Put Your Listening Ears On!

Put Your Listening Ears On!

It's not a new concept, as a leader it's imperative to listen to your employees. We all heard it a million times but it's amazing how many leaders are actually bad at it. This lesson is also true outside of work, with all relationships. People communicate in a variety of ways - some will flat out tell you their opinion/feelings, others will passively communicate, while some will communicate with body language.

Think back to all the leaders you had. Which one's motivated and inspired you? Which ones did you have an allergic reaction to? I would bet the leaders that motivated you were great listeners, empathetic, and actually made you feel like you were being heard. I would also bet the ones you least liked made you feel like they could care less about what you had to say (along with other poor qualities). It was "their way or the highway."

Reflection is a critical tool seldom used. We get caught up in the fast paced environments we are in, wearing too many hats - constantly go-go-go. Reflection however is a necessary tool to spot check yourself. There's lots of research and techniques about reflection, and I am not the right person to be teaching that (but I can connect you with some great people that can). Done right, reflection will allow you to grow not only as a leader, but as a person.

So stop what you're doing and reflect - right now. How many employees have you lost in the last year or so? How many strategic relationships have gone awry? How many times has an employee flat out told you they weren't happy but you didn't do anything about it? How many times did an employee stay silent, but you could sense something wasn't right? How many times did an employee go from rockstar to low performer?

Think about it. If there's a trend, positive or negative, a main reason is your leadership. I once read an article in Forbes titled "People Leave Managers, Not Companies." The title itself is so true. I'm here to tell you right now - if you aren't listening to your employees (and making sure they know you're listening) - you are making a BIG mistake. It's a HUGEmotivation killer.

Let's role play: one of your employees tells you in a private meeting that they aren't happy with how things are going with their job. This employee is a strong contributor and if you were to lose him/her, it would have a significant impact to your business. What would you do?

If we are playing this game honestly, some of us would try to talk the person off the ledge, then hope that this will blow over (the employee is probably crabby that day) - not good. Others would try to spin this back on the employee and make them feel worse than they already do (how dare this employee say this to me) - not good. Some would actually listen to their employee, be genuinely empathetic. They will ask questions to further understand this employee's dissatisfaction - GOOD! One question I like to ask is, "If you had a magic wand and could change your situation, what would that look like?" Hearing someone's "pie-in-the-sky" ideas is a good thing. Sure some of the ideas won't be feasible, but I am confident some certainly are.

Don't confuse my message - I'm not telling every leader to make drastic changes so their employees are happy every time they come with concern. What I am saying is LISTEN to your employees, but actually make it obvious you are listening and that you actually care. Be genuine. Be empathetic. If you don't care what the employee is saying, that is a red flag - even if it's your worst performer. If you tend to ignore such complaints and hope it will go away, that is also a red flag.

Too many people underestimate the power of a motivated employee. The amount of work a motivated employee can accomplish versus those unmotivated is amazing. While everyone needs to own it and be self-directed and self-motivated, it is one of the responsibilities of a leader to keep their employees motivated.

Your employees are talking to you every single day...every hour...every minute...every second. You just have to pay attention and LISTEN. Most importantly, you just have to care and do something with all that information that is being transmitted to you.

If during reflection you realize you are one of those leaders that doesn't take action; or hope things will go away; or flat our ignore what your employees are saying - then it's time to make a change before you lose a lot of good people (or lose more people). Looking in the mirror is hard, I get that. But nothing is harder than replacing talented people. Time to put those listening ears on!

Be Contagious!

Be Contagious!

No this isn't an article about flu season...telling people to be contagious is just weird. The word itself may cause alarm for some. But I do want to challenge conventional wisdom and tell you to be contagious. Specifically, I want you to be a genuine positive person in all aspects of your life.

It has been studied and well documented that a person's attitude has a strong affect, both positive and negative, in the workplace. What am I talking about? I'm talking about emotional intelligence. It's the stuff that isn't measured on an IQ test. It's something that is often overlooked when searching for the next leader. It's actually surprising how it's neglected; this isn't anything we haven't heard before. It's always a "oh yeah" moment for many after reading about this topic.

What is emotional intelligence? The definition is: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Daniel Goleman wrote in "What Makes a Leader" the five components that make up emotional intelligence. Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social skill.

Here's an excerpt from Goleman's work with the five components making up emotional intelligence:

You're probably thinking to yourself, "no crap." Well, you're right. Like I said before, this isn't anything new. Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee wrote in "Primal Leadership" that a leader's own mood had the most influence on their company's bottom-line performance. Emotional intelligence travels through an organization like electricity over wires. To be more specific, the leader’s mood is quite literally contagious, spreading quickly and inexorably throughout the business.

Is this something that can be learned? Can a negative leader learn to be genuinely positive? Yes and yes. But it's not a light switch that goes on and poof, you're emotionally intelligent. Like anything else, you need to condition yourself to become positive, kind, empathetic, motivated, socially adept, etc. Like breaking any bad habit or learning a new skill, it takes repetition, consistency, effort, and motivation until it becomes automatic.

Here's the tricky part. You can't fake this. It will be very obvious when someone is low on emotional intelligence. Just like you can't fake a smile or pretend to care (when you don't), you can't appear to be emotionally intelligent by just wanting to be.

So what can you do to get from where you are as a leader to who you want to be? First, lean on your peers and subordinates. Gather honest feedback about your leadership style. Some may be intimidated to provide such feedback, so 360 feedback surveys that are anonymous work well. Next, write down who you want to be. What do you imagine yourself to be? Visualize it.

How do you get from who you are to who you want to be? Action plan. Close the gap with actions that help you with this transformation. There are many great examples in "Primal Leadership" of professionals closing the gap by doing volunteer work or participating in extra curricular activities. Do things outside your norm to make that change. This will help the transformation process go from effort to inherent.

In summary, yes it's proven that a leader that is high on emotional intelligence, positive results in mood and performance happens. This is not to say that it is the only thing that matters. Of course knowledge, skillset, abilities, experiences...all of those items come into play. But without emotional intelligence, it doesn't matter how smart or experienced you are. Leaders low on emotional intelligence most likely are seeing their team have an allergic reaction to their leadership style.

If I have peaked your attention, I suggest reading more about emotional intelligence. Reading my cliff note version is a start but certainly not enough. There are a lot of good data and examples which will allow you to incorporate this into your life. For those that are low on emotional intelligence, it's not an easy shift. It's going to take a lot of work to become the person you want to be. But it's very possible. Like all things in life, you have to work just as hard as wanting it. So what do you say? What kind of contagious behavior do you want to display? The type that breeds success and inspires others? Or the type that takes down a everything/everyone in its path like a tornado?

New Year, New You?

New Year, New You?

Happy New Year! We made it another year! Looking at all the social media posts, it appears many people are happy to say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018. But what is going to change in 2018 to ensure it's better than 2017? What worked well last year that you want to continue in this year? What didn't work well that you want to change?

It's dangerous to think that simply turning a page on the calendar is all it takes to create this new and improved version of ourselves. It takes much more than a "new year" and a couple New Year's Resolutions for self-improvement. So where do we start?

Pen and paper - Let's make a list of our "wins" and "opportunities" in 2017. After all, how will you know what needs to change or sustain in 2018 if we don't get organized.

It is important to identify the behaviors that need to stop and the behaviors that need to continue. Now that you have a list of "wins" and "opportunities" it's time for some critical thinking. Were you just lucky or did you earn that win? What did you do to become successful? Whatever it was that helped you win, that's something you want to do more of in 2018.

Now caused the opportunities to happen? Was it a stroke of bad luck or something in your control? A bad decision? Didn't put enough effort in? Figure out why it happened and eliminate or change that behavior; turn it into a win for 2018.

This isn't easy and it's definitely not if you're incapable of really taking a hard look at and holding yourself accountable. Don't kid yourself. Be honest. Be humble. You will only be cheating yourself along with your growth and development if you don't do this honestly and dig deep inside.

Why do we write all this down? Just thinking about it in your head isn't enough. Make it visible. It's the whole "seeing is believing" mentality. Additionally, seeing it will be a constant reminder.

Here are some more things to write down (and I challenge you to find one successful person that doesn't do the below):

Monthly Goals - Write out three short term goals you can accomplish in 30 days. These are "quick wins" that help keep us motivated. Winning creates a greater appetite to repeat and continue behaviors/processes that work. Once you achieve your goal, write another to replace it. If you don't succeed, continue it next month until you do.

Quarterly Goals - Same thing here; write three goals that you can accomplish in 90 days. These are still short term goals but will take more effort and time (patience) to succeed. Same rules, once you accomplish create new goals. If you fail, keep going until you succeed. Once these goals are accomplished, you will really start to see a change within yourself. Your confidence will rise and your desire to improve will grow even greater.

Yearly Goal - Choose one goal you can accomplish by the end of the year. This is the biggest goal you can go after. If you reach this goal, it will make you feel amazing. You will brag about it to everyone you know...you will post on Facebook how you achieved this goal. Achieving this goal will solidify the year and have you saying "2018 was a fantastic year!"

Advice: Make sure you have a mix of personal and professional goals. Heck, have it all be personal goals if you want. Just don't make it only about work. Hopefully that advice doesn't need an explanation.

*It is assumed that you are aware of how to create a goal...how it shouldn't be too easy but not impossible either. If you are uncertain on how to create goals, there is plenty of information available to guide you.

OK - now that you have everything written down, now what? It's time to internalize them. It's time to live and breathe it every single day. Here's how:

Daily Reminders - Read your 2017 "wins" and "opportunities" and 2018 goals every day, 7 days a week. Remind yourself each day what worked and didn't work in 2017 and what your goals are for this year. Don't be confident that you will just remember and incorporate all this because you wrote it all down. We are all too busy and consumed in work, life, family, friends, personal time, etc.

I like to put these on flash cards. Something small I can put inside my Moleskin notebook and carry with me every day. I put a daily calendar reminder in my phone and call it "Daily Affirmations" (don't forget to put the calendar reminder on!). The reminder goes off, I stop what I'm doing, and I read the flash cards. This will take 2 minutes of your time daily. You might feel silly at first, but make sure to read it out loud. You need to hear it every single day.

Display It - Display the 2017 "wins" and "opportunities" along with your 2018 goals. Put this somewhere you will see it every single day. It's ok if it's seen by others. There is nothing wrong with people knowing you have goals and want to succeed, both personally and professionally.

By reading your flash cards and seeing your notes daily, it will become ingrained. The likelihood of you working to achieve your goals is far greater when you participate in it daily.

Think about it. We all have made goals before. Why have we failed in the past? I bet a majority of the time is we simply lost focus on the goal and stopped working towards accomplishing them. We moved onto something else. Why? Because we forgot about our goals. We get caught up with work and life. Don't let that happen. Make it apart of your daily routine.

My final suggestion for a successful 2018 is stress management, mental health:

Daily Meditation - Some of you are already doing this and others think it's just a bunch of _____ (fill in the blank). For those who are not meditating, reconsider it. Meditation is one of the oldest portals to the transformative realm of consciousness—your essential identity. The power of this essential you, free of habitual problematic thinking, is what Einstein talked about when he said: “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.” (Forbes.com, December 11, 2017, Trusted Meditation Experts Explain Why You Should Start Meditating In 2018).

Shameless plug: I use an app on my iPhone called "Breathe" for meditation (and yoga). When you open the app, it asks you how your day is going and you check off words that describe your mood. From there it gives you a meditation exercise that will help you with your current feeling. I love it. It's easy and only takes a few minutes to do.

Ever since I have incorporated meditation into my life, I have seen amazing results. Specifically, my stress levels are much lower and my ability to not overreact or lose control of my emotions has greatly lessened. Don't take my word for it. There is so much research available from credible sources regarding the benefits of meditation.

I assure you its not hard. It's not time consuming. You have much more to gain by doing it than not.

Ready to take on 2018? Ready for some real self-improvement that is focused and habitual? I'm ready. I know you are too. I wish you peace, health, success, and growth in 2018. Here's to working on a better you (for yourself).

Chasing Happiness

Chasing Happiness

By: Kevin Alavi – VP, Strategy & Operations
Attract, LLC | 715.483.7500 | www.attractllc.com

I’m about to share a secret with all of you. Ready? Here it is: only you can create your own happiness. Shocking isn’t it? I bet each of you reading this knows someone who relies on others to make them happy. These are the same people who want a raise because “they deserve it” and they want to be promoted because “they been working here for ‘x’ years.” When something goes wrong these people point the finger at everyone but themselves; they never look in the mirror.

Be Replaceable

Be Replaceable

By: Kevin Alavi – VP, Strategy & Operations
Attract, LLC | 715.483.7500 | www.attractllc.com

I might shock you when I say the following: be replaceable (at work). Think about it, but don’t take it so literally. What kind of person do you want to be at work? I have worked with many types of personalities. The one that I found to be the most frustrating to work with are the ones that don’t share information. These are the people that are afraid that if they tell someone how they accomplish their job, that they will be replaced. To them, it’s job security that no one else knows how to do what they do. To me, that’s the worst kind of person for any organization.

16 Small Business Resolutions for 2016

16 Small Business Resolutions for 2016

By: Mallory Cleveland – Marketing & Administrative Assistant
Attract, LLC | 715.483.7500 | www.attractllc.com

We're a week into the new year, and I'm sure we all have our New Year resolutions - time to work off all those Christmas cookies at the gym, right?

But don't stop there. Ring in 2016 with some resolutions for your small business. There are some awesome pointers in the article below on how to grow, streamline operations, and achieve success this year. 

The Power Of Fun At Work...

The Power Of Fun At Work...

By: Mallory Cleveland – Marketing & Administrative Assistant
Attract, LLC | 715.483.7500 | www.attractllc.com

"More than 2 million Americans are voluntarily leaving their jobs and 43% cited a lack of recognition as the reason why."

A fun office culture can go a long way to boosting staff retention.

Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

By: Kevin Alavi – VP, Strategy & Operations
Attract, LLC | 715.483.7500 | www.attractllc.com

A good part of my career was spent leading procurement teams for large retailers; specifically purchasing fixtures and new store construction materials.  I have gathered pricing a number of ways: online auctions, sitting at a table and negotiating, and over email and phone.  Each method has its pro’s and con’s, but one method that I caution the most in the category of fixtures and other retail display items are online auctions (reverse auctions, Dutch auctions, etc.).