The Elements Ironstone Blog

Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Performance Review Do’s & Dont’s

Here are some of the most common pillars for performance and pitfalls that hinder effectiveness:
Do’s:

  • Clear job descriptions
  • Clearly communicated performance expectations
  • Conscientious documentation
  • Relevant rating system
  • Listen – explore all possible explanations in order to devise appropriate and effective solutions

 Don’ts:

  • Personal bias & emotions cloud judgments
  • Compensation concerns will detract from the evaluation of behavior/performance
  • Extreme ratings are signs of excessive lenience/strictness or false assessments
  • Prohibitive communication – condescension, comparing, overemphasizing problems
  • Lack of follow-up – strong coaching cultures encourage higher employee performance


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Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

10 Tips to Make Your Resolutions Stick

Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned.  But first knowing what a resolution is plays a key role in keeping that resolution.  It’s common to frame a resolution in the form of a promise or oath.  This often makes it hard to keep since it is instant failure if you break a promise.  It may be easier to carry out by defining resolutions as decisions, course corrections, or a new direction.  Tackle your year with these ten tips to help you maintain your 2011 resolutions.

Get over the honeymoon period: It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of ‘a new start’ and to have a strong sense of commitment to change.  Before the initial excitement wears off, make a list of the benefits of your resolutions instead of the reasons why you need the resolution.  For example, if you need to manage your time better focus on the fact that you will be more relaxed and more confident because you are on top of things, instead of focusing on not being late for everything.  These positive associations prolong and renew your motivation rather than constantly remind you of the negative things that need to be eliminated.

Be Proactive: Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.

Play to your strengths: Some people are more likely to achieve their goals if they set specific objectives and write them down, while others are more likely to achieve their goals if they go public and share them with their family and friends.  Why not do both, and cover all your bases?

Consider levels of motivation: For the less committed this means recognizing the progress made so far – look how far you’ve come.  For the more motivated this means pointing out the work that still needs to be done – look where you’re going.

Change the name of the game: Why does it have to be a new year’s resolution?  If you aren’t afraid of making resolutions at any time during the year, they are less likely to lose the luster they are born with in the presence of the New Year and the shiny disco ball you were dancing under all night.

Start small: Taking on too much often derails resolutions.  Set small, measurable, and attainable goals that will yield feedback and results within a few weeks.  Break goals down into daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly milestones.  Don’t expect them to take the full year to materialize.

Change takes time and patience: Habits take time to develop, and therefore take time to break.  Don’t try to change all your unhealthy habits at the same time.  Try to replace one unhealthy habit with a healthy one before moving onto the next.

Empower yourself: We are human and by definition, not perfect.  Know beforehand that you may stray from your goals, but that the quickest recovery will be to recognize the set back and take immediate action to correct it.  It will only waste time to wallow in the mishap and criticisms about it.

Ask for help: While asking for help is often looked upon as the presence of weakness, it is actually quite the opposite.  It takes a significant amount of courage and trust to reveal our vulnerabilities and needs to others.  A helping hand (in whichever shape of form you need) strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress.

Take some time: New Year’s resolutions are usually last minute decisions, and therefore don’t encompass the entirety of the changes that you will benefit from.  Take some time to think about what things will affect the most positive change in your life.  Don’t begin your resolutions with the phrase: “I will never…”.

While you keep the above 10 steps in mind, it is important to realize that there will be stumbling blocks.  One way to help you be proactive about obstacles is to keep track of your progress.  This way you will see which strategies led to success and which ones did not.  Throughout the process, it’s important to remember that the start of a new year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes, but rather to reflect on past behaviors and resolve to make positive lifestyle modifications.


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Employee Engagement Strategies

“I can’t tell if you are agreeing with me or mocking me.” Dilbert’s boss.

“That’s sort of a gray area.” Dilbert

Needless to say, Dilbert is not an engaged employee. His pointy headed boss has failed to win his respect. Earning loyalty is a critical component of employee engagement but too often we fail at it. The success factors of employee engagement have been heavily researched, and here is what we know.

Develop meaningful relationships. Managers can build loyalty in employees by working alongside them and establishing meaningful communication. As the old saying goes, “Respect has to be earned. It cannot be commanded.”

Avoid cults of one. Employees who are loyal and connected to a team and company will perform at a higher level for the company. Employees who are overly engaged with a manager/mentor may compromise the higher good to please the leader.

Create a common vision. All employees should be motivated around a common vision that is aligned with the organization’s goals.

Cultivate employee careers. A powerful sign of commitment to an employee is investing in his/her growth. Take time to chart a career path, give career advice and provide training.

Visible empowerment. Employees should be able to see their contributions, evaluate their effectiveness and make decisions about next steps.

Individuality matters. Know your employee’s talents and make use of them effectively within the team.  Your employees will work more effectively when they are engaged in tasks that they excel at.

Return on investment . Employees are more motivated to perform when their achievements are acknowledge and appreciated.

The onus is on you. Managers have the most influence on the extent to which employees are engaged. Not only do they serve as supervision, but also as leadership and a source of guidance.

It’s a virtuous circle. The manager’s confidence in his own abilities influences his ability to engage employees, and bestows confidence in employees to use him/her as a resource.

The devil is in the details: Dilbert’s pointy headed boss had it right – the details matter. Organizational procedures influence employee engagement. If guidelines and protocols are unclear and inconsistent, employees will quickly lose confidence.

The link between motivation and rewards is well recognized today. Reward programs have proven to be very successful at attracting initial employee engagement in a program. A carrot can draw employees to the program but only a real engagement strategy will keep them there

 


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Top 10 Lessons From Comeback Women

Women, as the more creative of the human species, can also be more resilient. Following are creative strategies for success culled from the lessons learned from women who have failed a few times along the way.

1. Do guy’s stuff: Kathryn Bigelow has taken a lot of criticism over the course of her career for doing action and violence. It works for her!

2. Work-family works: Today’s work culture is more sensitive to the needs of families. If you do not have flexible work options, show your boss the mounting research on flex options and increased productivity.

3. Seek empowering workplace cultures: Bigelow was in the director’s chair.  Workers who have more decision-making authority over their daily job functions are less susceptible to stress, burnout and absenteeism.

4. Age and experience matter: Women of a certain age are just moving into their own. Forget about ageism in Hollywood casting line-ups; direct the movie and do the casting.

5. Working smart: Long hours are not the way to the boardroom. Use your time wisely.

6. The engineer’s mindset: The strong demand for women in fields such as engineering is re-engineering out dated mindsets. Keep in mind that today you have more power in the equation.

7. Quantify everything: Women are at the top in sales for an important reason – performance is transparent and measured.

8. Balancing work and family: Family is a stress buffer, not another event to juggle on your schedule.

9. Take the Initiative: Women still need to do more to get to the same place. Work smarter not overtime. Be proactive. Look for opportunities to take anticipatory action.

10. Get up, brush yourself off, and start over again. Sandra Bullock said it best in her Oscar acceptance speech, “Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?”


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Ingredients for Success? – New Lessons for Women

At this year’s Oscars, a number of once fallen women sauntered across the red carpet as not only winners but at the top of one of the world’s most competitive fields. Of course, Kathryn Bigelow is the biggest winner. Having suffered through flops, she has now secured her place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest directors.  Sandra Bullock, after having received a Razzie the day before, demonstrated the grace of a good loser.

Am I the only one to notice that women who succeed are often carrying briefcases full of lessons learned through failure on their way to the top? These successful women have managed to psychologically overpower the negativity associated with failure. Few viewed Sandra Bullock as an Oscar contender after she picked up the Razzie for worst actress the night before, yet she rose above the crowd, and maybe even a few snickers, as she awaited her greater destiny at the Oscars.

These women were able to draw from a repository of inner strength. At the first sign of failure, it is important to keep things in perspective. You lost the major account but the sun is still shining, your well-adjusted children are at home waiting to go to the park and your sales are edging up year-over-year.  Look on the bright side. You are in sales, not acting. Nothing could be worse than winning the Razzie.

Build a repository of strength by making values-driven goals and decisions. Write down your values and line them up with your goals. Note the positive values-driven outcomes in your life. By sticking steadfast to your values, you will be able to develop a repository of strength to achieve your next set of goals.

Self-efficacy, or confidence in one’s own abilities, is a strong determinant of success.  Values-based actions encourage positivity. Thoughts typically precede and shape actions. Like a coach shouting positive encouragement, positive thoughts will resurface as positive re-enforcements when we are facing our toughest challenges.