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How to Train New Hires Quickly and Well

November 26th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

StartlineJanuary has the highest number of new-hire starts of the year, with February hires coming in second. That means many organizations are now interviewing large numbers of potential hires so they will be able to start to work at the beginning of the new year. With so many people coming on soon, what can an employer do to increase the odds that these new hires will ramp up their skills quickly, become productive in a short period of time, and bond with the organization? Here are seven things that successful organizations do to train new hires quickly and well.

  1. Determine the skills needed on the job. For example, if you’re hiring for a customer service position, what does “customer service” mean for the organization? What does it look like? What are the steps involved?
  2. Develop written materials for use during and after training. Will training be in a classroom, via e-learning/computer-based, on the job, or a combination? Consider developing some additional job aids for use at the new hire’s workstation. These could be manuals, decision trees, or other instructions to quickly help the new hire in difficult situations.
  3. Plan to segment or “chunk” training over time. Instead of conducting all training in the first week and literally or figuratively telling new hires to “sink or swim,” successful organizations space out training over time. Once the new recruits have mastered one skill and have used it on the job, they will gain the confidence to tackle more difficult tasks. Gradually building his or her skill base will ensure that each employee receives proper and thorough training.
  4. Assign a mentor to new trainees to answer questions and model desired behaviors after training. New hires need mentoring socially and professionally. Often they are too embarrassed to ask their manager for repeated instructions or for clues into the culture. Mentors should not be too far removed from being new themselves so that they understand the tsunami of information that tends to confuse new hires and have patience when questions are repeated.
  5. Measure and document the new hire’s skills. Many organizations measure employee skills before and after training. Recognize the new hire’s new skills and accomplishments. If you have a group of new hires and it is appropriate, celebrate “graduation.”
  6. Provide an onboarding process along with training in specific skills. Onboarding should include a brief history of the organization, enable new hires to understand their role in their department and in the larger organization, and provide an opportunity to meet their coworkers and individuals important to the success of their position. Do everything possible to make new hires feel welcome, valued, and confident in their future.
  7. Implement continual learning. Utilize training events and online courses to ensure that your employees are continually learning and improving. In successful organizations, learning never stops!

With a recruiting rush under way and the year’s biggest group of hires about to start in just over a month, remember that new employees can be an addition to the bottom line more quickly if they are trained well and recognized for their accomplishments on the job. Smart managers will provide onboarding and training and will recognize the early accomplishments of new hires in any position.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

Image courtesy of Andi Sidwell

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Four Ways Your Frontline Managers are Burning Profits

November 18th, 2014 by Jenny Banner in Talent Management

Burning ProfitsDuring the recession many managers were given additional responsibilities and more direct reports in order to compensate for a lack of organizational resources. Yet even in a recovering economy relief hasn’t necessarily arrived—we still face the problem of overworked and undertrained managers. These managers have a direct impact on the bottom line, as they are actively influencing frontline employees every day. We need to develop and encourage these valuable employees in order to enable productive and profitable workplaces.

Here are four signs that your frontline managers need help:

  1. Creating Turnover. The classic phrase “people leave managers, not organizations” still rings true today. According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013, despite the 8 percent unemployment rate, more than two million Americans quit their jobs each month. Managers are in the unique position to have daily interactions with employees, and these can be either defeating or empowering. Make sure that your managers are helping employees to leverage strengths and not pushing them toward their next job search.
  2. Slowing Down Productivity. Teams are growing in complexity. Not only must managers ensure that work is getting done, but they also must connect team members globally and virtually. As the world becomes more networked, managers have to figure out how to quickly and efficiently engage their teams and keep projects moving forward. An untrained manager promoted for technical expertise likely has little idea how to manage well, and this can have dire consequences. According to Gallup, poorly managed workgroups are on average 50 percent less productive and 44 percent less profitable than well-managed groups.
  3. Decreasing Innovation. Inspiration often strikes at the most unlikely times. To think innovatively, people have to look at normal challenges from a very different point of view. As frontline managers are asked to both deliver work and manage teams, however, there is very little time for them to create space for ideation. The constant demands on their time force them to make quick decisions, which does not allow for creative exploration. This is a lost opportunity; because frontline managers understand customer needs firsthand, they are an extremely valuable resource for product and service innovations.
  4. Inspiring Disengagement. According to a 2014 study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, lack of manager development and training has a significant negative impact on employee engagement. In the study survey, 41 percent of the respondents connected disengaged employees with frontline managers and organizational performance issues. These disengaged employees put in their time but invest little passion into their work. They may be active, but they’re achieving very little. The most disengaged will actually undermine the productive work of others.

Consider your frontline managers and their teams. Are any showing one or all of the four warning signs described above? If so, take action to care for your frontline managers. Understand that they have complex positions and little extra time to focus on their development, so provide them with the financial resources and the space they need to help them grow their skills. This will be an investment, of course, but the returns will far surpass the initial costs. And if you balk, consider how much you’ve likely already lost by not preparing your frontline managers to leverage their teams.

Jenny Banner is a consultant at FlashPoint. She collaborates with clients to develop talent through systems, processes, training, and coaching, with the goal of creating meaningful connection between employees and business performance. 

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When Leading, Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Feedback

November 12th, 2014 by Kristi Gaynor in Talent Development, Talent Management

FeedbackProviding effective feedback is an essential component of leaders and managers. Feedback is powerful. It enables us to see our behavior through the experience and perception of others; it helps us illuminate our blind spots and increases what we know about ourselves, promoting the opportunity for growth and development.

Feedback helps to engage us—and a lack of feedback can be detrimental to employee retention. A Gallup study found that feedback of any kind, whether directed toward strengths or weaknesses, was significantly better than no feedback at all. Of employees receiving no feedback, only 2 percent were engaged, while 57 percent were disengaged and 40 percent were actively disengaged.

So if you’re a leader, you must give feedback. And it’s important for you to consider how and when you give that feedback. Remember that when you provide feedback, you’re acknowledging your team member’s efforts and helping him or her grow. Here are things to think about in order to make sure that your feedback has the greatest impact.

  • Give feedback consistently. It should be done within a timely fashion to ensure the action or behavior is at the top of the team member’s mind.
  • Recognize that each person is different. It’s important to note each team member’s style and preferences and adapt your method for providing feedback accordingly.
  • Respect team members’ privacy. Sometimes group feedback is valuable, but many times you should give feedback one-on-one.
  • Try using questions to engage the team member and to help him or her develop ideas and solutions on his or her own.
  • Be a good role model and remember to receive feedback in return.

Giving feedback can be simple. Here are a few ideas that you can easily incorporate. But don’t just stop here—think creatively about your team and challenge yourself to come up with your own feedback opportunities.

  • Walk by desks daily and check in with your team members.
  • If team members are actively working on a project, inquire about progress.
  • Leave a sticky note calling attention to a small success.
  • Send a card to recognize a team member for significant accomplishments.
  • Schedule 15-minute blocks to check in with your team members monthly; this should be a time to talk about anything on their mind.
  • Solicit input from employees regarding the broader corporate objectives (for example, departmental project work, organizational strategy, or customer service).
  • Celebrate team accomplishments by bringing in lunch.
  • Recognize holidays and team member milestones (such as birthdays or work anniversaries).

No matter your approach, remember that your words and actions are the most important tool you have to influence the performance of others. Simply telling someone that you have noticed and appreciate his or her work increases the probability that positive performance will continue. Realize the impact you can have on a person simply by providing feedback.

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountability, execution, and results.

Image courtesy of Digitalart/

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Five Strategies for Becoming a Millennial Magnet

November 6th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

Millennial MagnetMillennials are a hot topic in business: everyone wants to know how to attract, engage, develop, and retain them. If you need Millennials on your team (and no doubt you do), then you have to find strategies and tactics to become a “Millennial magnet.” If you already have Millennials on board, then you need to figure out how to keep that magnetic pull strong so that you hold onto them.

There’s a reason that Millennials are so sought after. Aged 25 to 37, this is the generation that’s going to fill the shoes of the retiring Baby Boomers. Millennials are vital to achieving organizational goals. They often have mission-critical customer-facing positions and are being groomed for management roles. This generation is tech savvy, is used to collaborating, wants to have fun at work, and wants to contribute immediately. Millennials are the most racially diverse generation in our history, so they’re prepared to interface well with customers throughout the global marketplace.

So what’s going to help you recruit and retain them? Here are five strategies.

  1. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are focused on commonalities such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., and could also be age-specific (“emerging leaders”). In research conducted by HR technology reviewer Software Advice, 48 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 said they would be “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in joining an ERG. This is not the case for older adults—only 25 percent of respondents over the age of 35 were interested. Fifty-two percent said the presence of ERG programs would impact their decision to apply for a job with a company. And 60 percent of respondents said an ERG would have a positive impact on their decision to stay with an employer. ERGs require the support of senior executives and often a budget for activities, but if they’re used to address business issues (recruiting strategies, in-house “think tanks,” mentoring, etc.) and to develop relationships, they can be well worth the investment.
  2. Emerging leader development programs. If you develop Millennials, they may still leave. But if you do not develop them so that they can become legitimate candidates when an appropriate job opening appears, they are guaranteed to leave. Millennials are hungry to master their current jobs and to prepare for the future. Having a ready pool of potential future leaders cuts not only recruiting costs but ramp-up time. Emerging leader development is a tool to keep your culture aligned with strategic goals.
  3. Flexible work arrangements. While not every job can be conducted wholly or partially offsite, a remarkable number of telecommuting arrangements are successful. Since Millennials see work as a “thing to do” (from anywhere, at any time, thanks to technology) instead of a “place to go,” they are very interested in organizations willing to let them work nontraditional hours and places. To the greatest extent possible, try to make flexible work arrangements a reality—while keeping high standards for quality and deadlines.
  4. Collaboration as a business tool is a great way to uncover a variety of solutions to business issues. It also enables employees at all levels to have an impact—something that Millennials must feel that they are doing at work. It’s important that you provide space for collaborating, whether onsite (show this space in action on your website!) or virtually using software to unite far-flung team members.
  5. Rewards that matter. Money might have been the number-one motivator to Boomers, but beyond a competitive wage, Millennials want other things. A mentoring program for new hires is often a differentiator between two otherwise equal job offers. A paid cell phone plan is an attractor and motivator. Assistance with college debt is being used successfully by some employers to attract Millennials with hard-to-find skill sets. Free food is always a good tactic.

Too many employers are using Boomer and Gen X motivators to attract and retain much-needed Millennials. Successful employers, on the other hand, are using Millennial attraction and retention best practices and also surveying their own staffs to ensure the continued high performance of their organizations by keeping turnover low.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

Image courtesy of 2nix/

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STOP–LOOK–LISTEN: Commands to Live by as a Leader!

October 30th, 2014 by Kristi Gaynor in Talent Development, Talent Management

Stop Look ListenWe live in a world filled with busyness. This is especially true for those of us who are leaders. On a daily basis we’re torn between managing teams, attending meetings, answering our constantly dinging phones, and responding to a barrage of emails (then add in for many of us the personal expectations of maintaining a home and family).

Amid all these immediate demands, how do we ensure that we’re looking ahead and thinking of the future for ourselves and the organizations we’re supporting? How are we to be strategic, be innovative, and remain ahead of the competition? How are we to develop ourselves as leaders so we can continue to grow our organizations?

When we were children, our parents taught us to stop, look, and listen. Whether we were at a pedestrian crosswalk, a busy intersection, or a train track, we weren’t supposed to move until we had processed all three commands and made the decision that we could cross safely.

Think these simple childhood lessons don’t have anything to do with running an organization today? Well think again. These three steps can in fact help us be better leaders.

Get rid of the complexity in your life for a certain amount of time each day. Put your cell phone aside for a while, log out of email for a time, or get up early to read, think, meditate, and process. Allow time to check in with yourself. A clear head will allow you to consider options, process conversations, and make decisions in complex situations—all important aspects of being a leader.

Look around you. Whom do you consider successful? Whom do you want to emulate? What are you seeing work and not work in your organization? By consciously observing the people, processes, and decisions made around you, you’re gaining experience that can guide you for future decisions. Take time to look at yourself too. Do you give the appearance of being organized or in disarray? Straighten yourself up and show up completely—prepared, with a clear mind, and ready for action.

As a leader you have important things to say, but know that the one who talks the most isn’t always the one most heard. Instead of sharing your ideas as much, try listening to what others have to say, processing it, and summarizing it. This helps you establish rapport. It also helps you better understand situations so you make more informed decisions and take more tactical actions.

As we strive to be more strategic and innovative leaders, it’s helpful to remember that good leaders tend to be good learners and that good learners take time to stop, look, and listen. And while the notion of stopping, looking, and listening may seem a bit oversimplified for your role as a busy leader, in the chaos of everyday life aren’t a few elementary commands worth your consideration?

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountability, execution, and results.

Image courtesy of Tungphoto/

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Leadership Failures at the Secret Service

October 22nd, 2014 by Andrea Cranfill in Talent Development, Talent Management

Secret Service LogoWhen I read a few weeks ago about the Secret Service allowing an intruder into the White House, I found myself focusing on the organizational aspects involved. There are some fundamental work issues at play in this story. They’re issues that many workplaces struggle with, to be sure, but because in this case they involve the Secret Service and potentially endangered the president, we’re discussing them in a larger forum. Perhaps this will elevate the conversation around employees—and more specifically the importance of organizational leadership—to a greater level.

One of the biggest problems with the Secret Service is low morale. The Secret Service is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which in 2013 received low scores on the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey. In fact, the DHS ranked last (19th out of 19) in the large agency category. It appears that since 2003 the DHS scores have been about 10 points lower than the large agency average. Specifically, the lowest satisfaction scores have been within the areas of effective leadership and performance-based rewards/advancement. If we drill down into the data, we see consistently low leadership scores around empowerment and senior leadership.

The low empowerment score is the one that strikes a chord in regard to the current Secret Service incident. The poor showing demonstrates that many DHS employees, including Secret Service agents, don’t feel empowered with respect to work processes and aren’t satisfied with their involvement in decisions that affect their work. This may explain why, according to media reports, no one was quite sure how to handle things during the break-in. A lack of empowerment meant that no one did anything—they didn’t engage the alarms or release the attack dog, and as a result an intruder got deeper into the White House than anyone thought possible.

If leadership issues affect an organization as venerable as the Secret Service, chances are good that they’re impacting your organization as well. You need to know about them so you can prevent your own break-ins and breakdowns. You can begin by answering some key questions about leaders and leadership at your company.

  • Do you have clearly defined leadership competencies?
  • Do these competencies align with your organizational strategy?
  • Are your leaders aware of these competencies and what it takes to master them?
  • Do your leaders understand what is truly important to the organization?
  • What are your own leaders’ level of engagement and empowerment? (Have you surveyed them?)
  • Do your leaders communicate effectively? Do they provide positive feedback and are they willing to have difficult conversations when needed?
  • Do your leaders build a culture of trust where others feel strengthened and supported? Do they empower others to act?

The answers to these questions can produce some impactful leadership insights. Once you have good feedback around the state of your leadership, you can tap into an abundance of resources and programs to address fundamental issues. And remember—if you uncover problems, you have to act. We’ve just seen a major leadership failure within a very important organization, one that could have led to dire consequences. This has been a huge wakeup call to the Secret Service; let it be a learning opportunity for you and your leaders as well.

Andrea Cranfill is principal and cofounder of FlashPoint. She leads FlashPoint’s marketing and sales teams, focusing on connecting clients to our services. She also supports team members in building strategic solutions that meet clients’ needs and that achieve results.

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Employers and Enchiladas

October 10th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

Mi TierraHow is a restaurant brand like an employment brand? Both are closely tied to the “word on the street”—people’s expectations around the experience they will have dining or working at a particular place. A restaurant’s brand determines who and how many diners will fill the seats every night—and whether customers are willing to wait to get in. In a similar fashion, your employment brand determines who and how many qualified candidates will apply—and whether they will patiently go through your hiring process and accept your offer.

I just returned from San Antonio, where abundant restaurants compete for local and tourist business. Three people recommended Mi Tierra. The Mi Tierra brand begins as you pull into the parking lot and see the twinkling lights, palm trees, and huge planters of flowers. It takes you to another world. Dazzling stars and more brilliant lights excite your eyes as you enter the café. Music fills your ears. Delicious aromas waft by. The staff members, dressed like flamenco dancers, enthusiastically explain the menu. You feel enveloped by the Mi Tierra experience.

Is their guacamole really better? Are their enchiladas verdes any tastier? Or is their positive brand so strong that it extends to your taste buds before your food even arrives?

Just as Mi Tierra has mastered its brand to draw in customers, as an employer you need to rethink every aspect of the hiring experience in order to win the competition for top talent. Building a strong employment brand reaps rewards. The Talent Board, which sponsors the Candidate Experience Awards, surveyed more than 45,000 job applicants about their experience. Of those who had a positive experience, 61 percent would actively encourage colleagues to apply to the organization; 27 percent of those who had a negative experience would actively discourage colleagues from applying. In addition, almost 40 percent of the positives would buy more of the goods or services the company sells, even if they weren’t ultimately hired; 30 percent of the negatives would buy less goods or services. Finally, 50 percent of positives share their positive experience; 32 percent of negatives broadcast their bad news.

Truth: a good candidate experience is brilliant marketing, and a bad one gives a black eye that makes future hiring more difficult. In fact, a bad experience may cause the right applicant to refuse to apply, interview, or accept the offer. Because of this, top employers care about the recruiting process.

Savvy organizations offer a powerhouse recruiting experience. There are six ways to follow their lead:

  1. Walk in the job seeker’s shoes. Consider having a qualified “secret shopper” job candidate (or team member) go through your process. The more you design the process from the applicant’s point of view, the more successful you will be.
  2. Communicate. Set up an automatic reply for all applicants. During the interview process, you must explain every step of the process to an applicant. Don’t leave great candidates in the dark for weeks. Always meet the deadlines you have established. If you’re unable to meet the expected deadline, communicate swiftly. Use the technology preferred by the candidate: phone, e-mail, texting, or tweets.
  3. Involve your employees in the process. You want to hire talented people who are going to mesh with your culture. The best way to ensure this is to seek employee input in the design and interview process. A fresh pair of eyes—especially those of newer hires—can provide insight. Consider having promising candidates meet with their possible future teammates to gauge workplace culture fit.
  4. Personalize the recruiting process. One size fits one. You want a hiring process that has built-in flexibility, not rigid rules. Some of the best talent is idiosyncratic (Exhibit A: Steve Jobs). The last thing you need is a process that eliminates top talent for bureaucratic reasons.
  5. Seek honest feedback. A static hiring process will soon turn stale; your hiring process should be ever-evolving. Seek feedback from candidates, both those you hire and those you don’t. Listen, respond, and keep tweaking.
  6. Train your managers to interview well. Managers trained in behavioral interviewing, who understand their critical role in staffing the organization for the future, hire better candidates.

Why not offer a Mi Tierra experience to your job candidates? When candidates are hired after a positive experience, they are engaged! They hit the ground running, and their commitment is high. When treated well, even candidates who aren’t hired walk away feeling respected and appreciated and are far more likely to recommend that other talent look into your organization. That’s good branding, and it positions you to be a leader in the market.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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How Seven Leadership Practices Turned around a Team

September 26th, 2014 by Bill Mugavin in Coaching, Talent Management

SailingThroughout this year, FlashPoint has been coaching a manager who took on a challenging assignment. She was asked to take on the management of a new office location with a team of employees that was notorious for being difficult to manage, resistant to change, and consistently underperforming (from both a production and customer service perspective). With some trepidation, she decided to accept the assignment because it presented great personal and career growth opportunities.

It didn’t take long (by the end of the first week) to see that everything she heard about the team was true. Team members fought and openly treated customers as if they were a bother. Wait times well exceeded standards because employees had no sense of urgency when it came to serving customers. When the manager began to address these issues with team members (on an individual basis), they became defensive and emotional and claimed that she had no right to question the way they did things. After each conversation, team members would commiserate among themselves about their mean-spirited new manager.

Wondering how the interactions and performance of the team had been allowed to become so dysfunctional, we decided the best course of action would be to do some research on the history of the team. The manager determined that there were a number of factors contributing to the current team dynamic:

  • All of the team members had been hired by her predecessor and too many were bad hires. They lacked the interpersonal skills and service mindset required of a person in the role.
  • The former manager enabled team members instead of developing them. Rather than providing members with the skills and tools to do their jobs and then holding them accountable for performance, he handled and resolved all customer or process escalations himself.
  • The former manager was conflict adverse. He avoided difficult conversations regarding low production, poor service, or dysfunctional relationships.
  • The former manager lacked the will and skill needed to lead the team through the many changes occurring throughout the organization (e.g. structure, process, policy changes). Hence team members lacked a real awareness or understanding of the changes required of them, both personally and professionally.

It became clear to us that the only way the new manager’s team was going to meet its goals was to initiate a complete reset of performance expectations around production, customer service, and professionalism. To do so, we focused on applying seven leadership practices.

  1. The manager met with each team member and communicated clear performance expectations around production, customer service, and professionalism. All expectations were based on job descriptions and organizational policies, procedures, values, or goals.

Did this make everything right? Not at all. Team members responded with their typical defensiveness and emotionalism. She heard statements such as, “I have never had to do this before,” “I don’t think that’s my job,” “The old manager always did those things,” “I don’t know how to do that,” and “I didn’t sign up for this.”

  1. The manager responded to these concerns in a direct, respectful, and factual manner. She did not let their personalities or emotions derail or sidetrack the meetings. She showed the employees the organizational documents upon which the expectations were based and assured them she would provide training, tools, and other resources to help them be successful.

Did this convince team members to get onboard? Nope. They complained that the expectations were unreasonable, that the company did not care about its people, and that everything (especially management) was changing for the worse.

  1. The manager determined the skill and policy/procedure knowledge gaps of each individual team member. She then created and implemented targeted development plans to close those gaps. Once a team member demonstrated skill or policy/procedure knowledge proficiency, she relentlessly held that person accountable for consistent demonstration and application of both. If an employee tried to escalate a customer issue that he had the skill and knowledge to resolve, she reminded him that he had the ability solve the problem on his own.
  2. To reinforce and perpetuate the demonstration and application of the acquired skill and knowledge, she praised and celebrated each performance successes (and near successes as team members were learning).
  3. She met regularly, weekly at first, with each team member to discuss progress against the performance expectations established around production, service, and professionalism. She and the employee discussed successes and challenge areas, and they developed plans to overcome those challenges.

Did this move team members any closer to getting onboard with the program? Yes! Employees began to understand that the practices the manager was applying were not based on the newest leadership “flavor of the month.” She is consistent in applying the principles, day in and day out, and she applies them the same way with every team member. And because team members are feeling more competent, they’re more confident in their dealings with customers. Because they’re more confident, they’re more comfortable and engaged when serving customers.

  1. However, old habits don’t die easy. There are still occasions when team members revert back to old work and interpersonal communication habits. When this happens, the manager immediately addresses the slippage. She reminds people that this new way of working and working together is here to stay; going backward is not an option.

Team members are responding to these reminders well, especially compared to the defensive and emotional reactions earlier on. Why? Because they have experienced the positive benefits that working differently has produced. They enjoy being part of and contributing to a positive work environment.

  1. Throughout this process the manager practiced (and is still practicing) emotional and mental resiliency.

Turning around a challenging team is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. The manager’s ability to remain resilient can be attributed to her:

  • Commitment to the office’s success.
  • Strong vision of what she wanted her team to look like when they were working well.
  • Belief that applying the leadership principles would get her the results she wanted.

Here, perhaps, is where working with a coach added the most value. When discouragement set in, FlashPoint’s coach was able to act as a sounding board for the manager and to remind her of and support her vision for the office and her team. But in the end, it was her personal and professional endurance that won the day.

If you’re facing a similar situation, try applying these seven leadership practices. They worked for the manager we coached, and they can work for you!

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He focuses his consulting on talent systems and processes, as well as leadership and management development.

Image courtesy of Hinnamsaisuy /

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What Everyone Needs to Know about Emerging Leaders

September 19th, 2014 by Andrea Cranfill in Talent Development, Talent Management

EmergeWe hear a lot these days about emerging leaders, and it’s helpful to build some definition around the concepts that people are talking about. What are the qualities of emerging leaders? Why are they so important? What are some of the methods organizations can take to develop and retain emerging leaders? Below are ideas on what you ought to know.

What Is an Emerging Leader and Why are Emerging Leaders Important?

Emerging leader is a term used to describe an employee who has demonstrated the potential to assume a mid-to-high-level leadership role in an organization but who has had little to no managerial experience. Emerging leaders are strong performers who have the potential, ability, and aspiration for higher-level management roles. They’re the ones who show commitment to the organization, exert influence, and demonstrate a willingness to step up and take on more responsibility.

Identifying and developing these emerging leaders is vital. As we all know, significant numbers of Baby Boomers are on the verge of retiring, and companies are finding it difficult to replace them. As demand intensifies, it’s going to be more challenging to retain high-performing talent. Because strong leaders are key to organizational success, companies must understand who their emerging leaders are and commit resources to develop them.

Who Is Developing These Emerging Leaders?

In our work at FlashPoint, we find that organizations are taking note and intensifying their focus on emerging leaders, both out of necessity and as a result of strategic foresight. Research offers data to back up our observations. According to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2014 Leadership Development Factbook, in 2013 companies spent 17 percent of their leadership development funds on their emerging leaders. Smaller firms (with 100 to 999 employees) spent more money per participant (an average of $4,689) on their emerging leaders than did mid-size and large companies.

It may come as no surprise that in 2013 the technology industry spent the most overall dollars (an average of $8,000 per participant) to develop emerging leaders. Technology companies may end up investing more per emerging leader because of the fact that they’re competing with companies such as Google, Facebook, Zappos, and Twitter, who offer internal universities and boot camps for employees. But this underscores a key point: it’s important to understand your environment, recognize your organization’s unique leadership challenges, and respond accordingly.

How Do I Identify and Keep Emerging Leaders in My Organization?

In an ideal scenario you’ll identify your emerging leaders through a robust succession-planning process. This entails establishing leadership competencies, indentifying skill gaps in emerging leaders, and creating a plan to develop the emerging leaders’ capabilities. If you’re not quite at this level, however, just start listening and observing. Are there people in the organization who are “asking for a chance” to take on projects that are beyond their role? Find ways to give those people work that will help them demonstrate their competencies. Allow them to participate on collaborative projects, encourage them to suggest new ways to do things, and reward innovative ideas. If your organization is not structured or prepared to promote quickly, then increase experiences and exposure and check in to make sure the emerging leaders understand that these are opportunities to grow in other ways. If you’re able to take a structured approach to development, consider formal leadership programs, assessments, action learning, peer groups, mentoring programs, and MBA programs as options.

Regardless of your approach, one thing is clear: you must start now. The business environment is quickly evolving and the need for strong leadership will be more important than ever. Healthy companies must invest in future leaders to build a pipeline for continued success.

Andrea Cranfill is principal and cofounder of FlashPoint. She leads FlashPoint’s marketing and sales teams, focusing on connecting clients to our services. She also supports team members in building strategic solutions that meet clients’ needs and that achieve results.

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Seven Steps to Launch Your 2015 Leadership Development Program

September 9th, 2014 by Linda Dausend in Talent Development, Talent Management

Now is the time that 2015 leadership development programs are being planned and budgets are being submitted. Is your program in place and ready to go? Will you be refining and validating an effective program that you already have in place, or will you be defining a new strategy that will support organizational objectives in the new year?

No matter how you approach it, it’s important that you offer development opportunities for your leaders. Organizations with well-established leadership programs perform at a much higher level—typically seven times greater than their competitors—according to 2013 research by Bersin by Deloitte, an HR and talent management consulting company. You want to be in this league of high-performing companies, so here are some considerations as you put together your leadership development strategy for the coming year.

  1. Start with the organizational strategy and objectives for 2015. What are the big strategic goals for next year and the next several years? Are you expanding into global markets? Consolidating operations? Operating with new senior leadership and changing direction? These are just a few things that will impact your organization. Have keen knowledge of the direction of the organization before developing or adapting any leadership program.
  2. Determine what competencies will be important for leaders based on the strategy and objectives. Perhaps your strategy involves an expansion into global markets. How will leaders need to manage and lead differently with other cultures, other regulations, other processes? Your organization may have already-developed leadership competencies, but consider what you need to do to evolve those competencies so that you can execute on new strategies of the future.
  3. Assess your current leadership development offerings. Do you have courses and other learning tools currently in place that drive the needed competencies? Evaluate your programs and make adjustments as needed.
  4. Identify gaps in offerings. What competencies are not adequately supported with your current mix? Determine what knowledge, skills, and attitudes are necessary to fill the gaps. Outline initial topics.
  5. Design the program by creating a framework that includes the existing and new topic areas. Look at methods and media for delivery, including instructor-led, online, action learning teams, and reinforcement and application solutions. The methods of delivery will depend on a variety of factors—including your audience, locations, technology, and resources. When determining how many hours to allocate for leadership development, consider the ASTD 2013 State of the Industry study that points to an average of 30.3 annual learning hours per employee in 2012 (and keep in mind also that top organizations averaged 57.7 hours per employee, an all-time high).
  6. Establish the budget. When determining how much to budget, consider that development spending in U.S. organizations increased by 14 percent in 2013, according to the Bersin study. Within large organizations, midlevel leaders each received an average of $5,200 per person annual investment, the study showed.
  7. Gain the support of key stakeholders. As you prepare to introduce your 2015 leadership development program, market not only to the participants but also to key stakeholders throughout the organization. You should have already involved senior leaders during your design and development phases, but now is the time to determine how they can best support and engage the participants. Ensure an ongoing communication plan and engagement strategies; these will all contribute to the “buzz” around the program.

Once you have your budget submitted and a basic outline of the program, you’ll be positioned to start the development and execution of coursework. With a focus on organizational strategies, and courses that drive leadership competencies, you will have a program that will benefit both your leaders and your organization.

Linda Dausend is a consultant at FlashPoint. She collaborates with clients to develop more strategic approaches toward managing talent and to help them prepare leaders who actually lead.

Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images/

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