Stop, Look and Listen Leader- You could learn something

by Jane Turlo

June 1, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

Whether you are a seasoned leader or new to management, there is something to learn every day.  In the work unit, leaders learn from peers and superiors, but they can also learn from their teams.  As teams learn from leaders, leaders can learn from their teams.  This two-way street fosters strength, cohesiveness and effective performance, so with just a little humbleness and vulnerability, this can be achieved. 

When I was a new leader, I didn’t think of my team as a resource to learn. I thought I had to know everything and that was a lot of pressure to put on myself.  One of the reasons I was reticent to utilize my team, was because I thought they would think I wasn’t knowledgeable and that would put me in a vulnerable position.  If they thought I was limited in my skills, then maybe they wouldn’t respect me or listen to me and then I couldn’t affect change.  As I evolved in my leadership, I started to clearly see the talented teams I was working with and how eager they were to provide insight.  I began to embrace their point of views, took time to listen to their perspectives and in turn, learned invaluable amounts of information.  This strengthened my relationship with staff, and they began to build trust in my leadership.  

The knowledge you have going into a new company and role is usually gained from research, what you learned during the interview process and community reputation.  Sometimes you can be fortunate enough to know someone within the organization that can give you an idea of culture, leadership and business operations, but many us go in with limited information. 

There is an abundance of information to learn from workplace teams, but HOW you learn and use the information is critical.  Stop and observe the team players; this pertains to fellow leaders, your staff and superiors.  Get to know them; they will show you who they are eventually.  Pay attention to how they manage professional relationships, how they interpret workplace situations, and how they deal with problems.   Certain behaviors to look for are collaboration, gossiping, loyalty, objectivity, and triangulation, to name a few.   As you get to know your team and colleagues and their perspective on the organization, it is very important to continue to formulate your own opinion.  Collecting all the viewpoints, including your own, will help you sift out the inaccurate, understand what’s working, get a picture of what’s not and start to become familiar with key players, so together you can break down barriers and create and execute initiatives. 

I cannot stress enough, that taking the time to observe processes, employees, leadership and interactions, will help you gain more knowledge and understanding of the environment.  Tapping into valuable trusted resources, including yourself, will give you a clear picture and contribute to making informed decisions for best outcomes.    

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking.  It is the writer’s opinion only. 

Read more

How my new favorite movie ties into teamwork and leadership

by Jane Turlo

May 1, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

I have fallen in love with the recent biopic of Freddie Mercury and Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Twentieth Century Fox, 2018).  I have always loved Freddie Mercury, to me, he was a person that I just wanted to have coffee with.  He seemed personable, funny, of course super talented and not afraid to be different and stand out.  My perception of him could be completely wrong, but somehow, I doubt it. 

                The movie resonated with me, because of the background of the Queen band members.  All of them were educated and very intellectual, which is not the usual recipe for a rock band.  However, all that brain power didn’t make them exempt from the emotional swirling that inevitably happens when being a part of a close-knit team.  Living, breathing, working and eating together the majority of a 24-hour cycle can be challenging to say the least.  On the flip side, no matter how much your trusted team irritates you, when you don’t have them, you feel it. 

                Not unlike Queen, workplace teams are very similar, in my experience.  They work closely together on a daily basis; they need to be in sync with each other to orchestrate workflow, maximize production and get the best results possible.  Like Queen in the movie, or a family, or a work team, they are their best when they are functioning effectively together.  Poorly functioning or under functioning teams have issues and one person can change the whole pallet of a team.  That one person may influence in a positive way or not so positive way, but regardless, one person cannot be the team.  This is important to note, because a team cannot be built around one person; it must be made of engaged and committed individuals.  This is critical and maybe even more so, when there is a super performer on the team; wonderful to have a superstar, but again one person cannot carry a team.

                In the movie, there is a scene when Freddie decides to move away from the band and try it alone; resentment, turmoil and drama erupt.  Once he is on his own, he comes to realize he needs his band mates and he tells his band members when he was working with other musicians, they did exactly what he wanted.  There was no push back, challenges, critical feedback or anything, they just did as they were told.  Let’s dissect this as related to work teams.    

                At first blush, having a team do everything you want them to do sounds magical.  However, let’s think about what that would really look like.  The team never expressing opinions, never having respectful discourse, never asking questions or professionally challenging ideas or processes; what kind of a team is that?  I would challenge that it is a team at all; it is more reflective of a group of people who work in the same place.  Employees, band members, and the like, who don’t speak their truths, don’t question ideas and concepts, don’t participate in solutions are not engaged and that can turn quickly to apathy.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, apathy kills motivation and potentially sets the company up for real problems, like lost productivity and resigning employees, or in some cases, complete failure.   

                A team that discusses concerns and ideas, challenges their colleagues and leaders, expresses point of views, is a team that will strive for the best results and reach their goals much of the time.  Now, this may not always be easy, because strong personalities can be tough to manage, but in the end, the synergy and energy is there to create something extraordinary, just like Queen did. 

                My new favorite movie reminded me of many important opportunities I have as a leader and a team member.  Understanding my role on the team and as a leader, being engaged with colleagues and employees, listening to feedback openly whether I like it or not, being humble and recognizing when you have the right team and synergy in place, you can push past your differences and achieve greatness together. 

Reference: Bohemian Rhapsody Movie, Twentieth Century Fox, 2018

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking.  It is the writer’s opinion only. 

Read more

People, Places and Leadership

by Jane Turlo

April 2, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

I want to reflect back on my travels as an XRAY technologist in my early 20’s, because retrospectively, I believe my experiences tied into and influenced how I lead today.  What I mean by that is, while traveling I experienced a variety of environments, people, and cultures; the exposure to these taught me to really know and understand my audience and where they were coming from.  A leader deals with different wants and needs from individuals all day and it is imperative the leader is understanding and empathetic to what is important to others, even when it is not important to the leader.  My travels offered me the opportunity to learn and grow in my work and as a person, but it was not without struggle, doubt, loneliness, and little epiphanies along the way. 

I worked in large hospitals in metropolitan cities and small community hospitals in rural America and everything in between. The expectation of organizations is that as a traveler you go into the work unit and hit the ground running.  They are paying good money for your services, so they expect you to get in there and work, which isn’t easy no matter how much you know, but that is what I did.  At times it was intimidating, because there was limited time to familiarize myself with machines, systems and the lay of the land, but at the same time, it was rewarding.  I was contributing to filling a need, helping staff, and I didn’t get caught up in drama or politics because I wasn’t an organizational employee.  I remained neutral when listening to employee’s lament about each other or the company.  Adapting to different situations allows leaders to guide their teams through change and remaining open minded and neutral with employee related matters, until the details are discovered, helps employees gain trust in the leader and helps the leader make informed decisions. Leaders need to stay away from making assumptions and showing favoritism. 

I was always the new person coming into an organization and the reception usually was mixed.  Management was thrilled I was there as I was filling a void, but the staff had mixed emotions between me being there to help the understaffed team, and the known fact that travelers make much more money than the average staff technologist.  At times the mentality from staff was, hey traveler, get to work and do all the work.  As a new person, I continually had to prove myself by showing my strong work ethic, staying out of drama and showing integrity in all my interactions.  This is not unlike a leader coming into a new organization and having to prove themselves.  Leaders that work to gain trust and confidence from staff will pave a path to success. In addition, leaders are compensation well and have an obligation to go the extra mile to better serve customers, the organization and employees.        

                There were times during my travels where I was lonely and isolated; I was in places for 3- 12 months on average, so developing long term trusting relationships was limited.  Leadership can be lonely at times.  In my opinion, it is not good practice as a leader to have friendships with staff outside of work; it can create problems with other staff and appear as if the leader is showing favoritism.  It is rare that a leader and underling can have a friendship and a professional relationship and never the two shall meet. Unless the leader has a strong and trusted executive team, the head position can be isolating. 

At times during my travels, my loneliness sparked a less than positive attitude and that didn’t serve me well in work or in mindset.  So, I decided to embrace my experience, make the best of it and it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.  Once I turned my attitude around and really started to engage in my surroundings, I learned so much from people, places and behaviors.  I learned to embrace the differences and the challenges, including the ones inside myself.  It helped me learn to acclimate to a variety of environments, situations, cultures and opened my eyes to others and what was important to them, but maybe not to someone else; perception is real for each of us. 

                Not recognizing it at the time, but certainly reflecting now, the traveling experience has contributed positively to my leadership ability and has made me a more aware leader.  I have become a great listener, I have learned to adapt to different situations and lead my teams through changes and I have learned to give things some time, because it may work out for the best even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.  My travels made me grow, mature and realize we can learn from each other and I have carried this into my leadership today. 

                My take away is people aren’t that different and usually want the same things.  Each of us may express wants and needs differently, but in the end, we are all more similar than different.  The key is finding common ground and authentic leadership can help employees find it. 

What do you think?

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking.  It is the writer’s opinion only.     

Read more

Management and leadership, not always one in the same, but both need each other

by Jane Turlo

March 10, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

According to Webster’s, the definition of Management is: “the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business)” and “judicious use of means to accomplish an end” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary APP)

In addition, Webster’s defines Leadership as: “the office or position of a leader; capacity to lead; and the act or an instance of leading- leadership molds individuals into a team”. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary APP). 

By definition, management and leadership seem different, but in practice they certainly are intertwined. However, with certain individuals the two shall never meet. 

We have all had bosses that were managers, others that were leaders and sometimes if we were fortunate, both.  What makes one person a manager and the other a leader?  That is a complex question that I’m sure has a variety of answers.  Here are my thoughts….

First, I want to share that at 16 years old, I started working as a tray aid delivering food trays to patients at the local hospital.  I started noticing the attributes of my bosses.  I noticed how they made decisions, how they conducted themselves and how they interfaced with employees.  I took note of what I liked and left the rest.  This intel I collected over the years, and still am collecting, has paved a clear direction for me in my work life and in my leadership, but it wasn’t instantaneous. 

After being a tray aid for a couple years, I was promoted to cafeteria supervisor at age 18.  I found myself managing others that were my parents age.  I was unskilled and just wanted to get things done and done quickly.  All those observations I had made and behaviors I noted from my previous bosses, was gained knowledge but putting it into practice was more difficult.  I managed others based on my title and authority, instead of tapping into my learned and innate attributes. I was rough around the edges in my approach.  Welcome to my first lesson in management and leadership………

Whether you are managing/leading 5, 50, or 5,000 people, it has its challenges.  Keeping a business functioning, ensuring that employees are engaged and productive, and being responsible for operations running smoothly are all a part of management/leadership.  The bottom line is the bottom line; increase revenue and decrease cost.  When you are hypervigilant at driving profit and effective functionality, while extinguishing fires that inevitably start up routinely, how does this allow for time to develop leadership skills?  With everyday happenings, management can feel like running on a hamster wheel with the main goal being, to get stuff done. 

I believe the bridge between management and leadership has to do with using attributes, both innate and learned, AND really pushing one’s boundaries and comfort zone.  Managers can be driven, take care of their teams, be collaborative, and be committed. So, things get done.   

Leaders don’t stop at just getting things done, they make an impact and impression.  Leaders are courageous risk takers that are fearlessly driven to challenge others/superiors, and organizations for the good of the company.  They are not afraid to make unpopular decisions and they do it with strength not bullying.  Leaders are decisive, take ownership of the good and bad while fostering growth in others.  They are not threatened by their teams’ talents; they enjoy having their team make them look good.  Leaders instill confidence in their team and as they pave the way to change through example, the team is willing to follow a proven trusted leader. 

Good management and good leadership complement each other; great leaders need great managers and vice versa.  Not everyone wants to be or is capable of being a leader, and that is ok-nobody is good at everything.  However, it is important to know what kind of boss you want to be or what kind of boss you want to work for.  If you are clear on these, it helps move you in the right direction and into the right culture/organization. 

This is a vast topic and I would love to hear from all of you about what you think.  Again, we can learn from each other. 

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking.  It is the writer’s opinion only. 

Read more

Employee Engagement and Disengagement

by Jane Turlo

February 15, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

In my experience, employee engagement is key to a high functioning operation.  When employees are interested in their work and work environment, they want to do their best.  Happy and involved employees will bring solutions to the table, discuss their ideas with management and treat customers with care and respect.  When employees are respected, listened to, and acknowledged in an organization, the brand flourishes along with customer service, reputation and internal relationships.

How engaged or disengaged employees are can be related to leadership and/or culture.   Of course, there are just miserable employees who will never be happy or involved, but in my experience, I have seen leadership and culture make or break engagement. 

Engaged employees make suggestions to improve things, point out areas of opportunity and may have goals to grow beyond their current role.  As leaders it is our obligation to recognize these employees and work with them to help set them on a course for advancement.  Have discussions with employees and ask about career aspirations.  If they have demonstrated leadership qualities, tell them and assign them to projects to see how they perform.  Observe how they handle assignments and how they interface with colleagues.  This sets the tone and promotes a culture of growth and advancement.    

On the flip side, when dealing with disengaged staff, it is very important to schedule a time to speak candidly to employees about why they are disengaged.  Remember, employees need to feel comfortable and safe to speak freely, so hopefully leadership has fostered that type of environment.  If not, there are other items to address. Let’s assume the workplace promotes an open, truth speaking culture.

Disengaged employees can exhibit a variety of behaviors; apathy, negativity and unwillingness to participate are some of the behaviors I have encountered.  Let employees know you have noticed disengaged behavior from them and that you are worried about them and how this could affect the team.  Ask them if they agree or if this comes as a surprise and hopefully this will help open a dialogue. 

Disengagement, like engagement can come in many packages; one person, a whole team, a specific business unit or the whole organization.  Regardless how it presents, dealing with disengagement is about communication, discovery and strategically addressing the situation quickly.  Genuinely caring about staff and how they feel and act, can help disengagement be a thing of the past.

What do you think?  Are you a leader struggling with disengaged employees, or do you have an uplifting story to share about engagement?  Are you an engaged or disengaged employee?  Would love to hear your thoughts. 

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking. It is the writer’s opinion only.

Read more

Leadership and all that goes along with it

by Jane Turlo

January 11, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

It is tough starting out as a new leader and unless you have a mentor, it is difficult to know where to turn when it comes to situations that arise.  How do you gain perspective?  Is it the right perspective? Who do you seek out to help you?  What happens if the situation is urgent and nobody is around?

I have been in leadership for over 15 years; in those 15 years it feels like I have encountered almost every employee situation I could encounter, but I doubt it.  In most complex or worrisome employee scenarios, I like to counsel with a trusted colleague or HR partner.  When I think back to when I was a new leader, I remember how I struggled with even the simplest scenarios or tried to come across as too hard assed.   I used my authority to lead and not my leadership skills. 

I wanted to start this blog in hopes of helping others in leadership, guiding them in the right direction through my experience and making conversation interactive.  Seasoned leaders and new leaders can learn from each other, so why not start with this blog! 

There are a few basics when dealing with employee circumstances that will help you and are good guidelines to follow:

  • When meeting with an employee have another leader in the room with you.  This person can document the conversation you have with the employee, but the intent is for you to have a witness.  You can explain to the employee that you are having this person join to take notes of the conversation, so you can focus on the dialogue with the employee.   Not every conversation will warrant a witness; if it is a quick touch base probably not, but if it is a sensitive topic, addressing a trend, or anything that could develop into more, then a witness is good to have in the room.  Partnering with Human Resources (HR) is your best bet. 
  • Make sure there is thorough documentation with dates, times, who was present in the room, conversation high points, follow up items and end result.  This is critical especially if the situation is ongoing or escalates later.  Notes can be kept in a secured desk file, just as an unofficial document or of course in the employee file if official. 
  • Once conversation is complete, make sure any action items that need follow up are addressed in a timely manner.  It is important to follow up, follow through and not leave anything hanging out there or unresolved.  That is your responsibility as a leader. 

That’s it for today.  I appreciate any feedback and engagement; lets learn from each other. 

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking.  It is the writer’s opinion only. 

Read more

Customer Service: External, Internal and Beyond

by Jane Turlo

July 1, 2019

Leadership

0 comments

Customer service, we hear about it a lot, but what is it?   Its meaning differs from person to person, but traditionally I think customer service has been defined as providing excellent care and service to customers that experience or purchase a company’s services or products.  However, it goes well beyond that.  A businesses’ customer service spans across the organization from the inside out.  Solid internal customer service sets the tone for successful external interactions with customers. 

A key component to outstanding customer experiences starts internally with how employees and leaders treat, interface and speak to each other.  The goal is treating each other just like your external customers.  When this happens, it creates a respectful work environment, where engagement and connection create awareness.  What I mean by that is, employees that respect each other, tend to engage more and this leads to an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.  Too many times we become myopic in our own work and don’t understand how our work dominos into our fellow co-workers’ jobs.  When workers have an idea of what their colleagues are doing, they begin to see other perspectives and with the help of leadership, start to see how it all fits into the bigger picture.  For instance, an employee collects pertinent information from a customer for an upcoming appointment but did not get accurate insurance billing information.  When the billing department tries to submit for payment, the request is denied, and the customer is upset because they think they will be stuck with the bill.   If the employee collecting the information understood the importance of documenting accurate data and how not doing so effects the outcome for the customer and company, then the chances of missing that information in the future could potentially diminish.   Knowing the details of everyone’s job is not the goal, but the goal is to understand functions of organizational roles and how those functions can affect other’s duties, positively or negatively.  I believe, good internal synergy can lead to better customer service.

Another factor to consider when thinking about customer service is getting feedback from your consumer base.  Developing surveys with focused questions on experience and service is a good tool to find out about customers’ likes and dislikes.  Focus groups are another way to capture a good cross section of the market community. Asking the right questions and showing the community the organization cares about what they have to say, strengthens brand, reputation and the business.  Lastly, taking time to speak with a cross section of your customer base, one on one, is a wonderful way to gain perspective.  In one of my leadership positions I walked customers out from their appointments and asked them about their experience, what we did well and what we could do better.  I usually polled about 2-4 customers a week.  This gave me time with customers, allowed them to express their opinions and provided opportunity to enhance experience.   

No matter how a company engages customers or how they collect data, it is imperative a business stays connected to their consumer base and fosters an internal environment of strong customer service.  Strong internal customer service will no doubt seep beyond organizational walls to positively effect clients and retain a loyal consumer base, in addition to attracting more customers in the long run.

Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking.  It is the writer’s opinion only. 

Read more