Archive for November, 2018

Ways Active Listening Can Improve Your Leadership

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

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While it may seem like common sense to point out that listening skills are important in the workplace, many leaders do not make enough of an effort to use their active listening skills. According to some studies, the average manager only listens attentively for 35-40% of the time and even then only remembers half of what was said. This has the effect of creating serious disconnects in the workplace that can negatively impact employee engagement and leave leaders struggling to utilize influencing strategies effectively.

Communication in the Workplace

Communication is not a one-way transmission of information, but rather a two-way street that is affected by individual perceptions, personal styles, and culture. It can take place over a variety of channels (e.g., face-to-face, telephone, video, and email), some of which may be more appropriate for specific situations than others. Knowing which channel to use and how to tailor the message for the audience is an important starting point for any communication process. Many communication strategies go awry when one side fails to take into consideration that there are different perceptions of a situation or how style and culture can impact how messages are sent and received.

Listening is a vital aspect of any communication process. Since conversations involve a two-way exchange of messages and responses, failure to listen on either side can render even the most carefully crafted message completely ineffective. Active listening incorporates a blend of specific skills that help to demonstrate attentiveness and avoid misunderstandings.

The four primary active listening skills are:

  1. Paraphrasing: A summary of what someone has said in the listener’s own words, paraphrasing focuses on the content of the message and is useful when verifying or clarifying meaning. It shows that the listener understands what’s being said, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it. Paraphrasing forces the listener to consider what was said and understand the other person’s point of view rather than simply preparing a rebuttal.
  2. Empathizing: Although similar to paraphrasing, empathizing is more focused on demonstrating an understanding of how the other person feels about something than what they think about it. Empathizing is valuable when someone expresses concerns or is in an emotional state. Spotting nonverbal cues and identifying when those cues are inconsistent with the verbal message is a key aspect of this skill. Patience and lack of judgement are essential because empathizing is less about offering solutions than giving people the opportunity to be heard.
  3. Questioning: While paraphrasing and empathizing are effective skills for letting someone know they’ve been heard and understood, questioning focuses on providing more context and information for the listener. By asking open-ended questions to draw out specific details, the listener can engage the other person in a two-way conversation. Questioning also helps to guide the conversation in a collaborative fashion that allows the speaker to contribute to working toward a solution.
  4. Balanced Response: Once key issues have been identified, effective leaders can use a balanced response to provide constructive feedback about a proposal or performance without being confrontational or diminishing anyone’s self-esteem. This can be especially effective when leaders need to overcome concerns or modify potential ideas. A balanced response emphasizes the strengths of an idea or proposal and highlights points of agreement without letting its weaknesses or concerns undermine problem solving.

Benefits of Active Listening

Active listening skills provide an excellent foundation for the effective use of most other leadership skills. As an information gathering strategy, it helps leaders to better understand their teams and creates opportunities to involve team members in developing solutions collaboratively. Although active listening may seem like a very “basic” skill, it has a very high impact on leader effectiveness. With more and more organizations making use of virtual teams, learning to communicate effectively with people who are not co-located is especially critical.

Practicing active listening is essential for leaders who want to build trust and inspire their teams. When people feel like their feelings and concerns are understood and that they are able to participate in solving problems through two-way conversations, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. Since low levels of engagement generally lead to diminished productivity and employee retention, learning to listen effectively should be a vital competency for any leadership position.

Active listening is also a crucial component of emotional intelligence, so working on these skills can help improve a trait that is strongly linked to job performance. Emotional intelligence emphasizes using observation, reflection, and proactive communication to help people understand their own emotions and those of others.

Trust is the bedrock of any effective workplace. Team members need to know that they can count on others to complete their tasks and provide assistance when needed to help the team accomplish its goals. While there are a variety of methods for building trust, few of them will get very far without effective communication. Active listening can help leaders connect with team members and demonstrate that they understand their value, which makes it easier for people to trust that they’ll be treated fairly and valued for who they are, not just for what they do.

This article originally appeared in 21st Century Leadership Insights.

 

This article was written by Rick Lepsinger from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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When you become an entrepreneur, TGIF may not hold the same meaning it once had when you had a 9-5. Many business owners find themselves working weekends in order to keep up or get ahead.

Running a business can be rewarding but also stressful and time-consuming especially if you have a lot of responsibilities on your plate. I’ll admit, I used to use weekends to keep my business afloat by catching up on assignments and working on side projects that were on my long to-do list.

Working every day can lead to serious burnout after a while. Plus, if you are your own boss you should be able to enjoy the freedom or setting your own scheduling and taking time off to relax and refuel.

Here are a few things you can do to manage your time better manage your time and workload so you can add more freedom and flexibility to your weekends.

Wake Up 1 Hour Earlier During the Week

It’s no secret that waking up earlier can do wonders for your productivity. Simply said, it’s a sure way to have more time in the day to get stuff done.

You can kick off your morning routine earlier and be ready to crank out work by the time you would normally just be waking up. If you want to work fewer hours over the weekend, this is one of the best solutions to try although it may not be easiest at first.

If you get up one hour early Monday – Friday, you’ll be adding 5 hours back into your work week. This will likely make you less stressed and overwhelmed by the time Friday afternoon rolls around.

Adjust Your Daily Schedule

Your to-do list isn’t a schedule. It’s simply a list of stuff you have to get done. You create a schedule when you organize those tasks effectively. Smart business owners create clear and realistic schedules to follow each day. If you’re looking to add more freedom and flexibility to your weekends, you’ll likely need to adjust your schedule to accommodate that. This often means becoming more efficient so more gets accomplished during the week.

Determine how much time you have to work on your business during the week and what amount of limited hours you’d like to put in on weekends if any. Then, consider block scheduling tasks or knocking out the most mentally challenging tasks on your list during the work week.

If you only have to do something small like social media posts or sending follow-ups for an hour on Saturday morning, it probably won’t really ruin your entire weekend and you’ll still have the freedom to take a step back from your business.

Start Being Unavailable For Business Tasks During the Weekend

Have better control over your calendar and set expectations with customers and clients that your availability will be limited during weekends. This way, no one is expecting you to respond to their email they sent on Friday or Sunday afternoon.

I always set my calendar as unavailable during weekends and specific days. You would think most people wouldn’t be doing business on those weekends anyway but you’d be surprised. I try not to agree to specific deadlines for tasks that fall on weekend days either because it’s better that I don’t have anything business-related scheduled and can just work if and when I please.

One of the most common reasons why business owners end up working and adhering to strict schedules on weekends is because they fail to determine a stop time for their work. It’s great to love what you do but working and sticking to a schedule 24/7 won’t help you out as much as you think in the long run.

It’s important to dedicate time to unplug and scale back especially if you have an online business as it’s often so easy to just log on and start working anywhere and at any time.

Theme Your Weekends

You’re likely reading this because you want to have more freedom and flexibility to do what you want to do on weekends instead of just tending to your business. Creating a loose theme around what you truly want to do during weekends can help seal the deal.

Just like you set goals for your business and create themes, theme your weekend based on what you truly want to spend your time doing whether that’s spending time with family, catching up with friends, taking day trips etc. It’s simple to do but it really works.

Sometimes, any free time we have can get spent doing unproductive work that doesn’t add any value to our lives. Just like you want to schedule important meetings and deadlines, schedule family days or time to read or plan. Establishing a loose theme will provide direction but also leave you with the freedom and flexibility to divvy up your time.

Weekends can fly by quickly and if you don’t manage your time and priorities well during the week, you’ll pay for it during the time when you truly want to relax and unplug.

The best thing an entrepreneur can do is put themselves on a schedule and set boundaries. Having a schedule doesn’t mean being glued to work 24/7. You should be sure to schedule in downtime and theme your weekends so you don’t let the opportunity to create memorable moments outside of work pass you by.

How do you create more freedom and flexibility during weekends?

This article originally appeared in Calendar.

 

This article was written by Choncé Maddox from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

If you’re reading this article, congratulations! You must have an awesome team. Managing them must be easy, right?

In fact, contrary to popular belief, managing high-performers doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything. While you could just let them fly solo for a long time, even the best employees will need support from their managers to continue thriving at work. While high performers do show a stronger tendency than other employees to direct their own learning, a Harvard Business Review article says they expect their managers to help them grow, too.

And the help you provide must be differentiated from how you might support a lower performer because their challenges, needs, and aspirations are also different.

Here are a few quick tips that should stop them from quitting:

 

1. Show Them They’re Valued (in the Way They Prefer)

Some people like getting feedback privately, others publicly. Some prefer it via email, others in-person. And some care little about words and more about actions of thanks: bonuses, bigger projects, or leadership opportunities.

In a study on what high-performing employees value at work, compensation, bonuses, and recognition from higher-ups all fall in the top 10.

If your employee’s doing great work, make sure they know their work is valued and appreciated. And if you don’t know how they like to receive positive feedback, ask.

 

2. Let Them Lean Into What They’re Good At

Too often, we insist employees check every single rung on the skills ladder. We wrongly believe that the only way for them to advance in their career is to be good at everything all the time.

But the truth is, just as you rarely find a candidate that matches 100% of your hiring criteria, it’s rare to find an employee that truly excels in every facet of the job. And yet we focus on their deficiencies—the checkboxes left unchecked—rather than sharpening their strongest assets.

So, give your highest performers a chance to continue to excel at their strengths, and the tools they need to become an expert in their field. If they find themselves getting bored, then you can work with them to find other skills they’d like to improve upon.

 

3. Encourage Them to Be Teachers

When you have amazing employees, one of the best things you can do to keep them engaged is encourage them to teach others. Teaching helps them hone their skills even further, and validates their expertise.

There are many ways to “teach,” whether it’s in the form of an employee mentorship program, a presentation to the team, or even authoring a publication. Encourage them to share their knowledge and flex their expertise, and leave the format to them to decide.

 

4. Actively Solicit Feedback

No manager is perfect. Regularly ask for feedback on what you can do better to support their career, and be prepared to take action as a result. As their manager, you may be able to unblock them, elevate them, and support them in ways no other person in the company can.

As the saying goes, employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. So do everything in your power to make sure they are supported, and ask for feedback to ensure you are on the right track in your efforts.

Some questions include:

  • What can I do to make working with me easier?
  • What can I do to better support you?
  • What’s one thing I should start, stop, or continue doing for you?

If you have a high performer on your team, get ready to do the hard work of keeping them engaged. Don’t let them be the one in five who report being likely to leave their company in the next six months. Sure, it’ll take more effort on your end—but think how much effort it’ll take to replace them.

 

This article was written by Ximena Vengoechea from The Daily Muse and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Referral programs are a great way to organically spread the word about products and services, but you have to let happy customers know that they can benefit from your program.

Whether you show off the program on your website’s homepage, send out an email to tell your customers, or find an influencer to spread the word, you have to promote your referral program in order to see success.

“It’s important to promote your referral program,” says Rob Edell, founder of Servy, an app that helps restaurants increase customer satisfaction. “Too many companies hide the refer feature in a sub-menu when referrals are one of the most important growth drivers.”

Don’t be left wondering how to get people to use your referral link. You may think that the referral program incentive is the most important part of a referral program. That’s only partially right. Think about it… If happy customers don’t know about your referral program, then how can they take advantage of it? Here are some ways to effectively promote a new or existing referral program

1. Targeted Emails
2. Social Sharing
3. Strategic Placement
4. Call Outs
5. Referral Page
6. Add Reminders
7. Email Signatures
8. Social Bios
9. Create CTAs
10. Find Influencers
11. Paid Campaigns
12. Confirmation Pages
13. Continual Promotion
14. Automate Promotion
15. Other Campaigns
16. Early Release
17. Use NPS
18. Past Customers
19. Try SMS
20. Use Video

1. Use targeted email marketing

Email is one of the best ways to get in touch with your customers. When you introduce a new referral program or want to get fresh eyes on an existing one, send a well-designed email to your customer base that focuses on the deal.

promote referral program by email

If you want to be especially successful with this method, target those who’ve actually bought your products and services, as opposed to those who simply email subscribers. For example, if you buy a Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon, the eCommerce giant will soon encourage you to buy a case for your new device. This highly-targeted tactic can do wonders when you’re selling products or promoting a referral program.

2. Build social sharing into the referral program (aka create social proof)

It’s a lot of work to promote a referral program, so ideally you want to create a program that encourages customers to promote the program for you. You want to build social sharing into the referral program. This is another way to build up your social proof.

Stitch Fix, a clothing subscription service, does a great job of this in their customer portal. They encourage customers to share a referral link on whatever social media site works best for them.

use social sharing to promote referral program

The result is that Stitch Fix customers share their referral link on social media, acting as promoters for the program. Note: you can also use your social media bios! Add a link to your program in your bio – it’s quite effective (see #8 below).

3. Strategically place it on your homepage

Many brands have referral programs in place, but they’re so hidden on the website that customers don’t know about it. In order to effectively promote a referral program, you should strategically place it on your homepage. That way, when a customer visits your website, they’ll see the program front and center.

For example, Premier Estates Wine, a U.K.-based wine retailer, has a rotating carousel on its homepage, and one of the images promotes the referral program.

Make Your Referral Program Visable

When customers come to the site, they see the referral program immediately, ensuring that it’s top of mind. If you don’t want it permanently on your homepage, add it as a homepage pop-up.

4. Make call outs for the referral program on product or sign up pages

When someone is checking out a particular product, they’re more interested in that product than anything else on your site. Most likely, they care more about the product itself than your brand. Because of this, you should make call outs for your referral program on product and sign up pages.

According to Friend Buy, product page sharing usually represents about 51% of referral revenue for companies who have social sharing buttons on those pages. Even if you don’t promote your referral program directly on your product page, you must have social sharing buttons to make it easy for customers to share particular products with their friends.

5. Create a special and unique referral program page

If you have a robust referral program, it’s worth creating a special and unique referral program page. This page not only serves to promote the program but can also help explain the terms and additions to your current customers, as well as those they refer. Use this opportunity to explain the benefit of joining the program too as they will be able to see their potential earnings.

HubSpot’s referral program page is a great example. The page explains the referral program and encourages customers to share their happiness on social media sites.

Referral Program Page

If customers don’t want to share HubSpot’s products on their own social media pages, HubSpot steps in and offers to “do the talking,” providing a referral form for customers to fill out.

6. Add a reminder into user accounts

Your current customers may spend a lot of time in their user account on your site, making it a perfect place to promote your referral program. Every time they log in, they’ll see they have the option to recommend your products and services. If they are already a referral program member, that’s even better. You can simply remind the customer of their referral codes and ask them to do a referral link share.

I use FreshBooks as my small business accounting solution, and when I log in, I’m presented with a tab that says “Recommend FreshBooks.” When I click the tab, I’m given information about the referral program, as well as some social sharing options to help me share it.

Referral Program Reminder

7. Promote the program in email signatures

Most brands have email signatures attached to each email a team member sends, so why not include a link to your referral program in your email signature? This tactic works especially well for those that interact with customers over email, such as support staff. It’s not too in your face, but customers will know exactly how to find the program when they are ready to sign up.

8. Remind in your social media bios

If you’re trying to promote a referral program, you want to get it in as many places as possible. One of the easiest best practices for promoting your referral program is to add information about your campaign into your social media bios. Honestly, if it’s not included in your social media bio, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities.

For example, if we added information about Referral Rock’s referral program onto our Twitter bio, it would be visible every time someone visited our Twitter account, reminding them that they can refer Referral Rock at any time.

Promote referral program with social media bio

9. Create Call-to-Actions on your blog posts

If you have an active blog and content marketing strategy, then it’s a good idea to add calls-to-actions (CTAs) for your referral program into your blog posts.

For example, Last Pass, a password database software, uses this CTA on some of their customer-oriented blog posts. Each time customers read a blog post, they’re reminded to refer their friends.

Use CTAs to promote a referral program

10. Find an influencer or happy customer to spread the word

The best people to promote your referral program are those who already love what you do. They’re not just happy customers– they’re ambassadors. Finding out how to promote a referral link on Facebook is key. Newsflash, influencers will spread the word, for you.

ClassPass, a nationwide fitness service, offers an Ambassador program, which is basically an advanced referral program. It’s the ClassPass Ambassadors‘ job to promote ClassPass, as well as the referral program they’re a part of.

Use an influencer to promote

Referral program promotion done by an influencer

11. Run a paid social media campaign to target loyal customers

Paid social media, such as Facebook Ads or Promoted Tweets, are a great way to promote content, products, and even referral campaigns. The best part of these networks is that they’re highly targeted, so you can promote the program exclusively to existing customers by uploading a list of email addresses.

referral promoted tweet

Surprisingly, advertising on social media is inexpensive. You can test out a promotion for as little as $100 to see if you get results. Even small businesses can benefit from these paid promotions on social media.

12. Add it to your thank you or confirmation page

After someone makes a purchase, they’re usually super excited about what they’ve bought. This makes thank you or confirmation pages the perfect place to pitch your referral program. After someone buys a product or service, encourage them to let their friends know.

13. Continue to promote referral programs well after the launch

When you launch a new referral program, you’ll dedicate a ton of time and energy into making sure your customers know about it. You might come up with an email marketing campaign to promote the program immediately, for example.

However, if you want your referral program to be successful, you need to promote it well after the program launches. Whether this means sending out periodic emails, finding new places to promote the program on your web page, or coming up with an automated system, you need to promote your referral program long after you launch.

14. Automate promotion of the referral program

Automation is one of the best ways to guarantee that your referral program gets in front of customers who are most likely to share with their friends. Rather than manually emailing everyone in your system, set up an automated referral program.

For example, after someone buys signs up for your service, they might get an automated email thirty days later that encourages them to share with their friends.

By having an automated program you are boosting your referral campaign in a variety of ways. Automation can automatically promote your program, sync with your sales process, and even send rewards and incentives based off of specific triggers. Meaning you don’t have to worry about doing all of those processes yourself.

15. Promote the referral campaign in other marketing campaigns

If you launch a marketing campaign, such as a funny video, use the opportunity to remind existing customers that you have a referral program. Simply adding the words “Refer a Friend for $20 Off” can make a huge difference in encouraging customers to promote your products and services.

16. Early Release

Perhaps you can create a hype for your program before it’s even released to the public. Take a few of your top advocates and let them test drive the referral program. You can start getting the feel for how the program will work, and you can create a smooth running program all thanks to your top advocates. Plus, these early release people will feel like they are on an exclusive VIP list, and they will truly feel like they are part of the team.

17. NPS

Why not ask your customers how willing they’d be to refer a friend? Using a Net Promotor Score (NPS) which measures how willing a customer is to recommend your product or service could be a great way for you to not only promote your referral campaign but to also get people participating. Perhaps you send the survey before you officially invite your customers to join. You can sift through and invite the ones who mentioned that they are highly willing. You can also ask and score customers on other aspects of the referral program like incentives. This way you can build a program that truly fits your business and customers.

use NPS to see who will use your referral campaign

18. Talk to past customers

It’s imperative to keep open communication with your past customers. Whether you sell a one-time type of service or if you’re an eCommerce store who has a lot of repeat shoppers. Because whether you want to admit it or not, past customers are the ones who will refer you new business. Simply talking to customers and keeping them in the loop can not only turn a shopper into a loyal advocate, but it can make it incredibly easy when it comes to asking for referrals.

Past customers are the best because they know you, and your product. So fill them in with the details of your referral program too. Becuase even if they decide not join your referral campaign, they will know it exists. Plus, it helps you stay top of their mind. And, at the very least, this can help keep those past customers coming back.

19. Try out SMS

If your customers opt-in to receive text message alerts form you, use that to promote your referral program. People always have their phones on hand, so it makes sense to use that to your advantage. Many businesses use SMS to connect with customers because it works.

With that being said, there are a few things you need to consider.

  1. Even if you have a customers phone number, it doesn’t mean they have consented to receive text messages from you. You need to get their permission, no if, and’s, or buts.
  2. Don’t send too frequently. Daily texts from brands can be really annoying… and people can end up blocking you. So find a frequency that works, without being too pushy. If you’re using SMS for other marketing strategies, you may have to work out a schedule to promote your referral program at a different time… But remember too many texts can have the opposite effect – so don’t send marketing campaigns back to back.
  3. Be sure to send your disclaimer! You know the whole “message & data rates may apply” thing? Well, be sure to show this message first before you begin your SMS campaign.
  4. Offer a way out. Obvious you don’t want people to unsubscribe, but if you keep sending them the same message to sign up for your referral program… even after they have already signed up and started referring, you again make yourself seem annoying. At least change the messaging from ‘sign up’ to ‘don’t forget’, that way it looks like you are keeping track and in the know about what people are doing in your program. You can even text them a ‘thank you’ after certain events, to further fuel referring to occur.

20. Use your videos

It’s no secret that video content can catch the eye, and we can all agree it helps get the point or message across. This is exactly why you should consider utilizing all of your resources, including video content. The thing is, we live in a content-filled world, and video content is striving. Which is exactly why most businesses nowadays choose to utilize video in some shape or form. Whether it be an explainer video, educational video, or simply a product promotion video.

IBM runs an employee referral program and has a dedicated video explained how to refer. Notice the ending is a simple link to the referral program. You can use this last bit in any of your existing videos, as an easy way to promote your program.

But how do promote referral programs in a video? Well, the easiest way would be to use your existing videos. For example, let’s say you already have a product explainer video on your homepage. Go ahead and add a line about your referral program at the end. Whether you incorporate it into the scenes or simply add an ending slide with a little bit of the program information. Either way, you have just successfully promoted your program to whoever watches that video.

Additionally, you can make yourself a fresh video. One that is specific to your program. Then you can add that video to all your existing marketing campaigns, share on your social sites, and even embed it at the end of your emails or newsletters. This video can really be shared anywhere that we have mentioned you promote your referral program!

The Bottom Line… You Need To Promote Referral Programs

Referral programs can bring huge wins for businesses large and small, but you must make sure your customers know they can benefit by telling their friends about your brand. Try out these tactics, and let us know which ones work best for your brand.

This article originally appeared in Referral Rock Software.

 

This article was written by Megan Mosley from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.