I Love Your Mug

Recently, at a leadership workshop where I was presenting a program on engagement, we were talking about the importance of actually caring about one’s direct reports. It’s tough to positively impact and/or sustain engagement without a genuine regard for those you supervise.

I know that can be tough when the person you are supervising is a “Chain Gang Member” – AKA someone who is actively disengaged. It’s easy to care about the people who agree with you and who support you along the way. It’s tougher when the other person is…tougher. I understand that none of this sounds scientific so let’s just call this the “art” of engagement. 

One of the participating leaders came up to me after the session and thanked me for sharing this perspective about the importance of caring for those on your team. She shared that her boss has come up to her desk on six different occasions (literally 6 times) and said, “I love your mug”. The participant said that after the second time, it didn’t strike a genuine chord and felt insincere at best. Her thought was, “Isn’t there something else to comment on besides my ‘nice mug’?” I’m guessing that her boss meant well, but missed the mark.

As leaders who care, it’s important to create personalized connections with those who report to you. Nothing says “I care” like a genuine comment about something that is important to the person in front of you. Here are a few questions to think about:

What do you really know about this person inside or outside of work?
• What’s something comment-worthy to notice or talk about?
• How can you learn more?

Spending time informally is a great start. My former boss, Liz Dunne, was a master at getting to know us (her direct reports) as people. She knew what was important to me because she took the time to listen and learn. We all had lunch together on a regular basis and we laughed! She paid attention. In turn I wanted to know more about what was important to her. It was a great collegial relationship that created a climate of engagement for me and my peers.

So when you’re thinking about engagement, one comment about the mug is great – IF there’s something special about it (a picture of someone’s child or happy memory, etc.). When you genuinely care about someone who reports to you, the evidence is your interest, your time and your willingness to connect.

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3 systemic obstacles to employee engagement

Everyone is looking for the magic bullet when it comes to improving employee engagement. Most healthcare leaders agree that engagement is the driver for all good things that need to happen in providing care.

So, let’s look at 3 systemic obstacles that are getting in the way and what you can do about them.  Continue Reading.

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Is Your Boss a Mind Reader?

Happy New Year! To start out 2017, I’d like you to think about the answer to the question in the subject line above…

Most likely, your response is a resounding “no”.

I’ve never met a real mind reader (that I know of) so I’m assuming that they are few and far between. To save you from having to try and read my mind, I’ll get right to the point. If your boss can’t read your mind, then why would you expect him or her to know what makes you feel satisfied, energized & productive (AKA engaged) at work?

I think lots of folks wish their manager would spend more time getting to know them to better understand what makes them tick. I see others who wish their boss would take charge of their engagement by fixing all the external broken things and solving all the day-to-day problems.

Here’s the news for 2017.

Engagement is an inside job. You are the boss of your own engagement.

Here are a couple of ideas for how to avoid the mind-reading trap and create your own Professional Paradise right now.

1. Get really clear about what puts a skip in your step at work. What are those things that make time fly? Common responses that I hear are “getting work done”, “positive connections with coworkers” and “learning new things”. Of course your answers might be different – there are no right or wrong responses. When you know what makes you feel engaged, then you are more likely to notice it when it happens.

2. Sit down one-on-one with your supervisor and share what makes you feel satisfied, energized & productive at work. You don’t need to wait until he or she schedules the meeting – just ask for the time and share your agenda. Sure it would be nice if your boss initiated this conversation, but you don’t have to wait. No need to point fingers or lay blame, just professionally discuss those things that up your engagement factor. Be sure to include ways that you could more regularly connect with these things (ie, if you like learning new things – offer to be on a project team). When you are engaged at work, it benefits you, your customers and the organization as a whole so your boss should be happy you asked for this meeting.

Engagement is a shared responsibility. Sometimes managers get it right and sometimes they don’t. There’s no reason why you can’t be the catalyst for the conversation if your boss hasn’t stepped up to do it.

No fancy mind reading…just good old fashioned face-to-face conversation.


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Will You Be the ONE?

Today I’m sharing a guest post from my son Brian Hess who lives and works in Manhattan (that’s him in the picture between my husband and me).   This is an encore post from 2 years ago when I received this email from Brian. It’s one of my all time favorites and I hope you enjoy it (again) too!

So today I was riding the subway, it was a cold cold Monday morning in NYC in the holiday season (which means the trains are PACKED and delayed – a lot of cranky people). 

This morning was no different, as I show up and on the sign that tells when the train comes it says “delayed.” You can see the negativity and frustration in the air, and then as the train finally arrives, it only gets worse. The train is absolutely mobbed, people are fighting tooth and nail to get in, and yelling at each other. It was very negative.

Then, during the ride, the train conductor comes on the intercom and says “Tis the season to be packed into the train like a bunch of sardines. Even though the bills are too high, the pay is too low, still realize you have it better then 95% of the people world wide. Smile, enjoy life, and have a great Monday.”

Just like that everyone started smiling and giggling etc, the vibes were great. It was a great example of turning POWs into WOWs, and was wild how one person did it for hundreds of people.

I hope it gets you in the holiday spirit – whatever that means to you. 

See you in 2017!

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3 Must-Have Strategies to Permanently Improve Engagement

Every executive leader in healthcare has a vested interest in improving employee engagement – whether he or she acknowledges it or not. Unfortunately, many senior leaders think HR should manage engagement or they are looking for a magic formula when it comes to sustained improvement. Of course one doesn’t exist.

First, the problem. Here’s what I typically hear in my conversations with hospitals and health systems across the country. Employee engagement survey results come in and senior leaders talk about how important engagement is with their manager group. They share their desire for front line leaders to create department level action plans to transform engagement.

Click HERE to discover 3 must-do strategies that will permanently improve engagement in my most recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review.

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The Secret to Engaging Millennials is Revealed!

Many leaders are looking for the secret to engaging millennial employees (those born early 1980’s to early 2000’s). By 2020, nearly half of all employees will be from this generation so I guess it’s fair that Baby Boomer and Gen X managers are interested.

Guess what…there is no “secret”. But you knew that already didn’t you. Millennial employees, just like all other generations before them, are individuals. There is no one right way to engage with these team members.

You might remember in the summer I sent out a short survey – thanks to all who participated – asking about what motivates you at work. I asked those who responded to include their generation so I could sort the answers. I’m excited to reveal some of the things I learned.

First the facts. Five hundred and ten people responded to the survey – with a majority (56%) being Baby Boomers. Of the remaining 44%, 24% are Gen X and 18% are Millennials. For those of you adding up those 3 numbers, there were a few outliers to make up the additional 2%.three-generations

So here’s the news…drumroll please…the #1 internal motivator for ALL THREE GENERATIONS is “The feeling of accomplishment after completing a task or project.”

It’s not so amazing that we are all alike in this important way. Our beliefs and mindsets about work are formed at an early age sitting around the dinner table listening to adult conversations. The “good” parts of those conversations almost always revolve around positive feelings versus positive actions.

So what if more leaders helped the people on their team connect with that feeling of accomplishment after completing a task or project?

That’s my suggestion for today. If you are a leader, ask the folks who report to you what makes them feel satisfied, energized & productive (my definition of engaged). Then, when you see them, help to connect the dots to the positive feelings they get each day when those things happen. It’s all about personal connections coming from a sense of caring. There’s no secret… it’s called a positive work relationship.

If you would like your boss to better understand your internal motivators, then ask about his or hers. That will start the conversation and who knows where it will lead.

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