Engaging Employees in Responsibility

This special post is an excerpt from Ken Blanchard’s classic book, The Heart of a Leader, and is reprinted with permission. His message to managers is also key to engaging employees in their work.

“If you want your people to be responsible, be responsive to their needs.”

“The traditional hierarchy is okay for goal setting. People look to the head of their department and to the top of the organization for direction. But once goals are clear, the pyramid should in essence be turned upside down. This way the customers are at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the customer contact people, while the president and chairman of the board are at the bottom.

“When this philosophy is implemented, your role as a leader changes from being ‘responsible’ to ‘responsive.’ Your job becomes to work with your people rather than having them work for you. Being responsive to your people’s needs sets them free to be responsible (able to respond) to getting the job done.

“Make your people responsible for doing high-quality work by responding to their needs and supporting them. That places the responsibility at the appropriate level–with the people who do the work.”

© 1999 Ken Blanchard. The Heart of a Leader is published by David C. Cook. All rights reserved.


Engagement Musings

Ready to Engage in the New Year?

Note: the following is a timely excerpt from A Little Book of Big Thoughts: Lip-Sticking, The Book, written (and shared with permission) by Yvonne DiVita,  Lip-Sticking founder and BlogPaws co-founder.

Happy Day to the World

Today, the sun is out. All’s right with our world.

Yes, life has become harder … We all wonder what the New Year will bring, and some of us are dreading it.

Some of us, however, are celebrating friendship, camaraderie, good health, love of family and pets, and expectations for better times. I am one of them.

There is a world of opportunity for all coming – an exciting year waiting for you to create the bells and whistles that will lift up those around you …

… and by doing so, lift yourself up, onto the path of success. I’ll meet you there.

Customer service Engagement Training & Development

Best Business Gift Ideas for Managers, Mentors, Colleagues, and Clients

“People who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is … kind of like a secret weapon.” Ben Eubanks

presentsWe all know people who love learning new ideas to make the workplace better for their customers and employees. My gift-of-choice for someone like this is a book that can be packaged with the gift recipient’s favorite coffee/tea and special mug, coffee shop gift card, humorous or inspirational bookmark, box of chocolates, etc.

Here is a current list of my favorite business gift books:

Whether you choose a book from this list or find another one that best suits your business needs, you’re sharing the gift of knowledge, information, insight, and ideas.

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

Engagement Training & Development

Top Three Employee Engagement Challenges and How to Overcome Them

This weeks marks the 7th anniversary of the release of Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care. I’ve been honored to speak with thousands of business and nonprofit professionals in the U.S. and abroad since my book’s publication, including company leaders who use the books in management development training. Continued interest in applying internal marketing to engage employees is more than a matter of economic recovery; it’s an international business strategy.

Managers and business leaders interested in employee engagement often ask me: “In your experience, what are the key challenges to creating and maintaining an engaged workplace?” Here are my top three:

  1. Engaging employees and customers with internal marketing is intuitive, but still not intentional enough. Overwhelmed with daily work pressures, managers admit they sometimes lose sight of the basics, including continually communicating where employees fit within the organization’s scope and what’s expected of them.
  2. Organizational silos continue to impede employee collaboration and cohesiveness.
  3. A lack of strategic focus brought on by too many initiatives and directives, political in-fighting, and ineffective communications contribute to a culture of frustration and disengaged employees.

These challenges are not insurmountable. Managers are surprised to learn that internal marketing is not an all-across-the-board-or-nothing application. You CAN make a difference using internal marketing within your department or business unit, even if you don’t have the authority to improve employee engagement throughout your organization. And it’s easier than you think!

If you’re ready to take care of the people who matter most to your company’s or nonprofit’s success, it’s time to put internal marketing’s strategy and tools to work for you.You can find a lot of great ideas here in this blog for free. If you prefer a comprehensive, practical guide with worksheets and Action Plan Starter Notes that enable you to develop a customized internal marketing plan, you can get a copy of my book on Amazon for $21.95 or less. (Note: If your company is interested in ordering 20 or more books for managers, my current publisher can offer a special discount. Just let me know.)

Employees want and need to feel their work matters. Together with customers, they want to know that they are respected and valued. How well does your organization do this?


Why I Write: A Brief History

I’m happy to be part of a writing-theme blog hop since the request came from my friend, Yvonne DiVita of Lipsticking blog-fame. I learned I’d be in great company with my friends, Robbi Hess, All Words Matter, and Toby Bloomberg, Diva Marketing (Toby is also my “blog mama,” who convinced me to start blogging in 2005.)

Here’s why I write:

  1. I was born a word person as I inherited a dominant gene for reading and writing from my mother. I prefer puzzles and games that involve words (Scrabble, Boggle, Word Jumbles) rather than numbers. When my husband makes fun of my being math-challenged, I remind him I’m a “qualitative” rather than a “quantitative” person. Bottom line: we would all be in trouble if an alien invader told me I could save our planet by completing a Sudoku puzzle!
  2. My earliest experience as a writer occurred at the impressionable age of eight when one of my poems was published in a college literary magazine. More recently, I’m proud to say I’m the published author of two business books.
  3. I write now because I have an important message to share with corporate and nonprofit managers: “The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel, and if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” My Quality Service Marketing blog enables me to carry this message beyond my books, workshops and presentations.

Like most writers, I’m excited to see my words in print. I recently discovered why after reading Ann Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird, in which she describes how she felt after winning a scholastic writing competition:

“I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore you exist.”

Next up

Reading the wonderful posts in this blog hop has been fascinating. Although I took a different tack in explaining “Why I Write,” I’m both humbled and encouraged to learn that other writers share many of the same frustrations and joys in writing that I experience. Our content may be different, but the process (and sometimes the pain) is similar.

To continue learning more from other writers, I tagged Dennis Fischman, author of the Communicate! blog. Dennis is a “community builder” who helps nonprofits tell their stories. We share a family name (although we’re not related) and a love of working with nonprofits. Given Dennis’s passion for communications, storytelling, and social media, I look forward to his thoughts on writing.


When Your Plate is Full

Engaging the meatball
by David Zinger

Another meatball tossed
on our overflowing
spaghetti-like plate of work.

Before forking into our crowded strands of work
yet another meatball is tossed on the pile
colliding with the meatball already there
precipitating an avalanche of meatballs
hurdling downwards in all directions at once.

If work is to nourish us we must say no
even when we are told, “it is just one more meatball.”

[Source: Assorted Zingers, a book of poems on workplace engagement by David Zinger, with great cartoons by John Junson]

Engagement Marketing Musings Training & Development

I Love Libraries!

Happy National Library Week! April 13-19, 2014, is a time to honor libraries and librarians for all they do to encourage reading and learning for enlightenment and enjoyment. I extend my deep gratitude to all the librarians who have helped and inspire me over the years.

I have many fond memories of visiting my local library as a child. My mother made our visits there a special treat to sort through and select just the right books to read over and over and over again at home for a few weeks. And then it was back to the library before the books’ due date to get more books.

As a grown-up, I enjoy a variety of libraries – public, school, corporate, and private. My husband and I have created an extensive home library with books on art, management, business, food, investing, historical biographies, local history, religion, classic literature, and fiction. We’ve even kept a few of our favorite college textbooks.

QSM office library 2014I also have my own business library with books that reflect my professional interests in:

  • Marketing and branding, especially services marketing
  • Employee engagement and HR/talent management
  • Nonprofit marketing, management, and leadership
  • Facilitation and training.

Among my most favorite office books are the invaluable reference, J. I. Rodale’s The Synonym Finderand the ever enjoyable, thought-provoking Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie.

What’s in your home/office library? And what are your favorite books?



Marketing Musings

Marketing Advice for First-Time Business Book Authors

Here’s the smartest advice I received when working on my first book, although I didn’t believe it at first: no matter how good your writing is, make sure you hire a professional editor. Some of the advice came from folks who are free-lance editors, and I thought they just wanted the business. While I’m a good writer, I fully intended to have several extra pairs of eyes objectively proof my work because you can never have too many proof readers … but a copy editor?

Surprise! Turns out I needed professional editing as much as I needed the proof reading. I counted a total of seven (!) edited, revised manuscripts in my files. Here are three major types of revisions I encountered in the process of working with my editor.

  • Revisions that clarified content. While you may be overly familiar with your book’s subject matter (after all, you’re the “expert”), the same may not be true of your audience. The semantics and examples you use may not be clear to those who read your book. That’s why it helps to have an editor review your work – s/he offers an objective perspective on behalf of the reader.
  • Revisions that made the content flow better. I was used to speaking and writing about my book’s content in a certain way and developed a pattern on how I introduced the subject matter and supporting evidence. So I was floored when my editor suggested changing the placement of such content. As a result, the rationale for my book’s premise wasn’t all contained in the book’s preface and introduction as I had written it but spaced – more appropriately – throughout the book.  Another lesson here: be aware of the difference between the spoken and written word. You may not be able to simply transfer a verbal presentation into a written piece without some adjustment.
  • Revisions that painted a stronger picture. My editor prodded me to include more stories based on my experience to better illustrate the book’s core messages and engage readers. She also suggested more dynamic, descriptive language. For example:
    • [Original text] “What is truly frightening is that angry customers can turn into crusaders on a mission who use every opportunity to express their dissatisfaction and displeasure to others.”
    • [Edited text] “What is truly frightening is that angry customers can turn into crusaders on a mission – vocal, human megaphones who use every opportunity to express their dissatisfaction and displeasure to others.”

Collaborating with my editor was a positive and sometimes painful process. Like most writers, I’m protective of my words. My written work is a creative, unique expression of who I am, and I guard it closely – especially from potential criticism. A good editor, however, is professionally objective in helping an author polish the written word to improve a book’s readability and ultimate message.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone interested in getting published. The reality is your book is not only your product, but a reflection of your professional and personal brand. Do whatever it takes to ensure a quality product and favorable brand impression.



Favorite Employee Engagement and Leadership Quotes

In my first book on employee engagement, I described the positive impact of “leaders who genuinely care about their customers and the people (employees) who serve them … leaders whose core values recognize that both groups matter and who integrate these values in their culture and operations.”

The practice and study of employee engagement has grown immensely since then with many respected consultants and authors contributing to the field. Here are several of my favorite quotes that capture the essence of leadership and engagement.

“Engagement, at its heart, is a 21st century form of leadership aimed specifically at connecting people to organizational results, an issue of growing importance in the era of social-networking.” – Bruce Bolger

“Leadership rests on a new foundation and the skills this requires are changing: managing complex situations, communication and coaching, ability to elicit employee commitment and collaboration, and an ability to forge partnerships and foster the development of talent.” Jean-Baptiste Audrerie

” … great leadership at the top doesn’t amount to much if you don’t have exceptional leadership at the unit level. That’s where great things get done.” Jim Collins

” … if you want to create a workplace that changes people’s lives and the way business is done, that leads to products and services that are mind-numbingly innovative and powerful, culture can’t be a device. For it to be lived, you’re going to have to open your heart to the people around you and engage both their intelligence and their confusion with equal confidence.” Susan Piver

“Creating a meaningful workplace is about establishing a high-order connection with employees and benefiting from the compounding effect that comes from a constant stream of meaningful experiences tied directly to the needs, beliefs, interests, and aspirations of employees.” Jerry Holtaway

Additional employee engagement and leadership quotes
Please help me expand this post by sharing your favorite quote(s) on this topic. I welcome your input!


Engagement Training & Development

My Favorite Facilitation Tools

As promised in my last post: in honor of the International Facilitation Week being observed this week, here are some of the facilitator tools I use most often.

For asking the right questions:

  • One of my favorite resources is Questions that Work: A Resource for Facililtators by Dorothy Strachan. This book is not only loaded with important questions, it offers guidance on how and when to ask them.
  • I also created a special file that contains magazine articles and blog posts with interesting and provocative questions. I’m always on the lookout for new content to add to this file. (Note: I keep a similar file for group breakout exercises and planning-related activities.)

For understanding and applying Solutions-Focus:

Additional Key Resources:

To add to this list, please share any facilitator tools or resources you find most helpful.