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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Running Start

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has been a major topic for business leaders and HR professionals over recent years. As our cultural landscape is changing and evolving, so are the expectations of employees. Many leaders find themselves overwhelmed by what feels like a whole new world of meanings, labels, boundaries, and expectations. Often, they don’t know where to begin—and they’re afraid to start.

Fear of the unknown, of ‘doing it wrong,’ of offending someone, of looking out of touch, and so much more has held leaders back from taking critical steps towards building a workplace engaged in driving DEI. If employers want to maintain positive relationships with their employees and communities at large, it’s essential they try.

To help you approach what feels like an insurmountable topic, we’ve broken it down into some foundational basics.

Where to begin

It’s important to understand how we engage with DEI. Diversity is passive, meaning it exists on its own, without effort. Within any office, you might have diversity of experience, background, thought, gender, ethnicity, and much more. Equity and Inclusion, however, require action and intentional effort. That’s where you come in. Building a workplace that treats everyone equitably and creates an inclusive experience for its employees takes effort, attention, accountability, and the willingness to learn.

How to approach it

You’re not alone if this feels overwhelming. When you’re looking into the world of DEI and starting from scratch, it can bring up a lot of doubt. But the trick isn’t to be perfect immediately. In fact, the goal isn’t to be perfect at all. Your goal should be to constantly be learning and improving—one small step at a time.

Start by acknowledging your doubt and using it as a path to learn. Not sure about something? Good. Research it. Don’t know if you’re using a term correctly? Great! Look it up. The trick to getting DEI ‘right’ is to always allow for questions, corrections, and changes. We are in a fast-changing environment, so think of DEI as an ever-evolving approach to help you maintain positive relationships with your community as it evolves.

Know the terms

A great place to start is understanding what different terms mean, along with how and when to use them. Especially if you’re a small business owner in a small town, it’s common to be a part of a homogenous community where there isn’t much variation between religions, ethnicity, and economic status. This makes it hard to paint an accurate picture of the endless diversity in the world at large. By starting with some basic terms, you can begin familiarizing yourself with different concepts and communities.

  • Heteronormative – refers to the notion that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.
  • Cisgender (cis) – refers to people whose gender identity is the same as the gender assigned to them at birth.
  • Transgender (trans) – refers to people whose gender identity is not the same as the gender assigned to them at birth. For instance, a trans woman is a woman whose assigned gender at birth was male but has transitioned to female as they identify themselves as a woman.
  • Non-binary – a person who identifies as non-binary is someone who neither identifies as entirely male or entirely female.
  • BIPOC – an acronym for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. It is used as an umbrella term for all people of color. When using this term, make sure you’re using it when referring to all people of color. If you intend to refer to one specific group, identify that group by name. For instance, if you are referring just to Black people, use the word, Black.
  • AAPI – an acronym for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. This is an important term to know right now as racism and violence against the AAPI community have sharply risen since the start of the pandemic.
  • LGBTQ+ – an umbrella term for anyone who is not a cis-gendered heterosexual. This term covers Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and more.

The importance of representation

Part of developing an inclusive workplace is representing the different types
of people that come into contact with your organization. Doing something as simple as putting your pronouns (He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers, They/Them/Theirs) on your LinkedIn title, name tags, and email signatures sends a signal that you are welcoming to people of varying identities and communities.

Using imagery that depicts people of different backgrounds, bodies, ethnicities, ages, and religions in your marketing content and website helps people visualize themselves working with you and creates a picture of who it is you’re interested in engaging with.

Making sure your forms and surveys that ask for gender or ethnicity have options for everyone (even simply adding “other” as an option) is another active way to participate in inclusivity.

Taking the next step

As you start to build awareness around DEI within your organization, keep in mind that it takes consistent effort. Remember, diversity is inviting people to the table—inclusion, and equity is inviting them to speak.

Keep in mind that it’s never “wrong” to not know the answer. Give yourself the grace to learn and to falter. DEI should touch every aspect of your business, from talent management, to hiring, to marketing—it has its place wherever there are people. Together, we’ll keep learning, keep trying, and keep asking questions. We’ve got this.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Andrey Orlov

Make It as Simple as PB&J

A few years ago, a comedian took a video of himself with his two children as he followed their written instructions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In the video, he follows his kids’ instructions exactly. As you might have guessed, it goes rather poorly.

Instruction: Put the peanut butter on the bread.

Dad: Puts the jar of peanut butter on the slice of bread.

Instruction: Take one piece of bread, spread it around with the butter knife.

Dad: Takes a plain piece of bread and spreads it around on the counter using a butter knife.

Instruction: Get some jelly, rub it on the other half of the bread.

Dad: Rubs the jar of jelly on the other slice of bread.

And so it goes. Complete chaos. While this video is hilarious, it speaks to a fairly common issue in the world of business. How often do we give or receive instructions that are lacking? If you’ve ever had to build a complicated piece of furniture from Ikea, you know the utter rage such things can incite. Despite the fact that Ikea does everything it can to make its instructions perfect—pictures and all.

It’s not that simple

How often do we leave gaps in our explanations, and send someone off with instructions made up of 50% assumptions that they think the same way we do or know the same things we do? It’s not surprising, really. Writing instructions—good instructions—is tedious. It’s boring. We already know what we’re asking for, leaving us inclined to leave out the obvious.

But not everyone has the same brain, the same frame of mind, or the same references. This means leaving out what’s obvious for you could be leaving out a key ingredient for the reader.

It’s all in the details

When you hire a new employee, change leadership, or implement a new piece of technology, how common is it for things to go awry? Think about how easy it is for roles to get mixed up or tasks to be incorrectly completed. This type of thing doesn’t just frustrate everyone—it wastes time and money. And the worst part is, it’s avoidable. If only you had prepared thorough instructions.

So next time you’re writing out instructions, follow these steps:

  1. Write down everything.
  2. Don’t skip anything.
  3. Walk yourself through the instructions after you’ve written them. Take them literally.
  4. Ask someone else to read through them and look for gaps.
  5. Treat it like you’re talking to an alien. Don’t assume they know what anything means.

This isn’t a flashy topic, but it’s an essential one. While you’ve been trained to do many things, you’ve probably never been trained to write instructions. We all just assume everyone knows how—but they don’t really. Because “common sense” is dependent on common experience—and those aren’t the same for everyone.

Next time you’re writing instructions, ask yourself: is it worth a short amount of tedium now to be as detailed as possible, or a more frustrated, repeated tedium later when you have to start over? The answer is obvious.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Iurii Golub

What Marketing Stats Can Teach Us About Human Behavior

Whether you’re in HR, marketing, sales, the C-Suite, or customer service, you rely on people. You need them to listen, to purchase, to follow, to keep coming back to you. And while your audience might be different, people are generally the same.

As the world of marketing has boomed over the past decade, so has its reliance on data and its ability to derive knowledge from it. Some data is too specific, but some data speaks on a grander scale, tying into modern human behavior and sentiment that we can use to inform just about any part of business.

Stat: After a bad experience, 88% of visitors won’t return to a website.

We live in a world of abundance. Customers have seemingly endless choices when it comes to where they spend their money and time. If they don’t like their experience with you, they can return to Google and click the next link in their search.

What can this teach us? That you have to prioritize your customer’s experience—even if your product is the best on the market.

If you work in HR, this correlates to an employee’s onboarding or offboarding experience. If they have a bad one, their entire perception of the organization can be tainted. If you’re in sales, think about the experience your prospects have with you. Are you calling them once and then forgetting about them? Or are you only focusing on trying to sell them the product of the highest value despite whether it’s right for them?

Ultimately, your audience’s experience as they are introduced to you, your website, your product, or your organization, sets the tone for your entire relationship. If you’re not making your best effort to give them a quality experience, they won’t be inclined to stay for long.

Stat: Nearly 100% of first impressions of a website are based on aesthetics and design.

While we’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” these days, that’s how people decide whether you care about them. If you haven’t updated your sales presentation since 2015, no one will take you seriously because they won’t feel taken seriously. If your employee handbook is ten pages of technical language without text breaks, no one will take the time to read it. If you show up to your job interview in an old t-shirt and ripped jeans, they aren’t going to give you a chance.

The way you present your information, value proposition, business, or company values is just as important as the information you’re trying to convey.

Stat: Every dollar invested in user experience results in an ROI of up to $100.

Investing your time, energy, and money into the experience of your audience pays off. While this may be common sense, it’s still one of the most impactful concepts you can learn. If your business sells products online, have you taken the time to walk in your customers’ shoes? Do you know what it’s like to purchase something from your own site?

If you’re preparing for a sales meeting, do you research your lead? Do you know what their pain points are, what their values are, what their goals are? Have you role-played your presentation?

As an HR leader, have you reviewed your employee benefits usage? Do you know what their experience is during open enrollment? Have you tried to seek out ways to improve it?

The success of your venture rests upon the ease of engagement for your audience. The easier it is for them to say yes, make the purchase, and understand what you’re telling them, the more often you’re going to succeed.

The underlying truth

Ultimately, each of these statistics tells us one fundamental truth: it’s not about you—it’s about your audience. Suppose your first concern is impressing your audience with your experience or making sure they buy the most profitable product or hit all the boxes on your compliance checklist. In that case, you’re setting yourself up for building low-quality relationships that won’t last.

If, however, you’re concerned with what they see when they first meet you, if you’re careful about how they receive the information you’re communicating, and if you’re bent on making it as easy as humanly possible to engage with you, then you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s that simple.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by rawpixel

You Should Nurture Relationships with Past Employees

It’s a fact that losing good employees is a major pain point for business owners. Not only is it hard (and expensive) to replace a quality employee, but replacing institutional knowledge, relationships, and experience takes a lot of time. But this doesn’t mean employers should avoid thinking about or preparing for the eventual departure of an employee. In fact, employee alumni networks and strong networking communities comprised of ex-employees may make the next step of hiring much, much easier.

While onboarding programs are all the rage among HR professionals and business leaders, it’s sadly common for employees to leave a company in a very different manner. New employees are greeted with training, communication, and team engagement, but an employee leaving a company may be met with an exit interview, a pat on the back, or in some cases, outright hostility, resentment, scrambling and confusion on behalf of their managers.

But this doesn’t make sense for both the business and the departing employee. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job retention rate in the United States consistently hovers at around four years. In fact, business professionals have been noted to advise against staying in a job for too long to avoid damaging your career. So why do exiting employees so often get ignored or treated poorly?

The short answer? A lack of foresight. Previous employees can have a dramatic impact on a business even after they leave. They may come back in the form of clients, business referrals, vendors, brand ambassadors, and boomerang employees. The fact of the matter is that employees are almost never going to stay with your company for their entire career, so it makes sense for organizations to prepare—well in advance—for their eventual departure and subsequent post-departure impact on the business.

But how do you nurture relationships with previous employees?

Corporate alumni programs

These programs are popular among corporate industries, including legal, consulting, and financial services. They are designed to create a network for former employees to stay connected with their old colleagues and organizations, providing a space for them to continue growing and nurturing their relationships long-term.

According to a report by Conenza Inc. in conjunction with Cornell University, there are four main motivations people have for joining alumni programs:

  • Mission-driven
  • Career-minded
  • Pragmatic
  • Social-focused

With that in mind, it seems like a major loss for organizations to miss out on staying connected with people driven by these traits. After all, they all point to growth-driven mindsets that positively impact both the alumni and the organization.

Offboarding strategies

If you’re a smaller business or simply not a fit for an alumni program, there’s plenty you can do to maintain mutually beneficial relationships with employees after they’ve left your organization. The basics of offboarding aren’t complicated—it’s simply a step-by-step process that allows for clear communication and preparation as an employee arranges to depart, ensuring the employee and the organization have everything they need before the final day. Here are some simple steps you can take to help the process along:

  • Begin preparing for their eventual departure long before you expect them to leave by creating an offboarding program that matches your organization’s values, mission, and culture. You want employees to have a cohesive experience throughout their entire lifecycle. This will help you manage expectations and maintain trust even as an employee begins the exit process.
  • Create an ongoing dialog around career development that starts the moment an employee enters your ranks. Make it clear that while you hope employees will stay forever, you understand most employees change jobs every handful of years and you’ve created opportunities and resources for them to develop within your organization and stay connected with you after they leave.

Offboarding programs will help leaders not to go into chaotic damage control by creating a clear process for each step of the departure. It allows organizations to say, “We’ve prepared for this and made it simple and easy, so we can all continue on without anxiety.” It allows the employee to leave in a measured, calm way, and the organization to be prepared to handle their leaving without confusion or missed steps that would end up frustrating both the organization and the departing employee.

A mutual investment

For both individuals and organizations alike, the relationships developed, both externally and internally, are the foundation of success. They drive investment, engagement, reputation, and networking power. It’s simply common sense to get the best value out of the most intimate of these relationships—with your employees themselves. Remember, how you treat your employees—both current and past—has a determining effect on your reputation within your industry. Handle these relationships with intentionality and care, and reap the benefits of a robust, engaged, and long-lasting network.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by mavoimage

How HR Professionals Can Benefit from Learning the Sales Pitch

Over the past several years, HR’s role has steadily risen in stature, with more and more leaders recognizing the critical nature of HR functions and their impact on business growth and the bottom line. And HR has risen to the occasion by finding solutions to the chaos caused by the pandemic, driving vital culture changes to improve equality within the workplace, prioritizing diversity and inclusion, and developing new solutions to improve the employee experience.

But despite this upward trend, the task of pitching new ideas, plans, or strategies to the C-Suite isn’t without difficulty. While you may understand how the solution you’ve worked hard to develop is right for the business, it’s not exactly easy to convey this—especially when money is on the line.

As more solutions become available and the market for HR solutions grows, HR professionals need to prepare themselves for the inevitable fight for the “right one”. But this can’t be done in a power-play.

As you prepare for your next conversation about an HR solution you’d like to implement, consider approaching it like a “pitch.”

Understand your audience

While you may understand why the solution you’re pitching is the right one, that doesn’t mean it’s clear to the CEO or CFO of the company. As you work to frame the information you’ve gathered, consider each of your audience’s perspectives, and try framing your pitch to fit their specific lens:

  • A CEO generally keeps the grand vision for the organization front of mind. They want to know how any solution will help them reach their ultimate goals. They want to be reassured that each section of the company will engage successfully with the solution. And they’ll want to know why this solution is better than others.
  • A CFO is a different story. They want to know how this solution will affect the bottom line. They may be more interested in hard numbers, data, research, and comparative data between similar solutions.

As you approach these conversations, consider how you might frame the information you have to fit your audience’s specific questions before sitting down with them. Preparing yourself for the decision-makers’ inevitable questions and worries will help you develop confidence and build their confidence and trust in you as your conversation progresses.

Start with small steps

Instead of expecting a decision to be made right out the gate, consider setting up a series of meetings in which you approach your ultimate goal of implementing the solution over time, creating stepping stones that gradually bring the decision-makers to the finish line. Set clear goals for each meeting so they’ll know what to expect. Consider breaking down the conversation into a series of small steps:

  1. Set a preliminary meeting to talk about the current solution (or lack of solution) the organization has. Review how it’s going and identify what issues have arisen. Then take a look at the overall goals of the organization and identify areas that need attention. This meeting is an opportunity for you to uncover their concerns and goals, which will inform how you approach your second presentation.
  2. In your second meeting, frame your solution around the main points and concerns highlighted in the first discussion. This is your chance to explain why you think it’s the best fit. Don’t leave your expert opinion out, but don’t forget to address your audience’s concerns. Before asking them to make the final decision, propose bringing in someone from the company offering the solution or from a similar organization as yours that has implemented it.

By approaching the pitch as a series of small steps that lead to a bigger decision, you’ll remove the anxiety around making the final purchase and help build trust as they learn about the solution.

Practice

As you prepare, don’t forget to practice these conversations. Try roleplaying and writing a list of questions you might expect. While you may think you know everything about this solution, you don’t want to risk giving a sloppy, confusing answer when the moment strikes. Run through your presentation at least three times, and identify areas that can be clarified, simplified, or left out.

Remember, you are the expert in this situation. If you believe your solution will make a difference for your organization, you owe it to your team to be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible. You got this!

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Cathy Yeulet

Move Past the Buzzwords: How to Lead Intentionally

In the world of business, buzzwords seem to rule the headlines. Optimize, disrupt, engage, drive—they pop up in headlines about leadership, HR, employee engagement, productivity, and the bottom line of your business.

What ties these ideas together? They all allude to the possibility of gaining something, of getting the upper hand—of winning. Yet, after all the articles you’ve read, how much time have you really spent ‘winning’?

This article isn’t about the next new leadership strategy or the latest piece of tech you should be implementing. It’s about you, your vision, and how not to lose sight of it amidst all the noise.

Filter for the vision

Fresh ideas can be a great motivator to take action, but without vetting them against the vision, they turn into a distraction. Here’s an example of how distraction can play out. A manager was called into a meeting with the upper management team to hear about their exciting new idea: they wanted to partner with another organization to share resources and expand their reach. They were excited, urging the manager to get to work immediately on a communication plan. Her first response instead was to ask questions:

  • How does this fit into the visions for the two organizations?
  • What resources are we sharing?
  • What benefits will we each receive, financial or otherwise?
  • How will we manage the combined financials?
  • What are the expectations of each team?

The room was silent. They hadn’t taken the time to think it through. They had no answers, and the idea was dropped just as soon as it was picked up.

If you’re not looking at new ideas through the intentional lens of your vision, it’s easy to get pulled off track. Leaders and their team members should know this vision lens well enough to filter ideas for ones that fit and ones that are a distraction.

Theme over numbers

To avoid the same story happening at your organization, try implementing an annual or bi-annual theme. While setting goals and hard numbers is a great way to hold yourself and your team accountable, that shouldn’t be the first place you go when you develop your organizational strategy.

A theme is an idea you intentionally want to take hold in the behaviors of your team. The most powerful themes are often the most simple, such as “be intentional” or “simplify” or “progress over perfection.” And a theme has a longer lifespan than numbers-driven goals, and the newly developed behaviors won’t disappear if you fail to meet any specific goal.

A theme will work as a guide and a reference for all the major (and minor) activities within your organization and can help weed out initiatives that sound great but aren’t aligned with your vision. Pick an idea for your theme that reinforces your company vision and acts as a reference point to keeping your ideas and intentions in alignment with your vision.

Proactive planning

Creating a theme can help you think ahead in a logical, intentional way. One way that organizations get sidetracked or find themselves stumped by a complicated, poorly planned initiative is reactive planning. As your business grows, it will inevitably hit roadblocks. Problems aren’t avoidable. But often, leadership gets stuck in a loop of reactive planning, responding to each problem as it arises, only thinking one step ahead or one step behind each challenge.

Reactive leadership doesn’t allow for intentional growth and can suck an entire organization’s energy down the drain. So the next time your organization comes up against a roadblock, step back and consider your options. Don’t run with the first idea that comes to you without thinking things through:

  • Does the plan align with your theme?
  • Does it make sense long-term?
  • Does your team have the capacity to execute the plan?
  • Why are you choosing this plan over others, how will it help, and what does your team need to do to make it happen?

Change your mind (set)

If your team tends to complain when asked to do the hard work associated with getting a new initiative up and going, it’s likely that leadership hasn’t explained the initiative in proper context. It’s difficult to accept tactical chores when there is no obvious and immediate benefit.

If you want your business to win and your vision to be realized, you must take time to allow your team see how new initiatives help fulfill the vision. Once understood, the detailed, often frustrating work of laying down the pavement toward functionality and success, can be met with much more acceptance.

For example, if you’re paying for a robust tech platform to track sales, marketing efforts, and prospecting, but you’re frustrated by the results, ask yourself if you’ve equipped your staff with the right training. Do they know why they’re going to use it? Do they know how to use it?

If they don’t have a clear understanding, you haven’t implemented the technology with a solid strategy, and you need to reverse your steps and start over. If they do have a clear understanding, ask yourself why they aren’t using it correctly (or at all).

Organizations waste massive amounts of money on tech they hardly use, not because they don’t see its value, but because they don’t make the time commitment to 1) train their employees, or 2) take accountability for its success.

Your job as a leader isn’t just to hold people accountable or set the direction of your organizational growth—it’s to take responsibility for the details, the strategy, and the planning. Your vision = your responsibility. Sure, you get to ask for help, but the ultimate success or failure falls on you.

Where to start

To get your organization, or even your brain, back on track, retreat to your vision. Start there and move forward. Always ask:

  • “Does this idea align with our vision?”
  • “Am I willing to put in the work to develop a strategy?”
  • “How will I communicate this to my team?”

In the end, businesses get off and on track repeatedly as they grow and change. Remember to recenter your focus on your vision, even as it evolves, and resolve never to be above the “busy work” of strategy. After all, any idea looks like a good idea without a plan.

 

 

Photo by Ian Iankovskii

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

 

 

Wellness and Productivity: A Holistic Approach

For much of the country, winter can be a challenging time. Decreased light, more time spent indoors, the horrible experience of waking up in the dark and ending work in the dark—it can be tough. This winter may be especially challenging, with the pandemic forcing us into isolation and away from our favorite cozy coffee shops and bookstores.

As humans, our energy naturally ebbs and flows throughout our lives and throughout the seasons. This can be difficult for those of us with high expectations. We don’t like to accept that sometimes, we need sleep, time alone, or support. But these things are inevitable, pandemic or not, and fighting against them isn’t an effective use of our energy. We need to learn to roll with our energy cycles, not against them.

Here are four tips to help you stay on track with your goals while not falling out of tune with your needs.

Make short term commitments 

At the start of every week, make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Then break each item out into categories:

  • Start with “the one thing”—the task you commit to complete above all others.
  • Then, break it into time-intensive tasks that you know will take a while.
  • Next, think about your quick wins, the things you know you can get done quickly.
  • Finally, think about the items that can wait till later and put them in your backlog.

This will help you stay on top of the stuff that matters most while also keeping things from slipping through the cracks. It’ll provide you with a sense of accomplishment and enable you to make clear decisions around how you spend your time each day. In short, it’ll help your days stay clear of busywork and give you direction to aim your energy most effectively and efficiently.

Keep small promises

Each of us has different needs, challenges, and sticking points. Try making some small, easily accomplishable promises to yourself. Pick something that can have a high impact on your mood but doesn’t take too much time. A ten-minute walk in the middle of the day, for instance. Or fifteen minutes to journal in the morning before work.

Keeping small promises to yourself helps you gain a sense of control and emotional wellbeing. It will help you remove opportunities to berate yourself for not being perfect by providing you something to point to and say, “At least I did this for myself today.”

Redefine what productivity means

In our society, we often put more value on “productivity” than wellbeing. We get down on ourselves for not doing enough, working hard enough, or growing fast enough. But the reality is that like our energy, our productivity ebbs and flows over time. We may have times of intense growth followed by quieter, more restful periods. That’s normal.

However, we get into trouble when we place greater value on the “more productive” periods than the restful ones. If we measure our success against those times in our lives that we have been the most productive, we’ll always fall short of our expectations. Growth spurts and times of increased productivity are great, but they aren’t necessarily what leads to success.

Approach your life holistically

Allowing yourself the grace to move between these stages in your life and placing value on all of them is the key to both happiness and productivity. To have growth, you need to have rest. Remember, your success, whether it’s emotional, financial, or occupational, is your responsibility. Take the steps you need, big or small, to ensure you’re supporting yourself as you expand and contract within your life.

 

Photo by Alexandr Ivanov

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

How to Get More Out of Every Conversation

The art of leading a productive and enlightening conversation is at the essence of success. Whether you’re conducting a job interview, talking to a client, or working with your team, you need the power to get as much out of every conversation as you can.

You need to inspire, to be purposeful and clear, to obtain and share quality information, and to connect on a human level—all of which needs to happen naturally and in as few words (of yours) as possible.

Here are a few key points you can apply to nearly every conversation you have, amplifying your impact, takeaway, and position.

Who’s at the center?

Leading a quality conversation doesn’t mean you become the focal point. Most of the time, if you position the other person at the center, you can make a greater impact. You can make the other person think you’re the most interesting person in the world, or they can leave the conversation feeling they are the most interesting person in the world.

Which would you prefer? Be honest with yourself.

While you might impress some people by espousing your thoughts, experiences, and opinions, it will do little to help you connect with and learn from them. This brings us to a critical point: setting your intention. If you want to lead a conversation where everyone goes away with your opinions and ideas swirling around in their heads, then sure, get on your soapbox and talk away.

BUT, if you intend to get information from someone while also connecting with them personally, then your focus should be on them.

Listening to hear, not to speak

Imagine a microphone: the only thing that comes out of it is what is said into it. Having a conversation with someone who spends their time waiting to speak is like becoming a microphone for the other person. It’s not fun. Or rewarding. Or engaging.

It’s just exasperating.

So how do you avoid being the person who only listens long enough to find an opportunity to speak? The first step is slowing down. Remind yourself why you are having the conversation. Ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain. Then ask yourself how you’re going to get there. I promise you, the answer isn’t by talking.

Learn how to ask questions

While you’ve known how to ask questions since you first learned to talk, it doesn’t mean you know how to ask the right questions.

Let’s look at two similar questions and see how they evoke wildly different responses:

  • Did you feel happy when you got the new job?
  • What was it like to get the new job?

One quick way to stop a conversation in its tracks is to ask leading or closed-ended questions. These are questions that push the response in a specific direction and simply require a yes or no answer.

What would you say if someone asked you the first question? Probably something like, “Yes, I did feel happy!” While that isn’t a bad answer, it doesn’t leave room for you to add anything else. The answer sits within the original question: “Happy,” prompting no additional thought or introspection

Now think about answering the second, open-ended question. There’s no obvious response. Your answer could go in many different directions, allowing richness and depth to develop within the discussion. Those are the types of questions you want to be asking if you’re looking for value.

Don’t resist the awkward pause

While no one loves to sit in silence, learning to do so comfortably can create something amazing. Think about the landscape of your conversation as a jumble of marbles on a mattress. You go from one marble to the next in a sometimes straight, sometimes meandering line. But there will always be marbles that don’t get picked up. 

Now, think about silence as a bowling ball put down in the center of the mattress. The ball’s weight creates a physical pull on the outlying marbles, coaxing them to roll into the dent left by the bowling ball and into the center of the conversation.

Give your conversation some intentional bowling balls. Make way for those stray thoughts or shy opinions to be pulled to the center and realized.

Move with purpose

As you practice leading conversations that produce real value, help you authentically connect, and make progress, take the time to reflect. After an especially frustrating or exciting conversation, stop and go over what made it successful or not. This process takes self-awareness, intention, and purpose. Take your time, work at it, and watch as each interaction you have becomes more valuable, impactful, and satisfying.

 

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Battling Ageism Continued: Protecting Senior Professionals

A few weeks ago, we published a blog that covered four ways you can work against ageist practices in your workplace. While it’s a good start to identifying the subtle ways ageism can sneak in, it’s essential to address some more concrete ways ageism takes place.

The numbers behind ageism

Ageism is, without a doubt, a heavy burden on the American people and our country as a whole. Last year, the AARP released a study that calculated the U.S. lost $850 billion in GDP due to ageist practices against older workers in 2018. The same study projects that by 2050, the losses resulting from age discrimination could reach up to $3.9 trillion.

These ageist practices keep older workers out of the job market, impact any dependents they have, and force family members to pick up the slack. The study found 57% of GDP revenue lost was caused by workers forced into involuntary retirement.

Rejecting the practices of ageism

Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers 40 and over from being denied work and put at a disadvantage due to their age, a Supreme Court 2009 ruling made it more difficult for plaintiffs to win cases. The new ruling requires plaintiffs to prove their age was the deciding factor in their employer’s decision, removing what’s commonly called “mixed motive” cases from the table.

Last year, in response to the study and following public outcry, a bill (The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act) was introduced to the Senate to amend the Supreme Court’s decision and to make it easier for plaintiffs to make their case. Although this bill is not yet law, it shows a strong push to reject ageism and protect older workers from its destructive impact.

What can you do to ensure your organization isn’t participating in ageist practices?

Empower your employees

A straightforward way to hold your organization accountable? Ensure your employees know their rights and what to do when they feel their rights have been infringed upon. Educate your managers, hiring managers, and leadership team on:

  • Good defining traits to inform their decisions (experience, skills, compatibility)
  • What needs to be left out of the equation (age, ethnicity, gender, etc.)
  • What age discrimination looks like in the workplace (subtleties of language, hiring decisions)

Make sure your employees know they have a right to protect themselves from discrimination, and create the expectation that neither you nor they should tolerate any form of it. Create internal channels for employees to address issues and make sure they know what they can do to protect themselves.

Review your practices

When was the last time you looked at your internal practices to uncover malpractice, out of date approaches, and possible employee rights violations? Does anyone in your organization have this responsibility, or do you cross your fingers and hope nothing comes up?

Or did you do it at the start of your business but haven’t reviewed your practices in years?

Commit to continually reviewing your internal processes for hiring, promoting, and wage and hour decisions. If you have no system to examine these areas, you will be much more likely to find your business in hot water. The key concept here is to be proactive, not reactive.

Take action

There are ways to support older employees and increase their long-term impact and contributions to your organization. Also, keep in mind there are ways to make different roles more accessible to senior professionals. Consider:

  • Offering flexible hours
  • Offering part-time positions
  • Offering skills training

Making quarterly meetings to review benchmarks, wins, and growth areas will help your employees quantify their value to you and provide a record of their contribution and progress within your organization, protecting both their rights and yours.

Take on the responsibility 

In the end, organizations must shoulder the responsibility and duty to ensure they are providing just, equitable, and responsible treatment to their employees. Diversifying your workforce in any direction will allow you to grow and allow your community to grow with you. What’s right for your employees, is good for you, and what’s right for your industry, is good for your country. It’s time to step up to the plate and bat ageism out of the park.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

If You Care About ROI, Follow This Strategy

When you measure progress within your organization, you don’t do it by checking off each individual activity done by your team. You do it by looking at how well you’re accomplishing your overall company goals. So why do we often approach projects from the opposite direction?

A common mistake that leads to loss of ROI and efficiency stems from our human need to get swept up in the details. Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting all the details right, but details shouldn’t be first in the pecking order of priorities.

For progress to happen, you need to measure your activities. But without goals and a strategy, you can’t measure anything accurately. If you don’t have a solid plan of alignment, you won’t prioritize what actions and details need the most attention.

The flaw in quick solutions

As we’ve all learned in the last year, crises happen, and they can happen overnight. Organizational pivots can be spurred by internal and external events within your market, industry, or location. With varying levels of success, businesses responded to shifts caused by the pandemic by implementing new technology, changing processes, and rearranging priorities.

Even outside the pandemic, it’s incredibly easy for organizations to implement “solutions” to their problems, creating more friction. For instance, many organizations struggle with data duplication because they use different systems to track their prospecting and sales, marketing, and client management. The result is a chaotic mass of unusable data that provides extremely limited information to those who need it.

Here’s how to ensure your organization avoids this type of costly mistake by changing your approach to problem-solving.

Stepping back

Before you decide to implement a solution for a problem, start by following these steps.

1. Identify your core goal

Your goal should be in the context of the result you’re looking for, not the solution. For instance, “We need a system to help us manage our prospecting” is an example of a solution statement. A goal statement looks more like, “We want to make more informed decisions around how we manage our prospecting and have a smoother handoff between prospecting/sales and client management.” Starting with the goal statement stops you from identifying possible solutions before you’re ready and keeps the door open to make connections between this goal and other related goals.

2. Review department alignment

If you want to save time and resources, spend time reviewing how this goal might affect other departments; specifically, determine if it aligns with issues cropping up in those departments. In the case of data duplication, if an organization approaches marketing, sales, and client management as separate tasks, they miss what it’s all about: the entire customer experience.

Suppose they approached this issue with a broader lens. In that case, they could implement a tool to combine each of these activities under one system, resulting in no data duplication and a smoother transition between the customer journey stages.

3. Identify your KPIs

If you’re interested in measuring how well a solution is working (which you should be for several reasons, ROI aside), then identify core KPIs you can use to track a tool’s success. Keep them measurable, attainable, and specific.

To continue with the example used above, KPIs for this type of solution might involve:

  • Increased customer retention rates
  • Increased closed deals
  • Decreased time for client onboarding

Refer back to your goal statement to help you identify the results you hope to achieve.

Don’t skip ahead

If you find a new tool that seems excellent, great!

But stop before implementing it.

It’s easy to get excited about a solution without first clarifying your goal. Who doesn’t like to nerd out about new solutions? But if you don’t have processes in place to stop new solutions from being implemented before completing these steps, you’ll end up wasting time, money, and resources.

These steps should be followed for nearly every activity, process, and solution your organization implements. So even though you’re excited, stop, take a step back, and make sure you cover these bases before running ahead with your new solution. The results will be far more impactful, efficient, and sustainable.

 

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