2015 / 04

13 Communication Practices of Exceptional Leaders

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 28, 2015

0 Human Resources Staffing

By Stephanie Reyes Great leaders are great communicators. They share their vision in a way that inspires others and projects a contagious enthusiasm. But this ability doesn't always come naturally. We've all experienced the pep talk that falls flat: the gung ho "take one for the team" speech that triggers sarcasm instead of motivation. So how do some people stimulate belief, loyalty, and a commitment that defies logic, while others are dismissed and disrespected? With deliberate intent and lots of practice. Exceptional leaders connect and communicate at a level that few others achieve by consistently following these 13 communication habits. Great leaders strive to:

  1. Be personable: They care about their followers and are willing to show it. They get to know their people and connect with them on a personal level. When tensions are high, they take the time to socialize or share some humor and let people de-stress before getting down to business.
  2. Gain trust: Keeping promises, telling the truth, and following through are all hallmarks of great leaders. People will forgive many failings if they trust, and nothing if they don't.
  3. Tell it like it is: Sugar-coating bad news, covering up mistakes, or understating risks to keep people onside tends to backfire. Leaders give people the straight goods when things go off track and then quickly refocus on moving forward.
  4. Avoid ambiguity: Clarity is essential for vision. It's hard to hit a fuzzy target or believe in a confusing message. Leaders are specific, concise, and, above all, clear in communicating their objectives and the principles they embrace.
  5. Be open-minded: While their vision is clear and unwavering, great leaders know there are multiple routes to any destination and they remain receptive to the input of their teams when mapping the way.
  6. Listen: When followers feel heard, they stay committed to the vision. Effective leaders commit to being fully present when conversing with their teams. They know people will only follow a leader who reflects their priorities and speaks for them and only a leader who listens can do that.
  7. Stay calm: When tempers fray and plans blow up, the best leaders remain calm. Resolute in the face of obstacles and unflappable regardless of external pressures, they lead with a cool composure that inspires confidence.
  8. Empathize: Staying calm when things go wrong doesn't mean ignoring the impact that circumstances may have on others. Exceptional leaders are attuned to how their people feel and respond accordingly. They weave their people's emotions, concerns, and perspective into their words. They communicate from the heart and are willing to acknowledge vulnerability rather than protecting their egos at all costs.
  9. Set the standard: From the way they dress to the language they use, and how they greet and treat others; in every aspect of their behavior, leaders know they are setting the standard for everyone on their team and across the organization. Leaders know that behavior and presence continue to communicate even when voices are silent, and they make sure to set an example of excellence.
  10. Practice perception: Whether we call it a heightened sense of awareness, intuition, emotional intelligence, or just great radar, the best leaders are adept at reading between the lines and hearing what's going on behind the words. When this skill is well-honed, it can make leaders seem prescient as they anticipate and respond to challenges before they become apparent to others.
  11. Be a thought leader: People expect leaders to be a source of knowledge and information and to help them grow. Bringing new information to their teams and challenging them with thought-provoking questions helps leaders foster the conceptual thinking and creativity they need to stay ahead of the curve.
  12. Appreciate: It may seem old-fashioned, but making a habit of saying "please" and "thank you," and publicly recognizing the input of team members, does wonders for a leader's credibility and reinforces trust. Exceptional leaders seize every opportunity to appreciate.
  13. Be congruent: Leaders are always being watched by their followers, by competitors, and by the broader marketplace. When their words and actions don't match, disillusionment soon follows. Great leaders make principle-based decisions and consciously embody their values in everything they do.
When people work with someone who exemplifies these practices every day, they instinctively recognize a strong leader and they step up and follow. The good news for aspiring leaders? These 13 behaviors are available for anyone to embrace, apply, embody, and practice. Stephanie Reyes writes for TribeHR, a NetSuite company, the first truly social human resources management software. Its easy-to-use tools are used by businesses worldwide, allowing companies to focus more on what they do best and less on things that get in the way. For more information, visit www.tribehr.com

Sabbaticals May Be Your Employee Retention Secret

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 28, 2015

0 Human Resources Staffing

By Jessica Miller-Merrell Generally when you hear the word "sabbatical," most people think of a college professor taking time off to do something intellectual that would then contribute to their ability to shape the minds of young people. If you search the word "sabbatical" it is actually defined by Google as "a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year." As it turns out, educational institutions are not the only employers that offer sabbaticals. These periods of paid leave are becoming more and more common across the board. Countless companies in industries such as banking, technology, legal services, accounting, construction, insurance, media, and so on, offer paid sabbaticals ranging in length from anywhere around a couple of weeks up to the traditional year and for an array of reasons. A Solution for Burnout In our current economy where employee burnout is becoming prevalent, sabbaticals are becoming a more common solution for employees to combat it. A study released of 500 IT administrators by Opinion Matters showed 72% of the individuals polled were stressed as a result of their job while 67% had considered a career change. An overwhelming 85% said their work intruded on their personal life and 42% had actually lost sleep over the stresses of their work. Statistics such as these are never going to serve an employer well, no matter what the industry. In many industries, employees are giving it all they've got, working extremely hard to manage and balance their professional and personal stresses. Yet in many instances, they are not doing it very well. When their employers offer sabbaticals, it allows them the needed separation to do what they love. In many instances, sabbaticals may relate directly to an individual's profession; though even if they don't, when the employee returns to work, they are refreshed and revitalized. Benefits to the Employer In a job market that is consistently becoming more and more competitive for employers, it is always good for companies to find ways to show just how much they genuinely value their employees. For many, offering sabbaticals is one of these ways. Sabbaticals are not the same as vacation time in that, in most cases, they should not be offered to all employees. Rather, sabbaticals are more commonly used to reward top performing employees for their continuous hard work. These are the employees companies can't afford to have disengaged from their work or disengaged from their employer. When it comes to a high quality employee, the investment of a sabbatical can prove far more cost effective and productive for the company in the long run. Returning from a sabbatical should result in the employee being ready to hit the ground running with whatever new or refreshed outlook they gained while away. They are likely to be better engaged, having higher rates of productivity right out of the gate. The impact of a sabbatical should be similar to a vacation, but to a much greater magnitude. Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is an author, speaker, HR professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the President/CEO of Xceptional HR and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. Follow her on Twitter, @jmillermerrell.

Conducting a Training Needs Analysis

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 28, 2015

0 Human Resources Staffing

By Strategic HR Inc. Question: In my current position, I need to carry out a training "needs analysis" for the employees in the office as well as for the field staff, but there are no formal job descriptions or appraisals to follow. How do I even start, let alone accomplish, this massive project successfully? Answer: The fact that no performance appraisals or job descriptions are in place certainly makes your assignment more complicated. However, there are other sources you can turn to for your needs analysis:

  1. Check to see if supervisors have made critical incident reports. That is, have written notes as desk files regarding employees who have either done outstanding work on an assignment or had a problem with an assignment or customer. Critical incident reports aren't official performance evaluations, but they could be helpful to point out areas of weakness that need improvement.
  2. Do you have any employee exit interview data? If exit interviews have been conducted, the notes from the interviews could provide some valuable data about training needs, particularly for supervisory staff.
  3. Have employee opinion surveys been conducted? These survey results might shed some light on training needs for both employees and supervisory staff.
  4. Consider conducting one-on-one or group meetings with supervisors to ask them directly what training needs they believe exist. They will probably identify training they'd like for themselves as well as their direct reports.
  5. Consider conducting employee focus groups and ask them directly what they perceive as possible training needs. They may have a different perspective than their supervisors about what skills, knowledge, and abilities should become a focal point.
  6. Read through your file of customer comments and complaints (those obtained either in writing or via a customer hotline). If you review those comments, you'll likely find a pattern with regard to training needs, such as needing more effective customer service or better telephone skills.
  7. Evaluate whether your office has any new processes, systems, or technology. These additions or changes to daily operations will likely result in training needs. For instance, if you've recently acquired – or plan to acquire – new software, you'll want to schedule training on that software for end users.
While the task of conducting a proper needs analysis may be daunting considering the lack of performance appraisals and job descriptions, rest assured that by following the above steps you will be ready to deliver a thorough and useful analysis. Strategic Human Resources, Inc., is a national full-service HR management firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its president and founder, Robin Throckmorton, can be reached at Robin@strategichrinc.com.