Once again, we just wrapped up the yearly season of peace on earth and good will toward all. But for the millions of workers, after some much needed time off around the holidays, those first few weeks in the New Year are typically a time of stress, pressure, overwork, mistakes, and diminished service quality.
Make a vow now: It won’t be that way this year!
If the New Year is a busy time for your company, how can you make 2016 the best and not just the busiest for your employees and customers? Here are four ways:
1. Say it.
Words are powerful. Put into words exactly how this can be the best year, not just the busiest.
At your first staff meeting of the year, before everyone gets busy, don’t’ tell your employees: “We are stretched thin. We have more work than we can handle. It’s going to require more effort and longer hours for everyone.”
Instead focus on “best” AND “busy:” We’re going to have a lot of new work coming our way this year; what are the most powerful ideas you have for making our new projects a better working experience? This year we get to expose how great our company is to more people than any other year. How can we make it our clients’ best day, too?
2. Teach employees to say it.
Not everybody grows up with the gift of gab, but anybody can learn how to communicate effectively – that is, to create in their listeners the effect they desire.
There’s “what to say” and there’s “how to say” what you say. Many leaders tend to underemphasize the latter, maybe because they don’t believe that their staff want to become proficient. My experience says they couldn’t be more wrong. I offer ten categories of easily learnable communication skills that will improve employees’ interactions with customers, clients and one another: It’s Always Opening Night, Be a Great Listener, The Audible Smile, Dialog – Don’t Monolog, Consult – Don’t Interrogate, Be Sincere, Display Etiquette, Show Confidence, No Jargon, and No Interrupting.
3. Give employees the gift of time.
When people really do have more work than they can possibly get done, something has to give. Their accuracy, their attitude, their demeanor. If you’re going to raise your performance expectations in the New Year – expect people to get more work done with the same quality in the same amount of time – you need to change something. The obvious? Change the amount of time. Help them get back their own time that is “stolen” from them by Time Bandits (people who interrupt them, even innocently, external distractions, and their own wandering minds).
First observe how much time they sacrifice to distractions and interruptions. Research shows that if people don’t know how to deter these Time Bandits, they lose three to five hours a day to them. When you see what takes your employees off task, see if there are things you can control — a quieter environment, for example, or private work spaces. This will help them to maintain their focus. Then see how much better and more happily they perform!
4. Create the vision for “best.”
If you’re the leader, conceiving the vision and painting it for employees is your job. What does “the best” look like in your workplace? For example, if you are a call center, what does a perfect conversation with an unhappy customer sound like? What does a perfect upsell sound like?
Or if you’re a distribution center, what does “the best” look like? Don’t sugarcoat the hard part; it’s a fast-paced, high-pressure job. But your employees are not mice in a maze; when they pull a toy off the warehouse shelf, they are making a child’s wish come true. When they package up new books, they are opening up new worlds for someone. Fulfillment, after all, isn’t just the name of a department. It’s, well,fulfilling – for both parties.
When you say it will be your busiest year yet, that just means the most customers or clients can’t wait to pay you for the service or product you’ve already been trying to sell.” How bad can that be? While busy is wonderful, make sure to plan now to also make it your BEST year.
Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group. For more information, please visit, www.timebanditsolution.com and www.cohenbrown.com and connect with Mr. Brown on Twitter, @EdwardGBrown.