Author Archives: Bridget DiCello

Christmas Bonuses – Are they a good idea?

26 Nov
by Bridget DiCello

Christmas Bonuses are frequently discussed and often given – at both large and small companies – to their employees this time of year. Are they a good idea? It is the season of giving and no employee in their right mind would turn them down.

A few thoughts on bonuses:

  1. Make sure it is very clear what the bonus is for. If it is based on performance, then make sure it is determined by individual measurable (and actually measured) performance indicators. If it is based on company performance, make sure to communicate what, in particular, each employee did to contribute to the success of the company over the last year.  This is as simple as putting specifics in a note with the check/bonus enclosed, and/or having a discussion with them about where the bonus comes from. This way, the employee will know specifically what to continue to do to impact their bonus (and your bottom line) next year. Ideally, these are the same metrics you have been using to hold the employees’ accountable throughout the year, during regular one-on-one conversations and during their performance evaluation.
  2. If you don’t tell the employee what the bonus for, it is a gift, and they will automatically and probably rightly expect it to happen and probably increase every year. Budget for these gifts, so regardless of company performance, you can continue with the generosity you desire.
  3. If you give pure gifts (not based on individual or company performance) to employees, don’t change them radically in value from year to year. If given a smaller gift one year than the last, they will automatically wonder what they did differently to deserve a different gift, wonder if the company is not doing well or if you are upset with them or their performance. Having gifts fluctuate with overall company profits is difficult for your front line employee to fully grasp.

Remember, employees are reading the signals you are sending and money does send its messages. Your best bet? If you’re going to give a gift, give one and call it that. If you’re going to give a bonus, tie it to something valuable to your company’s desired results.

Welcome to the Christmas season!

Thank Yous with the Greatest Impact

20 Nov
by Bridget DiCello

As Thanksgiving nears, we think not only of thanking God for his many blessings as the pilgrims did, but also thanking those important to us, like the Indians were to the pilgrims.

Thank yous with the greatest impact for those people important to you:

1.     Human Touch – As we have more virtual meetings and online friendships, there is something really powerful about taking a moment to stop what you are doing, walk up to someone, make sincere eye contact, and shake their hand as you express thanks for how they’ve helped you, for doing business with your organization, for ways they’ve gone above and beyond, or for times they’ve extended themselves beyond their comfort zone.

2.    Your Time and Attention – With a multitude of demands on our time, to get even a few moments of someone’s time is very precious.  Take the time to write a handwritten thank you note, take someone to lunch, spend time listening to them when they are vying for your attention, or focus on a project they have said is important and you haven’t had time to work on.

3.    Thoughtful Gifts – It is so easy today to buy gifts.  Within moments online, you can sort through a million options, find a great gift, probably even on special, pay to have it gift wrapped and have it mailed directly to someone.  But, have you spent the time to think of what they would really enjoy?  Something that is unique and different?  Do you pay attention to what they do for fun, what they eat, or how they spend their free time?  A very small gift can be just as powerful as an expensive or lavish gift when it is personalized to what they value, and hand delivered.

When there is someone in your life whom you appreciate, take the time and energy to thank them in a way that has the greatest impact!

Look out into the world…

30 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

A little boy wrote to a famous scientist, Buckminster Fuller, and asked him, “Dr. Fuller, what should I be when I grow up?” Dr. Fuller wrote back, “I can’t tell you what to be when you grow up. You have to look out into the world, see what you see that needs to be done, and go do it. No one looks at the world exactly as you do. So if you see something that needs to be done, and you don’t do it, it will go undone.”

What do you see that needs to be different, needs to change, or should happen a different way? Have you decided to go out and ‘fix’ that piece of the world?

No one sees the world exactly as you do…

We each have our opinions, maybe moreso on frustrating days in the workplace, and have a picture how things should happen. This is the basis of our individual vision.

The horse who is a little crazy…

I grew up riding horses, and I would always choose the horse with too much spunk over one I had to kick to get moving. I like to interact with people who are stronger in their opinions – and are able to turn that into productive movement forward – a challenge I would gladly take on in riding a horse. (However, it hurts more now to get bucked off than it did 20 years ago. )

We all have a little craziness inside us.

Our opinions. Our frustrations. Our grumblings. And if we listen closely, behind them all, we hear how we look at the world, and we also receive our mission in life – not from someone else, but from where our passions, values and drive points each one of us individually.

Never ignore those frustrations.

There is a strong value behind what is upsetting to you. I get frustrated by bad drivers, especially those who move slowly in the left lane. But it is not because I think what I have to do is so important, that my time is more valuable than theirs or that I think for some reason that I deserve to go first and should not have to wait. For me in particular, it bothers me because they are either unobservant or defiant, both unproductive behaviors. If we were each observing others for how we could help someone in some way or move out of their way if that is the best way to help, we could all accomplish more every day.  This leads me to work with people who wish to be more productive to increase their level of critical observation and strategize in order to remove their defiance.

What drives you crazy?

Make a list on a particularly frustrating day. Then, take Dr. Fuller’s advice, and use that information of how you see the world to determine your marching orders for making your workplace and this world, a better place.

Top 10 Rules for ‘How, not If,’ Conversations

15 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

How to address your biggest challenges, not If you will succeed. 

  1. Don’t “Should” all over them 
    When you want to say, “They should have…” question how clearly you have communicated what they should do.
  2. When we talk, “I will… and you will…” 
    Setting this simple agenda can clarify miscommunication, set expectations, and save a whole lot of time and frustration in conversations.
  3. Address the elephants
    Address those issues that fill the room with tension.
  4. Use the Opportunity SpaceTM
    In that moment between when someone does or says something and you respond, ask yourself what you really want to accomplish, where they are coming from and how you are making them feel – before you respond.
  5. Ask clarifying questions
    Get them to talk.  They think, engage and learn best when they talk, not when you do.
  6. There is always a good and valid reason
    For everything someone does and says – even if the resulting behavior is inappropriate.
  7. Listen with genuine interest
    To hear what is important to them, what they expect, and how they are thinking – all to be able to respond in a way that drives results.
  8. Take responsibility for your impact
    You can’t change how they react, but you can change how you approach them.
  9. Tell the truth, tactfully, with specifics
    Pinpoint the specific behaviors you wish someone who ‘lacks initiative’ to change.
  10. What will I and they do differently?
    Doing something small, but different, is what makes change happen, not repeating yourself, and ‘trying harder’.

Succeed by working to determine HOW you can address your biggest challenges, not IF you can overcome those obstacles.

That Deadline? Yes I’m serious!

09 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

What creates the mentality that a deadline of October 15th means somewhere near that date? Or that the deadline is the ideal, but no one really believes it will happen? Or that the deadline, while important, is totally impractical and therefore can be ignored and close enough will be good enough? Or, as long as I help you diffuse the commotion we’ve caused by being late, I am doing my part.

If you experience these situations, you have not created a Culture of Deadlines. You probably haven’t set the precedent and may not have led strategically.

  1. Set the deadline. Don’t assume the urgency in your mind will somehow automatically convert to a specific date in the other person’s mind unless you have spoken about the date: October 15th, close of business. It is incredibly common to delegate a task without a specific deadline – you probably do it at least 20 times a day.
  2. Set the deadline. Set a specific date, and test commitment. “Uh-huh,” or “Okay,” or “Sure,” are not good enough. Ask some clarifying questions to ensure they understand.
  3. Clarify Expectations: What specifically must be done by that time? Project A must be done. Not just started, not just outlined, not just discussed as a group, but done, and done means… Again, ask questions to test they understand: “Please describe how you see the end product looking. What will be unique about it when it is done? What is the first step you will take?”
  4. Set a sub deadline to check in on progress, especially if you are concerned about their performance on the project. “By October 10th, outline the steps of the project and how you will approach it.” Then, review those steps when they are submitted. In other words, break the project into manageable bites, and strategically involve yourself in the process to ensure success at the final deadline.
  5. Run through the ‘what ifs.’ Create a thorough list of all the possible, yet reasonable things that could go wrong. You know there will be daily interruptions, unanticipated rush projects, occasional employee illness, technology interruptions and dependencies on other people involved in the process. These are typically NOT reasons to miss a deadline. These are real challenges, we know these things happen and we must build in time for reality to occur. Again, ask a question: “If the server goes down temporarily, what is your plan to continue to meet the deadline?” If the answer is that they will just miss the deadline, without the ability to think through alternative plans, then you know not to be surprised if deadlines are missed unless you work through these things ahead of time.
  6. Deal with the Elephant. If you know a particular colleague routinely misses agreed upon deadlines, you can either ask for things several weeks before you really need them, or address the Elephant: ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t work, ‘patching up’ the mess, and having ‘talking them down off the ledge’ conversations with the stakeholders, is helpful in the moment, but not the answer to the real issue that things are routinely late. Ask curious questions and determine what you and they will do differently to meet deadlines. “Let’s come up with six possible ways to address each probable ‘what if’ scenario.”

How to Address the Missed Deadline Elephant

02 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The elephant is the huge problem (they frequently miss task deadlines) that is preventing you from being able to successfully address the problem at hand (one missed deadline).

Speak in a way that demonstrates your determination and your belief that they will resolve these situations successfully.  Ask all questions with genuine curiosity.

I noticed that Task A was not completed by the deadline.  What happened?

Employee:  Excuse, excuse

I’d like to hear your plan to complete Task A and to communicate with the stakeholder.  Before we have that discussion, I’d like to discuss a situation that seems to be recurring.

Not only did Task A not get done by today,  Task B did not get done by the deadline earlier this week, Task C did not get done by a deadline last week and Task D was a month late.

Let them speak, and then continue.

When you and I have spoken about these past due tasks, you tend to mention the fires that have arisen and the obstacles that others’ have created.  Knowing that fires will arise and you will need to effectively communicate with, and rely on, others to get your job done well, I’d like to discuss what you will do differently in order to complete your tasks by deadlines, despite these realities.

Let them speak, and then continue.

Each of these deadlines is real deadlines that exist to meet the needs of our customers, and they are not moveable.  When we miss them, there are tangible negative consequences for our customers.

Explore all variables:

  • § What types of tasks do you find you have the most difficulty in completing?
  • § You have agreed to the deadlines.  Can you explain how you determine your plan to meet deadlines before you agree?
  • § Share with me how you prioritize your week.  Your day?
  • § What are the most common ‘fires’ that pull you off task?
    • Are you the best person to address those fires?
    • How do you determine if they need to be addressed immediately?

Then, get commitment to no more than three specific action items about what they will do differently in order to interrupt this recurring pattern – and set a specific time to follow up.  They write the action items on paper and make you a copy.  These are specific items and detail different behavior from the current actions, not simply to “try harder” or “focus more.”

The Elephant in the Room Be Careful! He’ll Squash You!

02 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

What is it in your work environment that annoys you or that you find unacceptable, which you have not addressed or have not resolved successfully?

Typically, each person has their own levels of tolerance for different situations and the behaviors of others.  Combined with their comfort zone, this determines what they are willing to actually address.

Have you worked with:

1. Whiners?

2. Absolute minimum performers?

3. Missed deadlines but not by much?

4. Chronic poor performance in one area, with a million excuses?

5. Unspoken tension?

6. Give an inch, we’ll take a mile?

Have you tried to address situations such as these?  Maybe you have resolved some of these situations well, but you probably tolerate other situations, although grudgingly, because you’re not quite sure what to do.

The Elephant

Think about yourself in a conference room that seats eight people.  Now add a full size elephant.  It would be crowded, difficult to communicate, a bit intimidating and probably downright uncomfortable at times.  Pretty similar to the feelings people experience when one of the problems above stays unresolved, especially for any significant period of time.

The first step is to name the elephant.  Think about yourself in the same room above with a blindfold on.  It gets stuffy in the room, you keep walking into a ‘wall’ and there is no space, you get hit by a trunk every now and then and it doesn’t smell so pleasant.  You must name the problem that exists in order to change it.  Look beyond the obvious.  Look for the root of the problem.  Look deeper than you may think necessary.

Then, decide to have a conversation about it.  Don’t dance around the problem.  Talk to the person.  Connect with them and try to understand where they are coming from and why in the world they are acting the way they are.  Then, come up with what can be done differently to change the situation.

Don’t Run the Meeting, Just Create the Agenda

25 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

Meetings can be painful, and it can be like pulling teeth to get people to come prepared, listen to what you have to say and actively and constructively participate.

You don’t want to feel like you must run all the meetings? Great! Set the agenda, and let it run the meeting. The key to that strategy is to have an effective agenda.

An effective agenda:

  1. Starts strong and specific. This may be the only section that you, as the leader, need to lead. Open the meeting, thank them for coming, share some positive news, deal with an elephant in the room, and in general, get anything out of the way that will impede the meeting. Reinforce that the meeting will follow the agenda.
  2. Has very specific objectives. These are the 1-3 things that need to be accomplished in the meeting.   This is not, “Review sales this month,” but it may be, “Create a specific plan, with roles for each person, to increase next month’s sales by 50% using historical information.”
  3. Includes clear agenda items. Instead of “Last Month’s Leads,” you might specify: “September Leads: Number, Origin, Closing Ratio, comparison to August 2012 and September 2011.” Although this seems very detailed and you may feel your team members “should” know and come prepared, don’t “should” all over them. It is easier to make the list when you make the agenda, than to deal with their unpreparedness during the meeting.
  4. Assigns specific responsibilities to team members and requires participation.
    Example agenda item: September Leads – Patty, Bob, Greg each report on their numbers in the areas specified.
  5. Runs the meeting. You may need to project it on a screen or write it on a white board, but have somewhere you can point to when everyone looks at you for direction. It is so much easier for someone to tell you as the meeting leader that they aren’t prepared and ask you for sympathy than if everyone is working off an agreed-upon and pre-communicated agenda present for everyone to see.
  6. Is sent out ahead of time. Communicate your expectations about the interaction you expect. “Attached is the agenda for our sales meeting. I’m looking forward to hearing each of your reports. Please pull your numbers ahead of time and be prepared to make conclusions and suggest approaches based on your data in order to achieve our goal of increasing sales by 50% next month.” If that is a new concept, be sure to check in with them prior to the first meeting, just in case they are shell-shocked that you expect preparation.
  7. Redirects vagueness and attempts to escape responsibility. If the participants are expected to report on five areas and only report on three, you can address that later with them directly. That is easier than addressing a situation where they failed to participate or were disruptive, which are much more general performance issues.

Offer your wisdom in response to each participant’s presentation. Spend your time sharing insights that you have as the leader, the collator of information and the one with the big picture, years of experience and understanding of the dynamics of the team. This is a much more powerful role than being the meeting’s logistical excuse-receiver. Let the effective agenda run the meeting. If you spend the time before the meeting preparing, the meeting will be more productive, everyone’s time will be better spent, progress will be made and you can change the culture of meetings, and expectation of productivity in your organization.

I Don’t Have a Bad Attitude!

18 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

“I don’t have a bad attitude, I just have a personality that you can’t handle!” When I saw this on the back of a woman’s shirt at the store the other day, I couldn’t help but verbally and enthusiastically acknowledge, “That is so true!” She looked at me strangely, probably thinking the shirt would keep her out of discussion, not start them.

What is a bad attitude?

  • Negative emotions displayed in a place or at a time where they are inappropriate?
  • A shield or wall to keep people away?
  • A mask for fear or lack of self-confidence?
  • A feeling that no one understands where I’m coming from, nor do they care to find out?
  • An honest but inappropriate lack of focus, prioritizing or caring about the situation at hand?

All of these could be accurate descriptions of what’s behind a bad attitude.

Your effectiveness at interacting with and leading others is dependent on your ability to find the person, the potential, the objections, the fears, the challenges and the disengagement behind the wall of “bad attitude”.

How many personalities are there that you can’t handle? That number is directly and inversely related to your success. There are personalities that I can’t handle – one of which is the personality that has absolutely no interest in self-development and improvement. The person believes so strongly that they are right, and although others may need to improve, they themselves do not.

However… I have not found many personalities like that. Most that appear that way are hiding something else, have built a very high wall, and no one has patiently worked hard enough to pull it down to find the willing person behind it.

It takes a lot of coaching conversations, accountability measures and supportive goal setting to work through bad attitudes. And there are times where the return on investment is not believed to be large enough to make it worth it.

Just be cautious. Next time you want to label someone with having a “bad attitude,” ask yourself as the leader if this is just a personality that YOU can’t handle.

Work gets Results!

03 Sep
by Bridget DiCello

Happy Labor Day!

Since I started cleaning horse stalls for $15 a week when I was 11 years old through my current entrepreneurial career, I have thoroughly enjoyed every job and been wearied by certain aspects of each job.  Some places I have been blessed to work with fabulous mentors, and others I have been challenged to communicate with much more difficult individuals.

Every opportunity, no matter its challenges, has been an opportunity for me to grow as a person.

Even when you crave your weekends or days off, look forward to your next vacation, or pine for retirement, there is incredible potential not to be missed in your everyday work.

Work pushes you to develop as a person.  That is a tough process and one you might choose to avoid, if it were a choice.  Work pushes you to accomplish more than you thought you could, solve problems you thought were impossible, push your physical limits, think in new ways, and work with people you think are impossible.  It forces you to be disciplined, to learn to empathize and connect with a variety of people, and to access talents you didn’t know you had.

And the result is that you discover your potential and those talents hidden within you in order to be more productive, more compassionate, more disciplined, more focused, and to make a contribution and bring out greatness in others.  Growing as a person means you move beyond what makes you happy to what enlightens you, and identify and build on your strengths and pinpoint and develop in your areas of weakness.  You develop your emotional intelligence and learn to cope with stress.  You enlarge your comfort zone, expand what you think is possible, and become a more courageous and humble person.

Whether you are working at your first job, or are ready to retire; or work in a comfortable office or sweat or freeze out in the elements, my hat is off to every working person.  Thank you for all you do to contribute to our great country, and to discover your own greatness!

What has been your favorite job?  Where did you work where you developed the most as a person?

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