Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
August 2014

Managing Staff Vacations during the Dog Days of Summer

The temperature is anywhere between a sizzling 82 degrees and a scorching 102 degrees, from Montauk to Miami and from Dallas to Des Moines. Kids are wrapping up their summer break from school. Families are heading to the shore, water parks and lakes to cool off or up to the mountains to relax. Adventure seekers are cruising, sailing and soaring to far-off destinations. Vacations abound.

Meanwhile back at the world of work, far from the summer fun, businesses continue to function. Customers continue to place orders. Goods still need to be delivered and services must still be provided. As staff takes time off, summer vacations inevitably place a burden on those who remain behind to carry the load. Companies must be careful in how they handle summer vacation requests and manage staff leave time. There is a fine line between being so permissive with leave time that business suffers and being so rigid with vacation requests that employees aren’t able to get a much-deserved break to rest and recharge their batteries. Walking that fine line is the challenge. Continue reading

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The Road to Employee Productivity is Paved with High Expectations

There are countless sayings about setting high expectations. Aim high. Shoot for the stars. Raise the bar. The belief is that the higher the expectations, the greater the results. But is this actually true? Can the expectations that we set for a person actually affect how well that person performs? Has this been validated scientifically or is it just an old wives tales?

Consider a research study done in education. A third of the students in an average class were selected at the beginning of the school year. The teacher was told that those students were “high potential” achievers and were very likely to bloom that year in her classroom. The teacher was told that even if she did nothing different, those students were likely to excel. However, the teacher was asked to ignore that information and treat all the students the same. The teacher believed she did treat all the students the same. The students were not told about the study at all. Given that the students knew nothing about the study and the teacher said she treated all the students the same, the performance by students labeled “high potential” should have been no different than the rest of the class. However, the results told a different story. Based on their scores on standardized achievement tests, the students identified as “high potential” achievers had greater gains in achievement over the course of the year than the rest of the students, even though the so-called “high potential” had actually been picked at random. The only difference between the “high potential” and the rest of the students was just in the teacher’s mind… in her expectations.

That study has been replicated and validated many times with students worldwide…. but what about with adults? Does this phenomenon also hold true for adults? Could it be applied to the workplace? Can the preset expectations that managers have of employees actually impact their employees’ performance? Do expectations influence work results?
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When a Company’s Brand Sends Mixed Signals – Part 2

In many ways, the brand is the Achilles heel of the corporate world. As companies shift more and more to being all about brand meaning and brand image, the more vulnerable they are to attacks on image. That is why it is increasingly critical for companies to protect every aspect of their brand, and work hard to avoid having any mixed messages about the company’s purpose and position. That includes guiding – as much as is possible or practical – what the company’s own people say about the company. This is a challenge for even the most successful businesses.

In fact, last week, LinkedIn’s CMO Network — the #1 Group for Chief Marketing Officers — posted this question for discussion by some of the top marketing minds in the world: “We are so sensitive about the language in our marketing campaigns and websites. How do we ensure our employees use the right words and tone while talking to customers?” There is an understanding at the highest levels of leadership that all brand cues must align in order to avoid mixed messages. Marketing cannot be saying one thing while sales is saying something else altogether. Materials cannot tout one image while leadership makes decisions that communicate the total opposite. While there are strategies (such as a clear Social Media Policy, scripted telemarketing dialogue, templated sales letters and emails, training sessions and a sales manual) that can help ensure sales efforts align with the company’s position, protecting a company’s brand goes far beyond that. Whether it’s a company’s marketing strategies, business tactics, or its approach to customer service, a business brand should obey the three Cs: be clear, cohesive and consistent.
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When a Company’s Brand Sends Mixed Signals – Part 1

Every company, no matter its size or purpose, has a brand. Regardless of whether the owners and leadership know what the brand is or what it stands for, the company brand exists. In theory, a company’s brand speaks about its purpose, voice and values. The brand reflects what the company does and does not do and how it wants to be viewed by the world. In practice, it also reflects what others – customers, potential customers, vendors, investors, and the general public — think about it. A brand reflects how the company is actually perceived by the world.

So a company’s brand is not just its logo or iconography, such as Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s bitten apple. Nor is a brand just it colors or fonts. That’s all just window dressing. A company’s brand is comprised of a multitude of elements that feed into the total picture or image (or in some cases the façade). Values. Voice. Personality. Corporate integrity. Product quality. Service delivery. Look/style. Marketing. Customer engagement. Approachability. A company’s brand is a reflection of all of this… combined. The better a company manages all of the elements that comprise its brand, the more likely it is to thrive long-term. To succeed, a company should be genuine in what it stands for and authentic and on point in everything it says and does. All of the messages should align.

But sometimes the messages don’t align. What happens if a company’s brand – this myriad of messages – sends mixed signals? What happens when there is a ‘disconnect’ between a company’s values and the quality of its products, or between its marketing messages and the actual service it delivers, or between its public voice and its online engagement? What happens to a brand where there are mixed messages muddying the brand’s image?
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