Team Leadership’s 10 Best Practices

Date May 23, 2013

Throughout my career, my team leadership skills have evolved. Leading a team is something that I love to do. I’m passionate about people, interacting with each team member in the right way to get the desired results from them. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I thought it was time to share of my experience the ten best practices for leading a team.

  1. Find something to praise each team member for every day.
    Be positive and encouraging. A negative environment can be incredibly draining on a team members energy or desire to perform. While you may not have thought about it, a lack of praise can often be felt as a negative work atmosphere. Take the time each day to find something that they’ve done well and calling it out will go a long way towards their desire to continue to perform well for you. Everyone likes their work to be acknowledged and to feel as though they matter. In fact, research shows that employees who are recognized for their work actually perform better!
  2. Say “thank you” often.
    Sure they might be your employee and are supposed to do what you tell them to do, but it’s still good manners to say “thank you”. It’s a quick and simple way to acknowledge them for the work that they’ve done.
  3. Ask more questions and make fewer assumptions.
    We all know what the word assume means. Let’s not go there. Instead, don’t assume that your team member is going to do something or thinks one way. Always ask questions as a way to get your own confirmation. That way everyone is on the same page and you reduce the chances for confusion.
  4. If help is needed, see how you can offer assistance.
    In point number three you were going to start asking more questions. If you were able to surmise that your team member needs help, find a way to help them meet their goal. You may be able to take some responsibilities off their plate and give them to someone else (yourself included). A few more questions might even prove helpful. Perhaps they need an additional tool to accomplish their work or maybe you just need to add to the team if operations are expanding. That leads us right into our next topic.
  5. Ask yourself if your expectations are appropriate.
    Why do you have the expectations that you do? Maybe it’s because they’ve performed a similar task efficiently in the past. The other reason could be that you know you could do it better and/or faster. Keep in mind that your team member is not you. Their capabilities are their own. While I’d love to have another little Kim running around to help me get things done the way that I’d do them, that’s just  not going to happen. Everyone is different, works at different speeds and has different ways to complete a task. Be realistic for your team member and don’t get them confused with what you could do in their position. If you could do it all, you wouldn’t need a team.
  6. When negatives need to be addressed, follow-up and record progress.
    It’s inevitable that something bad is going to happen. Your team member might be screwing something up on a consistent basis and occasionally pointing them in the right direction just hasn’t resolved it. First of all, when you see that something is becoming a pattern, address it early. Don’t wait until you’re so frustrated that by the time you do have a sit-down with this team member or employee you’re ready to explode. They may feel attacked or worthless. The key is to address, evaluate and re-position.  Be specific what the problem is. Lay out your expectations. Discuss your expectations together and see if those need to be fine-tuned. Find out what’s holding them back and see if you can help. Use all the other pointers above. Be clear that you will be following up on the situation in the future and for them to let you know if they need assistance to achieve their goals.
  7. Tomorrow is another day. Take the night and reset.
    While you don’t want to go about every single day as if nothing were wrong when something just might be, it’s still a good idea to approach each day as a brand new start. Tomorrow is another day, a chance to start fresh and approach each obstacle with new eyes and proper rest.
  8. Don’t hold a grudge that isn’t necessary or helpful.
    Yes, there are grudges that you can hold that are important for your own protection and are helpful to your safety. Usually that’s not the case as a leader at work. Carrying a grumpy attitude or a feeling about someone from one day to the next can really drag down your team’s ability to perform. If someone is truly not beneficial to the team, then perhaps after performing step 6 above it might be time to cut ties. Also something to note is that a grudge is different from knowing your teams strengths. One person might be great a presentations while the other teammate is strong in the technical side of things. Don’t hold it over the techy’s head that they can’t present. Instead use your team members for their appropriate strengths and they’ll be sure to thrive.
  9. Be consistent.
    Praise often, be kind, address things  in a timely manner, set appropriate expectations. Consistency is the key to proper expectations not only for your employees but from you as well. Your employees should know that they can count on you for motivation when its needed but also that they will be held accountable. If you’re not consistent then they’re left constantly guessing as to who they’re going to be interacting with on a daily basis. Make it easy by creating your own list of how you want to run your office and make an effort to adhere to it daily.
  10. Be a coach.
    You definitely don’t want to be the kind of leader that’s just like the baseball parent sitting outside the fence screaming instructions – the wannabe coach. Instead stand up and tell your team what you want from them, show them how to do it, offer suggestions when some fine tuning is needed and acknowledge when they’ve met their goal. We all want to hear cheering when someone on your team hits a home-run. And that’s just what a good coach does.

If my best practices didn’t spell it out for you well enough, here’s some great industry statistics about employee appreciation in the form of an infographic!

A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way

An Industry a Step Behind is Empowered by Internet Marketing

Date December 7, 2012

Over the course of the past few years I’ve traveled all over the country at the request of organizations throughout my industry. I’ve presented on offline marketing, online marketing, social media and the like. Never, had I felt more successful than the engagement I returned from late Wednesday night in Ohio.

At this full-day conference, I was slated to present on Internet Marketing Tools for the Modern Laundry, which could be applied to any business, but I tailored this one to my laundromat audience. My presentation wasn’t going to happen until the last 2 hours of the day, scheduled that way specifically to keep people at the show throughout the day. I have to tell you, it worked perfectly.

Throughout the course of the conference, I was able to sit down with one small business every 30 minutes. After a few moments of explaining the importance of having an online presence for a local business, each and every business owner that I talked to jumped on board with the idea. Each of them signed with my company, and more than 50% of them signed at the highest rate which gave them the highest level of service we offer. Every single one of those owners purchased and gave me all the information I needed to create a website for their individual locations, which they’ll all have by Monday.

My experience at this conference afforded me a lot of great insight into this particular industry. The folks that don’t understand the internet or just aren’t there yet want, and maybe even need, that higher level of service. They want someone to step in, explain why it’s important and then just do it for them. These guys are busy running the day-to-day operations of their business, and in this industry aren’t used to having to market. So there’s a need here, and I’m happy to lead the solution to fill those needs.

To break it all down, I signed everyone I spoke to. I exceeded even my own expectations in terms of the level at which people would sign with my company. I learned by sitting down with the individual organizations that each of the individual needs do translate to the majority. All-in-all this conference was a huge success.

O Canada, Your Home and Market-land

Date October 14, 2012

I just got back from my first opportunity to travel internationally for business. My mission, which I chose and accepted, was to go to the Ontario Laundry Show in Toronto, ON, Canada on October 11, 2012 and learn about the Canadian market. The business of the company that I work for is to help a specific target of individuals learn to not only survive in their industry but also to thrive. We currently only operate within the United States, so I went to a distributor show in Canada to learn how their market was different than ours. I want to be able to see if we can offer assistance beyond our current market or if a modification would be in order.

In this market I learned that at least 50% of the laundry owners are Korean. This particular group is very resistant to spending money of any amount. They did thoroughly love the fact that I was offering them a free magazine subscription though. Their rent and utilities are significantly higher than here in the United States. Being a laundromat owner in Canada is usually treated as a side-job than a full time source of income.

Other than those few differences, a Canadian laundry owner’s business needs are actually quite similar to that of the US market. Many that I spoke with expressed the desire to learn how to market more, increase their profits, reduce their rent and utility bills, and service their machines.

While it’s great to know the differences between the markets, it was refreshing to know that our markets are so similar. As this is a target that’s not used to having anyone other than their distributor to go to for assistance, they really enjoyed having me there as a resource. I was encouraged to have a bigger presence and offer more assistance to this market. I hope that within the next year I can go back to Toronto and report good news along those lines.

Results are Only as Good as the Effort

Date September 28, 2012

The majority of my opportunities to present have all be within the B2B market of laundry owners. I was more recently asked to speak at a two-day distributor show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This is a show where this particular distributor of the laundry equipment in that market invited their targets to a location where they provided them with education, some food, discounts on new products as well as parts for their existing store equipment.

As a first in my tenure at this company, I was invited to present at one of these types of shows and alongside manufacturers such as Speed Queen, Milnor and Hamilton Engineering and more. My presentation classroom was packed not only with the expected store-owners but also with many of the sales staff from some these manufacturers and a few distributor staffers.

I was able to effectively teach the audience about specific marketing techniques that were proven to work within our market. In the final day of the show, many of us sat down together and created a mastermind group to discuss marketing techniques that distributors could utilize to more effectively attract customers to their business as well as their show. I offered the standard advices to start with such as consistency, professionalism, and a handful of mediums that I felt would benefit the distributor. I was pleased to hear many of the other contributed ideas from other non-marketing professionals in the industry were that of excitement, pizzazz, the encouragement of the use of new and social media.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but many of the owners (whether they’re owners of the laundromats or the distributorships) either never believed in marketing or maybe just didn’t understand how it would benefit them. After a few examples and statistics that demonstrate how prevalent the use of mobile technologies are within the targeted demographics, there seemed to me a willingness to adopt some of these talked about strategies. Only time will tell how this works. Remember, the results will only be as good as the effort that you put in. Target the right individuals in the right areas and you’ll see success!

Digital Technologies for Presentations

Date June 16, 2012

This week I had the pleasure of presenting marketing and business education topics to multiple groups of people in the northeast. Typically when I present to an audience in a location other than in the Chicagoland area, I travel and present to them in-person. This situation was a bit different. The event coordinators wanted to work with more advanced technologies and asked if I had any ideas on how to present from “home base” and broadcast it to their live audiences.

Naturally my experiences with audio and video production as well as webinar production came to mind. I arranged for the presentations to be broadcast via GoToWebinar. The audiences were invited to physical locations in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine. Through my coordination and direction, the site coordinators each made sure they had internet connections that met broadcast specifications and setup a laptop, projector, screen, speakers and a handheld microphone.

The presentations each went off without a hitch. In my opinion the only thing that was missing was the face-to-face interaction. In future opportunities such as these, I will be setting up a webcam on each end so that my audience can see me, but so that I can also see them.

All-in-all more than 100 attendees throughout the three locations were able to learn about marketing, design and websites and how their relationship with my employer would make their business lives easier. Everyone was quite pleased and the survey responses were all positive.