Category Archives: Coaching

Employee Experience as the New Competitive Edge

Almost everyone today is familiar with the term “customer experience.” According to Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, 80 percent of businesses compete on the basis of customer experience.   But new research shows that customer experience alone is not enough. Progressive companies are now focusing on “employee experience” as the newest competitive edge.

So, what is “employee experience?”  It is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to that organization – from recruiting to the end of their employment.  It is not perks, parties, employment branding or employee engagement. Mark Levy, former head of Airbnb, defines it as “anything that sets employees up for success and improves our culture.”   Those companies investing heavily in employee experience often find themselves on the Best Places to Work lists and also have improved profitability as well as two times the average revenue.  With social media commentary available to all, prospective employees review comments made about employee experiences in selecting which companies they wish to apply to.

So, in looking for a new competitive edge for your company, ask yourself how you can enhance and elevate the employee experience in your company.  What processes and practices are in place that set employees up for success and ensure an improved culture? It’s worth the time to ask.

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Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today, call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com.

Learning & Development is More than a Class

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When our Consultants at Learning Dynamics meet with clients to discuss training initiatives, we always start by asking what the client wants to accomplish. Combined with a thorough understanding of the current conditions within the client’s company, sometimes down to the individual employee, we make recommendations that go beyond training alone. Here is the story of one client engagement that called for much more than instructor-led training.

Our client was a small specialty healthcare organization, and it saw some need to improve performance in its patient contact center. The department was made up of contact center agents and a supervisor tasked with training them, monitoring performance, coaching, and delivering on revenue objectives. Senior management’s opinion was that their people could be doing more.

Learning Dynamics engaged in a detailed review of the workflow, the talent, and obstacles to success. By bringing in a Consultant with contact center management as well as learning and development experience, we were able to identify several opportunities to help. Our proposed solution included instructor-led patient service training, follow-up written training materials (Learning Dynamics Skills Sharpeners), and performance coaching for the supervisor. Significantly, our solution also included developing a call monitoring and evaluation tool so the supervisor had a standard process and criteria to evaluate performance.

The process of creating the call monitoring tool was itself revealing. Our Consultant sat with the supervisor, listened to recorded calls, and identified immediately some opportunities for improvement. One issue – extended and unnecessary hold times – was addressed immediately. The tool continues to be used for agent coaching and has helped produce great results.

This engagement also allowed us to demonstrate flexibility to respond to the client’s needs. Toward the end of the coaching period, a senior manager identified agents’ time management and prioritization skills as needing further development. Knowing that pulling all agents off the phones for a long class was not practical, we created a 45-minute webinar, delivered before the contact center opened for the day, that delivered the essentials of what the agents needed. The feedback has been terrific.

This story is just one example of our ability and willingness to collaborate with our clients to customize a solution that meets your organization’s unique needs. Connect with us today to start the conversation about Investing in People™.

Call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com

Coaching Virtual Teams

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Because of globalization and business projects that often span across the country or across the globe, coaching virtual teams can bring its own set of challenges. Here are some guidelines for effectively coaching a virtual team:

1. Develop a common focus or purpose that aligns with the organizational goals. This includes clarifying tasks, processes and milestones to ensure team and individual accountability.

2. Create a unique identity for the entire team such as a special name for the team, a logo, or a Facebook page that defines the overall team purpose.

3. Establish communication guidelines for the team. Be clear and disciplined about how the team will communicate given the dispersed locations of team members. For instance, holding team meetings at the same day and time each week provide some structure for all team members.

4. Establish frequent individual connections with each of your team members to show your engagement and involvement with them as individuals. This could include using Facetime or Skype to communicate with them.

5. Provide constructive feedback both to individuals and the team through regular virtual coaching sessions. Holding regular virtual team building exercises keeps the team engaged and helps to create a productive and fun environment.

6. Clarify and track individual and team commitments through project management software like Basecamp, Work Zone and Wrike , so everyone on the team can see how their efforts link with the rest of the overall project.

7. Be available after regular business hours for questions or concerns. Different time zones make this critically important.

Remember, coaching virtual teams brings both challenges and opportunities to connect in different ways. Effective coaches understand that frequent communication is critical to the success of the team and its goals.

Learning Dynamics’ popular “Managing Virtual Teams’ webinar expands upon these topics.
http://www.learningdynamics.com/training-ManagingVirtualTeams.htm

Servant Leadership

Now Can Be the Time for Servant Leadership
by Vice President Bill Florin

You want to do the right thing for your people, being there as a resource to help them do their best work. You want your team to be open, honest and engaged. Maybe you are trying to figure out how to lead Millennials and the next cohort of people hitting the job market, Generation Z. If any or all of these ideas resonate with you, it might be worth looking at Servant Leadership and what it can offer your organization.

Servant Leadership (SL) is a concept made popular by Robert K. Greenleaf. He realized, during his 38-year career at AT&T, that it is as important for the organization to serve people as it is for people to serve the organization. This was a revolutionary concept when he published his essay detailing the model in 1970. Since then, SL has grown in popularity. Learning Dynamics has been doing more work in this area as organizations seek ways to create inclusive, inspiring and engaging environments as a platform to growth.

Surveys have shown that the youngest generations of people in the workplace value authenticity, honest feedback, and an opportunity to be heard, respected and contribute. The leader who practices SL concepts makes this a part of her everyday work experience. More than a dictatorial, order-issuing boss, the SL manager works as a coach, creating a culture in which people can experiment, explore new ways of doing things, make mistakes, and innovate. Ultimately, work becomes a place where people feel supported and valued, a place where people can and want to do their best work.

One of our Connecticut-based Learning Dynamics clients recently engaged us to facilitate a workshop to review that organization’s SL journey since its official launch as a component of its operating platform more than a year ago. During this session, which hosted nearly 30 people, the entire management team engaged in discussion of their SL experiences. This conversation included the company president. The mood was relaxed; you would not know the president was the top person if we did not do introductions.

While there was much discussed during the three hours, one message was clear: The company is going through a transformation, becoming a place where trust, respect in every direction on the organizational chart, and open communication are reality, not some wish for the future.

Importantly, accountability is a critical part of the formula. The same culture that fosters collaboration also demands honesty and a coaching approach when an individual is falling behind. The leaders view open, honest, timely feedback as a vital component of their core roles. Servant Leadership is not soft.

It is true that changing culture is hard work. It can be a years-long journey. But for organizations that embrace the idea and align everyone it, from the part-time individual contributor to the CEO, Servant Leadership can be an energizing shift that boosts the company to new high-water marks for performance.

Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today to discover if Servant Leadership could be appropriate for your company.

Performance Management: Beginning the Discussion

How many of us have heard…or uttered … these phrases in our professional lives?

“I haven’t had a performance review with my boss since I got here.”

“She couldn’t really tell me why I got the performance rating.”

“It’s not fair.  I know I did better than he says I did.”

“He said, I should ‘be happy’”

Are these the comments that stellar organizations and relations are built upon?  I think not.  If this is, or has been, a part of your journey, how can we as leaders make change?  Some believe that change can only occur from the top of an organization.  There is a grass roots component that I believe can enhance your work place and potentially have an impact on the larger organization.  It begins with first level leaders understanding key themes about managing employee performance to better the organization.  I have always thought of these as the key components of understanding outstanding employee performance management:

1.  WHY

2.  WHO

3.  WHAT

4.  HOW

5.  WHEN

Let’s address each of these in successive posts, starting with WHY.

WHY IS PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT IMPORTANT TO THE WORKPLACE?

1.  Critical to Business Success.  Employees must have expectations for performance excellence tied to goals.  Without employee performance expectations aligned with company vision and mission, employees and leaders struggle with focus.  When employee expectations are aligned and met, it is a simple progression that leads to enhanced engagement.

2.  Improves Colleague Engagement.  Simply doing without understanding why limits employee engagement.  Imagine the motivation when an employee actually gets it.  Think of how that employee feels about him/herself and the work required on a project, when they are clear on the importance of how their role relates to the end product.

3.  Drives Individual Employee Development.  As the leader assigns goals and/or objectives, it can be done with an eye toward stretching the ability of the employee.  In so doing, a business-complementary stretch objective is introduced; the employee senses trust on the part of the leader and can more easily align with growth/development opportunities.  Success for both parties is derived from employee growth and business success. Of course, employee accountability for performance is an important part of development and growth.

4.  Enhances Rewards and Recognition Program.  With a clear, established performance program, employees understand what is happening to them.  Comments like those that opened this blog can be reduced and eliminated.

We may even get solid suggestions and recommendations from our employees concerning rewards and recognition.  Talk about engagement!

5.  Incentivizes Employees.  Now we have employees who understand and participate in the organization’s rewards and recognition program. They are bought-in to their individual development objectives. They are engaged because there is clarity and understanding about what they are doing and why.  Because they see the alignment with overall business vision and goals, these employees are now leaning forward, looking for additional opportunities.

Once we have clarity about WHY performance management is valuable, we need to next look at WHO is involved in our performance management process. That is the topic for our next blog.

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This article was written by Gary Steele, Vice President with Learning Dynamics. Visit his personal profile page to learn more about Gary’s career and expertise.

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Learning Dynamics offers several customizable leadership development programs including Coaching for Results. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization develop your supervisors and managers into leaders.

Prioritizing and Planning for Success

Time management is one of the popular topics we train our client organizations at Learning Dynamics. Managers and senior executives recognize their teams need the training and individual contributors and first-line supervisors realize they need it. Many feel overwhelmed by the demands of the day. They find themselves reacting rather than planning, responding to the latest crisis rather than investing their efforts into achieving important, lasting outcomes. Here are some ideas that resonate with our training participants.

Understanding the Difference Between the Urgent And the Important.

Reactive approaches typically find us on the work treadmill, sweating and straining to keep up while never getting anywhere. Urgency created in a reactive environment can burn people out and leave them frustrated as their goals never get closer. Good leaders should recognize when their people are simply responding, putting out fires, rather than working toward important outcomes. Coaching by leaders can make a big difference.

Taking Time to Plan

Less experienced employees frequently admit to not having a plan for their day and week. Instead, they show up to work and deal with things as they cross their desks. This might be appropriate in some roles, but for many working in our knowledge economy, one in which companies hire people for their ability to contribute at a level above the rote and routine, planning based on priorities must be part of the roadmap to success.

Knowing When to Say “No”

A critical skill among successful time managers is the ability to say “no” to certain activities. Typically the frivolous and distracting, these are time-wasters that deserve no time on the professional’s calendar. Managers can help their people think about and determine which items can be removed from the schedule and workplace by looking critically at the low-value tasks that can be eliminated or pushed further down in the organization (or out of it altogether).

Keeping Everyone in Their Pay Grade

A good indicator of whether a person is functioning at his or her level – and hopefully above – is the occasional check-in with that person’s job description. Is the employee fulfilling her roles and responsibilities, or is she spending time operating at a lower functional level? Frequently, this situation is the product of poor planning and prioritization, and a supportive manager can have the coaching conversation to keep that employee focused on higher-value functions that will help her or him and the entire organization reach its goals. (It could also uncover the need for additional resources to allow your talented thought workers more time to do what you are paying them to do.)

The sad truth is that many young professionals have never been exposed to the ideas of planning and prioritization and have no idea how to do it. With a small investment of a leader’s time, this next generation of your company’s managers can be working smarter by focusing on important, high-value activities to drive results, rather than low-value tasks that just fill the day.

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Learning Dynamics can help your company inspire better productivity and effectiveness with time management training. Ask us how today.

Coaching is not Another Word for Managing

What comes to mind when you hear the word “coach”? Do you think of the guy at the sideline, pacing, watching and calling plays? Is this just the word your company uses for managers? Does it mean anything at all?

Leaders who coach, and those who coach for a living, have a different idea about coaching, coaches and clients/coachees. A clear definition of coaching, as opposed to managing, mentoring, training or counseling, is a good place to start. There are plenty of definitions, but this one will work:

Coaching is a process through which a coach inspires a client to achieve performance excellence by encouraging critical thinking about options, commitment to action, and by creating an environment of accountability and recognition.

One of the most important and difficult lessons for a coach in a business environment (as opposed to an athletic coach) to learn is this: The coach does not give advice or tell the client what to do. Instead, the coach does a few things well and consistently.

First, the coach asks open-ended questions to get the client to consider alternative courses of action. An effective coach will get the client to think and consider options that she may have not already considered. The coach draws ideas out of the client, allowing the client to decide her next steps for herself. Here is an example: What other options have you considered to deal with this issue?

Second, the coach encourages action and helps the client clarify his goals. Specific, time-bound goals are the meat and potatoes of the coaching relationship. Great ideas must convert to action and accomplishments.

Third, the coach provides recognition for goals achieved and accountability for less-than-full effort. Challenging questions addressing failures to act are part of the conversation.

In the end, the client will rise to better performance by making and following through on commitments to action. The coach will stand aside and watch, letting the client succeed and realize the rewards of her effort. There is plenty of satisfaction in coaching, but the coach telling the client what to do to be successful is not part of the deal. Instead, the coach helps the client become a more successful person with the skills to continue learning, growing and excelling.

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Learning Dynamics can help your organization thrive by incorporating coaching practices that create a culture of accountability and success. Contact us to find out how Coaching for Results can help your company win.