Hire for Your Values, and You Won’t be Sorry

Hire for Your Values, and You Won’t be Sorry

When I was in college, I was lucky enough to spend a summer in Thailand. I saved all year for the trip and tried to keep my expenses to a minimum. Even so, I was shocked when it came time to get my clothes cleaned there. The woman who helped me washed all of my clothes by hand. In exchange for hours of work, she asked for only $2 and refused to take any more.

What struck me most of all was the joy she exuded. Here was someone I shared almost nothing in common with, completing a task I had done hundreds of times, using a method I hadn’t ever tried. Her method, the soap she used, and even her feelings toward the task were new to me. But the end result was the same. This experience has stayed with me. Anytime it’s suggested that there is a single right way to do something, I think of her.

This experience instilled in me a determination to hire based on values. If your interview process gets to the heart of the candidate’s values, you’ll be able to decide if you’ll enjoy working with them, because working toward a shared mission is much more meaningful in the long run than workplace banter about your favorite sports team.

And more importantly, those employees may show you that there’s another path toward your shared goal, something you may have missed out on in an echo chamber of friends with similar backgrounds and experiences.

At the end of the day, you should hire the person who will do the best job, but it’s easy to mistake your comfort with someone for competence. So, make sure that your hiring process involves a few interviewers if you can, and outline the values that are most important to the role before you start interviewing. And when you get together with the hiring team to discuss each candidate, make sure that you each push to bring the conversation back to those values. Don’t let words like “impressive” or “likeable” go unchallenged.

Internal biases are something we all have. I know in my own companies, we are not perfect. But we are striving for better. We don’t just want to beat the industry statistics. We want to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and like they can express their ideas freely. In doing so, I know that we’ll be better off as a company and will benefit from the sharing of ideas and debate. But I also know that we’ll make a positive impact on every single employee in the building. And that’s something we should all care deeply about.

As the company leader, I am constantly amazed by my team. I have seen the triumphant things they have accomplished, and they remind me regularly of how much I don’t know. We all have a choice when starting a company—hire people just like us who will reinforce what we already believe, or hire people who share our values but introduce us to new ways of thinking.

There is not one correct way to do anything, but you may be tricked into believing there is, especially if no one tells you any differently.

Teaching Your Employees Time Management Skills Is More Important Than Ever

Teaching Your Employees Time Management Skills Is More Important Than Ever

The art of emphasizing time management in the workplace is not new.

But whereas it used to be that entrepreneurs and their managers could keep an eye on employees, which led the employees to be more responsible with their time, the shift to a remote workforce has upset the equation.

A recent study by Canadian academic Brad Aeon, a graduate researcher at John Molson School of Business, Aïda Faber of Université Laval in Quebec City, and Alexandra Panaccio, associate professor of management at John Molson, which analyzed time management literature derived from 158 separate studies spanning four decades, six continents, and involving more than 53,000 respondents, seemed to reinforce that notion.

“People have more leeway in deciding how to structure their own time, so it is up to them to manage their own time as well,” Aeon said. “If they are good at it, presumably they will have a better performance. And if they are not, they will have an even worse performance than they would have had 30 years ago, when they had more of their time managed for them.”

This is where I would recommend a couple things. First, consider a workshop over Zoom with a handful of employees at a time, which explores best practices. Second, explore embracing some of the software applications like Asana, which will help employees manage their priorities, or Slack, which will help them reduce clutter in their inbox.

Another way to move them in the right direction is to help the employees see the bigger picture when it comes to time management. The researchers above found a strong relationship between time management and overall well-being.

“Time management helps people feel better about their lives because it helps them schedule their day-to-day around their values and beliefs, giving them a feeling of self-accomplishment,” Aeon explains.

That correlation, though obvious, is worth restating. The business owner wins because their business is more efficient AND because he or she is creating loyalty in the workforce, which also benefits the company.

There is one caveat to all this: Be gentle.

As the world continues to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, resist the temptation to compare time management skills with supposedly more successful people. This could backfire, creating what Aeon calls “time management shaming.”

“You see these social media posts saying, ‘Yes, there’s a pandemic, but I learned a new language or I woke up at 5 a.m. and accomplished more in a few hours than you will all day,'” Aeon said. “It makes the rest of us feel bad and creates unrealistic standards as to what we can and cannot do with our time.”

Instead, focus on how we are all on the same team. Be willing to identify mistakes that you have made, and how you are determined to do better. Your employees will match that determination, and your business will be the better for it.

The Power of Validation in the Workplace

The Power of Validation in the Workplace

We constantly underestimate the value of words to build up or tear down.

While this is certainly true in everyday life, it is especially true in the workplace. And it is one of the reasons why I, as a serial entrepreneur, embrace the idea of bringing my employees together at least once a week to talk about their successes. It is validating.

Last month, a recent study out of Ohio State University (OSU) supports this practice. And not just once a week, but on an ongoing basis. Telling your employees something as simple as “I understand why you feel that way” can reinforce both their initiative and confidence.

In quantifying the value of positive reinforcement, the OSU researchers asked participants to remember a real-life incident that made them angry. When researchers did not show support or understanding for the anger participants were describing, the storytellers showed declines in positive emotions, the researchers summarized. But when the researchers validated what the participants were saying, their positive emotions were protected and stayed the same.

Similarly, study participants reported dips in their overall mood as they recalled the anger-provoking event, and only those who were validated reported a recovery of mood back to their starting point.

This speaks to the value of focusing on protecting positivity, according to Jennifer Cheavens, senior author of the study and a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.

“We have underestimated the power of positive emotions. We spend so much time thinking about how to remedy negative emotions, but we don’t spend much time thinking about helping people harness and nurture positive emotions,” Cheavens said.

“It’s really important to help people with their depression, anxiety, and fear, but it’s also important to help people tap into curiosity, love, flexibility, and optimism. People can feel sad and overwhelmed, and also hopeful and curious, in the same general time frame.”

The full study, which was published online in the Journal of Positive Psychology, uncovered findings that are relevant for all relationships, she added.

“When you process negative emotions, that negative affect gets turned on. But if someone validates you, it keeps your positive affect buffered. Validation protects people’s affect so they can stay curious in interpersonal interactions and in therapy. Adding validation … helps people feel understood, and when we feel understood we can receive feedback on how we also might change.”

The results of such a practice are a healthy and profitable workplace, something all entrepreneurs can aspire to.

Celebrate Failure to Help Your Business Experience Success

Celebrate Failure to Help Your Business Experience Success

There’s been a lot of failure among small businesses in 2020. It’s been one of those years. As history tell us, those who do not learn from their failures may be doomed to experience failure again.

The first step to learning from failure is to put it in context.

If failure is met with chastisement, disappointment, or punishment within your organization, your team will take a risk-averse stance. In the case of 2020, the reasons for failure may have been beyond your control as a business owner or CEO. In most cases, however, there were actions you did take or didn’t take that contributed in part or whole to failure.

The next step is to put processes in place that maximize the benefits of failure.

When you try new things and explore new ways to grow, you will inevitably fail. You’ll sink some money into a software solution that doesn’t really work. You’ll try to overhaul some processes, only to realize there was actually no better way of doing them.

Failure happens. As a leader, you need to be okay with that fact and create a culture that celebrates failure. In fact, failure should be openly discussed and encouraged. Your team should love running experiments and testing their ideas as much as you do. And they should be taught to test their ideas in confined time periods, so that the consequences of failure don’t grow too big.

This latter approach is commonly referred to in the land of large enterprises as the Agile Approach, where incremental steps are taken, and then success or failure are measured, before another step is taken.

The last step is to stick with this philosophy and be patient.

Creating the kind of culture in a small or medium-sized business that applauds failure requires a lot of coordinated effort. Your employees don’t just show up to work each day and comply with everything you say. They also bring all of their past work experiences with them, influencing how they behave and what they think about work.

Culture is all about hiring the right people and creating the right environment to bring out their best, most creative work. It’s the key to making sure that your company can evolve, change, and outlast the typical business lifecycle.

Installing a culture that sees the value in failure doesn’t happen overnight. But it is within reach, and it will transform your business if you believe in its value. You’re in this for the long run, and investing in culture will ultimately lead to your company’s long-term success.

Lead Your Company Like You Are Visiting the Grocery Store

Lead Your Company Like You Are Visiting the Grocery Store

One of the things I dislike most about moving to a new city is getting to know a new grocery store.

I like to move through the store quickly and methodically. My list is written in the order I’ll encounter those items as I walk through the store (veggies first, bakery second, etc.). And you can bet that if pasta isn’t on my list, you won’t find me browsing that aisle. At checkout, I organize my purchases by size and weight. The heavy stuff that the bagger will want to put on the bottom goes first, and soft things like tomatoes and peaches go last.

I don’t feel a compulsive need to shop this way. But as more constraints are put on my time, I find myself naturally seeking out efficiency all over the place—even in the grocery store. It feels good to get in and out of there in half the time it used to take me.

The same way of thinking can be applied to work. What can I do to get the most out of my day? How can I make the experience of work go more smoothly? How can I make sure I complete my most important tasks of the day?

Logic-Based Thinking

I call this concept “logic-based thinking.” It simply means thinking about what you want to accomplish each day and mapping out a logical way to get them done.

It’s a lot like walking through the grocery store, where you could easily get caught up in all the distractions around you, like tasting samples or rethinking your entire meal plan after coming across a particularly beautiful display of brussels sprouts. You could wander through the seasonal aisle and get a jump start buying Halloween candy, or go around helping everyone who can’t reach the top shelves. But if you did all that, you might never leave.

Things like this come up at work all the time. Emails claiming to need attention come through, and you respond. Someone pops in to ask a quick question and leaves 45 minutes later. A new idea is brought up, and you find yourself deep in a research rabbit hole in order to decide if something is worth pursuing.

Start With a Plan

One day, Jairek Robbins, an accomplished performance coach, spoke to the employees of one of my companies. He said, “What we tend to do is shoot an arrow and then go draw a target around it. Then we look at it and call ourselves a good shot.”

That’s exactly what we do when we approach work without a logical plan. We look at all the things we got done, all the fires we put out, and we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Meanwhile, all the things we said we would do remain untouched.

Growing a business requires a higher level of thought than that. It requires us to identify the most impactful things we can do each day, to find a way to do them, no matter what, and to delegate everything else.

Successful Entrepreneurs Understand the Value of Family

Successful Entrepreneurs Understand the Value of Family

It is hard not to underestimate the role that family can play in successfully running a small business.

That point has been brought home by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led entrepreneurs and their families to share the same physical space. A new study has revealed that that increase in quality time may have many unforeseen benefits.

Research from the University of Georgia, which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, has found that positive interactions with your child during your off hours can make you a better leader. This especially hit home with me as I have a young boy.

Specifically, the study examined two samples of 46 and 113 managers, measuring whether participants had experienced positive interactions with their families, such as working together on a project or laughing together, each day after work.  Among the other factors examined was whether participants felt connected to their family and satisfied with their family life in general.

The researchers also analyzed leadership practices, asking participants how often they engaged in behaviors such as making sure employees know expectations and helping subordinates strengthen their skillsets. In both studies, the managers completed one survey in the morning and one in the afternoon for 10 days. The results showed links between positive family interactions after hours as well as more effective leadership during the workday.

Szu Han “Joanna” Lin, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, had some interesting thoughts on this.

“We focus so much on the negative things about work-family balance or the demands of a family—people need to meet these family demands, so that’s why sometimes they couldn’t perform well at work,” she said. “But one thing that is important to know is that leaders could be more effective because of their family life.”

Plenty of scholarly research on leadership focuses on how family life can negatively impact a person’s career. Studies that do examine positive effects of family life typically focus exclusively on task performance. Lin wanted to examine how positive interactions with family could specifically influence leadership behaviors like showing consideration, marked by things like helping and showing concern for employees, and more change-oriented behaviors such as helping employees develop their strengths and showing enthusiasm about what needs to be accomplished on a specific workday.

Transformational leadership, which focuses on creating a vision and how teams can work together to achieve it, is considered one of the most effective styles of leadership, Lin said. Through her research, Lin found a connection between showing more of those transformational tendencies and having had a positive family interaction as a parent the day before.

And the positive interactions do not have to be something big. Little moments can lead to big changes in attitude the following workday.

“You take your kids out for a walk. You chat about how your day was. These are positive family events that help you feel you connected with your kids,” Lin said. “Your needs are satisfied at home. And on the next day, you’ll be more motivated to help your employees.”