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September 2017

7 Ways Your Employees Are Being Held Back

By Tyler Downey

   Every leader wants to get the best out of his or her employees. When trying to help your employees reach peak levels of productivity, you must first find out what is hindering their progress — and then fix it! Let’s take a deeper look at 7 potential roadblocks to employee productivity:
1.  Equipment, tools, software, or on-the-job support is out of date/broken/inadequate for the job required. Your employees cannot be productive if they don’t have the tools to get the job done. Think about it this way: If you need to tighten a screw and you don’t have a screwdriver, you’ll use whatever is at hand. Have you ever used a knife to tighten a screw? You got the job done, but it took a lot longer, and you probably broke the tip of the knife in the process. Not exactly an efficient or effective way to get the job done, is it?
2. Decision making is centralized and autonomy/personal accountability is not emphasized. In highly autocratic work environments, employees are discouraged from thinking for themselves. If they don’t think for    themselves, they never really take  ownership of their jobs. They just follow the rules being dictated from above. Individuality and creativity are ruined in the process.Burden
3. Business politics pulls teams/departments in different directions. Office politics will never go away. It’s a fact of company life. However, destructive office politics can demoralize an organization, hamper productivity, and increase turnover. Deceit, gossip, rivalry, and power plays are fine for   movies and TV, but they are potential disasters in the workplace.
4. Incentive plans are insufficient and reward both poor and good performance.  Nothing can be more  discouraging than seeing someone who barely contributes get the same incentive bonus as those who give it their all. Incentive plans that do not take into account the exact, measurable contributions of each individual are not only ineffective, they’re counterproductive.
5. Employees don’t take risks  necessary to keep the organization competitive and forward-thinking. Many employees can recall attending meetings where managers saluted the month’s top performers. Very few, if any, have attended meetings where an executive praised a daring effort that failed. In a recent survey of 690 employed Americans, Blessing White, a Princeton-based consultancy, asked employees whether they are encouraged to take risks. Only 26 percent of employees said they are often encouraged to take risks. A startling 41 percent said they are never asked to do so. Never. How can organizations adapt to changing conditions if their employees never try anything new?
6.  Employees are no longer asked for their input and involvement. Like centralized decision making, keeping employees out of the loop when it comes to what works and what doesn’t work is another sign that your productivity will decrease. Who knows better how to do the job than the person actually doing it?
7. No one is measuring productivity to support awareness and accountability.  Sometimes it’s not that no one is measuring productivity, it’s that no one is  communicating those measurements to the employees who are expected to meet the job requirements.
It is a blessed thing that in every age someone has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.
- Robert G. Ingersoll

Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.
- Franklin P. Jones

Supercharge Your Immune System - Fight Colds and Flu

By Catherine Winters

   With the flu at epidemic levels every season, keeping your immune system in fighting form is a must.  The immune system is our body’s main line of   defense against the bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that try to cultivate infections there.  It can even out the brakes on rogue cells that could turn into cancer.
   But while you may know where your circulatory and digestive systems are, the immune system is harder to pinpoint.  Because its purpose is defense, it has to be everywhere.  Every part of your body -  including the lymphatic   system, cardiovascular system, GI tract, reproductive system, airways and skin - is lined with immune cells.
   When a microbe determined to make us sick attacks, the immune system leaps into action, releasing special proteins, molecules and cells to kill the invader, wherever it may be.  That process triggers an inflammatory response - characterized by redness, swelling, heat and pain - that subsides once the immune system has done its job.  But starting around age 65, the production of immune cells drops and your immune system weakens.  That may be why people 65 and older account for 90% of flu– and pneumonia-related deaths each year, why it takes longer for wounds to heal in older people and why the risk of cancer rises as you age.Vaccine
   Generally, what’s good for overall health is also good for your immune   system.  Here are some simple strategies that’ll help keep yours in fighting form.
Get your shots.  A vaccination imitates an infection, prompting your body to produce substances that will fight the disease if you’re ever exposed to it.  Get your annual flue shot.  It takes about 2 weeks for protection to kick in.  You also need a tetanus booster every 10 years.  And if you’re 50+, ask your doctor about the shingles and pneumonia vaccines.
Work up a sweat.  Moderate intensity   exercise such as brisk walking helps the immune system fight respiratory viruses.  Aim for at least 20 minutes a day.
Get enough sleep.  People who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night are about 4 times more likely to develop a cold than people who get 7 hours or more.  Lack of sleep also may weaken your immune system’s response to vaccines, making them less effective.
Clean up your diet.  There’s no one superfood that will ramp up the immune system.  Instead, eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains.  If that leads to weight loss, all the better.  Obese people with Type 2 diabetes who lose an average of 37 pounds have a more than 80% drop in cells that trigger inflammation.
Load up on D.  Most of us don’t get enough of this essential nutrient for   immune system health.  Take a daily supplement containing at least 600 IUs of D or eat vitamin D-fortified cereals or juice.
Keep the cocktail count in check.  While moderate drinking may be good for the heart, too much alcohol suppresses the immune system so your body is less able to fight infection and even cancer.  Women should have no more than 1 drink a day and men no more than 2.
Don’t smoke.  Cigarette smoking keeps levels of infection-fighting white blood cells high, upping your risk for heart attack, stroke and cancer.  And it makes it harder for wounds to heal.
Take up a relaxing hobby.  Singing in a choir, for example, may benefit your health: the activity increases levels of cytokines - an immune system protein that helps fight illness - in cancer patients.  In fact, anything that feeds your soul is likely to be good for your body.
Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups.
When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service.
'Wet your whistle' is the phrase inspired by this practice.

Expect More From Low Performing Employees

By Brenda Smyth

Low employee performance is not always resolved by surface or temporary remedies. If you see promise in this individual, you may need to dig deep to find the root causes.
Find the Root Cause of Poor Performance
If you have several workers performing similar jobs, it’s hard not to compare them: enthusiasm, ability to problem solve, how well they function on a team, how well they interact with clients and the biggie - results. You’ll have a standout or two, some average types and sometimes a poor performer.

But consider that the problem of poor performance does not necessarily rest solely with the individual worker. Problems stemming from the organization or you, the manager, could also play a role.

Authors Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux suggest that when an employee fails—or even just performs poorly—managers typically do not blame themselves. The employee doesn’t understand the work, a manager might contend. Or the employee isn’t driven to succeed, can’t set priorities or won’t take direction. Whatever the reason, the problem is assumed to be the employee’s fault—and the employee’s responsibility.

But is it? Sometimes, of course, the answer is yes. Some employees are not up to their assigned tasks and never will be, for lack of knowledge, skill or simple desire. But sometimes an employee’s poor performance can be attributed in part to his or her boss.

In fact, research suggests that bosses—albeit accidentally and usually with the best intentions—are often complicit in an employee’s lack of success. How? By creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived underperformers to fail. If the Pygmalion effect describes the dynamic in which an individual lives up to great expectations, the set-up-to-fail syndrome explains the opposite. It describes a dynamic in which employees perceived to be mediocre or weak performers live down to the low expectations their managers have for them. The result is that they often end up leaving the organization—either of their own volition or not.
Set-up-to-fail Syndrome
 The syndrome usually begins surreptitiously. The initial impetus can be performance related, such as when an employee loses a client, undershoots a target or misses a deadline. Often, however, the trigger is less specific. An employee is transferred into a division with a lukewarm recommendation from a previous boss. Or perhaps the boss and the employee don’t really get along on a personal basis—several studies have indeed shown that compatibility between boss and subordinate, based on similarity of attitudes, values or social characteristics, can have a significant impact on a boss’s impressions. In any case, the syndrome is set in motion when the boss begins to worry that the employee’s performance is not up to par.

The boss then takes what seems like the obvious action in light of the subordinate’s perceived shortcomings: he increases the time and attention he focuses on the employee. He requires the employee to get approval before making decisions, asks to see more paperwork documenting those decisions or watches the employee at meetings more closely and critiques his comments more intensely.

These actions are intended to boost performance and prevent the subordinate from making errors. Unfortunately, however, subordinates often interpret the heightened supervision as a lack of trust and confidence. In time, because of low expectations, they come to doubt their own thinking and ability, and they lose the motivation to make autonomous decisions or to take any action at all. The boss, they figure, will just question everything they do—or do it himself anyway.
Some other causes of Set-up-to-fail Syndrome

  • Confirmation bias: Bosses dwell on failures and overlook the successes of “weak performers.”
  • Lower Expectations, resulting in lost confidence in his or her own ability. They begin to question themselves and become anxious about their performance. The focus turns to what could go wrong rather than performing the work.
  • Fewer chances to shine, when the boss gives choice job assignments to other people. It becomes difficult to prove the boss wrong, when he or she is only working on routine tasks.

Recognize and prevent poor performers from sliding into a downward spiral. Create an environment with open communication where workers are comfortable discussing challenges. If you suspect a poor performer might be struggling because of set-up-to-fail syndrome, consider discussing your observations and responsibility with them. Set up process (mini) goals to help direct the kind of behavior that can help them to be successful over time.
Words of Wisdom
Don't do something permanently stupid because you're temporarily upset.
It's better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.
Be who you needed when you were younger.

Rewarding Your Team When the Budget is Tight

From the Managers’ Minute

Figuring out new and creative ways to recognize and reward employees can be incredibly challenging. And if you’re working with a limited budget – or no budget at all – the difficulty just multiplies.

Research proves that happy employees who feel appreciated by their managers and companies are far more productive, get better results, and are more loyal to their organizations than their unhappy counterparts.

Recognizing and rewarding employees effectively is THE NUMBER ONE thing you can do to improve organizational performance, enhance employee satisfaction, decrease turnover, and build morale. There are many motivational techniques that don’t require spending money and can often work better than ones that do. Here are a few cost-free ways you can keep your employees motivated:
1. Good old-fashioned praise
Almost everyone responds well to praise. A simple “well done” or “nice work” makes the employee feel like they’re doing a good job which, in turn, will spur them on to continue to do well. The exception—when praise reeks of insincerity or manipulation. Be specific with your praise. Always add how the job was “well done.”Thumbs Up!
2. Show appreciation
A simple, handwritten “thank you” instead of a quick e-mail makes an employee feel that what they’re doing is being recognized. Say “thanks” to show appreciation for them doing even standard parts of their jobs. In tough times, sometimes just the “basics” deserve praise because they’re being done under more difficult circumstances.
3. Develop a recognition program
Employee of the month makes people feel rewarded. So do other special recognition awards. Be certain if your team is small that there is ample opportunity for everyone to gain the recognition. While competition is normally healthy, in a difficult environment where morale is already low, it’s best to develop recognition that rewards everyone’s efforts.
4. Small gestures of thanks
Simply show more interest than you might have in the past about your employees’ family life. If times are hard at work, they’re probably equally difficult at home. If you’ve never taken the time to learn a child’s or spouse’s name, now is the time. Ask about special hobbies or projects your team members enjoy. Build a sense of camaraderie, which will inspire loyalty.
5. Maintain an open door policy
This means that you are accessible to your staff, eliminating the “them and us” atmosphere, and employees will know that they can talk to you and that you will listen.
6. Include a note in their personnel file
Put a note in their personnel file to acknowledge the extra effort they’re giving under these difficult times. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll remember it when you give their performance appraisal.

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