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Motivating Your Employees - Make People Feel Important

As I have mentioned in my previous article, motivating people is a difficult job for a manager, especially when you have only non-financial means available and your team is made up of various types of characters. Money is a good motivator but only for a while and only for lower type of positions. As you go higher, it no longer works, no matter how much money you decide to make available. That's when you need to think of other motivators. Making people feel important is one of them. It works for all categories of team members - juniors and seniors alike.

Making people feel important doesn't necessarily mean promoting them. And you need to remember that not everybody wants to be manager. For some it may be a huge pain in the back. Also, promoting the wrong people may lead to team disaster. Making people feel important may be sometimes much easier than you think. Here's what you can do:

  • Listen to people - this shows you care - listen to their problems, to their suggestions, even if you can't apply or solve everything at least give people a part of your time to show that you appreciate their effort in the team;
  • Ask for help - this makes people feel useful - delegate some of your tasks - it will help them and you equally;
  • Be polite - no matter how angry or frustrated you are. Never forget "Please" and "Thank you";
  • Reward people - don't take measures only when something is wrong to solve a problem - also act when people have done something positive;
  • Offer feedback - good or bad - this shows that you are following your team members in their actions, that you offer them part of your time, that you praise them when good things happen and that you care about their improvement when bad things do;
  • Encourage people;
  • Offer them some decision freedom - no matter how small, allow them to make some choices, to implement some of their ideas;
  • Show them you care about their professional and personal improvement - send them to trainings, organize team buildings, delegate (I've already said that, but it needs to be repeated here too), talk about what they want to do and help them, give them challenging tasks and objectives;
  • Show compassion when they have personal problems;
  • Allow them to have a life - let them go home on time to be with their families, encourage them to be efficient on the job in order not to spend the entire day at work, encourage them not to take work at home unless absolutely necessary;
  • Smile, be nice and honest;
  • Organize personal meetings with each of them to allow them to offer your their feedback;
  • Roll up your sleeves - don't run when the team has a big project to finish and tight deadlines- work near them doing sometimes tasks that are below your status - this will show them you care about them and about the team and you don't consider yourself too good and too high on the ladder to do entry level tasks;
What ideas do you have to make people in your team feel important?

Take care,

Motivating Your Employees - Active Listening

Non-financial motivation of your team when you are the manager is a tricky business. It's difficult and challenging, but also fun and rewarding. Since financial means to motivate people are most of the times not available and even if they were, it's a proven fact that as you go higher on the ladder people are no longer motivated by money, the question is for you as a manager - what do you do to keep your team together, functioning at highest standards? Well, one idea would be to do "active listening".

What is active listening?
It's that moment in a conversation when not only you  stop talking, but really listen to the other, show by various means that you are listening and don't offer any personal opinions on the matter. Active listening is listening, understanding and showing that you have understood. This doesn't mean that you agree, you just show you understand.

How is it useful?
It makes the person you are talking to feel important. And making people feel important is another very strong non-financial motivator. It builds a stronger relationship between individuals who know each other better (because they listen to each other's opinions) and who trust each other.

How do you do it?
There are certain techniques by which you show that you are listening actively:

  • Paraphrasing - to repeat parts of what the other has told you, but in your own words;
  • Repeating - to repeat the last words the other has mentioned in the form of a question - to ask if you have understood correctly what he/she said;
  • Summarizing - to repeat the other's ideas in a shorter version and in your own words;
  • Asking questions - asking for additional details either through closed questions (Yes/No) or open questions (that ask for more information and keep the conversation going);
  • Verbal signs: Uh - uh, Yeah, I see, OK, Of course, Oh;
  • Non-verbal signs - tilting your head, visual contact, body language (staying with your body towards the speaker), raising your eyebrows to show interest;

Can you learn how to do it? Can you practice it somehow?
Of course. Not everybody is good at that. Some even have great difficulties listening actively. There are aggressive people that need to have a say in everything, that interrupt you when speaking, that keep asking questions even if you haven't finished your idea. Here's an idea of what I did with my team - I learned this during a course and applied it with the ladies:

  1. Once a week we had our department meeting - at the end of the meeting we had our "active listening" exercise;
  2. One of the ladies was the speaker, one was listening actively and the other was evaluating the listener;
  3. We would pick a theme - preferably something controversial like death penalty, drugs, abortion, divorce;
  4. The speaker had 10 minutes to speak about the theme, the listener to actively listen (this involved not offering any personal opinion whatsoever) and the evaluator to determine whether the listener did indeed listen actively or not, how many of the techniques she used and what else could have been improved in the process;
  5. They would switch places three times - this way each of them got to be the listener.
The exercise was useful as they got to know each other better, to respect their opinions and after a while they would use what they learned in everyday duties, not only during the exercise.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you a good active listener? Do you know any people who don't know how to listen and could use this exercise?

Take care,

I Have No Experience, but I Have an Interview. What Do I Say?

If this is you, I am sure you have a few questions concerning the interview. And here are my answers:

      1. Is it a mistake?
    Absolutely NOT. If they called you, and asked for your name on the phone and scheduled you for an interview, then it's you they want to meet. Stop worrying and get prepared. They have your contact information from your CV and since they can see in your CV that you have no experience, then they know about your background. 

2.  Should I go?
Absolutely. Even if you don't get the job, at least it will help you get used to the interview environment and do better next time.

3.  What will they ask?
First of all since you don't have any experience, they will skip that and ask questions about yourself, your personality, your studies, your personal projects, any volunteering activities you may have done, just to see if you were interested in doing something else than just going to school, they will ask about any additional courses you attended, what you learnt. Then they will ask about your future goals, why you want to work for their company, what you know about them , if you remember the job ad and if you have any questions about the company, the job or the team.

4.  Should I ask questions?
Of course. Asking questions means that you are interested. You can prepare a few from home, but make sure you don't get too aggressive. Ask the questions during the discussion without interrupting too often and also at the end of the interview.

5. What do I say about myself?
Read the job ad and see what kind of employee they are searching for. What skills and strengths this person should have. Then tell them which of these you have offering examples and arguments. For example, if they are searching for someone with organizing skills, tell them you are a great organizer and how you managed some projects that you and your team had to do in college.

6.  What do I say about my experience?
Focus on what is connected to the job you are applying for - mention that you don't have experience, but that you were part of an internship in the field, you attended some classes connected to the field (make sure you mention those in your CV), that you came to visit their headquarters when they organized some "Open Doors" events, that you have been interested in their jobs for a while and visited their stand during the last job shop where their employees told you a lot about the company, mention any volunteering you may have done (even if not directly connected - it will prove you are not just an ordinary student who cares just about parties and wasting time with friends). Mention anything you find relevant that will prove you did something besides your regular student activities. It's useful.

7.  How long should the interview take?
Between 15 minutes and one hour. Chances are that since you don't have experience they will most probably keep you there closer to 15-20 minutes than to an hour. More useful details about a first interview here and about how long it should take here .

8.  How should I prepare?
Read the job ad carefully (they will ask about it to see how interested and careful about details you really are), prepare questions and read about their company. Why? Please read about it here.

9. What should I wear?
It depends on the position you are going there for. Please read about it here

10.Why did they call me since I have no experience?
Not all positions require experience. Some companies are willing to hire young inexperienced professionals and train them, sometimes even for months for a number of reasons: a fresh perspective, young people are more eager to learn and adapt to change and the last one (not too nice, but it's the reality unfortunately) - young people are willing to work for less money for a while. This can mean serious cost savings for the company. You need to remember that the corporate environment is all about profit not society well-being.

If there is a question that you may have and I missed, please write it to me in a comment and I will reply asap.

Take care,

Strengths and Weaknesses – What Should I Reply at the Interview?

A lot of candidates, especially those that are preparing for their first interview, ask the following question: "One of my friends has recently told me that during the interview the recruiter will ask for sure about my strengths and weaknesses. What do I reply? Can I prepare somehow for this question?"

Well, first of all, professional recruiters no longer waste their time with such questions that can be found in any recruitment and selection course for students. Professional recruiters prefer open discussions, case studies and of course ask the candidate to tell about specific situations where a certain skill could be found. For example, "Please tell me about a situation where you had a conflict in your team. What happened with your team members? How did you solve the problem?". If the candidate is a good manager, he would have solved the problem in an efficient manner without any further impact on the team. This kind of answer, with all the specific management details, is more valuable than the candidate just telling the recruiter he's a good manager. Answers to such well-known and expected questions like "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" can be prepared well before the interview, even found on the internet (some advisers may tell you what's useful to say and what's not) and the information offered to the recruiter by a shrewd candidate can easily deceive. Moreover, if the recruiter is following certain skills according to the job specifications and the candidate's answer is about others, then the time was completely wasted - better ask directly what I, as recruiter, am interested in.

Coming back to the question - there may still be recruiters who will ask you this question, so thinking a bit about it can't hurt. What should you reply? Clear strengths and weaknesses that are yours and not that you found in a book. Examples may be requested further on so don't lie. By the end of the interview, after several other questions, they will know you did. Also, remember that references can be verified, so additional information about you will be revealed for sure. If you say that you are always on time, but your former manager tells the recruiter during reference verification that you were late for work at least once a week, then you proved a liar and they won't care anymore about any other real skills you may have. 

Also, think about at least 3 of each. Some recruiters will insist that you tell 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses. In my opinion that's a waste of time, but you can prepare. Believe me, under the interview stress, you won't have any ideas, especially if you are a beginner on the market. You will hardly remember what you prepared at home; coming up with new ones will be even harder. Thinking a bit about it won't hurt as I said.

And last but not least, don't mention as weaknesses features that are in fact strengths - like "I am too ambitious". That will make the recruiter ask you to come up with one more and they will be really annoyed - trust me.

Now, what are strengths and weaknesses you may ask. Everybody talks about them but nobody tells you what they are. Well, strengths are positive features about yourself that can help you boost your personal or professional life - like being ambitious, smart, optimistic, organized, having good decision making skills, even knowing Java or Excel. Weaknesses are negative features that can slow you down - for example being impulsive (that's my main one). Being impulsive can affect your team work, can make you say or do things you can later regret. One more thing they may ask and you need to be prepared - how are you improving - think about what you do already or plan to do to make your weaknesses impact your life less, especially professional one - this is the one they are interested in. For example, if you don't know how to prioritize, a time management course can be helpful.

To sum up, you can think about this question and prepare something, but never come up with answers from the internet or details that in fact are not yours.

Take care and good luck with your interviews,

Should I Apply to All Job Opportunities in My Company?

A lot of employees are attracted by the job opportunities that their own companies open. Wanting to be promoted is a natural desire. The question is - if there are several different opportunities available at the same time, should I apply to all?

The answer is NO. Absolutely NOT! And here's why:

1. they will think you have no idea what you want - you want a career, that's clear, but you have no idea what to choose; you want to try it all out before you decide. This is not OK. The company needs someone reliable with clear decision making skills.

2. they will think that you have no idea what each job is all about - you can't possibly like all jobs and want to do all of them; this means that you haven't bothered to find details about each one before applying;

3. you want to be promoted at any cost and want more money - that's it - you don't really care about the job or the company;

4. you desperately want out of your team or you want a new manager; they will start asking what is wrong with your current team and manager;

5. you have no decision making skills - you can't decide what you want.

Did I convince you? I hope so.
Applying to too many open positions may "help you" lose them all, including to that one you may have been perfect for.

Take care,

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No Feedback Yet for an Interview I Had. Am I Rejected?

A lot of candidates ask themselves when should a proper feedback come from their potential employer. "Am I rejected?" they ask. Well, here's how it all goes:

1. Most companies won't reply to just receiving your application. In most cases, if you receive anything at all, it's an auto-responder email. So, don't get too excited - it means only that they received your application and that from then on you need to wait.

2. From receiving your application, they may contact you immediately (and I mean immediately - we were searching at some point for a Reporting specialist and I was scanning the applications every 60 minutes - the position was critical, so the guy that we hired in the end was called to be scheduled for interview about 30 minutes after he applied) OR it may take even months. My personal advice, don't send just one application and then just wait. Send applications to all positions you are interested in and take it from there. You have better chances this way. Just for you to have an idea about when you may be contacted - check to see when is the deadline for applications. Normally companies contact candidates shortly after that.

3. If they contact you for a first test or interview, then feedback from their side is mandatory. If they don't offer it, then this company is not worth taking into consideration. All reliable companies who respect their candidates should offer feedback, no matter if it's negative or positive. Negative feedback normally comes via email (sometimes via phone - we used to call all candidates who we thought had some potential chances in the future to tell them what to improve and when to apply again). Positive feedback comes as an invitation to another interview or as a job offering (via phone, email or as an invitation at the headquarters where the offer is discussed face to face).

So, when should you start worrying about not receiving the feedback? First of all, remember to ask at the interview about feedback. It's not wrong to ask details concerning the potential date of receiving feedback. If the tell you two weeks, give them 2-3 weeks (maybe they have some additional candidates they need to see before the final decision and it takes slightly a bit longer, the hiring manager is busy and can't have final interviews as initially planned or even the client comes with some changes in recruitment plans) and then start worrying. If it's been 4 weeks already and nobody has bothered to tell you anything (sometimes recruiters call candidates to tell them when feedback has been delayed), then forget about this company and start searching again.

Good luck with all your job plans and Happy Holidays,

My Future Employer Asks for My Criminal Record. Is This Common Practice?

A standard employment pack includes the following: personal ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate, birth certificates of your children, diplomas of your studies and courses,  bank account details (if they pay your salary via bank account), medical checks (just final OK from company doctor, not details of your illnesses which are confidential), records of previous jobs and recommendations, various statements that are filled in right before or right after you start.

Not all companies include the criminal record in the standard employment pack, but don't be surprised if they do. It can be for two reasons:

1. Internal procedures ask for it - your company may be part of a larger group or a large multinational, the owners may ask for it or past experience may have convinced them it's necessary. You may never know what issues they may have had in the past with their employees. I will tell you about a situation I had myself in the past with one of my previous companies - one of the employees we were about to hire (on the position of storage room manager) had been previously convicted for stealing. We found that out by asking for the criminal record. Would you trust your storage room with such an employee?

2. Client asks for it - we had a situation when a new client conditioned the signing of the contract on the new hires' criminal record - they would work with us only if the employees in their team had all clean criminal records. We had to accept the condition in order not to lose the business.

Besides criminal record, some companies ask even for drug tests. Don't consider it a discrimination factor. It's all normal. They are protecting themselves. 

Lastly, what you need  to know additionally in order to protect yourselves, the following are reasons for discrimination, are illegal and companies can't ask for any details connected to these: gender, sexual orientation, personal genetic features, age, nationality, ethnic group, religion, political orientation, social origin, disabilities, marital status or marital responsibilities (including pregnancy tests), Union affiliation.

Take care,