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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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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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I’ve noticed businesses are starting to hire again.  Slowly but surely.  In mere days, sooner than we will probably be ready for, we’ll begin to see the holiday car commercials on tv; the toy ads are already airing. Hiring salespeople has always been an interesting art.  Sales folks, even the ones bad at closing the deal, can usually make a good pitch last long enough to convince you to hire them.  Unfortunately that doesn’t mean you hired the Rock Start Sales Rep you thought you did.

As a matter of fact, 50% of businesses are dissatisfied with the new sales representatives they hire. Nearly 1 in 5 sales representatives will quit their jobs every year; 1 in 6 will get fired. 

Here are 3 ways to ensure your next sales hire will fail:

1. Hire most everyone, weed them out, and keep the good ones.  At the peak of the baby boomer generation, it seemed like no big deal to hire the wrong sales person. “Hire a group and let the cream of the crop rise to the top; we’ll let the rest go…” seemed to be the norm.

2. Hire the ones you enjoy talking to after all if you like them they’ll surely be successful, right?   Selling takes many avenues from lead generation to uncovering problems to positioning the sale to closing.  Enjoying your conversation with the applicant may mean they could be good at uncovering problems but it doesn’t mean they will generate leads or be able to close the deal.

3.  Hire without regard to your process and culture.    If they’ve had proven sales in one company that success will transfer to mine, right?  Not always.  If their sales cycle was short and didn’t require in-depth knowledge of the product and your sales cycle is longer and requires they take time to know the products before making sales you risk them leaving  your company before their first sale.

As a frugal business owner, I am not willing to risk lost sales while the ‘dart throwing’ hiring process works itself out. 

If you are of the same mindset, you’ll be sure you have a clear idea of what skills and behaviors are important for successful selling at your firm and will discipline yourself to ensure you match your applicants to your optimal performance model. 

Not sure how to do that?  Check out our FREE webinar series. This months’ topic is 100 Days to Improved, Sustainable Sales Growth.  Details are on our website http://www.ellisonpartners.com/events.

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.

 MEET THE LEADERSHIP GRADS! 

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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Are you reporting the #1 metric the CEO needs to know?Do you know what your CEO wants to know?  Recently this question was showcased in Workforce Magazine’s  Q&A section.  The article got me thinking about a related and perhaps more critical question:  Do you answer the CEO in ways that give clarity to his/her questions? It may be the key to an age-old HR question.  You know the question about the vacant seat at the table which HR endlessly tries to claim as their own?  What does it take to sit in the ‘seat’?

Will HR ever land that seat at the table? This is what I tend to hear:

  • From the CEO: “HR is important in an administrative sort of way; mostly it’s overhead to us.”
  • From the business owners: “We really don’t need HR; we have ‘people’ to manage the paperwork.  Our managers take care of the rest of the stuff.”
  • From the human resource professionals: “Why doesn’t the c-suite/owners recognize the value we create?”

Today,  I am more convinced than ever that effective communication is THE key.   The problem is business owner’s/CEO’s and human resources speak different languages.  Start reporting the #1 metric the CEO needs to know and the language barrier disappears and the seat at the table will probably appear.

HR’s hard work will be rewarded.  If HR really wants to be recognized, wants to be seen as adding value to the company, and wants credibility they yearn for, they must first communicate in a language the c-suite and business owners care about.  Forget talking about ‘intangibles’ and activity reporting. That is the sort of language that got HR in this mess.

Smart HR professionals have figured this out.  The answer lies in what is communicated and how HR draws a line to profit or at the least improved results.  Consider these two statements about an HR departments hiring results; which do you think the CEO would rather hear?

“This month we reviewed 437 applications; interviewed 180  people; facilitated 102 management interviews; checked backgrounds on 73 and assisted with hiring of 48 people including 4 key people.”

“This month we facilitated the hiring of 52 people; as a result customer loyalty is up 2 points which equates to $7,384 in additional sales.  Also, of the 52 people, 4 were key hires who have already had an impact on their departments, lowering expenses by half a percentage point saving the firm nearly $9,000.  Plus employee engagement is up in those departments which is driving us to a record sales month.  Those departments combined surpassed their sales goals by $27,000 for the month.  That nets to about  $43,000 as a result of effective hiring and working in tandem with department heads to exceed company goals for the month.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do this.  Yet HR tends to excuse itself by saying they don’t have access to “those kinds of numbers”.  But the right numbers may very well be the magic pixie dust to the seat at the table.  There are books with ideas and suggestions for metrics HR can track and use to prove worth.  They key is not to crunch every number HR can find; it’s about knowing your CEO and what ONE metric is the real key for him/her.  Let me save you a few bucks and share with you what I have found to work.

7  Steps to Identifying the #1 Metric the CEO Needs to Know.

  1. Ditch the activity based metrics and reports.  Nobody cares what HR did today if it is merely summed up by activity reports.  Everyone is busy.    Accept that HR isn’t valued for being busy.
  2. Understand the company goals and the CEO’s agenda.  Data is just data when it doesn’t connect to something the c-suite or business owners care about.  Know which goals hit a pulse point.
  3. Identify metrics to match the pulse points. Did you notice I didn’t say ‘HR’ metrics?  Typically this is one place HR mis-communicates.  HR believes the CEO cares about HR metrics but they don’t.  What the CEO cares about are metrics that make their blood pump; the ones that drive company goals and their personal agendas.  Identify those metrics whether or not you see or believe there to be a link to HR.
  4. Clarify the metric path.  Talk through HOW the various metrics develop. It doesn’t take a finance expert to follow a sales metric from a starting point to the customer. Work through each metric to identify the path it takes before it gets to the reporting point.
  5. Look for ways HR impact the metric path.  Take each metric path and identify ways HR affects or could affect the metric.  Consider what improvement in the end metric is possible if HR were to do something different.  Brainstorm what those ways might be.
  6. Track HR’s effect on the metric path but report the end number. By starting with the end metric you can backtrack along the metric path to show HR’s contribution to the end number.  You’ve just drawn a solid line from HR to something your CEO will actually care about.  Pay attention to his/her reaction.
  7. Report the #1 Metric the CEO needs to know.  If you paid attention in that last step, you’ll know which metric result hit the pulse point of the CEO.  In following reporting periods, start with this metric.

The hardest part of contribution reporting may well be effectively communicating with other leaders.  Determining the link between HR and the metrics the CEO cares about is crucial. It takes clear, effective communication and a willingness for HR to realize they need to be a part of the team in order to be seen as a part of the team. Take time to communicate with leadership to understand how the various metrics come to fruition.  Learn more about how the company operates and you’ll gain clarity on ways HR can have an impact on operations. Measure and report the impact and you’ll be surprised how quickly the seat at the table appears.

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

© Ellison Partners 2012.

 

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