What’s Sunday Night Like
for Your Employees?
Do you remember your excitement and enthusiasm when you landed your first job—the anticipation of the promise it held? For a few, no matter how long we’ve been in the work force, there are still echoes of that excitement and enthusiasm. Work is rewarding, challenging, entertaining and we know we are making a difference. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Unfortunately for many, the pleasure of the weekend turns sour on Sunday afternoon as they think about returning to work on Monday. The dark cloud of a toxic work environment reaches into the last hours of a nice weekend and takes its toll. If you’ve ever worked in a toxic work environment, you are well aware of this phenomenon. If you have not, count your blessings and beware of the signs and symptoms so that, should things start to change, you can take steps to maintain and nourish a healthy work environment.
Before you breathe a sigh of relief and say, “thank goodness that isn’t us,” think about the 2013 Gallup Poll that showed that a little more than half of the survey respondents indicate they have a perpetual case of the Monday blues and are not particularly excited about their jobs. The news gets worse as 18% indicated they are totally disengaged at work. Only 30% indicate they are inspired and actively engaged. (Remember: Neutral ≠Motivated )
Some employees verbalize their distress. Others keep it locked up and just let it eat away, yell at the kids or kick the cat. It’s no way to live, but what can be done about it?
What are signs of a toxic working environment?
There’s a whole list. Not all of these need to be present to have debilitating effects on employees, their productivity, job satisfaction and ultimately turnover. As a matter of fact, just one might be enough to have those effects!
- Behaving in ways that are inconsistent with the values of the organization or tolerating behaviors that are inconsistent with the values of the organization.
- Self-involved or isolated leaders who are out of touch with employees’ concerns and feelings.
- Constantly changing direction; following the latest management fad; failing to commit to a consistent long-term strategy.
- Believing that employees can’t be trusted.
- Viewing employees as a cost, rather than an asset in which to invest.
- Treating employees as if they are lucky to have a job.
- Keeping information tightly held at the higher levels of management as a means of maintaining power and control.
- Seeking to control employees rather than empower them.
- Failure to recognize the contributions made by employees—including individual recognition of efforts and results
- Scapegoating and blaming others for mistakes
- War across division lines; conflict and strife
- No one is having fun!
Some of the above list of characteristics are symptomatic of common management and leadership actions that are the result of lack of skill and/or experience or a lack of foresight. On their own they are damaging enough, but when they are coupled with others the results can be devastating.
How big a role do you play?
So you are not the leader of the organization. Is it really your job? Is there anything you can do about it? Let’s assume you are the leader of a work-group. You can make a difference, at least for your staff. If you’re the head of a division or a branch, you can certainly make a difference for your group. If you supervise no one you can still make a difference—because we believe you can play a leadership role for yourself. The first step is to recognize there’s a problem. Next, take a look at the characteristics of a healthy work environment. Herein are the keys to behaviors that will help cure and/or- if only for your work group- make it a better place to work.
Communication in the workplace should be like communication in a healthy relationship. Communication needs to flow freely and openly. Keep your staff informed. It enables them to feel involved and in the know about the direction of the organization. Take a risk, invite your next level manager or the organization’s leader to a staff meeting to talk about his/her insights on the direction of the organization. Sometimes this is all it takes to start the flow of communication.
Take the time to meet with and coach your employees one-on-one. Set a tone for your work group that their efforts and results are appreciated. (Check out the guest article, On Performance, by Gregg Lederman, from June 2014 Fill Ins). Do this frequently—at least monthly. It doesn’t have to be a long meeting. Ten quality minutes of communication about how the employee is doing, what he/she needs from you and what the focus is for the coming weeks; what you can do provide additional support, if needed. Encourage ideas for improvement in the work processes and customer service areas. People need to feel that what they are doing matters. It’s ok to provide corrective feedback too. This reinforces that what they are doing REALLY matters.
A word of caution- You may be feeling the effects of a toxic work environment just as your employees are. Your job is to make your little corner of the world less toxic. Do NOT under any circumstances engage in the “aw ain’t it awful” game with your employees. As much as you may agree with some of the things your employees are saying about the company environment, you MUST stress the importance of doing everything you (and they) can do to make it a healthy and productive environment. This is the “we can’t control others, we can only control ourselves” discussion.
Don’t tolerate cross-department/organization wars. If there are issues between departments, you must take steps to resolve them. Take the lead and find out what the problems are and address them. In today’s business world, the challenges are great enough without creating or fueling internal wars. Establishing and maintaining an “internal-service excellence” approach will, if practiced, extinguish this unproductive, and damaging game. In the best organizations, internal customer service is equally as important as external customer service. This means finding out whose “throwing the grenades” and addressing the unacceptable behaviors, getting to the bottom of the issues, encouraging positive behaviors and walking the talk yourself.
Make training and staff development a priority.
Organizations that are committed to their vision and to the well-being of their employees are serious about training and education. Even if your organization isn’t, your department or team can be. Take full advantage of all internal resources and supplement with outside resources. Keep your staff focused on continually improving their knowledge and skills. Cross-train and delegate important tasks and projects. Not only does this strengthen your team, it communicates trust.
Last but not least—Make it fun. Celebrate your team and its successes. Creating an environment where it is ok to have fun goes a long way. Fun and laughter are key in managing and coping with stress. If you are not currently creating periodic group get-togethers, consider it. Monthly birthday celebrations, potlucks, tail gate parties, morning coffee, brown-bag lunch and learns are just some of the ways you can inject some fun. Decorating work stations to celebrate birthdays and/or company anniversaries is a nice way to say, “you matter to us!” It also communicates to customers who see this that the organization values its employees. Need another idea? Try Meeting Bingo:
Meeting Bingo – Draw up bingo cards with a list of phrases that are commonly used in meetings. eg: “can I get back to you on that?” “touch base” “game plan” “key objectives” “mindset” “core business” “pushing the envelope” “mission statement” “seat of your pants”. Take along to meetings and distribute among members. The first to tick off 5 words and shout ‘BINGO!’ wins that round. Give a little prize.
There’s a reason that high-tech companies create offices that have space for fun—ping pong tables, pool tables, etc. Fun encourages creativity. Fun at work creates a more light-hearted atmosphere. Aren’t you much more likely to enjoy your work—even the difficult challenges—in an environment that’s more light-hearted? Good managers, at all levels in the organization and good organizations work to ensure an emotionally healthy work place.
When Worlds Collide
by Frank Stratman Director, Executive Recruiting Division
We have been recruiting for the financial services industry for several decades now. During this time we have seen many significant changes and are now witnessing what may be major transformations as two worlds collide. It is a phenomenon that can be seen when comparing financial service providers and sometimes it can be observed within a single financial institution in its wealth management group. It is confusing to many financial professionals and even more confusing and frustrating to customers and clients. The collision of which we are speaking is that between fiduciary and non-fiduciary providers of financial services.
Now let us be not the first to say that, like private banking, there is no uniform definition of wealth management nor is there a uniform definition of what constitutes a wealth management group. In some organizations, a wealth management group may encompass banking, trust, brokerage and insurance under one umbrella. In other organizations it may entail trust, brokerage and insurance. Yet in other companies it may simply be brokerage services. And, yet in some smaller institutions it may be trust services and brokerage services provided by a single employee that dons both hats either as an employee of the bank or as a dual employee of the bank and the brokerage firm. Thus, there is no uniform definition of a wealth management group and it may take a myriad of forms.
It is imperative for executive management to recognize the differences between fiduciary and non-fiduciary standards and is in everyone’s best interest to help the customer/client to understand the differences as well.
The differences between these two worlds – the fiduciary world and the non-fiduciary world – can most easily be isolated in three primary areas: (1) the decision-making process; (2) the method of payment for the financial services rendered and (3) the regulatory environment.
One of the standard definitions of a fiduciary is to “exercise his/her best efforts to act in good faith and in the best interests of the client.” Fiduciaries can’t simply place your money into good investments but rather must know as much about you, your goals, risk tolerance, time horizon, tax situation and other relevant data as possible and then formulate a plan to best meet those objectives within the constraints uncovered. They should formulate an investment policy statement that clearly articulates an investment strategy. Fiduciaries practice comprehensive wealth management and are compensated by a management fee and not by the payment of commissions on products sold. Fee-only fiduciaries act as agents for their clients and are duty-bound to make decisions based on what is in the client’s best interest. The fiduciary world is built on principles and ethics and undivided loyalty to the client. Fiduciaries are held to the highest legal standard.
The non-fiduciary world is a world of suitability and rules. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) states that the agent or broker must have “reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable for such customer upon basis of the facts, if any, disclosed by the customer.” In contrast to a fiduciary that is an agent of the client, the non-fiduciary is an agent/employee of the brokerage firm, the insurance company or the mutual fund company. They are empowered to act on behalf of the company they represent but must normally have the clients express permission to complete the purchase or sale of the asset. If a financial advisor (A/K/A registered representative, stockbroker, investment representative) has followed the proper procedures, secured the proper documentation and obtained the client’s signature on the appropriate disclosure forms, no rules have been broken. Typically, financial advisors are compensated by commissions on the products that they sell and are under no obligation to find or attempt to find the best product to serve the client’s interest. They sell the financial products of their employer and are compensated for so doing.
There is a proper place for each of these disciplines and one key to success is hiring the right person for the right slot. We have noted how many trust professionals who were successful at trust business development subsequently failed when they tried their hand selling for a brokerage firm and vice versa. We have also noted the differences in personality traits between those that come from the “fiduciary world” and the “non-fiduciary world.” This is particularly true after any length of time in one role or the other.
As part of our recruiting process we conduct an in-depth interview of the candidates, which are also provided to our clients. A couple things we have noted throughout the years are quite telling. For instance, one of the questions we ask is “what motivates you?” Typical responses from the fiduciary crowd are phrases such as “to help others” or “to educate clients.” “To make money” is seldom within the top responses by a candidate from this group. Conversely, money tends to be a primary motivator for the “non-fiduciary” group and virtually always shows up during the interview process.
Likewise, a question such as “What do you enjoy most about sales?” elicits top responses from the non-fiduciary group such as “Money” and “Unlimited earning potential” and “Success is easily quantifiable by the money you make.” In contrast the fiduciary group’s top responses are “helping people reach their financial goals” and “providing sound unbiased financial advice” and “building relationships.”
The point is that there are typically different personality traits which are exhibited between the two groups and this is one reason that the crossover between fiduciary and non-fiduciary roles is difficult. As the fiduciary and non-fiduciary worlds continue to merge, the ability to hire the right personnel for the specific function will be a key to success as will the ability to properly manage this transformation.
The consultants at Pohl Consulting and Training can help you manage this process, assist in the development of job descriptions, formulate sales incentive plans and recruit the talent you need to be successful in this ever-changing financial services industry.
Don’t Be a Victim
of Time Robbers
In our visits with bankers we frequently hear that key sales activities are not consistently being executed because the banker “doesn’t have time.” We acknowledge that over the past few years people are being asked to take on more and more responsibility without eliminating any existing responsibilities.
Every once in a while it is helpful to assess our own behaviors that are contributing to our “lack of time.” Check out this list and see if there may be clues to some changes you might make to be more productive.
Check Email Twice a Day. Set a couple of times a day for checking email and stick to it. First thing in the morning and late in the afternoon should be plenty. You can still respond to time-sensitive issues and you eliminate the tendency to respond to trivial things that rob you of the valuable time you have to take care of the most important tasks you’ve pre-selected/prescheduled for the day—e.g. calling on a client you’ve not talked with in a while; keeping on top of prospecting, one-on-one coaching with your staff, etc. To make this work most effectively, turn off all email alert sounds so you are not tempted to sneak a peek at incoming mail. You’ll only miss the distractions for a day or so. You’ll stay focused and be able to concentrate on the important tasks and not be swayed by the “urgent and unimportant.”
Block out Facebook and other forms of Social Media from your Workday. For most of us, our IT department has already tried to “help us” with this one! However, if you are using your own personal digital devices during work hours to stay connected with Social Media—give it a rest. These little interruptions suck up lots of time. A morning and evening check-in should keep you sufficiently connected to your network of family and friends. I realize that some of us use this as a welcome break from a tedious task. Try a stretch break and or a walk through the building or outside to clear your head. You could even go talk to another team member and “waste their time”—just kidding.
Scheduling Works. Schedule your important activities and keep the schedule. Communicate your schedule to others. I know a very successful Investment Representative who has for years
communicated to all bank employees that “Tues, Weds, Thurs and Saturdays are available for appointment booking inside or outside the bank. Mondays and Fridays are always open for “drop ins.” He uses time on Mondays and Fridays to set appointments via phone and do telephone and email follow-ups, paperwork and follow-ups with bank employees who have referred potential clients, etc. Blocking out time for prospecting and client follow-up meetings and calls increases the likelihood that you will do it.
Managing Staff and
If you are a manager or a supervisor, a certain amount of your time is spent in communicating with others. Most organizations have an “open-door policy” which means that employees are encouraged to seek out advice and counsel when needed. This can however, get out of hand. If you feel like you are constantly being interrupted by your staff, take some time to analyze what’s causing the problems. Are you using periodic staff meetings to the best advantage? Have you established parameters that cause your people to think you need to “bless” every decision they make? Would a short beginning of the week huddle be useful in addressing issues that might arise and fend off the need for so many individual drop-in questions and requests by your staff? Are the interruptions requests for support from newer employees who are just learning? Scheduling one-on-one time will help meet the employees’ needs and eliminate their need to seek you out at inopportune times.
Coach your staff to be more self-sufficient. Ask them to tell you what they’ve done to research answers to questions. Perhaps the first stop should be a “designated department mentor.” This develops employees who are more self-reliant and more valuable than those who require spoon-feeding.
If unscheduled client calls are throwing you off track, perhaps it is an indicator that your “proactive client calling” needs to be reviewed. Regularly scheduled proactive, touch-base, client calls and meetings will cut-down on many incoming client calls. While we are always glad to hear from our clients when they have questions and concerns, we are providing a higher level of service if we reach out proactively. We are exerting some control over the schedule while at the same time maintaining excellent communication.
Set Deliberate Outcomes for Phone Calls. Think about what you expect to accomplish in all outgoing phone calls. It keeps you on target in the conversation. Having a pre-planned expectation helps you measure the success of the call. And, yes, relationship building is a legitimate accomplishment and should be part of most calls.
Meeting, Meetings and More Meetings. As a meeting leader:
- Send an agenda ahead of time.
- Assign pre-meeting work if it will make the meeting more productive.
- Start and end on time and assign specific time allocations for each agenda item and stick to it.
As a meeting participant your first questions should be:
- “Do I need to attend?” If not, send your regrets or consider sending a staff member in your place.
- “Can I submit input in writing?”
- “Can I attend for just the portion on the agenda that’s most critical?” Let the meeting facilitator know in advance so you don’t cause political problems for yourself or the meeting facilitator.
Some experts say that 25%-50% of our meetings could be eliminated with no negative consequences.
Take Five. Spend at least the first five or ten minutes of every day planning your day. (Yes, some people prefer to do this as their last activity of the day—planning for the next day.) This may be the single most important thing you can do to make conscious choices about how you use time.
Practice the 80/20 Rule. You will not get everything done every day. Keep focused on the 20% of things you do that accomplish 80% of the results you must achieve (your goals). Allocating your time to those 20% activities and expanding that time will enable you to increase your results significantly. Client calls, prospecting, and staff development are all high-payoff activities.
Starting today, as you begin each planned activity or handle each interruption, ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time? Is there something I can do to manage this situation more effectively now and in the future?”
The Last Word
with LOYD POHL
Here we go again!
I guess it is another sign that things are returning to “normal”. The phenomenon we are starting to see again is the idea that Sales Training for “them” is all that it takes. “Them” being the front line staff. Sales Training is indeed important – sales skills and sales processes are still woefully lacking in our industry. But the missing piece is usually Sales Management and the infrastructure to support the sales and sales management process, as well as the capacity of the team members to actually spend more time in business development, and the capacity of the line managers to actually spend time in sales management/coaching.
I have found myself talking organizations out of doing Sales Training! This is hard for a myriad of reasons, one being that this is one of the things we do! Realistically, I am not talking them out of Sales Training but rather talking them into development of the sales management infrastructure first.
Case in point: An organization wanted a bank-wide sales training program for the calling officers. In our discovery, we learned that the managers in the organization had the largest books of business and were extremely busy with “their real jobs.” When we talked about sales management and the time commitment necessary, their eyes glazed over. This reaction was common down to the middle management. We also found there was no activity measurement system and the pipeline tool they were trying to use was convoluted and inconsistent within lines of business as well as across the lines of business. We told them we would take their training dollars if they insisted but had no confidence that they would get the appropriate return on that investment without ensuring that the process (sales process) would be managed.
We have come out of the crisis with lean staffing and corresponding large account loads at the officer and manager levels. We have come out of the crisis as an industry needing to compete more effectively for the good deals that are out there in your market. These two realities do not have to be in conflict – but they do have to be addressed if your organization is going to be successful at organic growth.
Please call us when you need Sales Training for your organization! But you can anticipate questions about how you will manage the sales behaviors of your team. We care! We care about you getting the most out of your training dollars. We care about having great references (we have a lot of them!) that describe the successful implementation of the sales process!