Change your habits to grow your organization

We are creatures of habit. Some habits are helpful, but others… not so much.

I’ve met many leaders whose personal workplace habits hold their organization back. In most cases, the leader doesn’t realize that their habits are the root cause of breakdowns that result in unmet goals.

When leaders get better, the entire organization gets better.

Take CEO John, who has a habit of not responding to emails in a timely. Unfortunately, some of the unread emails contain important information about plans, projects, and goals. The staff gets frustrated because their boss doesn’t respond to their emails. When deadlines are missed and projects remain unfinished, John blames his staff. Sound familiar?

When we run into roadblocks like this, it’s worth asking ourselves if our daily habits play a role in the problem instead of automatically blaming others.

Nothing is more important than improving yourself as leader.  Next time something isn’t going as planned, and ask yourself these three simple questions. Focus on your habits and consider how they affect others. As you answer these questions, be painfully honest with yourself and don’t consult anyone else.

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Why is this problem happening?
  3. What can or should I do differently to eliminate the problem from happening again?

As the saying goes, “When leaders get better, the entire organization gets better.” Changing your habits is a great place to start.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Are your employees inspired by your vision?

If you want your staff to be excited about coming to work, they need know that they play a valuable role in moving the company forward.

But that’s often not the case. In a recent blog, we noted that 52% of employees plan to leave their jobs by the end of the year, according to surveys. Often, departing employees feel unappreciated, probably because they do not understand how their role supports the company’s purpose or vision.

Inspired employees are more committed to their work, and they are more likely to stick around.

Don’t leave it up to each employee to figure out how they fit into the company’s vision. You have to tell them! That’s your job as a leader.

How do you do this?

If you don’t have a vision for your organization, you need to create one. Your vision should establish where you’re going and how you are going to get there. Every position in the company should point toward that vision. (And if the position or task doesn’t support the vision, why does it exist?)

Here’s how you can inspire your team with your vision:

  1. Start conversations and meetings by stating the company’s vision.
  2. Connect each task to the vision. Explain why it matters.
  3. Gather great ideas from your team to constantly improve.

Inspired employees are more committed to their work, and they are more likely to stick around.  That’s a win for you, your staff, and your organization.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Are your biggest assets walking out the door?

Your people are the most valuable asset at your business.

So you should be alarmed by a new study from Inc. Magazine and Forbes stating that 52% of employees plan to leave their jobs this year.

I believe that misalignment is the reason employees are seeking new workplaces. Misalignment occurs when a company’s culture, vision, and strategies do not mesh. Employees do not feel like they are part of a larger purpose, so they disengage. When you lack a connection to your job, it’s easier to walk away.

Don’t wait until year-end reviews to share genuine appreciation for each employee.

Due in part to the pandemic, 71% more employees feel disengaged in 2021 that they did in early 2020, according Achievers’ fourth annual Employee Engagement and Retention Report.

Instead of waiting until year-end reviews to have in-depth conversations with your direct reports, engage with your employees now before they walk out the door.

Set up monthly 30-minute one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Yes, it’s one more task for your to-do list, but it’s far better than hiring and training replacements for half of your staff.

At the monthly meeting:

  1. Communicate your compelling vision for each individual, and explain how their job fits into the big picture.
  2. Ask good questions.
  3. Make note of and act on suggestions.
  4. Give genuine appreciation for the work that they do, and emphasize the employee’s value to you and the organization.

What better way to treat your most valuable company asset than with a conversation that includes sincere appreciation?

Sherri Miller, Founder & CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Case Study: When your project backfires (and why)

Ellen, who runs a small manufacturing company, created new accountability tools to track weekly sales. It seemed like a good idea, but she got tremendous pushback from the sales team.

“All you care about is sales and profits!” they complained. Salespeople felt pressured to upsell whenever possible. They worried about damaging customer relationships simply for financial gain.

By shifting perspective, the team began to recognize the value of their role within the company.

When Ellen contacted me, she was baffled. I asked how she rolled out the new accountability plan. “I put a new database on our server, and asked the team to enter the number of calls they made, how much they sold – all the usual stuff,” she said.

The problem, as happens in many cases, came down to communication. Ellen’s presentation of the new program appeared to leave client satisfaction out of the sales process. And this was a company that prided itself on excellent customer service.

I suggested a shift in perspective. Instead of just bringing in revenue, the sales staff needed to recognize that the products they sold were of VALUE to the customer.

“Your sales team needs to see themselves as problem solvers,” I said. “They aren’t just selling – they are offering solutions to issues that the customer is experiencing.”

By reframing the new sales goals as supporting customers, rather than making money, Ellen was able to help the sales team recognize the value of their role within the company.

Just four months after sharing this new perspective, the sales team beat all their goals. And they retained their satisfied customers!

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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When leaders and their teams are not on the same page

Joe, a talented CEO, came to me with a complaint. “My staff spends too much time on projects that are not high-priority,” he said. The projects were important, he admitted, but not at the top of the list.

Joe was frustrated because he had worked so hard on a strategic plan that was supposed to guide everyone’s work. Now it wasn’t being followed!

When I asked Joe to tell me how he prioritizes projects for his staff, he stopped talking. I could tell that he was having an “awakening moment.” Joe realized that he had not communicated his priorities often enough, or clearly enough, to his team.

Getting your entire staff on the same page requires more than one announcement about your key priorities.

This is where the disconnect happens. Leaders insist that they’ve communicated with their teams. But if the teams are not aligning their work with the organization’s key priorities, the message was not received – because it was unclear, vague, too short, or the team didn’t feel it applied to them.

Getting your entire staff on the same page, aligned with your key priorities, takes more than one announcement. It must be reinforced constantly, with check-ins, reminders, and measurement.

It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. When leaders and teams are on the same page, you’ll see results.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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What Motivates You?

During a recent coaching call, Linda sighed and revealed, “Ugh, I just feel so unmotivated at work right now!”  Gloomy skies and work-from-home isolation can sure give you the blahs. Just getting up in the morning can seem like a major accomplishment.

But we all know people on the opposite end of the spectrum, who seize each day with endless energy, focus, and drive. What do they have that Linda lacks?

The answer lies with engagement. Employees who are engaged in their work are motivated to act.

Linda is not alone in being unmotivated and disengaged. A recent Gallup Study on employee engagement reveals that:

  • 54% of employees say they are “not engaged” in their jobs
  • 17% of employees say they are “actively disengaged”
  • 29% of employees report that they are “actively engaged” in their jobs

The larger question is why. Why are employees like Linda disengaged and unmotivated?  To answer that, we must understand that engagement and motivation go hand in hand.

Employees who are engaged in their work are motivated to act.

Engagement is defined as “the energy, effort, and initiative employees bring to their jobs.” Engagement means encouraging employees to have a passion for their work. Engaged employees see their organization as more than a place to earn money.

Motivation is “the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.” Motivation is what causes us to act. It involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.

So, what can leaders do to ensure that employees like Linda remain motivated and engaged?

  1. Clearly Define Your Vision. Make sure to communicate your vision to employees, and that they understand the steps you and they will be taking.
  2. Give Employees the Tools They Need. Do not just assume that each of your employees is receiving all the tools, training, and support they need from their supervisors. Check with them personally and find out.
  3. Communicate Constantly. Perhaps the most important part of a good manager’s job is communicating effectively. Creating a culture of communication in which managers and employees share common goals and work together can make a good company great and turn around a non-performing company. Use email, newsletters, training sessions, and all-hands meetings to present your vision to your employees. Make sure to ask questions, and if they are confused, explain it differently.
  4. Get everyone engaged. Figure out a way to get all your employees engaged in planning and decision-making. This way, the project becomes their baby and something they want to make a success. Ask for input and use their ideas as much as possible so they have a vested interest in seeing the project through.  This can not only empower and motivate employees but can lead to new and more productive ways of working that might otherwise be overlooked.

Building engagement in your workplace is a deliberate but rewarding process. Contact me if you’d like a little help.

Sherri Miller, Founder & CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Share Your WHY

Why do some companies seem to have the best employees ever, and your new hires typically quit after less than a year?

Maybe it’s you.

Founders and leaders often assume that everyone shares their passion. You’ve told your origin story so many times that everyone automatically gets it, right?

Share your company’s vision – WHY you do what you do – with all employees, as often as possible.

Consider this: A staggering 61% of employees don’t know their organization’s vision or understand how their job fits into the company’s purpose.

This causes employees to disengage. Disengaged employees are unmotivated and can create a negative work environment, or they quit.

It’s imperative that you share your company’s vision – WHY you do what you do – with ALL employees.

Practice stating your WHY as clearly and succinctly as possible. Drop in at new employee orientations to share it, or create a short video so every employee can hear it straight from you. Explain how each employee contributes to the organization’s success.  Employees will understand what you want to accomplish and how they fit in. You’ll build connections on a deep, emotional level.

Read more of my tips for building engagement and the perfect book to help you explore your WHY. Let’s work on this together! 

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Are You Boldly Going Nowhere?

When planning a trip, do you map a route, pack supplies, and set a timetable? Or do you just hop in the car and start driving? Both methods can result in a relaxing vacation.

But as a business leader, you can’t simply hop behind your desk and see where your company ends up. To reach your destination of success, you need to develop plans, allocate resources, and follow your purpose. Otherwise, you are boldly going nowhere.

If your organization lacks alignment, your purpose – no matter how noble or lofty – will go unfulfilled.

Achieving your goals requires that your strategy and purpose are aligned. Your people, processes, culture, budgets, and structure must support the end goal. If your organization lacks alignment, your purpose – no matter how noble or lofty – will go unfulfilled.

Which of these best describes your organization?

  • Winner: Our strategy and purpose are aligned.
  • Sincere But Incapable: Our goals are clear on paper, but we don’t have the right people or money to make them happen.
  • Boldly Going Nowhere: We have great people and ample resources, but we don’t have a strong sense of purpose or direction.
  • Least Likely To Succeed: We lack the right people and resources, and our purpose is unclear.

When strategy and purpose are aligned, people working at that organization get excited. Employees are engaged and united behind a common purpose, and they know that their contributions are valued. Doesn’t that sound like an organization you’d like to lead?

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Does Your Strategy Align With Your Purpose?

It’s a new year, and maybe you’ve resolved to become healthier. To support this goal, one strategy would be to buy fruits and vegetables when you shop. But what if you bought only junk food? Obviously, your strategy would not support your purpose, and you would fail to achieve your goal.

The same is true for your organization. If you want to be successful in 2021, you must align your strategy with your purpose.

Purpose is what your organization is trying to achieve. Strategy is how you will achieve it.

Among successful organizations, 64% build their budgets around their strategy.

Your purpose is the unchanging beacon that guides you forward. Everything you do as an organization should point toward this purpose.

Strategy includes the products and services you offer, the market you seek to serve, and defining your competitive advantages over your rivals.

Now ask yourself How well does our strategy support our purpose? Then reflect on your organization’s structure and capabilities and consider how they support your strategy.

For example, if your strategy is to outshine your rivals with stellar customer service, is this reflected in your service standards, process of accountability to standards, training, and resources budgeted for the front-line staff and their supervisors? Or do you operate short-staffed to save money, resulting in overworked and grumpy employees who are unlikely to offer great customer service? Without an effective strategy and resources to achieve the purpose, you will fail.

There is ample proof that strategic alignment pays off. Among successful companies, 77% report that their operating mechanisms support their strategy, and 64% build their budgets around their strategy. It’s no surprise 60% of companies that fail to achieve their goals don’t even connect their strategies to their budgets.

Let’s make 2021 the year that we align our resources with our goals.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Saying NO is the best gift you can give your organization

What made the cut for your 2021 Strategic Plan? More importantly, what didn’t make the cut?

I often work with organizations that have clear priorities – on paper. But their budgets and staffing do not reflect those priorities. How can you achieve your goals if you are not putting resources toward them?

You must decide which initiatives get your organization’s financial and human capital.

Creating a strategy for success is all about trade-offs.  As a leader, you must decide which ideas and initiatives get your organization’s financial and human capital.

For each initiative that you say YES to, there will be many more that get a NO. This allows you to put time, money, and creativity toward achieving your biggest priorities.

Allowing employees to focus on pet projects might make them feel good, but this often doesn’t help your organization compete for and win business. Wouldn’t you rather engage your whole team and work together to achieve your biggest goals? Imagine the entire staff celebrating their accomplishments together one year from now!

For more inspiration, I recommend the book Boundaries for Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud. Read all my book recommendations for leaders here.

Saying NO could be the best gift you can give to your organization and your employees.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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