A Manager's Diary

Real-Life Managment Experiences

Instead of Making Excuses Own the Problem Even if It Isn’t Your Fault

Have you ever gone up to an employee to address a problem and instead of them helping to resolve it all they did was give you a hundred excuses about how it wasn’t their fault and there was nothing they could do about it?

Did this make you feel like going to them in the future to get a resolution to a problem? What did it do to your level of trust in that person?

As managers and supervisors, we need to be cognizant of how we respond to problems in the work place. Whether it is an employee looking for a solution, a fellow manager, or a boss, we need to own the problem.

Making excuses doesn’t solve a problem and it doesn’t build trust. Even if you’re not to blame for the problem it is better to take ownership of it and offer resolutions than to start throwing blame around.

I am not suggesting that you take responsibility for every problem that is presented to you. Only that as issues arise that are part of your area of responsibility don’t blow them off; be accountable.

When problems are initially discovered and you need to respond quickly it is better to be a leader and accept responsibility for correcting an issue.

There will always be time later to dig into the root cause and find out where it actually went wrong and who is to blame (though I would suggest blame is less important than identifying where the breakdown in the process occurred). Then when you do identify the root cause you will have built trust and clout with your team that will pay dividends especially if it turns out it really was your fault.

Taking responsibility for a problem shows a level of emotional maturity. It shows that you are confident, secure, and intelligent enough to shoulder hard issues.

Leaders don’t make excuses, they step up and make opportunities out of circumstances that are created because of a breakdown in a process.

Look at these trying circumstances as an opportunity to use your skill and knowledge to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

Use it as a learning opportunity, not just for yourself, but also your team. Show them what a leader looks like and use it to show them how to stick together as a team without casting blame on one another.

Be an example of how a person can put aside emotion, ego, and self-doubt to rise above difficulty.

Seek out win-win solutions that allow everybody in the process to walk away feeling that they gained something positive from the outcome.

Being a problem-solver, rather than playing the blame game, will bring you more personal success as well as your team and organization.

By being accountable for your area of responsibility you build trust with your management team and your subordinates.

Responding to difficult circumstances, taking accountability, and being a problem-solver will deliver far more positive outcomes than looking for someone else to blame. Leadership means taking on responsibility for things you didn’t do and finding solutions when other can’t or won’t.

Don’t be a follower hiding behind others. Be humble and helpful. Take on difficult decisions and shoulder responsibility. Lead by example.

At the end of the day, you have control over only one thing – yourself. So own yourself and own the situation. Stand tall and face the problem straightforward and with courage. Make the problems yours and you will win the day.

When Your Attitude is the Problem and How to Fix it

Attitude is everything. How others perceive our emotional state affects how they interact with us. You may be having a negative impact on your relationships with your team members and not even know that it’s happening.

Not long ago I was giving an employee his annual performance review. It was a very positive interaction with an employee that I genuinely enjoy working with. At the end of the review, the employee shared some very candid feedback with me about my relationship with one of his coworkers.

He told me that the co-worker felt unappreciated my be. This co-worker never knew what version of me he would see his first thing in the morning – the happy-go-lucky version or the sour version.

No matter how hard this employee worked, or how much extra he gave he felt like I didn’t appreciate it. Why? Because I never said thank you and never told him what a good job he was doing.

At the end of receiving this feedback, I was a little speechless. I thanked the employee for his honesty and letting me know about this. I told him I would give it some serious thought and consider how I could change my approach.

This was an eye-opening experience for me. I was very grateful to this employee and his honesty. I was grateful that he felt comfortable enough to tell me the truth and that he said it in a way that was respectful of me and his coworker.

After receiving this feedback I re-evaluated how I was presenting myself and how I was engaging my team. And to my dismay, I realized that I had a lot of work to do.

So what did I do to improve my relationship, not just with this one employee, but my entire team?

First, I set to work improving my own attitude. Realizing that I quickly became irritated when I walked in to work to a bunch of problems I resolved to focus on the positive, on the things that were going good, first thing in the morning instead of the negative.

Second, I took a few minutes to clear my mind and check my emotional state before setting off out on the floor to visit with my team, making sure to hit the floor with a smile on my face instead of a grumpy look.

Third, I started to engage people on a personal level asking them how they were doing and genuinely listening to their problems taking the focus off of myself and my problems.

Finally, I began to make time every morning to find something to be grateful for and recognize the hard work that my team was doing. Now I look for opportunities to give recognition and always say thank you freely, genuinely, and frequently.

When one of your team mates has a bad attitude you need to look yourself in the mirror and see if you might be the reason why.

It isn’t easy admitting when you are creating the problems that are causing a member of your team to be dissatisfied with their work. But the sooner you recognized your issue the sooner you can get to work correcting it.

Be honest with yourself and with your team. Be grateful when someone on your team is honest enough to tell you the truth about yourself. Always show gratitude and respect for the work your team members do. Don’t let your problems become your team’s problems. Always put other people and their problems first.

If you take these simple acts and practice genuine concern for your employees it will help ensure that you and your attitude isn’t going to create stress for the people on your team.

A Positive Attitude Can Overcome Any Problem

When problems are piling up and you feel like you are deep in a negative spiral a positive attitude can not only lift you up but it can lift up your whole team.

It can be difficult to find the positive in a negative situation but it is essential to overcoming any problem.

The more we focus on the negative the more we shut ourselves off to the potential solutions to the problem. It is hard to see the possibilities under a pile of garbage.

So how do you regain your positive attitude when things are going wrong?

First, start with a concern for other people. When we take the focus off ourselves, and our own problems, and look for ways to help others it helps put a new spin on the problem. It forces us to step outside ourselves and see a larger reality.

When we focus on others we see the problem through their eyes which will cause us to gain a new perspective on the issue.

It also changes our attitude from one of self-pity to one of service. This can be empowering. When we realize we have the power to make our little world better and improve the situation of other people, we quit feeling pity for ourselves and start acting in a positive manner.

Helping other people also fills us with positive feelings. When we have a positive impact on others their gratitude fills us with gratitude. It may be cliché but you get what you give.

For more on this see – The People Connections – Making for a Happy Workplace.

Second, practice gratitude. No matter how bad things are you always have something to be grateful for no matter how small.

Make a list – either write it down or mentally. Identify at least five things that you are grateful for. Focus on how those good things make you feel. Think about what life would be like without those things.

Gratitude can fuel a soul at the worst of times and empower us to see the world through a more positive lens.

Third, think back to another difficult situation or problem you have faced in the past. Realize that no matter what the problem you have faced similar situations in the past before and survived.

Focus on the temporary nature of problems. This will help you to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Consider what you did to overcome past problems and how you felt once they were overcome. Stay focused on the positive outcomes.

Like anything in life, good things come when we put in the effort and the work. Regaining a positive attitude when things are going wrong isn’t easy. It is much simpler to wallow in our own misery and wait for the situation to clear. The only problem is by doing that the outcome will not be good.

Instead, make the effort to change your attitude. To focus on the good. Focus on others. Be grateful. And remember, you have been here before and survived.

What do you Value as a Manager?

As managers of people, we need to decide what it is we value. We also need to ensure that our values are rightly ordered to ensure that we are treating our people, and the organizations we work for properly.

If we value things like power, prestige, and recognition then are we really serving our employees and organizations in the right way?

How can we serve others if our values are self-centered? That isn’t to say there is anything wrong with wanting to be recognized and rewarded for the work we do. We should want these things. But if they become the overriding motivation for what we do then the people will get lost in our desires.

When we lose sight of the people we end up damaging relationships. All our actions as managers are dependent on relationships and serving others. It is the value of these relationships that lead to individual and organizational success.

So we have to begin with right values. I challenge you to sit down right now and make a list of what your career and personal values are. Maybe it would help to provide a definition.

For the sake of this article, we will define value as “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life” (source).

What is important in life to you? What are the underlying principles that guide you?

I believe that every individual has intrinsic value and that every individual brings their own value to whatever group they belong to. In addition, we are all deserving of respect and the right to explore our own strengths in a manner that allows us to achieve our greatest end.

As a manager, I hold the principle that I have a duty to serve both the organization that I work for and the people that I am tasked with managing.

With these values as my guide, I formulate how I will deal with and interact with the members of my team. And I hope they help me to treat all the people I deal with in a manner of respect and dignity.

Values help us to form a view of the world and the people around us. They act as guides to help us act in a consistent manner. But if we never take the time to consider our values in a deep and meaningful way then we are guided by nothing but our feelings in the moment.

Sit down today and take some time to write down the things that you value. Then consider if you are acting in a manner that is consistent with those stated values, and if not then what are you going to do to change that?

7 Habits Study Guide

Free Time-Management Course

Stephen R. Covey’s – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a classic time management book. I am currently going through this book as a skill building exercise for my job. In the first chapter, Dr. Covey discusses the fact that the best way to learn something is to teach it. So I am going to be offering a special free training session covering the material from this classic book.

If you would like to take this free 12-week course sign up below. This will get you on the course mailing list as well as A Manager’s Diary newsletter. By the end of the weekend, you will be receiving an email with more details. If you are not currently on my email list what are you waiting for? Sign up today below to get on my email list and take advantage of this special free training session. We will cover a chapter a week along with exercises and free downloads to accompany the learning.

If you have never read Stephen R. Covey’s – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the great time management techniques in this book. You will also have the opportunity to join a private chat where you can ask questions and get answers.

Sign-up ends Friday, July 14, 2017. The course begins Monday, July 17, 2017.

In addition to this free training, all new subscribers will receive a link to download an Epub version of my book – The Peaceful Manager: A Beginner’s Guide to Managing People as well as other useful downloads.

If you want to purchase a copy of the 7 Habits I would be grateful if you would purchase through my Barnes and Noble Affiliate link. When you do I receive a small commission that helps keep this website going.

There is also a free PDF copy of the book available here.

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Supervising – Just Relax and Manage

When I first started supervising people I was very insecure. I had no idea what I was doing. Every problem was a nail and I was a hammer. People got tense when I walked up. They were just waiting for me to get upset about something and blow up.

My leadership did not inspire people. Instead, I put people on edge. A lot of people thought I was arrogant, the truth was I was scared. Every day I thought I was going to lose my job.

After a while, I began to realize that I was creating too much stress for myself and my team. My technique was not effective and I discovered I needed to change the way I was interacting with my team.

Getting angry and going off the handle on every problem did not instill confidence in others regarding my decision-making ability. I didn’t have a high level of emotional intelligence.

Another problem I had was feeling the need to always be in control. When some issue would arise I wanted to address it immediately in order to gain control over it. Waiting wasn’t an option. I had to attack the issue and that’s what I did – attack.

When I started to have anxiety attacks and dread going into work I began to realize that I needed to change. I didn’t like how I felt or the way I was reacting. My employees were unhappy and they were beginning to complain. I was young and inexperienced and didn’t know where to turn.

I wish I would have had somebody to turn to who could have helped me see where I was going wrong and what I should do to be more effective.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that kind of help. My manager and fellow supervisors tried to offer help and they always supported me, but they couldn’t offer an overall strategy for effectively managing people.

Where it started to change for me was a training session I took on leadership, team-building, and coaching. It has been so long I don’t remember the company putting it on, but it was an eye-opening training. The person training the course gave great examples of how to lead teams and give coaching to employees in a positive and open manner.

Finally, somebody was offering me effective and actionable advice in a clear strategy. I began to use the skills I learned in this training session and felt myself relax and gain confidence as a supervisor.

So what did I learn? Here are the tips that made a difference for me:

  1.  Always treat everyone with respect. It doesn’t do any good to get angry and yell. The only thing this does is to put people on the defensive. Always speak from a position of concern for the person you are coaching. Make it about helping them improve.
  2. Always stick with facts – avoid emotions. No one can argue with facts. A thing either is or isn’t. You can disagree about the particulars but if you have done your homework and kept good records, then the facts will always be on your side.
  3. Keep good records. This is essential. The better the records you keep the easier it is to address employee issues. It also covers your butt in case of a termination. The more facts you have the easier it is dealing with problematic employees.
  4. Let go of the need to control. At the end of the day, all you can do is deal with the here and now. You can’t control what has happened, or what will happen, but only how you respond to the circumstances. It is better to approach circumstances in a cool and calm manner because then you can think clearly and come up with better solutions to deal with the problem.
  5. Give yourself time to think through your response to a problem. Never go at a problem hot. Allow yourself some time to consider all the facts before responding. Let the emotions calm down and sit down and consider all the possibilities and then formulate your plan. Once you are calm, have all available facts, and a plan then you can move forward with dealing with the issue.

It is difficult dealing with employee issues when you first get started. Emotional responses are easy, ut don’t lead to good outcomes. Time is the only way to gain experience and ultimately confidence in yourself. Having good coaches and mentors can definitely help you on the way.

If you would like a free 45 minute coaching session to help you on your way email me at peacefulmanager@gmail.com, or email me questions anytime. I would love to talk to you. For more on my experience see my LinkedIn profile.

Is it so Hard to Like our Employees?

I know, employees are difficult.

Employees can be unreasonable, childish, difficult, selfish, short-sighted, and stubborn. But without them, your employer wouldn’t need you. The same adjectives could also be used to describe managers and supervisors.

Human beings, in general, are difficult and unreasonable. We all want what is best for us, not necessarily what is best for others. So we need to look past the negatives that other people bring to an organization and start to focus on what we can do to have a positive impact on these fellow human beings in order to benefit the overall team.

Nobody says you have to love everybody. That is reserved for a select group of people within your circle of influence. You don’t even have to hang out with them after work. But you do need to find the positive in each person you deal with so that you can get the best out of each team member.

What keeps you from seeing the positive and finding a way to like the most difficult of people? You. Because the only thing that you have any control over is yourself. When leading a diverse group of people it is important to put your own ego aside. A focus on self will never inspire others. It will never allow you to see the good in others.

Everybody has some good characteristics. It can be difficult to see when our emotions are running hot, but it is out there. You just need to dig deep sometimes and get past your own feelings to see the truth.

Managers and supervisor, if they are going to be successful leaders, need to master their own emotions and see past their own limitations.

In order to master your emotions and see the best in others you need to understand one truth – the only thing in this world you have control over are your own thoughts and actions. That is it. You control nothing else.

And in relation to only having control of self is the fact that the only place we are able to act is in the present. It is the only time that people can implement change. The past is dead and the future in unknown. We cannot affect the past and we can only plan for an uncertain future. So stop dwelling on what has happened or what will be. Live in the now and engage people in the now.

Don’t hold on to the past or make assumptions about a person’s ability to change. Everybody is able to change it is just a matter of whether or not they want to. Sometimes all it takes is the right motivation to get them to change.

Yelling, screaming, and intimidation is not a good strategy to inspire people to embrace change.

The more you push people and back them into a corner, the more they will resist change. This is just part of human nature. When we feel threatened we turn to a defensive mode. This means we justify our position and dig into that position. Once this happens there is no hope to get buy in.

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, in his Welch Way leadership program brings up the idea of WIFM – what’s in it for me – as a consideration for getting buy-in to changes. This is what motivates your employees. And it is what you have to figure out if you’re going to get them to buy into your plans.

Understanding employee motivation from a neutral, non-judgemental standpoint is essential to getting the best out of people. You have to free yourself from your own prejudices and ideas of what is right and wrong. Instead, focus on seeing things through the lens of the employees you manage. Then you can structure a plan that will meet their needs, gaining their buy-in, so you can meet the organization’s needs.

So instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your people, the elements of human nature that you can’t control, focus on finding out what their strengths are and what motivates them. Try liking your people. You might just find that there is more good than bad in them.

Managing Generational Differences

We hear so much these days about how the millennial generation is affecting change in the workplace. It is said as if this is something new or unique. But are the generational difference between Millennials and other generations that different and do we need to reinvent the workplace to conform to their values or should they conform to meet the organization’s values?

I come from Generation X. We are the group that came after the baby boomers. Born from 1965-1984 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).We were known as being disaffected, spoiled, and moody.

Shaped by the post-Vietnam environment where nothing was to be trusted. The government was defined by Nixon and the 1970’s. Our views of marriage were formed by the high rates of divorce we all lived through. We saw our parents as having given up on their values and beliefs in exchange for a comfortable, mundane suburban existence.

Existential angst became our stock in trade. We were rebelling against everything and nothing. And in the end, we became more like our parents. The revolution was without substance.

It is popular for my generation to dismiss Millennials as lazy, spoiled, and lacking a sense of what the real world is about.The truth is Millennials want the same thing we wanted – a sense of purpose and place in this world. After all isn’t that what we all want. And while my generation sacrificed our values for comfort, and ultimately created the generation we now despise, they really aren’t so much different from us.

So how do we manage differences between the generations in the workplace?

First, we have to start by remembering what it was like being young and idealistic. If we can remember back that far we will probably realize that we weren’t so much different.

Put yourself in the younger person’s shoes. Try to empathize with them and understand what it is that motivates them. Give them credit for having something valuable to offer.

If you’re dealing with an older workforce the story is the same. Understand that where they are at in their life is different from where you are at, and because of this, you are going to have different values and different expectations. But because they have different values doesn’t mean that they don’t have anything of substance to offer.You need to find places of common ground where you can come together no matter the generational milieu that each person inhabits.

Find what motivates and then use that to engage and get the best out of that person. This isn’t about manipulating people. It is about taking a genuine interest in learning about a person and then tailoring your management style to meet their needs.

There is no one style that works for all people or all generations. You need to keep an open mind and be willing to change your style to suit the need of your employees.

So that begs the next question – should the workplace conform to meet the needs of the individual or should the individual conform to meet the values of the organization? The answer is yes – both.

An organization, like an individual, must define its values and then set an expectation that each member of the organization should conform to. There needs to be a recognition that part of what an individual is getting paid for is to support organizational values. This does not mean they need to compromise their personal values, they just need to adapt to the values of the workplace. If they can’t then they need to seek employment with a business that more closely aligns with their own personal values.

At the same time, the organization needs to be adaptable to understanding the needs of its employees and make accommodations that remain in line with organization values. Managers should be open to, and respectful of, the individual’s values.What does that mean for you as a manager? First, you need to support the company and promote its values. Second, you need to understand your people’s needs, and where you have the ability, be flexible with them to meet their needs.

There is no need to be stubborn and put up barriers to people because you don’t agree with all their values.

Instead, we must use our empathy, the skill of understanding other people’s needs, and consider their point of view. Sometimes just taking the time to understand, even if you can’t give them what they want, will win their motivation and dedication.

There will always be generational differences in the workplace and each generation will always see the others as somehow inferior to their own. This is human nature. As managers, we need to engage and understand all the different generations within our workplace and find ways to motivate and get them all to work together in a harmonious manner.

Communicating Not Emotional Reaction

Are you communicating or reacting emotionally?

The other day I was communicating with an employee who has a tendency to resort to emotional communications. When they receive information they do not agree with they take an aggressive and attacking style. They are trying to seek out additional facts, but it comes across as a type of blame game. I don’t even think this individual realizes how they are coming across when they act in this way. It would be easy to get sucked into their emotional state and respond in kind. It would be easy, but not productive.

So often we allow other people’s emotions to affect how we communicate. And when we do we lose the ability to communicate effectively.

Listen without responding

What do you do when you feel like your being attacked? Attack back. Right? I know that is my initial response and in my younger days it was my default response. Overtime, I began to realize how ineffective this strategy was. None of us likes to be disrespected or to feel like our decisions are being questioned. But, if we can’t deal with negativity then we are going to get sucked in and find out that we have even less control then when we started.

When dealing with somebody who is emotional and negative the best response is to just listen. Try to understand what is driving their emotional response so you can formulate a non-emotional response that will address their perceived, or real problem.

Before you can resolve any disagreement or conflict you need to listen. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they are saying, only that you need to understand it. If you don’t take the time to understand other people’s perspectives you can’t hope to engage in positive and productive communication.

Communicating through emotions only further generates more emotions in response. At the end both people will walk away feeling frustrated and nothing will have been resolved. Both parties will be even further away from an amicable resolution then when they started.

Respond with questions not answers

An emotional person is seeking understanding and is expressing frustration due to a perception that they are not being heard. So when you respond start by asking questions. Don’t assume you know the answer – even if you do. Ask questions that not only help you to understand, but that also help the other person to think deeper about what is upsetting them. This will allow them to feel that they are being listened to and it will also challenge them to give non-emotional, and hopefully factual, responses to the situation. Asking questions generates thoughtfulness and hopefully recognition of all facts.

Sometimes all it takes to diffuse emotional communicating is to seek understanding. Once the person realizes that you are concerned with at least hearing their perspective it takes a lot of fire out of their emotional state.

Control your emotions and you can control the conversation

If you control your emotions and seek out understanding you will find yourself in control of more conversations. This doesn’t mean that you are always correct, or that you are winning conversations, it simply means you will be able to direct the conversation to an amicable outcome.

Avoid emotional responses. Seek understanding. Find common ground that gets both parties to a resolution that gets each side a bit of what they want.

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Staffing in an Age of Scarcity and What you can do About it

Staffing – Where have all the workers gone?

It has become increasingly difficult for employers in most industries to maintain adequate staffing. Businesses are having to do more with fewer people. In some cases, businesses are choosing to close their doors due to not being able to find the help they need to keep their business running.

Why is it so difficult to find employees? There are multiple reasons. The baby boomer generation is well into their retirement ages. Gen Xers and Gen Yers don’t have the numbers to make up the difference. Millennials have either decided to run their own businesses, work part-time, or have opted to not enter the workforce and live in their parents basements.

Regardless of the reasons, the truth is that there are fewer people looking for work.

Good Employees? I am happy with just a heartbeat.

It used to be that you could put out an ad, get a number of qualified candidate, and hire the best one. Nowadays I don’t even worry if they are a good candidate, as long as they show up to work everyday I am happy.

Even when you can find a good candidate, you should feel fortunate if they stick around. Today, people have far more employment choices and therefore are far less dedicated to any one employer. Maintaining staffing levels in the age of the worker nomad can be frustrating.

Gone are the days of people staying at one job their entire career. The new norm is people who have multiple employers and frequently change jobs throughout their working career.

What do we do?

So, what do we do about our staffing when fewer people are looking for jobs and those that are will be less dedicated and more likely to leave?

Here are some tips for managing people under these new, more difficult circumstances:

  1. Treat all employees with dignity and respect. This may seem like a no-brainier but it’s not. It is easy to treat the good employees well, but not so easy with the marginal or down right bad employees. Regardless of what kind of worker they are you need to be even handed and respectful with all your employees. Word gets around quickly if an employer treats its people fairly or not. You can’t afford to treat anyone poorly and get a reputation as a lousy boss or a bad employer.
  2. Coach up your marginal employees. Whether you like it or not you need everybody. It is more important than ever to try to find ways to coach up marginal employees. Have one or two of your high performers become mentors to marginal employees. Hold them accountable but always encourage them. Help them to see the short and long term benefits of improved performance. Let them know that you are genuinely interested in their success.
  3. Show gratitude and understanding to employees when they find a new job. I know its hard to loose anybody, especially really good employees, but that doesn’t mean you need to treat them poorly on their way out. Always wish them well, and if they did a good job and gave you plenty of notice, let them know that the door is always open. In today’s work environment people tend to boomerang. If you treat them well when they are leaving they will be more likely to return if things don’t work out with their new employer.
  4. Treat the employees you have well. It is to difficult and costly to hire new employees. It is far easier to keep the ones you have. While managers don’t always have the ability to change compensation and benefits, it doesn’t mean we are without the ability to influence weather people stay or leave our companies. Show gratitude for the work your employees do. Let them know they are appreciated and their contributions make a difference. If you have the ability to allow flex scheduling be generous with your employees. Say thank you and take advantage of opportunities to reward everyone on your team that does a good job. Go out of your way to recognize employees efforts.
  5. Focus on the positive. As tough as it is to manage people these days you need to do your best to remain positive. Not just for your own well being, but also the well-being of your team. If you come to work frustrated and grumpy every day it will not inspire others. Maintain a positive outlook and keep focused on the things that are going right. Allow our attitude to make others want to do their best and feel good about working with you.

Today’s workforce can be unpredictable, entitled, and fickle. Employees are no longer dedicated to a single employer throughout their career. The workforce has shrunk and will continue to be very competitive. These are the new realities we face and they aren’t going to change anytime soon. So instead of digging in your healing and feeling sorry for yourself you need to adjust and adapt. By focusing on ways that you can create a positive work place, focused on the success of each team member, you will have a better chance of maintaining staffing and attracting new talent.

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