Posts Tagged ‘Employee Engagement’

Congratulations to our Spring 2012-2013 leadership program graduates!  They are:

  • www.ellisonpartners.comCarmen Sirizzotti, Director of Strategic Staffing and Compensation at University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Cathy Spicka, Vice President of Accounting at DEI Communities
  • Crystal Thompson, Production Planning Manager Epsen Hillmer Graphics
  • Kari Heunink, Compliance/SBA Officer, Washington County Bank
  • Mike Arkfeld, Vice President of Operations at Titan Medical Group

We are proud of your leadership, your hard work and most of all we are proud of the business results you have achieved.  Read More!

Contact us today for a no-obligation, no pressure conversation about your leadership development needs and whether our program is right for you.  402.884.7300.

Nikki Ellison is a business advisor, master-certified executive coach, and founder of Ellison Partners.  Through effective leadership coaching, proprietary skill acceleration programs and assessments, Ellison Partners helps individuals and business leaders achieve results.

2013 ©Nikki Ellison

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light bulb team

We have been ticking down the list of the four things you must do to create a

Team Building Culture and they are:

  1. Assess the individual employee
  2. Assess the leader
  3. Assess the team
  4. Create a culture that values engagement

Today, we’ll take a look at our leaders.  Too often, folks are promoted to a position because they have proved themselves to be very good at the job they did.  There is a huge difference between being a great “Do-er” and an engaging “Lead-er”.  Since these skills often do not go hand-in-hand, appropriate assessments will tell you about the job fit of your leaders.

If employees are the foundation of a business, leaders are the essential framework as we begin building a business to a higher level.  The ability to engage others is the most essential part of every leader’s job profile and leadership skill set. The daily actions of senior leadership, managers and supervisors are the key drivers of engagement.

Appropriate assessments will tell you about the job fit of your existing leaders. This will allow you to identify top-performing and lesser-performing leaders.  The results will reveal a predictive performance pattern.  With this, you can compare the results to these benchmarks and accurately determine if your leaders are in the right jobs.  You can then decide if the gaps are because of a selection issue or if coaching and development can provide the solution.

Always begin by identifying the leadership skills that are most effective in engaging employees.When you increase the effectiveness of your leaders’ ability to engage and motivate their team, job satisfaction, productivity and better profits increase along with it. You will need feedback about each leader from his boss, peers and direct reports to accomplish this. When you have this information, you can successfully align leader’s behaviors and skills with the expectations of the organization and his boss.   Now, by the use of on-the-job coaching and performance feedback, you can begin to close the gaps in the desired skills and behaviors.

Next time, we’ll put together all the pieces of the team!

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You might not be familiar with Capt. Edward A. Murphy but I would bet you know his moniker: Murphy’s Laws.    Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will.”) was born at Edwards Airforce base in 1949.  Capt. Murphy, an engineer, was actually credited with an old saying that had been around for years.  It was a term he used in describing one of his men who had wired a transducer wrong.   A project manager had been keeping a list of things Capt. Murphy said.  Today we know that list as Murphy’s Laws.

I think people, for the most part, work hard to do a good job in part because getting noticed for good work gets us promoted often to a management position.     It’s in that moment we are excited, happy and full of desire to do a good job once again.  After all, we now have a bigger job, more pay, more responsibility. Wait. What? More Responsibility? What does that mean?  Have you ever found yourself promoted to management and after the excitement wanes you wonder ‘now what’?  You surely don’t want you manager to be like Capt. Murphy, overlooking your work, and lament “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Here are 10 things you can do today to ensure your name isn’t linked with Murphy’s Laws:

1.  Accept that you still have much to learn.  It’s ok not to feel fully confident in your new leadership role.  You’ll have time to continue learning if you do just that.  Be prepared to learn from others – including your own team.

2. Communicate clearly.  Of all the issues that keep my company in business it’s ‘lack of communication’ that I hear the most.   Harboring information is a surefire way to trouble.  Open lines of communication with your team; share goals, priorities, and deadlines; provide clear direction; welcome questions and ask for feedback from others.  Effective communication will be essential in establishing your credibility as a leader and gaining the support of your team.

3.  Set a good example.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking now that you are management it’s your teams job to rise above while you sit with your feet on your desk.  Demand the same level of professionalism and dedication from yourself that you do from your team.  Be upbeat, friendly and willing to do as you say.

4.  Encourage feedback.  When I’ve share this tip I often hear “What if I am not prepared to do whatever they suggest?”.  The tip is Encourage Feedback  not Do Everything Suggested.  Employees don’t always share what’s on their mind.  Prompt them for feedback, canvass for opinions, listen to concerns and ask for ideas.  Maintaining an open door policy requires more than physically leaving your office door open a crack.  You must solicit input, help your employee feel heard, sort through what you hear and use the feedback that can improve things for your company and it’s customers.

5. Offer recognition.  Praise doesn’t have to be formal.  A well-placed Thank You goes a long way in encouraging future contributions and effort.  Make recognition part of your day-to-day communication with your team.  Recognizing them in front of their peer and others builds up your teams confidence.

6. Be decisive.  A quality leader knows how to sift and sort through information to arrive at a decision point.  Sometimes this is done quickly; other times a quality leader might delay a decision. At whatever point you have enough information to make a solid decision, do so and stick with it.  This doesn’t mean don’t alter your path if a decision truly needs revising but for the most part made quality decisions then stick with the decisions you make.  Don’t be wishy-washy.  You only have to  look at public opinion on government U-turns to see how easily confidence in a leader can be weakened or lost altogether.

7.  Help your team see the “big picture”.   Do you know where you and your job fits into your company’s larger goals?  Do you know where your team’s jobs fit?  If not, find out then be sure to communicate it.  This helps demonstrate that every task they complete can have an impact on the company’s success, reputation and bottom line.  Everyone needs to know they belong.  Help your team see and feel why they and their jobs are important.

8.  Create an environment of constant learning and development – and include yourself in this process.  Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s once said “If you’re green, you’re growing.  If you’re ripe, you rot.”  Whether or not you are a fan of McDonald’s or not, the point should be well heeded.  Encourage your team to explore new methods for reaching their goals and company goals.  Allow them to make and learn from mistakes; be sure to reward new and innovative ideas.

9.  Provide professional guidance.   A good manager and leader will also be a good mentor.  Make yourself available to your team and show interest in their careers.  Don’t overlook the power of positive reinforcement.  Continue to develop your skills, especially those focused on results. A focus on execution and achieving actual business results will put you far ahead of those quoting strategy and theory any day.  Require, for any training you consider for yourself or your team, that the trainer show proof their program works.  Don’t settle for creative marketing.  Insist your training dollars are spent on that which can prove the connection to helping you achieve measurable business results.

10.  Be patient with yourself.  As it goes ‘Rome wasn’t built-in a day’.  Recognize strong managerial and leadership skills take time – especially as you adjust to your new position.  Don’t expect to effectively learn significant leadership skills in a week-long seminar. Seek guidance to learn as you go, giving yourself time to try out new skills, and adapt what you learn to your own style of leadership.  Seek guidance formally through coaching and informally through peers.  In doing so you will enhance your leadership abilities and make strides toward becoming a great manager and respected leader.

Nikki Ellison is a business advisor, executive coach and founder of Ellison Partners. Through proprietary skill acceleration programs and assessments Ellison Partners helps businesses achieve results.

© Nikki Ellison, 2012.

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I believe there are those things in life that will always ‘work’.  I’m talking about the things you can count on like candy on Halloween or the smile on my kids’ face when they smell ‘Grandma’s’ homemade rolls coming out of the oven.  I know that if I eat less than I work off – I lose weight; if I spend less than I make – I save money.

In the business world we have things we can count on too…like the value of good customer service or a good employee. We know, in the end, both will make our company more profitable.  Ironically we spent a lot of time, energy and money on ensuring our customers remain loyal. Yet I hear many employers clamor for the secret to ensure their employees will remain loyal.

I do a lot of speaking engagements and have noticed recently it seems the topic everyone wants to discuss is employee engagement.  Last week I spoke on this very topic for a group of national CEO’s and Executives who were in town for a convention.  While I appreciate their kind words when they said my presentation was “…the best (they’d) ever heard on the topic of engagement.” it has me pondering why a concept so basic is so hard to do.  What IS the secret to, as the book Good to Great would say, ‘getting the right person in the right seat on the right bus’?

This morning, while enjoying one of the ‘old’ luxuries of life (reading the Sunday newspaper while leisurely drinking my coffee), I came across an article that every employer who is trying to ‘hire the right person for the right seat in the right bus’ should read.  The article was in the Omaha World Herald’s Marketplace Jobs section.  The writer had interviewed  experts on job hunting such as nationally certified resume writer, Rosa Elizabeth Vargas and other career coaches.   The experts advise coming  up with a specific proposal for what you would do in that position.  They called it the first 60-day plan and went on to say “As the first interview wraps up, be sure to ask the hiring manager what the ideal candidate looks like.  Listen attentively to the company’s needs and become the solution to any problems.”

What employer would NOT want a job candidate to lay out how they’d handle the first 60 days and how they’d be the solution to your problems?  Sounds great doesn’t it?   But think about what that candidate is about to ask you.  Do you KNOW the answer?

If you (who already works at your company) do not know what the ideal candidate needs to look like to be ‘the right person in the right seat on the right bus’ at your company, how on earth is a job candidate much less a new hire supposed to be that person…let alone be engaged, productive and successful?

In most cases, the way you prepare and interview a new candidate is exactly why you can’t hire the right person.

1.  You don’t worry about defining job needs you just know you need to hire someone.  You may or may not have a job description on hand. Who cares if its current or not and care less about what behaviors are needed to successfully DO the job.  You come up with a couple of skills that you think you need and you post the job.

2. You’re excited to have your first job candidates’ and you start randomly scheduling interviews. In some cases you are tempted to hire the first person you interview because you need someone – anyone. Then you decide it’s silly to hire your first applicant regardless if they are ‘the right person for the right seat on the right bus’.  Nobody hires the first applicant, right? So you keep interviewing until you are tired of interviewing then you pick one based on your gut feelings (which you tell yourself is right based on your experience).

3.  When your new hire starts you  tell them a bit about the mechanics of the job and encourage them to ‘get to work’. You don’t explain to them what optimal performance looks like in their new job or what behaviors they’ll need to exemplify to be engaged, productive and successful in the job. Three-to-six months later you are frustrated because you, in fact, did not hire the right person.

If you find yourself doing the above you might want to re-work your hiring process before the next candidate asks you that ‘ideal candidate’ question.

In business, there are tried and true things you can do to ensure your employees will be loyal, engaged and productive.  And like most ‘tried and true things’ it really is very simple.  Stop making your hiring process difficult and an exercise in futility; try DOING what Good to Great is telling you works:

1.  Define the job before you post the job aka ‘the right seat’.  This means taking a minute to determine what work needs to be done and look at whether or not your current ‘grouping’ of these tasks make sense.  Don’t create a job, for example, that involves detailed work and multi-tasking unless you intend to hire one skill set then watch your new hire fail on the other.  Most people have natural tendencies.  Creating a job that requires opposite tendencies in order for the job to be done well is just asking for failure.  If you find your job duties list require such opposites, consider reworking a couple of jobs until you have similar job duties grouped together.

Did you hire a sheep or a wolf?2.   Know who you are hiring:  screen out problem candidates and screen in candidates who have the ability to perform ‘optimally’ in the job aka ‘the right person’.  It’s not enough to know if your candidate has the skill to do the job, you must also know if their natural behaviors will fit your job at your company.  In this day and age of data, it’s silly to try to hire a candidate without first knowing if they have the work ethic and attitudes essential to becoming a successful employee at your company.  Secondly, it’s imperative to understand what optimal performance looks like in the job.  This is what is referred to as ‘Job Fit’.   Job Fit is the key to  hiring ‘the right person in the right seat on the right bus’.   Assess your current top performers to know what your new hire will need to look like in terms of successful behaviors; confirm this model by comparing it to those ‘passengers’ at your firm who aren’t engaged or producing to your satisfaction.

3. Coach your new hire to help them adjust to performing ‘optimally’ in the job aka ‘the right bus’.  Assessments provide a great way to understand how you can help your new hire perform at optimal levels.  Employees become engaged when their understand what success looks like in their job and they are able to work at an optimal level.  Using data to coach your employee towards optimal performance is a better way to achieve the ‘right person, right seat, right bus’ goal than using our gut instincts – even if they are good most of the time.

It sounds simple but it works and the research is undeniable.  Aberdeen Group found that companies using this hiring and on boarding process tended to have 22% more revenue per employee over those not using this process.  Harvard business Review, in a study of over 260,000 salespeople followed for 20 years, found Job Fit to be the key to sales growth.

Using these 3 steps in hiring will ensure your hiring process is as guaranteed to work as I’m guaranteed to have candy on Halloween.

Nikki Ellison is a business advisor, executive coach and founder of Ellison Partners. Through proprietary skill acceleration programs and assessments Ellison Partners helps businesses achieve results.

© Nikki Ellison, 2012.

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LEAP Graduate Lynn Owen

Leadership Graduate, Lynn Owen, receives an award for Highest Gain in Leadership Competence from Ellison Partners Founder, Nikki Ellison.


Ellison Partners is thrilled to announce the graduates of the Leadership Acceleration Program.  Omaha has an impressive group of graduates and I could not be more proud of them!

Considering this group came to the program as successful leaders in their own right, we are happy to report each and every one of them still grew as business leaders racking up some impressive growth metrics and accomplishing some great business results.

The professional and personal growth achieved is nothing short of impressive:

  • Leadership Confidence measures grew between 13 and 38%
  • Leadership Competency measures 5% and 19%
  • Overall, 96% of Leadership Behaviors improved (67 out of 70)

What is most impressive, however, is the ACTUAL BUSINESS RESULTS ACHIEVED by the Cohort.  Here is just a sampling of what the bosses had to say about their Graduate’s growth and the business results achieved:

“She has become more committed to her career and her professional growth.”  She has grown in “her ability to make a decision and stick with it and make things happen; to find the right people to work with and delegating responsibility.  She (has become) excellent at recognizing talent and bringing together a good team.” 

*   “There have been many positive changes begin to happen over the past year. In the area of communication there have been large improvements, assessing situations before responding, communicating on the facts without an emotional effect, being more proactive and less reactive.  The organization of her duties and managing the process of her department is also improving.  She has made improvements in training, coaching, and managing her staff.”

*  “The largest improvement is evident with the process management of her team.  She has always been very active in helping her team with their tasks, but she has really begun the transition to ensuring that the members of her team have the tools and direction to be more self-sufficient, therefore reducing the amount of their work she is doing, and allowing her to continue to manage the process with the level of detail needed.”

“(She) has taken the lead in planning our Annual Manager’s Meeting.  She has excellent ideas.  Our annual meeting keeps getting better and better.  Much of our success can be attributed to her ideas and organizational skills.  I couldn’t be happier w/ the outcome of this event.”

Graduating Members of the Omaha Fall 2011 Cohort:

*  Ami Regalado, Vice President of Human Resources – Washington County Bank in Blair

*  Angela Lee, President of Strictly Business  Magazine – Omaha; Creator and Founder of Sholdit

*  Heidi Leapley, Customer Service Manager – Titan Medical Group in Omaha

*  Lynn Owen, Customer Service Manager – Brumbaugh & Quandahl, LLC PC

*  Sarah Schulz, Chapter Manager – Human Resource Association of the Midlands (HRAM) in Omaha

*  Suzanne Robinson, Vice President of Human Resources – DEI Communities in Omaha

Graduating Leadership members were presented with a bound copy of their ROI Executive Brief™. The ROI Executive Brief provides graduates with a snapshot of their successes which included their growth metrics detailing measured growth in 8 leadership competencies, 18 skill sets and 70 behaviors along with their leadership confidence growth data; a summary of their business results gained by applying their new leadership habits; an executive narrative of their leadershipi journey; a comprehensive listing of the leadership tool kits, tips and lessons learned and available for ongoing use; comments from their boss’s on the significance of their leadership skill improvement and a summary of their leadership year curriculum and leadership hours earned. Graduates also were presented a Certificate of Leadership and a gift from their Certified Executive Coach.

Congratulations to the Graduating Omaha Fall 2011 Cohort!

Nikki Ellison is a business advisor, executive coach and founder of Ellison Partners. Through proprietary skill acceleration programs and assessments Ellison Partners helps businesses achieve results.

© Nikki Ellison, 2012.

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Do you remember the childhood game of chicken?  Ron Ashkenas, Harvard Business Review Blogger, points to an interesting connection between poor leadership skills and the childhood phenomenon in his recent post “Why Leaders Play Chicken.”

Noted is the common characteristics including a “…critical issue that must be resolved by a certain time limit; the principle players have strongly held but very different views about what needs to be done; and neither side wants to compromise.”

The result? “…instead of innovative solutions we end up with negotiated  bargains…and when a compromise is finally struck both sides usually feel their leader was too weak and should not have given up so much.”

Thinking of those times our firm has been called upon to address ineffective teams it seems most often there was a game of chicken going on, among other things. There is no fault or blame being placed rather a level of respect for the firm for addressing the situation. What happens when a firm doesn’t address it and allows it to continue?

Are your leaders playing chicken? Conflict resolved with this sort of power play rarely ends well for anyone involved, let alone the company reputation.  Leaders who engage in the chicken game risk:

  • a limited view and limited range of options
  • difficult communications
  •  a lack of collaboration
  • settling for less
  • delaying the inevitable collision
  • polarized teams and increased opposition
  • losing respect as a leader

Here are 3 things you can do to ensure your leaders are fostering innovative approaches and excellence in execution.

1.  Know what valued customer outcomes your firm fulfills. Profitability starts and ends with loyal customers.  The experience your customers value as part of doing business with your firm is the outcome they seek for you to fulfill.  Can you define your company’s valued customer outcome?  How can you truly satisfy your customers without knowing what it is that your customers truly want to experience by doing business with you? Think about this yourself for a minute.  Do you value the seat you sit on in the airplane you ride in?  Or do you value the experience of a comfortable, safe flight? Know what your customers value; what outcome they expect when doing business with you. The end game is customer loyalty and the profitability that comes with it.  Keep your leaders focused on your customers,  not the chicken game.

2.  Don’t overlook the link between employees and customer loyalty and profit. Technology is easily replicable; processes can be mirrored.  However, a highly skilled and committed workforce is difficult to imitate.  It’s people who design the processes.  It’s people who work with, and leverage, technology.  It’s people who make or break the delivery of your valued customer outcomes.  When leaders begin to think of employees as commodities employees will do the same with customers, whether they serve them directly or indirectly.

Consider this: We know customer loyalty is a leading indicator that predicts the ‘staying power’ of your customers.  Statistics prove 91% of unhappy customers will never buy from you again. We know the surest route to profit comes from customer loyalty; that customers will remain loyal only as long as they remain satisfied.  Research shows company’s build customer satisfaction by consistently delivering valuable services to its customers and that exceptional value is created by innovative, loyal and productive (engaged) employees. Good to Great by Jim Collins tells us to ensure you have the right people, in the right seat, on the right bus.  Folks like that don’t waste time playing chicken.

3.  Invest in your leaders.   Let’s look at this from a different angle.  What’s the single most important challenge to leaders in this economy?  It’s getting positive results.   Here’s a critical reality:  The magnitude of your teams contribution to your success will be directly proportional to how engaged they are with the organization and their jobs.  Towers Perrin surveyed nearly 90,000 employees in 18 countries and found companies with high employee engagement had a 19% increase in operating income.  Conversely, companies with low levels of engagement saw operating income drop more than 32%.  What drives employee engagement?  Job fit (see point #2) and leadership. We’ve all heard it before.  Employees don’t leave companies they leave bosses.  I suppose that is fine if it’s an unengaged, unproductive, profitable employee.  But what about the others who are engaged, who are satisfying your customers?  Fail to invest in your leader and you fail to invest in those who directly foster your customers loyalty and your profitability. If you needed financial justification for investing in your leaders the proof is in the research and it doesn’t involve playing chicken.

How do you avoid playing chicken?   I‘m interested in your thoughts.  Click on “Leave a Comment” below. 

Source:  Building Profit Through Building People Making Your Workforce the Strongest Link in the Value-Profit Chain by Ken Carrig and Patrick M. Wright.

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