Learning the Ropes is Easier when Ego is Put Aside

question mark over headThe learning process slows down or slams on the brakes when we don’t ask questions or ask for advice because we’re afraid of looking stupid or indecisive or weak.

Starting any new venture, regardless of the amount of experience you have behind you, means there is someone (probably a lot of someones) who has information and knowledge you don’t have.

Put aside the need to appear knowledgeable on all aspects and remember that competence happens when we are willing to say “I don’t know. Can you help me understand?” or “I don’t have the answer to that question, but I know who does. Let’s go learn something new together.”

As I head into week two as general manager at the Mere Hotel, I am grateful for and rely on the skills, knowledge and experience I do have behind me.  I am also grateful for and rely on the knowledge and experience of the people on our service team.

When taking on a new challenge, know and value what  you know. And, just as importantly, know what you don’t know .. then find the people on your team who will help fill that knowledge gap for you.

When we do that, it reduces the amount of time spent learning and builds relationships with the people on your team. Win – win.

10 Tips to Build Strong Healthy Relationships

Strong, healthy personal relationships are built on strong foundation of communication, trust and mutual understanding.  So how do you build those qualities and relationships with your service team?

Here are 10 suggestions:   

  1. Recognize that successful relationships take work. Trusting relationships don’t happen overnight.  They take time to develop; there needs to be a desire to develop a successful relationship and a commitment to dedicating time and effort to make it happen.
  2. Understand and celebrate differences. Strong service teams are made up of individuals with unique skills, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and personalities.  Recognize and acknowledge the unique contribution each person brings to your business
  3. Acknowledge each person in some way every day.  Start off each morning with a smile and a brief check-in.  Find something positive to share every day, either to individuals on the team or to the entire team.
  4. Don’t speak while angry. Reacting to annoyances, missed opportunities or poor performance with anger shuts down communication.  It also means you are focusing on your frustration instead of the problem or the solution.  The next time you are frustrated or angry, take a moment to calm down before addressing the situation.
  5. Get regular tune-ups.  Molehills, small frustrations and annoyances, turn into mountains if they are not addressed early on.  Set aside time to meet with your team members on a regular basis.  Find out what is going well and where they need additional support.
  6. Be responsible for your own behaviour.  If there is conflict, don’t assume it’s entirely the other person’s fault.  Instead of focusing on their behaviour, make sure you are not contributing to any negativity.  Find out what changes you can make in your behaviour and then make them.
  7. Give what you want to get. Treat your service team the way you want them to treat their customers. Be the example.
  8. Set goals together.  You expect your service team to work in such a way that goals are met. Invite them into the process of setting the goals, the strategies and tactics on how to achieve those goals.  That makes your goals, their goals.
  9. Stop talking and listen. Don’t provide all the answers. Ask questions and then wait for your team to come up with ideas. Ask for feedback, comments and suggestions and then stop talking. Give your team the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas freely.
  10. Be willing to compromise.  There are some things that can’t be compromised. Honesty, safety, integrity and service standards are just some examples.  But there are times when compromise is very possible. Don’t get hung up on “my way” instead of the end objective.  Rigid schedules that don’t recognize a full life outside of work can kill a relationship. Rigid adherence to outdated, unnecessary policies damage morale.  Look for common ground wherever possible.

People in strong,healthy personal relationships feel better about themselves and life in general.  People in strong, healthy service teams also feel better about themselves, their customers and the company they work for.  Building strong, healthy relationships is hard work, but worth the effort.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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What are some things you do to build a strong foundation of communication, trust and mutual understanding at your company?

Encouraging Accountability & Responsibility

Your team is only as strong as the weakest link.  What does your team look like?  Is there someone on your team who consistently causes problems or conflict? Perhaps it is someone who points her finger at another member on the team when a deadline is missed.  Or someone who blames his alarm clock each time he is late (which is often)?  Or faults the information or the instructions received when an error is made?

So how do you, as a leader, take control of the situation?

Some managers choose to ignore it, in the hopes it will get better.  Or they choose the opposite direction and immediately remove the person from their team.  The first choice never works.  If left unchecked, one team member’s apathy and inability to accept responsibility negatively affects the whole team.   And while removing a person from a team may have to be done eventually, there are other things to try first.

When you notice someone pointing the finger of blame elsewhere, stop them and redirect the conversation.  Have them focus on what can be done to fix the problem, instead of focusing on reasons (excuses?) why something went wrong.

It’s also a good idea to have a conversation with the employee.  When people feel bored, under-appreciated or overwhelmed, they may lose motivation.

If your team member is bored, is there something you can do to provide a new challenge or learning opportunity?  Are you giving all of your team members regular feedback and recognizing them for a job well done?  Has their workload increased significantly?  Are they feeling overwhelmed due to lack of training or inferior or out-dated tools?  Are you providing clear direction as to expectations, duties, responsibilities?

And last but not least, take a look at yourself.  What is your response when an error is made?  Do you get angry or do you look for solutions?  Are you leading by example?  You are ultimately responsible for the team, so when things go wrong, do you stand up and accept overall responsibility or do you start playing the blame game?

As a leader of a team, it is your job to encourage your team members take more responsibility for their work.  Be sure they have the skills and resources they need to do their job effectively and then create an environment that encourages responsibility and accountability.