, and have taken personal responsibility about the importance of engagement.

Having pride in where you work matters. Meaningful engagement is a matter of priority for those in leadership. You will never get to the next level of success in your business if your people have no pride in their work. When you have pride in your people they will have pride in you. This is the beginning of how you create a positive workplace culture.

Are you proud of where you work?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

*As previously published in the International Business Times.

-Your comments are welcomed. Please use the comment box below.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Language of Leadership

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. – William Arthur Ward

An entry in Reader’s Digest relates the story of an individual calling for information about one of his credit cards. He stated, “I got the following prompt: ’Please enter your account number as it appears on your statement.’ Then the system said, ‘Please enter your five-digit zip code.’ After that, he got the third message, ‘If you would like your information in English, press one.’”

That story is a reminder of the barriers of communication and how language plays such a relevant role in our everyday lives. As a leader, the words we speak and the manner in which we convey them is a matter of importance. The way in which you and your team communicate with each other and your clients is a reflection of your leadership vocabulary.

This truth was recently brought home to me in two unique ways. The first experience was in a fast food restaurant chain where my family and I had dinner. The behind-the-counter staff was exceptionally friendly and greeted us with a warm smile. Throughout our stay the hospitable employees communicated a friendly and professional attitude that ensured that our decision to eat there was a good one.

The other experience occurred at an automotive service center. I was there with my father-in-law and when he went to pay for the services rendered he asked the representative if that was their best price for an eight-year customer. The young man replied, “Well, you paid me every time you came in didn’t you?” Even if the price was not going to change it was clearly not the answer either of us expected and it was not delivered in a tone that demonstrated appreciation toward a loyal customer.

Many comparisons have been made highlighting the differences between management and leadership. And while there are valid defenses and needs for both, I have come to realize this one truth: Good management needs good leadership just as much as good leadership needs good management. And the language of leadership is crucial to both. 

As a leader you need to find your voice, but it is imperative to speak the language of leadership. When you and your team members speak the language of leadership it will change the culture of your organization. Not sure where to begin? Here is a primer to help you build your leadership vocabulary.

The language of leadership is positive. How well you communicate and what you communicate is a reflection of your core values. While organizational structures and operations vary from place to place, the ability of a leader to communicate in any environment is imperative. From the two examples I cited it’s obvious which one spoke the language of leadership. 

Surround yourself with any successful leader or organization and you will find this common characteristic among each one; a positive outlook, a positive attitude, with positive outcomes. Negativity is easy enough to come by but when you make positive language a focal point of your leadership practice you can change hearts and minds one positive thought at a time.

The language of leadership is polite. William Feather said, “Politeness is an inexpensive way of making friends.” When you make it your practice as a leader to be polite you are expressing another degree of leadership competence that will always be in style. 

When politeness is the centerpiece of your language as a leader, it will not make all of your problems go away nor will it eliminate the difficult decisions you have to make in order to run your organization. But when you speak with politeness towards others it then becomes the benchmark by which all language is measured. 

The language of leadership is passionate. Most successful leaders I know are passionate. But not only that, they speak with passion. That is something you cannot fake or manufacture. The language of leadership is filled with passion and a desire to make that passion known.

Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion in playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” What a powerful truth. When you tap into your passions and begin to communicate them you are speaking the language of leadership.

The language of leadership – are you speaking it?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

- What would you add to the list? Your input is welcomed! Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Are You A Believer?

It’s okay to let those you lead outshine you, for if they shine brightly enough, they reflect positively on you. – Billy Hornsby

Last year MarketTools, Inc. conducted a survey on employee satisfaction. The results revealed that most employees may not feel appreciated. Nearly 50 percent of employees surveyed have considered leaving their jobs. And 21 percent have applied for another job in the past six months.

According to the study, salary was by far the leading cause of employee dissatisfaction, cited by 47 percent of study participants. Other leading causes of dissatisfaction cited included workload, lack of opportunities for advancement, and the employee’s manager or supervisor.  The study also found that 72 percent of surveyed employee’s companies do not have a formal program to regularly solicit feedback, or the study participants weren’t aware of such a program. 

Exercising due diligence in hiring the best and brightest by companies is smart. But it is equally important that the same considerations be given to doing the right things that will keep them there. While there may be some dissatisfaction among the ranks over certain issues, the real difference maker is leadership. A strong leader sets the tone for the climate of the organization. When a leader believes in his people it can change that culture in a positive way. Here are four ways a leader can do it and why it matters. 

Leaders are believers in the vision. One survey I read recently said that as many as 40 percent of employees do not know or understand their company’s mission. That is a disturbing percentage and it goes directly to the heart of leadership and why without it you are at a distinct disadvantage. If your vision is not known internally then it will be of no value to anyone externally. If your team is clueless then so are ynur customers.

When leaders believe in the vision of their organization and communicate it on a regular basis it gives your team the fuel they need to succeed. Sharing the vision of your organization is a necessary ingredient in establishing the right climate and is a minimizer of unnecessary negativity. Leaders not only believe in the vision of where they are going but willingly share it.

Leaders are believers in his people. The most appreciable asset you have as leader is your people. It’s a simple rule of leadership – loyalty to the leader always precedes loyalty to the vision. When you honor, respect, and empower your people you will have little worries about their loyalty to you.

Building your business or organization takes hard work and commitment. While it is important that your people buy-in to your vision it is equally important that as the leader you buy-in to them. Believe in your people and they will believe in you. Never miss an opportunity to express your confidence and to encourage your people. Where would you be without them?

Leaders are believers in your purpose. Similar in nature to vision; believing in your purpose goes deeper. In general, vision revolves around a shared set of goals and objectives for the organization. On the other hand, purpose has more to do with the dreams and aspirations of the people.

As a leader when you believe in the individual goals of each team member- goals that may transcend those of the company, you are exercising a high standard of leadership that few attain. The mark of leadership at this level signals your unselfish commitment to the purpose of investing long term in the life of others. Believing in the purpose of your people is the beginning of fulfilling your destiny.

Leaders are believers in destiny. The formula of V (vision) + P (people) + P (purpose) = D: destiny can be a game changer for your organization. As a leader you face many challenges as well as opportunities. Achieving your destiny is not by accident or happenstance. It is a combination of all parts of the formula working in harmony to see it come to pass.

I believe you can achieve your destiny. I believe when you apply this formula with your faith that your destiny is within reach. Your destiny awaits you. Are you a believer?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

- Your comments are welcomed and appreciated. Share them in the comment box below.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Five Leadership Lessons from Gabby Douglas

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality – Warren G. Bennis

One of the emerging stars of the 2012 London Olympic Games is Gabby Douglas. If you missed her performances with her teammates, the Fab Five, you missed quite a show. Douglas won the gold medal in the all-around contest and in the process gave NBC some of its highest ratings.

The poise of Douglas during the competition and in her interviews has revealed an impressive level of maturity beyond the 16-years of her youth. That she will emerge as a role model for young girls and aspiring gymnasts is a given. But her observations and reflections after winning gold are lessons not just for her generation but also for leaders in the boardroom. Here are five leadership lessons from Gabby Douglas and why they matter.

Dream big. In a first-person column for ESPN, Douglas said, “When my mom first took me to [Lin] Chow’s gym two years ago, she told him I wanted to be an Olympic champion someday. He told her he would do his best. He jokes now that he wasn’t so sure he could do it.”

Douglas’ dream was to be an Olympic champion. Through dedication and hard work she made her dream come true. In leadership, the difference between those who dream and those who achieve is found in the work ethic. Gabby had the right work ethic; all successful leaders do. What is your big dream?

Work through the pain. Growth and accomplishment don’t come without setbacks, sacrifice, and pain. Gabby writes, “When I first got here to London, I was in some pain from a tweaked muscle. I was feeling a little down. But Chow reminded me that everyone has pain.” Successful leaders also know pain but understand that it’s part of the growth process.

Gabby had to work through the pain to get to the gold. It’s what successful athletes and leaders do. The old adage, “No pain, no gain,” is a reminder to persevere and reap the rewards. Don’t give up.

Be teachable. World class athletes such as Gabby Douglas would not compete at Olympic levels without the guidance and tutelage of a superior coach.  And without being teachable, Gabby would not have won gold. Gabby writes, “He (Chow) pushed me so hard, and some days I would wonder, ‘Why do I have to do this?’ In the end, though, he believed in me and all the hard work really did pay off. He and his wife Li have shaped me into a better gymnast than I ever thought I could be.”

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or CEO, each level of competition and success is characterized by a willingness to learn. Raw talent has its limits, but with an open mind and teachable attitude there are no limits to the accomplishments you can achieve. Never stop learning.

Be a team player. In her essay Gabby said, “Tonight I didn’t think about avoiding mistakes-that’s what gets you into trouble. Instead, I just thought about going out there and representing Team USA, my coaches, my family and myself as I best I could. I just wanted to enjoy the moment.” Did you notice her priorities? It was team, coaches, family, and finally, self.

It’s when you think and act like a team member that you realize your full potential. Individual accomplishment is achieved in harmony with the team not with your defection from it. Give your all to your team. 
Give credit where credit is due. In her first tweet after winning gold, Gabby said, “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” Successful Olympians and leaders by nature are thankful people. In the aftermath and celebration of winning gold, Gabby had the presence of mind and wherewithal to give credit where she felt it belonged. 

How about you? As a leader, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and celebrations of the moment and forget to thank those around you. Who are you thankful for and when was the last time you expressed it?

It takes discipline to keep the essentials of leadership front and center. Thanks to 16-year old Gabby Douglas, we’ve now been reminded why it’s important.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

- Your comments are welcomed! Please share them in the comment box below.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures or by not drinking enough fluids. The warning signs include:
  • Decreased energy
  • Nausea
  • Feeling Faint
  • Slight loss of appetite
  • Being Light-headed
  • Feeling Tired or Weak
  • Headache
  • Muscle Cramps
If you experience any of these symptoms, go to a cool environment, drink fluids, remove excess clothing, and rest. If symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.

Be a Buddy
Check on elderly friends and neighbors, as well as those with medical conditions. Also, make sure your pets stay cool.

When the Philadelphia Health Commissioner issues an Excessive Heat Warning, the City’s Cooling Centers open and the Heatline is activated to provide heat-related information and assistance. The Heatline can be reach at 215-765-9040.

For more information on staying safe this summer, download our Stay Cool Guide or visit the Excessive Heat page and check out the Stay Cool Interactive Map to find public pools, spray grounds and cooling centers near you.