Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The No Tears Guide to Letting Someone Go

Having to terminate an employee is never fun. Even if you've had to execute this task hundreds of times over the course of your career, it never gets easier. Everyone understands how devastating and humiliating it can be to lose a job and, as a leader, you must find a way to handle the dismissal in the best way possible.


Come Prepared


Nothing is worse than a manager who is wishy-washy. Go over the employee's track record ahead of time to confirm the employee’s performance merits dismissal. Ideally, you would have met with the employee previously and given them the proper warnings and a chance to rise to your expectations (think: three-strike policy). Regardless, the employee is going to want a clear answer to why he or she is being let go, and you need to provide a compelling reason.


Before the meeting, get all your ducks in a row regarding termination policies. Be prepared to settle the questions whirling in your employee's mind: When will he get his last paycheck? Is she entitled to a severance package? What’s the timeframe for clearing out his desk? Before you draw up a termination contract, double check policies to ensure accuracy.


Set the Scene


It should go without saying, but terminating someone in a public setting is the ultimate faux pas. You’re not making an example of someone; you’re making the rest of your team dislike you. Find a private room in the office and shut the door. Silence the phones and computers. The time of day you call the meeting doesn’t matter. Honestly, there’s no “best” time to dismiss an employee. Ideally, get it done as soon as possible since delaying the inevitable makes an already hard situation worse. Once you start the meeting, cut to the chase. Small talk isn’t going to soften the blow. Aim for a considerate tone, but avoid sounding emotional during the conversation.


The Right Way Versus the Wrong Way


There are two ways most termination conversations can go. If a manager does it the wrong way, you’re likely to have the employee react in one of two ways: tears or yelling. Take the following two scenarios:


Wrong Way


Sylvia is called into a meeting where she has to sit and wait for fifteen minutes while you finish a personal phone call. You try the direct approach and tell her she’s dismissed effective immediately. You don’t give her much feedback on her performance and direct her to HR about her final paycheck and insurance benefits. You usher her out of your office in less than ten minutes.   


What went wrong here? Sylvia is likely to feel humiliated over the abrupt dismissal. She is confused over what went wrong and will have no idea how to plan out her next move.


Right Way


You have had consistent contact with Sylvia prior to the meeting about her performance. You’ve offered guidance on how to help her succeed in her role. After multiple attempts at trying to resolve the situation, you and Sylvia both realize the position and company isn’t the right fit for her. When you call her into a meeting to let her go, she’s not surprised. You give her all of the details about her termination and ask for her to sign a termination contract after she takes the time to look it over.


In this scenario, you have let Sylvia go compassionately and professionally. She can use this experience to excel in her future endeavors. Your reputation as a fair and considerate manager stays well intact.


Inform the Masses


Avoid causing a workplace-wide panic by being transparent with the rest of your staff. You don’t have to give your team all the details about the dismissal but offer reassurance that the termination wasn’t the first in a string of firings.


Firing an employee is hands down the hardest part of being in a leadership position. At the end of the day, reassure yourself that the termination is necessary to avoid ultimately hurting the company.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Customer Service in Action - A Personal Touch

Customer service is never more important than when something goes wrong. Your actions can either win your customer back, or it can cost you that customer for life.


Nobody knows this better than Amazon, who has built a massive reputation for fast and reliable order fulfillment. Through their consistent excellence, they’ve completely changed the retail industry. But what happens when mistakes are made?


Overcoming Mistakes


As a general rule, Amazon offers their Prime customers a free month of their Prime service if a package doesn’t arrive by its guaranteed delivery date. That’s about what you’d expect them to do, right? Amazon has been known to up the ante, though, when bigger customer service problems exist. For instance, an expected December 24 delivery that was late prompted Amazon to provide a personal phone call with a sincere apology, not to mention a $20 credit that could be used on a future order - and this was before the customer even reported the issue! A missed Christmas deadline didn’t lead to anger and fury; instead, it only yielded even deeper customer loyalty. And it’s all because of the personal touch that’s all too rare in today’s automated world.


Back Up Your Promises


The Amazon example rings true in several ways. On an immediate level, the message is simple - even when customer demands put a strain on your resources, you still owe it to them to exceed their expectations. If you’re in a position to make guarantees to your customers, you’d better have a way to meet those deadlines. And, just as importantly, you’d better have a backup plan in case those deadlines can’t be met for any reason, even if those reasons aren’t necessarily your fault. That backup plan, it goes without saying, shouldn’t include only reacting when you have something to lose.


Add a Personal Touch


But there’s a bigger takeaway from Amazon’s customer service. Yes, businesses typically go all out when a customer’s patronage is at stake. A smart move, to be sure. However, it’s also a good idea to take elements of that full-court press and incorporate it into your everyday approach.


Consider the example of DDP Yoga, a fitness program with a loyal following and that has an appearance on Shark Tank to its name. To this day, owner Diamond Dallas Page calls a handful of new customers each day to personally welcome them to the program and answer any questions they may have. As a result, those customers have a more personal connection to the product, and they’ll be that much more likely to stick with the program and refer it to others.


You might not have a fitness program to sell, and you might not have the resources of Amazon. But there’s no reason why you can’t do a little something to delight your current customers. A personal phone call or a handwritten note is all it takes. By taking these measures of your own accord instead of in response to something you’ve screwed up, you’ll encourage a great deal of loyalty from your customer base.


All They Really Want


At the end of the day, customers don’t ask for much. All they want is to know that your business cares about them as people, and not just as dollar signs. Using a personal touch can help you to achieve this to great effect. If big businesses like Amazon can execute this strategy perfectly, what’s your excuse for not taking action?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Never Underestimate the Value of Good Relationships

Tattly was started almost on accident. Design blogger Tina Roth-Eisenberg was looking at the temporary tattoos her daughter received at a birthday party, and was disappointed by the uninspiring fake tattoo designs available. She had many talented artist friends due to an artistic coworking space she'd recently founded. Bringing these folks together to create a new product seemed a natural fit.


Soon after, she had a range of high-quality temporary tattoo designs that she was offering for $5 a piece. In addition to artists from the coworking space, she solicited work from artists who she knew online through her popular design blog. 


Two months after beginning work, Tattly launched with 16 designs. The company has grown quickly, with their designs showing up everywhere from high-end retailers like Macy's to the Tate Museum and the gift bags at the annual White House egg hunt. Over 8,000 retailers now carry Tattly temporary tattoos. Roth-Eisenberg's success is due as much to successfully leveraging her relationships as it is to her innovative ideas. A few of the ways she made her relationships count:


Look for new ways to leverage relationships.


Like most bootstrapped companies, Tattly was running on a very small margin. Roth-Eisenberg provided the first $15,000 in funding from her own pocket. However, she ran into issues when she realized that she was out of cash to actually print the tattoos.


To solve her cash flow problem, Roth-Eisenberg reached out to a contact and asked if they'd like to sponsor the first "bonus" Tattly, a free temporary tattoo that would ship with every sale. Her partner was enthusiastic about the opportunity. With the advance, Roth-Eisenberg was able to pay for the first printing of her tattoos. 


When you are considering a new direction, always remember what your current contacts do besides the business they do with you. You may have opportunities that you never thought of. 


Show support to the ones who support you.


Too many platforms and businesses undervalue the creative talent that helps them find their success. Tattly has formed strong and loyal relationships with artists from all over by providing a healthy commission on every one of the tattoo designs shown. At the time of this writing, the company has paid out over $1 million in royalties to artists. Because of this, Tattly has attracted over 120 talented designers. 


Let your fans be your ambassadors.


When Tattly started, the company did not have a budget for promotion. However, Eisenberg's existing following from her design blog provided a huge boost. Her social media following worked like a built-in PR and marketing engine. Tattly's influence only grew as proud followers shared the eye-catching designs. This was enough to quickly draw the attention of wholesalers who were happy to carry the bright and fun pieces of art. 


Have confidence in your relationships and provide as much value as you seek. Through this and some creative thinking, you can make opportunities not just for your business, but for all of your potential collaborators. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Keeping Employees Engaged During the Dreaded Month of January

Returning to work after the fun and exciting Christmas season can feel like an uphill battle. If you really want to keep your employees happy, healthy, and engaged during the dreaded month of January, there are a number of essential things to keep in mind.


Encourage Your Employees to Spend Time Outside


Part of the reason why January is so terrible for so many people comes down to SAD, or "Seasonal Affective Disorder." It's a very specific type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons and is often brought about by how cold and dreary January has a tendency to be.


The key to combating this is, thankfully, a simple one - encourage your employees to get outdoors as much as possible. Take them out for lunch at that great new restaurant down the block and insist that you all walk there. Get as much natural light into your workplace as possible. Even getting just fifteen minutes of quality sunlight exposure every day can have a big impact on their mood and their productivity.


Along these same lines, consider starting an exercise program at your office in the new year. Not only will this play an important long-term role in keeping your workforce as healthy as possible, but this type of physical activity will also go a long way towards combating SAD head-on.


Encourage Frequent Breaks


It's important to take an active role in the work/life balance of your employees during the Christmas season, particularly when their attention is being pulled in so many different directions at once. Guess what? This idea doesn't stop being any more important just because the calendar now says "January 1."


Look for any opportunity that you can find to give people a bit of a break from the important tasks at hand. People always need to recharge, but this will become especially important during January and the rest of the cold winter months of the year. Make sure that people are getting out of the office and home at a decent hour, too. Once again, you may think that pulling long hours will help productivity in the long run, but all you're doing is compromising the quality of the work that people can provide you.


While it's true that nobody (yourself likely included) likes to return to work after the fun of the Christmas and New Year season, it isn't as bad as you probably think it is. Indeed, so much of keeping employees engaged during January comes down to a matter of perspective - one that you can fully control just by remembering tips and tricks like those outlined above.