Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Coffee Cup As a Management Tool

An unobtrusive tool for employee development

As a manager, we are tasked with making our resources do the most, perform at the best possible rate, get the most return for our investment. Employees are an organization’s most valuable resource. Interestingly, one of the best tools a manager might find to gain the greatest access to an employee might just be a coffee cup. The simple act of taking someone to coffee gives you an opportunity to sit with him or her, listen, and learn. It is this kind of conversation that might be one of the most powerful motivators – the biggest bang for your buck. This simple act can head off conflict and violence. Sharing a cup of coffee is simple but it gives you a great opportunity to learn important information about yourself, your employees, your company, and even your competitors.

Coffee with Your Employees

Meeting with each key employee and direct report is certainly very important. However, these meetings are frequently interrupted because both you and the employee are so busy and someone always has a “crisis” that needs one or the other to deal with it. You know you’d get a lot more done if you could just do it without interruptions. So, get out of your office, take the other person out for a cup of coffee.

While I worked in Monterey Park, California, there was a small sandwich shop across the street. Although the trip across the street was like a very life-like and human form of frogger, the shop provided an excellent and close place to have a short one-on-one discussion. The options weren’t limited to this one shop, there was another just up the road. Still, your cup of coffee doesn’t have to be outside of the building. Sneaking off to the breakroom to “buy” that cup of coffee and sit at one of the tables is certainly sufficient. Additionally, there’s no chance of getting too close to an errant car.

Coffee is not Always Coffee

“Grabbing a cup of joe” doesn’t have to mean coffee, which is very good since I don’t even drink the stuff. If you or your employee is like me, or just wants a break from the stuff, there are plenty of alternatives. This isn’t about consuming coffee. The whole point is about getting away from all the distractions for a little bit, so the beverage doesn’t really matter at all. Bottle water, sports drinks, fruit juices and sodas are all acceptable. It should be something relatively inexpensive that is readily available, can be served quickly and something you can linger over while you talk.

Coffee Has no Alcohol

You certainly want to avoid alcohol. Regardless of the time of day, going out for a “beer” or “having a glass of wine” makes it more of a social event than a business meeting. Additionally, you are not going to be nearly as productive if either of you is impaired. The temptation to get the other person to relax a little so they’ll be more open with you through alcohol is unethical and dishonest. Being open and honest with your employees will produce the same results without the potential legal problems.

Listen. Really listen.

OK, you’re at the coffee shop instead of your office. It is very important to remember why you’re there. You’re there to learn something from the other person. Your purpose or the information you’re after might be one of many different things. It might be just as important to check their temperature as it is to check the coffee’s – find out if they are overstressed and why. The one common thread to all of these goals is keeping your mouth shut and letting him or her talk. Your mouth needs to be shut for your ears to be open.

Remember you left your office so you could focus all your attention on what they are saying – don’t let distractions interrupt you here either. Occasionally repeat statements of theirs back to them to show you are listening and encourage them to keep talking. Interestingly, the Japanese have a word for this. It is aizuchi.

Manage the “Coffee Cup”

  • A coffee break gives you a chance to get away from the distractions and interruptions.
  • Coffee, tea, soda, or water. The beverage doesn't matter.
  • Pick a beverage that is inexpensive and quick, but that you can linger over.
  • Cell phone and pagers should be turned off or at least ignored.
  • Alcohol is out.
  • Actively listen to the other person. That's the purpose for this getaway.
  • Monday, September 6, 2010

    Benefits of Employee Recognition

    You’ve seen the star of the week boards at your local fast food restaurant. The service industry seems to have grasp onto the employee recognition plan while other industries fall behind. Yes, employee recognition is limited in most organizations. In fact, one of the chief complaints among employees is a lack of regular recognition. Managers seem to ask why recognition should be given for people who are just doing their jobs anyway. And, we’re always so very busy. Put those two factors together and you have a work place that fails to provide recognition for employees.

    Why Employee Recognition
    Managers who prioritize employee recognition understand the power that comes of recognizing achievements. They know that employee recognition is not just a nice thing to do for people. The strength of employee recognition is how effectively it communicates reinforcement, rewards people for important outcomes people create for the organization.

    Recognizing people effectively reinforces the actions and behaviors you want to see repeated. Certainly, an effective employee recognition system should be simple, immediate, and powerfully reinforcing. Implemented correctly, employees will feel they are appreciated. People who feel appreciated will work better and produce more.

    The Good Boss makes other people feel important and appreciated, excelling at creating opportunities to provide rewards, recognition and thanks to his or her staff. He creates an environment in which people feel important and appreciated.

    Employee Recognition Suggestions
    Here are a few suggestions for powerfully reinforcing the recognition you give:

    Put it in writing. Lay it out there in black and white. It doesn’t have to be huge and outlandish – a gaudy display. Write out the recognition – what the employee did, why it was important, and how the employee’s actions helped your organization. Give a copy of the letter to the employee, the department head and to Human Resources to file in their employee file. You can reference the recognition during your next Performance Review.

    Leave ‘em A Note. Write a personal note to the employee. You might have your supervisor sign it, too. Be sure to make a copy to place in the employee’s file.

    A Gift? Engraved plaques, Company Logo emblazoned merchandise, even a certificate of appreciation reinforce the employee recognition.

    Money, cash, bread, lucre, dough. Everyone likes cash or something like it – gift cards & gift certificates. If you use such a form of employee recognition, it’s best to include some kind of note or letter. You want the employee to remember the recognition long after the money is gone.

    Make It Public. Show the recognition in a place and at a time when others will see. Even if the employee is uncomfortable with the public recognition, you won’t get the full benefit of employee recognition without others seeing it happen. You want the other employees to know that due recognition is being offered.

    Effective Isn’t About Expense
    A simple “thank you” counts as employee recognition. It’s also the basic consideration everyone should be able to expect. You can make employee recognition as elaborate as you want. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective, though. Recognition should not be a scarce resource. You can’t run out of it. You don’t need a big budget for employee recognition but your returns will be great.