Tag Archives: Employee Engagement

3 Leadership Strategies for Positive Communication


Open and positive communication is a necessary component of success in business. Of all the successful CEOs with whom I have worked, not one has said that their success was the result of operating in vacuum. Each has credited the teams they have built, developed, and led by nurturing professional relationships and fostering two-way communication.

Here are 3 basic strategies, which, when put into daily practice, will change the culture in any organization to one of positive communication.

Ask Questions and Listen To the Answers  

Even when only assumptive, too often managers tell their staff what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel about it, what they should learn from it, and what they should do about it. This shuts down communication. It is much more powerful when we ask what happened, what the employee thinks caused it, how they feel about it, what they learned from it, and how they think they might fix it. Asking “what”, “why” and “how” questions instead of assuming you already know the answer fosters open communication and development.  Managers who already know it all don’t grow, and neither do their employees. Learn to ask questions and to really listen to the answers. And, keep in mind that HOW we listen can either encourage or discourage further communication and interaction.

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Ask; Don’t Tell

Employees often tell me that they wish their managers would give them autonomy to do their jobs their own way. Unless you’re running an assembly line, presumably, it’s the outcome, not the process, which really matters. People create productivity in different ways and have developed their own work habits that really work for them. Trusting your employees to get the job done, and to come to you when they need to, goes a long way in establishing open communication. Employees should not be afraid to try something new or even to make a mistake, as long as they are achieving the desired outcome. There’s a big difference between “Finish this project.” and “What is your plan for getting this project completed?” Allowing for creativity in the process and providing support and guidance when asked is a sign of a communicative and collaborative leader.

Follow Through

Too many managers don’t say what they mean, mean what they say, or follow through consistently, leaving their employees (and likely their customers) feeling discouraged. Set and communicate reasonable expectations, decide what you will do, and then do it. (Point of Information: Decide what YOU will do, not what you will make your staff do.) This is a natural part of setting your team up for success.  Following through means taking action and keeping your word. It is a perfect way to avoid power struggles and other barriers to positive communication. An example might be letting your team know that you will begin your training session at exactly 10:00, instead of asking them to be on time. By the way, in this example, you really need to start your session at 10:00, even if only two of ten people have arrived. That’s the “follow-through” part.

These highly effective leadership tools will help you create and retain a successful organization based on trust, cooperation and collaboration.


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I am a Culture Addict. Even at the Grocery Store.

11-19-2014 9-43-28 AMHow often do you smile upon the thought of going to the grocery store? How often do you feel better leaving the store than you did going in? Until recently, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I had experienced this.

Enter Sprouts.

I happened to be dropping my son off for a program across town so decided to check out Sprouts, which was very nearby. I had never been in. I guess it was my lucky day.

I am not a secret shopper.

I am not getting paid to promote their stores.

I am a self-diagnosed Culture addict, and I’m inspired to share this with every CEO, Founder, Senior Executive, HR Leader and Manager I can. (Sharing is caring, after all.)

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

I’m a skeptic. Actually, I like to say that I’m sufficiently jaded. I’ve seen too many mission, vision and values statements that hang on walls in hallways and conference rooms that have no effect on actual policies and behaviors.

So, when I first saw the Core Values statement at Sprouts, I pretty much ignored it. I went about shopping, checking expiration dates on packages, scrutinizing the selection, and squeezing the produce. (Yes, I’m picky.)

There was someone already being helped at the deli counter. As I waited, not once, but twice, the deli associate made eye contact with me and smiled. Huh. I wasn’t being ignored. I liked that. It felt good.

I didn’t see what I was looking for in the produce area. A very friendly team-member not only helped me (within seconds of my looking confused) but also gave me a tip on how to re-invigorate a root vegetable if it seemed wilted after sitting in my fridge too long. Huh. Good to know. Thanks.

Upon check-out the cashier was so nice to me, asking if I had found everything I was looking for, and all that. Expected, I guess. But still, she seemed so genuine. When I told her that it was my first time in the store, she truly seemed delighted. I got a big welcome, and she went out of her way to offer tips for future trips. I felt like I was getting insider information about deals and coupons. Huh. Nice.

Maybe there is something to that core values statement.

I decided to test it out.

Although I had to drive past three other grocery stores to get there, I went back to Sprouts on my next trip.

They didn’t have what I was hoping to find at the meat counter. The butcher told me exactly when he was going to place his next order, and when it would be delivered to the store. He suggested I call him directly the morning of said delivery. He told me he would prepare and he’ll hold my order, so I wouldn’t have to wait in line when I came to pick it up. Huh. Well, that made me feel special. Important, even. Exceptional customer service in a grocery store? Cool.

Even on my latest trip in I had two different managers, the cashier and another team member absolutely go above and beyond. And, not just for me. I watched. They just DO that. Huh. (Hat Tip to Dennis and Israel in Frisco, TX if you happen to read this!)

True. Their product selection is great, but that’s not the reason I keep going back.

So I stopped to take a closer look at those core values hanging on the wall.



And, I stayed to talk with Dennis about hiring and training. They actually LIVE those values. They actually talk about them regularly. They actually USE them.

I decided to dig around on the website. I found great statements on their career page. I found the code of conduct and ethics, right there for every candidate to see. Before they apply. Before they interview. It’s a good career page. They walk the talk. And, it shows.

So, if you think you can’t influence your rate of happy customers, think again. If you think you have to be Zappos or Google to have happy employees, think again.

Your culture exists whether you pay attention to it or not. So, why not be intentional about it? It will be worth the effort. Just ask Sprouts.

How About a Trust Culture Instead?


This past weekend I was thrilled to participate in my first HR Evolution. I enjoyed all of the conversations I had, both inside and outside of the actual event. There were some brilliant minds in attendance; people most professionals in my field would consider to be real thought leaders and true influencers in HR and Talent. I felt honored to be among them.


One session, facilitated by Broc Edwards, was called Bold HR. I’m not sure I realized then the impact it would have.

After defining together what bold looked like for those of us gathered, Broc asked us to get into small groups, think about the most Bold HR Person we knew, and discuss what made them bold.

I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in my career. Two really stand out for me as being bold as we defined it. Interestingly, the characteristics that I believe cause me to attribute bold HR to each of them are the same.


They took time for training. And then they trusted their teams to do their jobs.

I have touched on this in many posts previously, always as part of how to engage employees at work. It’s a big part of Positive Leadership. But I can’t stop thinking about these two things specifically since returning to work after HR Evolution.

If we, as managers (leaders), take on the responsibility of ensuring that our employees (or our clients) have all the tools they need to be successful… If we train them, mentor them, guide them, support them… and then empower them, trust them, let them do their jobs… what could that look like for us and our companies?

The receptionist who is empowered to do more than pass along calls and messages, who really understands how important their role is, could bring in all sorts of new business, even though “sales” is not in their job description.

The customer service rep who is trusted to do the right thing for the customer, even (especially) if it’s a little outside the norm, can increase loyalty, repeat business and the bottom line.

The IT tech who is allowed to innovate and make changes to how things have always been done can improve workforce productivity, process efficiency and maybe even cut significant cost.

But this can’t happen if people don’t speak up; if they’re afraid to make a mistake for fear it could cost them their job.

This won’t happen without mutual trust.

There’s a lot of talk around creating Innovation Cultures, of Performance Cultures, even of Recruiting Cultures. Maybe it’s all a matter of trust. (Sorry for the earwig.)

What do you think?

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Creating a High Performance Culture using Positive Discipline

Creating a High Performance Culture 

top performer

On a call yesterday, in discussing her leadership style, a client told me that when she does performance evaluations, or when she has any employee conversations, she believes in “building on what’s good” with her staff, and not focusing on what they don’t do well. She prefers to leverage people’s strengths, and help them become even stronger, rather than dwell in the often unrequited effort of trying to make someone into someone they are not. Therefore, she is known for pulling together disparate parts of teams, and helping them work well together to accomplish a common goal. And accomplish they do.

Another client recently told me that he was exceptionally good at knowing when to step in and help his staff, and when to step back and let them do their jobs. This routinely creates departments where employees feel supported and trusted. They know that it is safe to take risks, and more-often-than-not rise to greatness as a result.

In a conversation last week with a friend who is challenged with a new leadership role, we discussed the difference between his style, and the style of the person he replaced. While his predecessor often “picked up the slack”, creating a team who did only what they needed to get by, my friend does not believe in “doing for” his employees. He has found he does more service to them (and to his company) by holding them accountable to their commitments, and helping to develop their abilities. I’m certain he will find that sticking to his methodology, his staff will also rise to greatness.

These conversations have me thinking about another way we can apply Positive Discipline in the workplace and help create a high-performance culture.

Empowering vs. Enabling

There is a significant difference between empowering your employees and enabling your employees. Empowering your employees to do and be their best will help you create the long term results you need to drive your business forward. Enabling them, even though you believe you are helping, can actually cause your employees to feel as if you do not trust in their capabilities, and will ultimately have a detrimental effect.

Modeling empowering behavior can go a long way. Demonstrating that you have faith in your staff to know what to do, figure things out, and ask for help when they need it is the first step on the road to creating a high performance culture. (Well, hiring the right people in the first place helps too… but that’s another blog post.) Listening and acknowledging feelings and frustrations without fixing or judging is a great way to empower your employees to lean on each other (and rely on themselves) to get things accomplished. Establishing (and communicating) expected outcomes by agreeing on a plan, rather than setting “rules” will help foster an empowering environment with teams who are highly focused on their goals.

Enabling can take many forms. Punishing through “blame and shame” (however that looks in your workplace – being called out in front of the team, a focus on failures during reviews, negative financial impact, etc.) is actually a form of enabling behavior. Giving too much (offering exaggerated rewards and praise, bribing) and doing too much, are more common enabling behaviors. Both can have the very negative outcome of your employees actually “giving up”.

Work together with your staff in developing project plans, demonstrate active-listening and true interest in their opinions and concerns, include them in the decision-making process whenever possible, and let them do their jobs.

And never forget – People DO better when they FEEL better.


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To learn more about Positive Discipline, please visit http://www.positivediscipline.com/