So you thought you were hiring someone with the grit and confidence to tackle it all head on, but now the hire that seemed so promising is caving under the stress. Here are three questions to ask yourself so you know what changes you need to make to prevent a repeat:
#1 Do you know the personality types of each person you hire?
You may not give much weight to personality assessments and tests, but they’re oftentimes spot on and can provide some value to you as the leader in your business. The DiSC behavior assessment tool is a very popular option and it essentially breaks people down into four personality types using a number system. With the DiSC assessment, you’re left with a snapshot that shows where your employees score high and where they score low, which can help you identify what they like and don’t like in regards to, not just the tasks they’re performing, but the environment in which they’re performing those tasks and the way they’re being told to carry those tasks out.
The four personality styles that make up the DiSC assessment are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Why would knowing which traits are highest in your employees help you prevent overwhelm and burnout? Because when you know which personality types you’re leading, you’ll know how to adapt your management and communication style to better fit each employee. You’ll be able to craft your interactions to each individual in a way that speaks to and supports their needs and preferences.
For example, an employee with a high C score likes to have all of the details before getting started and has a fear of being wrong. Knowing this, you could ask that employee if they have all the details they need or if there’s anything else they need from you before they can confidently move forward with the job or project they’re working on. Someone with a high D, on the other hand, may become bored by all the details and just want to jump right in. How you present a job to each would and should differ so you can be a more effective leader of each individual.
#2 What expectations have you created?
No one wants to screw up, but for some personality types (like high C’s, for example), the fear of failure can be paralyzing and prevent them from taking any steps or actions. On top of considering the innate traits and levels of pressure that are self-induced by each personality type, you need to consider the type and level of pressure that you’re consciously and subconsciously placing on your employees. Ask yourself what your attitude towards failure is and what you’ve expressed to your team regarding failure. Have you presented failure as something that’s undesirable at all costs and apocalyptic in nature or as something you can learn from? Failure often leads to innovation and improvement and teaches us more than our successes, but no one wants to be the one to fail or take risks that could lead to failure if management portrays failure as something to be avoided if you want to keep your job. Yes, put systems in place to prevent mishaps, but don’t make mistakes the unforgivable sin in your business. How you approach failure will largely determine how your employees do, and without that big lurking F hanging over their heads, they’ll be freed up to focus on the task at hand.
#3 Do you encourage open communication?
When an employee is overwhelmed, you have to consider whether or not it could have been avoided if you had a culture in place that encouraged open and honest communication and mutual support. If your employees can come to you when they first start to feel overwhelmed, the escalation that leads to breakdown and burnout can likely be avoided and you can get your employees the support they need to do the job with confidence.
Is transparency a word or a practice in your business? Do you encourage teamwork and support? Can your employees come to you or another person in management when they’re feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or in need of more support? Even if it’s not you, make sure your employees have someone they can go to to talk it out and get the support they need.
Better Leadership Is Within Your Control
Look, HR stuff can be frustrating and time-consuming, but knowing your employees and creating a culture that encourages transparency can help you better lead your team, provide a better work environment, get more value and productivity from every employee you manage, and prevent burnout, overwhelm, and other common workplace problems. Take the time to understand your employees and adapt your leadership style and culture, and you’ll find it saves you a lot of time and a lot of frustration in the end, which is what we all want, isn’t it?
It may be a given that, before performing technical skills, your employees need to be adequately trained and experienced so they can do the job right. But education and skills training isn’t only important from a technical point of view — you should also be investing in the growth and development of your employees in other areas — like leadership. Why?
Well, if you’ve hired anyone in the last 10 years, there’s a good chance you have Millennials on your team. And while everyone seems to think that Millennials are unique, surprise, surprise, studies are showing that Millennials want the same things you wanted when you entered the workforce: opportunity, growth, and purpose.
The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that “when salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, work/life balance and opportunities to progress or take on leadership roles stand out” as most important for Millennials. Think this only relates to the male sex? Think again: When it comes to determining where to work and whether or not to stay with their employer, “Women are as equally likely as men to rate opportunities for career progression and leadership roles as a major factor; the genders are also aligned on the value of professional development support…”
So if leadership opportunities and development are so important to the newest generation of workers, why aren’t today’s leaders responding?
The majority of Millennials surveyed in the aforementioned survey feel that their “leadership skills are not being fully developed,” and of the Millennial workers looking to move on to a new job in the next two years, 71 percent stated that they are “unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed.” So what’s up? Are we just not listening? Or are we assuming that this generation is unlike us and uninterested in leadership development and leadership roles? Either way, we’re really missing the boat.
Here’s the reality: If you want to truly stand out and excel as a leader today, you have to listen and you have to look for opportunities to delegate and invest in the growth of your employees. Give them opportunities to lead; invest in leadership training and development; find out where they’re interested in expanding their skills and knowledge; and ask them what aspects of your business interest them or where they’d like to improve personally and professionally.
Support them in those efforts. Invest in them. You don’t have to break the bank, but investing what money you can into classes, courses, or other training opportunities is an excellent way to show your employees that you’re invested in them and what they want to be. Choose a couple of employees to go with you to the next big trade convention. Some companies even gift employees with a reading and development stipend every month so they can continuously grow and learn.
Tight on funds? Start a work library and fill it with a few books here and there as you can afford it. Don’t just invest in books directly related to your work — ask employees for their reading wish list and get a few of those. Create an environment that encourages employees to read, learn, and better themselves and that lets them know they’re supported in their efforts. And what you’ll find is that your team performs better and is able to take on more tasks that you would otherwise have on your plate. A better, well-rounded, more fulfilled, more productive team and more time for you? It’s a win-win.
Are You Investing In & Supporting Your Team?
So before you think disloyal employees and problem employees are simply a generational thing, ask yourself whether or not you’ve investing in the development and growth of your team. A bored and unchallenged employee is sure to be underperforming, problematic, and disloyal — no matter what age he or she is. But an employee who feels invested in will have no problem investing in you, because they’ll know they’ve found a place where they’re free to grow, expand, and shift.
One of the things you will hear from most leaders is, if you want to lead and win, you must read, or listen to, books. When you see their reading lists, they’re chock full of book titles, but we wanted to focus on just a few of the books we’d highly recommend. With this in mind, here is our list, with a short explanation of why we recommend each book.
The one book that we’ve both read multiple times is Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth. It’s best to read this when you first start out, because most of us are moving from a technician type of job (actually doing all the work) and into a leadership role (where we lead others to do the work). While both of these positions are important, they are very different, and there are many steps that need to be mastered in the transition. Reading The E-Myth every few years gives you different perspectives along the spectrum as you go and grow from technician to leader, so be sure to revisit it.
Another book I recommend you read every two to four years is Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. This is just a very practical and telling guide on winning people over and influencing their lives and decisions for the better. It’s a must-read for anyone in a sales or customer-facing position.
My third recommendation is a combo: Failing Forward and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell are both good reads to return to over time. Failing Forward is a good reminder that failure is a part of the process that moves you forward to success. It’s a book that reminds you to make sure you’re learning from your failures and not just failing. I don’t think any of us will ever reach perfection when it comes to The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, however, we can continuously get better and better. This book is a great one to revisit to gauge your progress and see how you are doing, where you currently are, and how far you’ve come as a leader. It’s also a great tool for identifying the laws and determining which ones you already do well with and which ones you need to work on. Since becoming a better leader is an ongoing process, the book is an ongoing read you should return to again and again.
Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman provides a brilliant and revealing look at the two systems at work in our brains that take in information and process it to make judgements and decisions. It’s not a traditional business book, but it highlights the number one job of any entrepreneur or leader, and sheds light on why we think what we think and do what we do. Part psychology and neurology, part university course on logic and statistics, what emerges is a holistic look at the way the grey matter in our brains has evolved to ensure our survival, but at the same time severely handicaps us in an ever-increasingly fast-paced world — a world where life and death decisions get made based on larger and larger sets of complex, interrelated data. Does the lowly human brain, the same basic technology we’ve used for millennia, stand a chance at navigating this new world successfully?
You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney is a humbling read, and has turned into a sort of “gut check” reference book for me. Like most people, I like to think of myself as intelligent, able to think rationally and believe things based on a diligent survey of all the facts. Turns out, none of us are nearly as good at that kind of thinking as we’d like to think, and the fact that we think we are anyway, well, that’s kind of the whole point of this book. It’s a well-organized encyclopedia of logical fallacies and neuro-benders that will probably make you want to call up someone you know and apologize to them for acting so sure of yourself so often. As with Kahneman’s book, it’s not straight-ahead business, but I guarantee it will help you get where you’re going by giving you a useful toolkit for challenging what you think and believe in any given circumstance.
The Dip, by Seth Godin is something I pull out now and then, when I’m needing to walk to the edge of the cliff and peer over the side. It’s all about knowing when to quit and when to keep going in business. I think Seth wrote it to help people feel okay with a decision to walk away from something in order to do something else. Sometimes we have a false sense of loyalty to our big ideas, when we should really be willing to move away from unprofitable ones much more quickly than we do. But just as important is to recognize “the dip,” or period of uncertainty that often comes right before the breakthrough moment arrives.
Well, that’s it for this list. What are some of your book recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below!
You probably know we’re big on both personal and professional growth — but is there a connection? Can you develop and grow personally while remaining stagnant professionally, and vice versa? Or will growing in one area inevitably lead to growth in the other? Our two cents:
Wherever you focus your time, effort, and energy is where you’ll experience growth. But in our experience, when you care enough to put in the time and work to develop yourself— whether personally or professionally — it’s likely to bleed over into other areas of your life. Why do we say that?
When we start reflecting on ourselves, we’re inclined to take a comprehensive approach to growth to some degree, even if our initial intention to grow was personal OR professional. Inevitably, the two affect and influence each other, for better or for worse. Think about it: if you’re missing sleep or having troubles at home, your productivity and focus at work is likely to suffer. When you hate your job and you spend your day answering stupid questions or dealing with incompetency, you’re more likely go home unhappy and extend less patience and grace to your family than you would otherwise.
The truth is, we don’t have a “work self” and a “home self.” Most of us can’t completely separate our personal and professional lives, as much as we’d like to. So when we work on improving one, we’ll likely see some of that good and some of that effort showing up in the other.
In a way, this should be comforting. Many of the character traits and skills that are beneficial in the professional workplace are also beneficial in the personal realm, and vice versa. Working on developing one area and reaping the benefits in both worlds is a bonus.
Let’s look at some traits and skills you might work on and how they might be beneficial, both personally and professionally:
We all want to be better leaders. Working on leadership skills can make you more effective when leading your team at work, but it can also benefit you personally. At the very least, when you’re in a group of Indecisives and no one can decide where to go for dinner, you’ll be ready to take the lead, without looking like a bossy control-freak.
If you asked a room full of people whose listening skills could be improved upon, everyone (if they’re listening) would raise their hand. Being a better listener helps improve communication and reduces miscommunication, misunderstanding, friction, and time waste. Sounds like a useful tool at work, at home, and just about everywhere else, doesn’t it?
Would you consider yourself an effective communicator? Better question, would others consider you an effective communicator? Communication is something that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we could all be better at. By working on achieving clarity and purpose with every written and verbal engagement, listening to others and anticipating their needs and questions, and reiterating to ensure understanding, we can avoid a whole host of problems, both professionally and personally.
Life doesn’t always go the way we planned. Obstacles arise and problems pop up, but if we want to maintain our sanity, we have to learn to be patient through those times and maintain some sense of calm. Why do you think “Keep Calm & Carry On” went viral? Because we could all use a daily reminder and we all stand to improve in this area. Whether we’re waiting on a coworker to get us the information we need, standing in line at the DMV, or answering the 65th question in a row from our toddler, patience is something we could all use more of.
Good leaders, good parents, and good friends are able to creatively solve problems and find ways around or through obstacles. Developing your creative problem solving skills will help you achieve your own personal and professional goals and will make you a great asset to others on their journeys as well.
Are you good at relating to and empathizing with others? Empathy is one of the greatest traits you can have, across the board, and working on your empathy will benefit you in a million little ways. When you have the ability to see where others are coming from and feel for their circumstances, you’ll be better at communicating with them, no matter what the situation may be. Whether you’re trying to connect with and understand the woman at the checkout, console a crying child, or resolve an inter-office conflict, empathy goes a long way.
Time is not a renewable resource and each of us only has so much of it. Whether we’re at work or play, in order to get everything done and maintain our sanity, we need to work on our time-management skills. As a culture, we’ve meddled heavily with multi-tasking, but the reality is, multi-tasking is not a good time-management tool. You need to plan according to your own peak periods and focus on the task (and only the task) at hand. We could all use more time, but since that’s out of the question, why not learn to maximize what you’ve got?
Are there any traits or skills that you developed personally that ended up being surprisingly beneficial to you professionally (or the other way around)? Share with us in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you!
Heading out of town for the holidays? Don’t spend the drive bored out of your gourd. Check out some of our favorite podcasts — they’re sure to keep you entertained and make the time pass.
Blue Collar Proud Show— Obviously we’re a little biased about this one, but if you’re looking for great insight, advice, and stories tailored to you as a service business owner, we think you’ll like the BCP Show.
This American Life — This podcast is hosted by Ira Glass and is a great podcast for getting unbiased stories, expanding your horizons, adding to your knowledge, and seeing real journalism at work.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History — For history with a twist, this is the podcast. Dan Carlin explores historical moments, asking questions and making interpretations that you won’t find in a history book.
The Splendid Table — We’re all food lovers here at Spark Marketer, which is why we love this podcast. Host Francis Lam and his guests explore all-things-culinary and passionately discuss the culture and power of food.
Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People — In this podcast, comedian Chris Gethard gives callers one hour to share whatever they want. The only rule: he can’t hang up first.
The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe — In this podcast, our guy crush, Mike Rowe explores tales with a twist and provides an unfamiliar look at things and people you thought you knew.
Revisionist History — Take a second look at things past with Malcolm Gladwell, author of several books, including Blink, The Tipping Point, What The Dog Saw, and David & Goliath, to name a few.
RV Family Travel Atlas — If you like to get the family together and see the world from your RV or car, this podcast is a must listen. You’ll hear reviews of campgrounds, gear reviews, kid-friendly travel tricks, tips on what to do when your trip doesn’t go as planned, and more.
You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes — In this podcast, comedian Pete Holmes hangs out with comedians and musicians and gets them to share their secret weirdness. It’s kind of like getting your favorite comedians drunk, setting up a tape recorder, and putting them in a room with their best friend.
Us & Them — You know all those topics that are taboo because they’re so divisive? This podcast touches on them all.
The Unpodcast — Husband and wife, Scott and Alison Stratten share stories and discuss all the things wrong in the worlds of customer service and marketing. And since poor service is the norm, there’s always something to talk aboot (they’re Canadian and they’re lovely).
The Joe Rogan Experience — In this podcast, comedian Joe Rogan talks with musicians, comedians, actors, film producers — you name it.
The Dinner Party Download — No one wants to be the bore or the uncultured one at a dinner party, and this podcast is designed to help you avoid being that guy. Each episode is themed and includes a joke, a strange snapshot from history, a cocktail recipe, an artist, an etiquette rule of thumb, a trending food, and a song. If you’re a theme-loving host/hostess or you dream of being one, this is a great podcast for you.
Read To Lead Podcast — There are a lot of leadership and business books out there and you could never read them all. Get the Cliff’s Notes in this podcast, where you’ll hear some of today’s greatest non-fiction writers discuss leadership, business, personal development, marketing, and more.
The Pen Addict — If you’re a stationery and pen nerd like the Jessica’s, this podcast is for you. That’s literally all they talk about and it’s WONDERFUL.
The Minimalists Podcast— Looking to declutter and cut out things in your life that you just don’t need? Check out this podcast — it’s all about living better with less.
WTF with Marc Maron — In this podcast, comedian Marc Maron and his guests get philosophical, without losing their humor.
Lead With A Story Podcast — In this podcast, you’ll hear some of the most successful executives and leaders out there share their insight on creativity, sales, customer service, leadership, and more.
Off Camera with Sam Jones — This podcast was created to offer an intimate and inside look at what makes some of the greatest artists so great. This isn’t your TMZ snapshot of a celebrity, it’s real conversation with the real humans we often forget they are.
Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield — Online marketing strategist, Amy Porterfield, and her guests offer insight into what makes an online business thrive and provide tips and strategies to help you build an audience and sell more of your product or service.
Stuff You Should Know — For the curious minded, this podcast is a must. Whether you’re wondering if a head transplant is really a thing or you want to understand the science behind empathy, it’s all here.
Serial — Sarah Koenig goes in depth and follows a single story from start to finish over a series of episodes. Season one is a favorite here in the office.
The Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley — If you’re looking for science based life and growth hacking tips and insight into neuromarketing, persuasion, and consumer behavior, this podcast is for you.
S-Town — From Serial and This American Life comes a podcast about a murder in an Alabama town. Follow host Brian Reed as he investigates…
Building A StoryBrand with Donald Miller — Since Donald Miller is a local, some of us have had the privilege of attending a StoryBrand workshop. But thanks to this podcast, now you can get tips on clarifying your brand message and growing your company without heading to TN (although the workshop is definitely worth it).
Lore — Where do our superstitions come from? This bi-weekly podcast aims to find out.
The Command Zone — Unless you’re a mega-nerd like Chris, you won’t get the podcast or even the description of the podcast. I think it has something to do with the game Magic, the Gathering?
My Favorite Murder — Avid true crime story fans Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark talk about murder, crime stories, and death. Just a little light listening…
The EntreLeadership Podcast — Listen in as great minds discuss everything leadership and business related, from hiring practices to procrastination.
Hollywood Babble-On — Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman catch up on Hollywood and celebrity news, do some great impressions, talk movies, and babble on about a variety of things.
How To Do Everything — Wondering how to do something? Whether it’s dating, leaving a good voicemail, finding water in the desert, or quietly opening a Velcro bag, this podcast will help. What will callers ask next?
Hello From The Magic Tavern — This fantastical and strange podcast features interviews with wizards, monsters, and more.
Freakonomics Radio — Think like a freak and learn about human nature in this podcast, brought to you by Stephen J. Dubner, the co-author of “Freakonomics.”
Smart Wrestling Fan — This podcast will make sure you don’t miss a thing in the wrestling world, whether your thing is WWE, NJPW, or Lucha Underground.
Manager Tools — For insight on becoming a better, more effective manager and tips you can implement right away, check out this podcast.
Better Friendship Through Podcasting — Listen to friendship developing and deepening in this podcast with real life friends Adam Ellis and Kristin Rossi. It’s all about two friends getting drunk, asking each other questions, and catching up.
Edumacation — Kevin Smith & Andy McElfresh set out to learn something, sometimes stopping to meow both popular and obscure songs.
Wow. We’re weird. What are some of your favorite podcasts?