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  • When Everyone Nods in Agreement, Be Worried

    07/27/17 9:15 AM | By :Exact Staff | Categories : Employers | Leave a Comment
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    When is the last time an employee contradicted the majority? Challenged your thinking? Expressed a controversial opinion in an otherwise smooth meeting?

    If you can’t remember, you need to keep reading.

    Dissent in the workplace is uncomfortable. Disruptive. Complicated. When an employee disagrees with the rest of the group, it slows down processes by requiring additional work to reach consensus.

    But if your organization isn’t regularly experiencing a healthy level of constructive conflict, it might be experiencing something much more dangerous: “groupthink.” Coined in 1972 by social psychologist Irving Janis, groupthink is the practice of thinking or making group decisions in ways that discourage creativity and individual responsibility, for the sake of harmony.

    In simpler terms? Groupthink occurs when employees automatically agree – either because they think too much alike or are afraid to dissent. While it may not sound all that bad, groupthink can suppress innovation and put your business at greater risk for strategic missteps and missed opportunities.

    So, if you’re seeing lots of nodding heads in your meetings, don’t just pat yourself on the back. Think: “Have we reached a true consensus – or is groupthink at play?” Here’s how to tell the difference:

    • Groupthink is invisible. Often, leaders mistake groupthink for alignment or synergy. When everyone agrees and moves in the same direction, it’s natural to assume that it’s because the team is on the right course (when, in fact, it may just be because employees are too afraid to upset the apple cart).
    • Groupthink is easy. Consensus is a byproduct of conflict; to achieve it, you must overcome differences of opinions, deal with unanticipated issues and tolerate discomfort and disruptions.

    The message here? Don’t automatically be discouraged by conflict and disagreement in your workplace. Instead:

    1. Welcome it. Let employees know that you value and respect their input.
    2. Analyze it. Consider whether employees are bringing good ideas to the table, or if they’re just being contrary for the sake of it. There’s a big difference between a bold, innovative thinker and a “Negative Ned/Nelly.”
    3. Use it. When an employee presents an unpopular opinion that identifies a potential threat, solution or opportunity, explore it! The temporary disruption and discomfort it creates may lead to long-term competitive advantage.

    Related Posts:

    Dangers of Groupthink – and a Smarter Alternative for Your Business

    Stop Hiring Clones!

    Need innovators? Independent thinkers? Team players?

    Exact Staff can deliver the high performers you seek for assignments and projects or to grow your core team.

    What can we do for you? Contact a staffing expert at your local Exact Staff office today.

Strategies for More Successful Decision-Making

07/21/17 10:00 AM | By :Exact Staff | Categories : Employers | Leave a Comment
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Gut feelings and hunches? Save them for choosing your next dessert.

You’re a manager – which means that you need to apply disciplined, sound strategies to your decision-making practices.

While it’s nearly impossible to distill complex decision-making processes into a few terse bullets, solid fundamentals are undeniably important. Here are four basic strategies you can use to make great decisions (large and small) and create great outcomes for your organization:

Start with good information.

You can’t be expected to make effective decisions without solid data. But all information is not created equally. Before you use data to inform a decision, consider:

  • The source of your data (is it reliable and objective?)
  • The quality of your data (is it relevant and projectable?)
  • The age of your data (what’s changed since it was collected?)

Do your homework to collect high-quality data, and you’re much more likely to make high-quality decisions.

Carve out “think time.”

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” He was onto something there. When you’re faced with an important decision, start by sharpening your mental axe. You’ll make decisions quickly, cleanly and with less effort.

Struggle to find uninterrupted think time? Try these tactics:

  • Delegate more; do less. By freeing yourself from the details, you’ll get more time and space to look at the big picture and think more strategically. (Pro tip: contact Exact Staff for the staffing support you need).
  • Unplug. You know how; discipline yourself to do it.
  • Let things percolate. Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t suddenly struck with a revelation. Often, the best ideas arrive in pieces – a concept here, an insight there. Try a tool like Evernote to keep track of your thoughts, and then spend time connecting the dots.

Systematically evaluate alternatives.

To make a complex decision, ask a variety of questions to determine where you are now – and the best path for you to follow. Customize and expand upon questions like these to determine and evaluate options:

  • How are things functioning now? What’s the impact of doing nothing?
  • What caused the current situation?
  • Who must have a hand in making this decision? What are their perspectives, issues, pain points and motivations?
  • What are the limiting factors (e.g., time, money, technology, process bottlenecks, expertise)?
  • What’s limiting your ability to make a great decision (e.g., missing information, lack of perspective) and how can you overcome it?
  • What trends are likely to impact this decision?
  • Whom will this decision impact?
  • What’s at stake (i.e., what if you make the wrong decision)?
  • How can you mitigate risks in the decision-making process?
  • What are your viable options?
  • What will likely happen if you do “A,” “B” or “C”?
  • How will you define and measure the success of this decision?

Don’t let fear or pressure paralyze you.

The decisions you make impact employees, customers, stakeholders and sometimes even the world at large. And when the stakes are high, time is of the essence, and you have several equally good (or equally bad) options, making sound decisions becomes even more challenging.

While there is no “magic formula” for making effective, high-stakes decisions, the four tips in this post, “Key Tips for Making High-Stakes Leadership Decisions,” will equip you to consistently make the smartest choices under pressure.

Make a great decision right now: partner with Exact Staff.

Whether you need to add great decision-makers to your core team, or simply want more time for critical thinking and decision-making, we’re here to help. And we’re just an email or phone call away.

Feeling Negative Vibes from Your Team? Consider These 6 Smart Fixes

07/14/17 9:10 AM | By :Exact Staff | Categories : Employers | Leave a Comment
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“That’ll never work.”

“That’s not in my job description.”

“Nothing will ever change around here.”

Negative talk can really ruin the vibe in an otherwise positive organization. And pessimistic, hostile or downright toxic employees do more than just irritate your team. They can destroy your corporate culture. Undermine productivity and trust. And contribute to unnecessary turnover.

Enough is Enough

If you notice that negative patterns of talk or behavior are really taking hold in your workplace, confront the offenders. Use these simple ideas to turn their attitudes and actions around:

Address the Elephant in the Room

Gather your team and announce your intentions to foster a more positive corporate culture. Explain the impact toxic people have on your workplace, as well as the benefit of great attitudes, positive actions and supportive workplace relationships. Sometimes, putting offending employees on notice will immediately curb their behaviors with no further intervention required.

Be Direct

Call a negative employee into a private meeting to discuss their behaviors, as soon after an incident as possible. Use active listening and probing techniques to get to the root of their negative thoughts or actions. Then, very clearly explain why their behavior will not be tolerated, as well as the consequences if it continues.

Don’t Get Sucked In

Negativity is contagious and insidious. While it’s important to listen to employees’ complaints (so you can judge their merit and take appropriate actions), be careful not let their attitude dampen your optimism. If the individual you’re engaging is being stubborn, unreasonable or argumentative, don’t stoop to their level. Stay calm and point out areas of agreement to keep the conversation positive – or at least neutral.

Try Role-Playing

Help the employee to view the situation from other perspectives by pretending they’ve been asked to resolve the problem. Teach them how to understand the others’ viewpoints, appreciate differences and focus on solutions. By broadening their perspective and asking for their help in developing solutions, you effectively break the cycle of negativity.

Share Positivity Tools

Quite honestly, some people are negative simply because they don’t know how to act any other way. One remedy is to give these employees resources they can use to curb negative thinking and model positive behaviors. For example, share this earlier post: Happy People Have These Habits.

Hire Smarter

Sometimes you just have to cut bad apples loose. Strive to systematically replace negative employees with realists and optimists. Look for individuals who can engage in healthy conflict with a positive attitude, respect others and are upbeat even in tough circumstances.

Need More Positive Vibes in Your Workplace?

Exact Staff’s recruiting experts will refer candidates with the personality traits and soft skills to help you build a more positive work environment. Contact our national employment agency today to get started.

Three Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

07/7/17 9:15 AM | By :Exact Staff | Categories : Job Seekers | Leave a Comment
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Sure, you hear the words coming out of their mouths.

But are you really listening to what employees and other managers are saying?

Great listening behaviors enhance your ability to lead, motivate and perform, but it takes more than functioning ears to be an effective listener. If you’d like to improve your skills in this area, Exact Staff shares best practices you can adopt immediately:

Be Fully Present

Distracted by an email you forgot to send? The dinging of your cell phone? That upcoming meeting you’re not prepared for yet? We all are; we live and work in “the interruption culture.” Make a conscious effort to be in the moment when someone is speaking to you, focusing your eyes and ears on them. And if a distraction is too strong for you to devote your full attention to what’s going on, excuse yourself for a moment. Take care of it, and return to the conversation as quickly as possible.

Make the Speaker Comfortable

This Forbes post explains how to set the stage for better listening by making the speaker feel safe and comfortable:

  • Physical body mirroring. Mirroring someone’s body position enables you to feel more like them and do a better job appreciating what they have to say. Make small, subtle adjustments to your own orientation and posture to reflect the speaker’s body language. Lean out when they lean out; cross your legs after they cross theirs. Just be sure that you’re not too obvious or mechanical as you shift position.
  • Keyword and gesture backtracking. Mirroring the words and gestures a person uses enhances feelings of “sameness.” If the speaker is animated, respond by gesturing similarly. If you notice that they repeat key phrases, incorporate them in your language.

Establishing rapport in this way frees up attention and energy in both directions, fostering better listening and communication.

Engage in Active Listening

Most people begin formulating their responses while the speaker is still talking. Active listeners are different. Take a page from their book by:

  • Focusing on understanding what the other person is saying (not how you’ll respond).
  • Paying attention to the speaker’s words, tone of voice and body language (you’ll get important information from all three sources).
  • Making appropriate eye contact (think friendly, not intimidating).
  • Reflecting what the other person has said, to make sure you understand them fully.
  • Clarifying or probing for more information, when necessary.
  • Responding only once you’re sure you grasp what the speaker has communicated.

Related Content:
3 Important Things Great Leaders Do Every Day
What to Do if a Conversation Becomes Loud and Aggressive

Are employees telling you that they’re stressed? Frustrated? Overworked?

Use the tips in this post to find out what’s really going on. If you need help with the process, Exact Staff is just a phone call away. We’ll listen, ask the right questions, and then create a solution that offers the workforce flexibility, support and access to talent your team needs.

What can we do for you? Contact a staffing expert at your local Exact Staff office today.



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