Category Archives: Team work

#2 On the List of What Employees Want: The 4 F’s

Bent Ericksen & Associates reports 12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team, based on a survey that analyzed what employees want most from their employers.

In a recent post on Navigating Your Fishbowl, I provided #1 on the list.  You can read that post HERE

Essential #2 is: A management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm.  Policies are consistently applied and clearly explained in writing.

Did you catch the 4 F’s in that statement? 

  1. Friendly
  2. Frank
  3. Fair
  4. Firm

This short video is a personal experience about Fairness and a Floating Holiday

This policy was written, but certainly not applied fairly or consistently. 

Watch this video about an Unwritten Promise Given…

Wow!  Talk about unfair and inconsistent treatment of your employees!  Ouch! 

EMPLOYERS: Don’t make promises you can’t, or WON’T keep!

EMPLOYEES: Make sure you get promised benefits in WRITING!

Have you ever tried to remember “what did we do the last time“?  When a situation comes up, wouldn’t it provide more peace of mind to ask, “what does the policy say“, instead?

Try it, you’ll like it!

HR Thursday: When other priorities takes a backseat!

For the last few weeks I’ve been blogging about avoiding the nightmare of harassment claims in your practice/business.  The first two steps to doing this have been: 1. Providing written policy and regular communication, and 2. Provide antiharrassment training.

Step 3 is investigate complaints:

Timing is everything!  The longer an employer waits to investigate a complaint of harassment, the more it may say, “this isn’t serious” to the employee. 

Investigating a harassment claim is your FIRST priority.  EVERYTHING else takes a backseat.  Furthermore, taking quick action will prevent your liability from increasing. How?  Slow action could be making the employee vulnerable to more attacks.

However, unless you as an employer can be truly unbiased as an investigator, then you should hire a third-party to do the investigating.  The objective is to gather information, including looking at the following documents:

  • Payroll records
  • Job assignments
  • Working hours

You, or the investigator will also have to interview:

  • The accused
  • The victim
  • Witnesses
  • Anyone who knows about the incident

When conducting interviews:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Tell the version of the story as you know it, and then document their agreement/disagreement
  • Compile written and signed statements
  • Ask for additional information that is remembered after the interview
  • Keep findings confidential, and ask others to do the same

The investigator will keep detailed records of interviews and ALL relevant information.  He/she will prepare a final report including the steps taken and the conclusion of the claim.  This information will then be kept in a confidential file.

For an example of an investigation that wasn’t handled so well  Watch this VIDEO NOW

Next week is step 4, including part 2 of the video you just watched.  Have a great week navigating your fishbowl!

The #1 Way to Improve Productivity

Having surveyed hundreds of team members to determine what would add most to their productivity, Bent Ericksen & Associates has compiled the 12 Foundation Essentials for Successful Team Building.  Today my focus will on the #1 aspect from that survey that will improve YOUR teams productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job.

You may be surprised to learn that it is:

Ethically sound business principles and quality services

Did you know that before adequate pay, and before fair benefits, your employees want YOU to be ethical and to have integrity when it comes to the services or products you offer?  How would you rate yourself?  No, honestly.

According to the 2011 National Business Ethics Survey, the percentage of employees who perceived pressure to compromise standards in order to do their jobs climbed five points from 2009 to 13%.

In an article by Matthew Heller in March of this year, he warns of “steep declines in workforce trust”.

Earl “Chip” Jones III is a labor and employment law specialist at the law firm of Littler Mendelson in Dallas and a former senior executive for Dean Foods Co.  He says that workers who distrust management are more inclined to “perceive” they have been retaliated against even when, in reality, they have not. “There’s a breakdown in the relationship,” he says.

The Ethics Resource Center, which interviewed nearly 4,700 private-sector workers for the survey, which was released in January, reported that 2011 was “a year of extremes and substantive shifts.”  We also see some very ominous signs—ethics cultures are eroding and employees’ perceptions of their leaders’ ethics are slipping.

Both the Ethics Resource Center and Jones recommend that employers invest heavily in ethics and compliance programs. As a first step, Jones advises clients to conduct a thorough employee engagement survey that asks questions such as, “Are you able to complain about your supervisor?”

“You have to find out what the cultural climate is in your business and then manage it,” he says.

Here are some ways to improve the quality of your services:

1.    Listen to your customers
2.    View complaints as an opportunity to improve
Recognize great service and challenge poor service
Have weekly staff meetings where service is discussed
Tell your staff that they are appreciated and needed
Lead by example
Do things regularly to improve the workplace
Pay competitive wages for great team members

I can provide a survey to your team members to determine how they view you and each other.  This survey can be conducted anonymously, but I will provide you with the results.  Knowledge will give you power to make the changes necessary to improve the productivity of your practice or business.

Because you are a follower of my blog, I will conduct this survey to your staff for FREE.  Contact me so I can help you with that first step to having better quality in every aspect of your business; as well as helping you to achieve greater ethics in the eyes of your team!

Harassment: How NOT to become TOAST!


Last weeks post (Click here to read) was a lesson in the two types of harassment issues that you as an employer are most likely to deal with:

  1. Hostile work environment
  2. Quid pro quo

Those two forms of harassment were defined and described for you.  In the event that a claim is brought against you (the employer), two aspects will be reviewed to determine your liability.

1. Did the affected employee issue a complaint of harassment and then suffer a “tangible employment action” soon thereafter?
2. In the event of no tangible employment action, are you able to present an “affirmative defense”?

A tangible employment action may be any of the following:

  • Denying a raise
  • Termination of employment
  • Denying access to training
  • Demotion

Bottom line, if the complaining employee suffered a tangible employment action, you as the employer will likely be on the hook for liability because it will be viewed as retaliation.

An affirmative defense demonstrates that the employer took “reasonable care” to prohibit harassment.  Following are components of reasonable care:

  • A comprehensively written harassment policy
  • Regular communication of the policy
  • Antiharassment training
  • Investigation of complaints
  • Appropriate action taken with perpetrators when necessary
  • Periodic follow-up with the victims

If the above components are in place and the accusing employee does not avail him/herself of the proper procedures, then the employer will likely not be found liable. 


Any question as to why PREVENTION is absolutely imperative?

Now that you’re ready to listen, next week’s post will include the FIRST step toward prevention, and how you can avoid the nightmare of harassment!

Tune in next Thursday, same blog time, same blog channel for HR Thursday!

All of the facts and stats on todays post are taken from a 2010 article in Dental Economics by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of  Bent Ericksen & Associates

12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team

Bent Ericksen & Associates has been the recognized leader and “most trusted name in the profession” of human resources and employment law for over 25 years.  They have surveyed hundreds of team members, and the following list indicates the first 6 aspects of what team members say would contribute to their productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job:

  1. Ethically sound business principles and quality services
  2. A consistent management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm, consistently applied and clearly explained in writing
  3. A pleasant and harmonious work environment with minimum stress
  4. Adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies
  5. Competent, supportive and compatible team members
  6. Assistance in learning:

  • To become more skilled

  • To develop communication skills
  • To make decisions
  • To take initiative

If you’re an employer, are you surprised by what’s on this list so far?  How are you doing at providing for your team what’s on this list?  In what areas do you feel you lack?

If you’re an employee, how do you feel about this list?  Do you agree so far?  Would you change the order in any way?

Can you see how important it is for the manager/owner of the business to be on the same page with the rest of the team?

Tune in to my next post—same blog time, same blog channel—for the bottom 6 on the list!

7 Steps to Achieve Team Synergy

Teams offer great benefits.  Team members have a variety of knowledge and skills useful in accomplishing goals.  Working with teams means that you, as a leader, must focus less on what you can accomplish by yourself and more on how you can empower others to accomplish goals.  The team will be more successful when everyone is allowed to contribute as much as they can toward the common goals.  As a leader, your role is to empower your team to assume more responsibility, authority and autonomy.


Following are 7 steps to achieve team synergy

1. Select Team Members

When selecting team members, strive to select those who are competent and reliable.  Look for individuals who will be motivated, hard-working, and who will get along with others.

In recent blog posts, I have provided ways for you to determine some personality traits of potential team members.  See the following past posts:

Are YOU a NORTH?      Are YOU a SOUTH?      Are YOU an EAST?       Are YOU a WEST?

These personality profile tools are not meant to pigeon-hole anyone.  They are merely to help you create a balanced team, wherein you can utilize the strengths of each team member

2. Review Goals

Discuss with the team the general goals of the practice.  Then let the team set its own specific goals.  By doing so, team members will be more likely to feel a sense of ownership about the tasks to be done.  They will be more committed and enthusiastic about their work.

3. Establish Perimeters

Establishing perimeters is all about determining the boundaries, rules and procedures to be followed, and then allowing the team to agree upon these perimeters.  How will communication between team members take place?  How will problems be solved?  Who has authority to make certain decisions?

4. Develop a Plan

Work with the team to develop a realistic plan of action that will help them meet their goals.

5. Assign roles and responsibilities

Make sure all the responsibilities are addressed and defined.  Then you must identify which team members will be performing those roles and responsibilities.  Define how each of the roles relates to the other for better understanding of expectations.

6. Establish controls

How will the teams success be monitored?  Discuss the standards you expect the team to meet, and then agree on a method to monitor the performance of the standards.

7. Build team trust

Team members must be able to speak openly with one another and with the leader as equals.  Trust develops as team members share experiences on the job, and then demonstrate that they’re trustworthy.  Respect, loyalty and commitment to the team is essential.

Does your practice have a current office policy manual that defines the following?


If you don’t, I highly suggest that you get one.  Procedures and policies are imperative to a successful team.  Having procedures in writing will provide for consistent resolutions and cut down on misunderstandings.  Those are the very things that de-motivate team members.

If you need help with ANY of these steps, I’m at your service.  I KNOW you can be successful at developing successful teams!

Are there any steps I’ve left out?  Let me know what your experience has been building teams with synergy!

Are you a better communicator than a three-year old?

Last weeks post about the scene I witnessed with a little boy and his parents caused quite a stir among my readers.  (click here to read) I appreciate the comments that you all shared.  This week I’d like to review what I feel may be learned from this event. I hope you can relate to one or more of the characters in the story….

The three-year old boy:
Have you ever tried to speak up as part of a team, yet felt that you were not being heard?  Have you been in pain, whether physical or emotional, and your feelings were not validated?  Perhaps you’ve been “pushed around” by those in authority, and therefore you had to basically take it?

On the other hand, have you felt so angry at times that you wanted to “get back” at your boss or other authority figure and treat them as you had been treated?  Have you ever felt that you’d been punished unjustly for doing what you felt you’d been taught to do?

The father:
Have you ever been in a position of leadership and used force or control to get what you wanted?  Is it possible that you’ve ignored requests that were important to others simply because you were determined to have what you wanted?  Have you ever used another person as a pawn to “get back at” or please another person?  How good are you at controlling your anger when others seem to force your hand?

The grandfather:
Have you been guilty of not having or not showing empathy to others?  Is it possible that you have not been listening, or at the very least, not understanding the needs of others?  Do you enjoy feeling stronger, bigger, or having control over other people?

The mother:
Do you sometimes feel repressed or unable to share your wants or your feelings?  Does it seem easier to not make waves with others rather than tell them of your disapproval?  Do you feel empathy for others, but have to be careful siding with them because that may create a greater rift with the other side?  Do you feel that you can’t really say what you want to without causing problems?

Have you been able to identify some commonality in your communication or leadership style with one of these characters?

I recently posted on my blog the personality traits of North, South, East, and West.  I did this for the purpose of helping you to better understand the people you work, live and/or serve with.  By knowing why others do what they do, we can act and react properly.  It is important to understand your team members.  Once you do, the common barriers to communication go away, and your ability to lead increases.

I encourage you to consider your ability to communicate.  Can you see a need to improve?  Do you think that by working on improving your communication and leadership abilities you could have greater success, and get more of what you want?

So, are you a better communicator than a three-year old?

Blueprints for team building: Are you a WEST?


The last several Mondays I’ve shared with you some ways to strategically build a team by understanding the personalities of your current team members, as well as types of personalities to look for when hiring new team members.

You have learned about the NORTH’s, SOUTH’s, and EAST’s.  (If you’ve missed any of these blog posts, please check them out)  Last, but not least is the WEST type of personality.  WEST’s are the logical numbers people.  Every team needs at least one WEST!

West: The Analyst






Uses data to make decisions

Examines needs of others

Finds flaws

Values organization

Emotion is not part of the decision-making process for a WEST, so you have to learn how to logically explain something you’re passionate about to a WEST.

Following are the best ways to work with a West:

Allow plenty of time for decision-making

A WEST would prefer to have time to deliberate on important decisions. This is not to say that WEST’s can’t make snap decisions, however they prefer to look at the important issues from all sides.  Decisions are often calculated, thought out and supported by facts, as opposed to a “gut-feeling”.

Provide data—facts and figures that are credible

Facts and figures, aka “the data”, help a WEST to make a decision.  When trying to convince a WEST to try your suggestion, use facts and figures from a similar project to support your idea, or use data to show why the current plan isn’t working.  

Example, don’t say “we need to change our marketing because our clients aren’t feeling happy.”  Instead, try something like “our latest customer satisfaction survey shows a X% number of negative responses to our newest marketing campaign.  This is a significant increase from our last marketing campaign.” 

Don’t be put off by critical “no” statements

Don’t be discouraged if a WEST says “no”.  Often a WEST will be inclined to say “no” when insufficient facts have been presented to support a comprehensive decision.  If at first you don’t succeed in convincing a WEST to your point of view, go back and get additional supporting material or information (the data) and try again.

Minimize the expression of emotion—use logic

(Think of Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series.)  WEST’s are very often analytical in nature.   Your stereotypical WEST professions include: engineers, accountants, analysts, etc.  All of these professions place a higher value on “the facts” over “the feelings”.   This isn’t to say that WEST’s are devoid of emotion, however most WEST’s are ruled by their head, not their heart.

Appeal to tradition, history and correct procedures

If you want to change or revamp a process or procedure, be sure to show the WEST how tradition, history or correct processes need to be revised.  If you want to reinforce a viewpoint, show how it is supported by traditions & history.

(This WEST point of view was brought to you courtesy of my WEST friend, Eric.  Thanks Eric!)

How many of you WEST’s want to chime in here with any facts or logical conclusions to todays post?  Are there any WEST’s following this blog?  Or are leadership principles not “logical” enough for your liking?

Blueprints for team building: Are you an EAST?

Building a team for your business or organization is a process that is very much like building a house.  Team members are your human resources—tools, that when used properly will provide foundation and structure to your business blueprint.  Choosing the right team members is as important as using the right materials in a construction project.  

Just as the longevity of your cardboard home will be shorter than a home made with brick; no different will be the longevity of your business built without purpose and values to strengthen its foundation with the right team members.

Using your blueprint, the foundation of your fishbowl is to determine the accountability of those you’re considering for your team.  “Directional Communication” is a method I learned through training in TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL.  It helps us to not only define our own leadership and communication styles; it also helps us gather diverse and varied personalities for our team, so that balance and a variety of skills can be attained.

In the last two weeks I have focused on the NORTH and SOUTH personalities.  Today you will learn about those that are EAST’s.  Perhaps you are an EAST

EAST’s are known as Visionaries because they think big and dream big:

East: The Visionary

  • Innovative
  • Adventurous
  • Unconventional
  • Risk-taker
  • Focuses on future
  • “Big-picture” view
  • Insightful (purpose)
  • Explores options and possibility

When working with an EAST, you must be patient.   With their big ideas, comes the inability to clearly define those ideas in a way that others can understand and buy into.

If you are an EAST, this should sound familiar to you.  If you work with an EAST, then please take note of how you can find ways to have a successful outcome when working with a visionary.  

Show appreciation and enthusiasm for ideas

When an EAST comes to you with an idea, it is something they’ve not just thought of in the spur of the moment.  On the contrary, it’s something they’ve been pondering for awhile.  Even if you don’t fully understand it (and because it’s from an EAST, you probably won’t) you must at least thank them sincerely for taking the time to think through the problem to find a solution. 

Listen and be patient during idea generation

An EAST may go off on tangents when explaining an idea.  They may not be able to clearly articulate their message because they don’t focus on the integration of the plan—they are just excited about the idea.

I have a dear friend who is an EAST, and the method I’ve used to talk with him in my NORTH style is to say, “…give me in 1-2 sentences what is most important about what you have to tell me, then I will ask questions if I need more information”.  I know it’s VERY difficult for my EAST friend to sum up his idea that way.  He’s ready to solve the world hunger crisis by traveling around the globe to dig wells and plant crops that will feed thousands in the next 2 years, and I just want him to tell me how much I can donate right now.

Avoid criticizing or judging ideas

An EAST may get upset if they feel you’re discounting what they’re proposing, or if you interrupt their explanation.  You may have to clarify what they’ve said so that you gain a better understanding of their idea.  It will be helpful to ask, “do you mean….?” as you try to clarify their explanation.  If at all possible, you should try to incorporate at least some of their ideas into the solution of the problem you’re facing.

Allow and support divergent thinking

An EAST may be standing on the top of a mountain, and be thinking about what they will do when they reach the third peak over.  A non-EAST personality will be thinking about how they’re going to get down the next 50 feet of the steep terrain.  You can see that these very different perspectives can cause some tension when planning and implementing events and solutions.  It may be most successful to compliment the EAST on their ability to see long term, and then ask for permission to suggest some steps that will allow for an efficient and safe arrival to the destination.

Provide a variety of tasks

An EAST who has only one job to do will not be happy.  Asking an EAST to focus on one activity will cause contention, and asking an EAST to return and report will make them uneasy.  It’s important to provide them with clear expectations on your desire for reporting procedures and foundations of communication while allowing them to have freedom to create.  If an EAST is responsible to delegate tasks to others, assist them in building a team of those best qualified with varied skills for the tasks at hand.

Provide help and supervision to support detail

An EAST will probably not ask for help, and may begin to feel inadequate if you show any signs of wanting to “take their job” from them.  If you see an EAST floundering at a task, offer to help them facilitate the end result—that’s what they’ll be most interested in.  Since the EAST will generally not be detail-oriented, your support of the details will ensure success.

Provide help for project follow-through

An EAST is so busy and consumed with the “big picture” that they have a hard time seeing the steps that need to be taken to get to their destination.  It’s like being far-sighted—it’s very hard to read the small print.  Help your friends of the EAST to correct their vision by creating an action plan for them to follow with very specific steps to completion.

Thank goodness for the creative communication of the EAST’s!  Nothing would have ever been invented without EAST‘s, nor would we have the beautiful architectural structures or works of art that we have today.  However, can you imagine Leonardo Da Vinci on your team as an administrative assistant?  NOT!

Please give a shout out if you are an EAST!  (And try really hard to simplify your comments)