Zeke, the Storytelling Dog

the marketing writers blog photo of dog

I have a story. It’s a lovely story.

My name is Zeke. That is short for Ezekiel. I am a German shepherd dog. I work at The Marketing Writers. I have an important job. I am the Chief Security Officer. I am the Human Resources Director. Most of all, I am The Dog in Chief.

I tell stories. Lots of stories.

Follow the company blog, “I Have a Story,” for updates from a pup’s eye view of the content marketing world.

And until I’m old enough to write my own stories, my mommy, Marketing Writer President Jeanne Grunert, has written a few good tales, below. Enjoy!

Good Management Is An Art

Good management is an art rather than a science.

I started thinking about management skills today after I took a test for the website, Indeed.com. (Yes, I’m job hunting. Seriously hunting for a telecommuting, marketing job, director level or above. If you’re looking for someone or you know of a job…message me.)

But back to management as an art form.

Indeed, like many websites, offers skill tests. I’ve taken a few. Some are crazy hard, some aren’t what you think they are, and some, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, was just right.

The marketing tets – just right. The SEO test – just right.  But the management skills test? Difficult to say.

The test included multiple choice questions as well as audio clips that you listen to and then choose the correct response. The audio clips were strange. They were supposed to be a manager talking to her team. You’re then asking to evaluate her management skills.

My issue with the test is that I believe management is a nuanced skill. No two situations require the same approach. I once had an employee who was chronically late for work and showed up clearly hung over. His tardiness differed from another employee who also showed up late and seemed hung over. Her issue, I later learned, wasn’t overindulgence in the party lifestyle but rushing to drop off a cranky child at daycare every day.

Should I have immediately judged both employees similarly? You can’t apply the same response to each person. I knew, for example, that Employee B was a single mom. I suspected Employee A had been hitting the bars and dance clubs too often and too hard. But the only facts I had to deal with were 1) they were both showing up for work after 10 a.m. when business hours required them to be at their desk at 9 a.m.

My preferred approach is always to sit privately with someone and ask what’s going on. If I’ve built up enough trust with someone, they will tell me what’s going on. In all cases, I try to find a happy medium.

For Employee B, we agreed she could work through her lunch hour to make up the hour she missed. Her job required her to be on location, at the office, but whenever we could allow her to telecommute, we did. It seems clear to me that single parents, male or female, may need a little more flexibility to handle unexpected childcare needs.

For Employee A, after our discussion, he admitted he was having trouble with drugs and alcohol. That was a punch in the gut for me as I cared for him very much as a person and a friend. I’d worked with him for a long time and it was hard to hear him tell me some things. In the end, though, I worked it out with human resources to find him the assistance he needed to get treatment for his addiction problems. It was tough.

Management is really an art and a learned skill than a science. I’ve attended management courses throughout the years and all have been helpful, but the most helpful management training I received was direct mentoring from one of the best managers I have ever worked for in my career. He took me under his wing and coached me to be the manager I am today.

I would never say that I’m a perfect manager, by any means. But I successfully manage teams I’ve never met through remote, telecommuting work, because I ask the right questions, build rapport, and hold people accountable.

These are things that can be difficult to measure in a multiple choice test. But when all is said and done, no two people manage the same way. It’s really all about fit with a company’s style, culture, and the manager’s approach.

 

Making Virtual Teams Work

How do you make a virtual workforce a thriving part of your company?

work from home
Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Many companies need extra help during peak season. Some require specialized skills or a temporary opening filled. In these cases, a remote worker, also known as a virtual worker, telecommuter, or telecommuting freelancer, may be the answer.

So why don’t more companies avail themselves of the miracles of technology and find the absolute best person for the job, allowing them to work remotely?

For the past ten years, I’ve managed virtual teams. I began managing editors and writers for a major website. In that role, I didn’t choose who I worked with–I inherited teams from the previous editors. The company had strict working requirements, provided specialized software, and offered clear guidelines and quotas for monthly content.

In this example, a virtual workforce worked very well for the company. Not only did they achieve their revenue goals, but they were able to expand into multiple content niches because they drew from an enormous pool of writers scattered geographically far from their headquarters. They didn’t care if you lived within 10 miles or 1,000 miles from headquarters.

How did they achieve what other companies fail to do?

Clarity. Communications. Accountability. These are the hallmarks of happy, healthy virtual teams. Layer in some flexibility and its sister, creativity, and add to it the notion of reliability from both the company and its workforce and you’ve got a winning recipe for a happy, healthy virtual workforce.

In my latest article for Medium, I distill ten years of virtual management wisdom into an eight-minute read. For those looking to expand operations or improve the talent pool, consider a virtual workforce. Not only can it work well, but it can also work exceptionally well for your productivity, profitability, and service.

Ready? Let’s go virtual. Read the full article: How to Build a Healthy, Happy Virtual Workforce.

Three Leadership Qualities

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We often equate leadership qualities today with qualities that are actually antithetical to good leadership. The bluster, brashness, and bragging often associated with leadership point to weakness, not strength, when it comes to leaders.

What makes a leader?

Watching the coverage this week of former President Bush’s funeral, I was struck by several things.

President Bush exhibited a gracious approach to life. He understood the power of a simple thank-you. He understood the power of kindness. Not many leaders today, in business or in politics, understand this.

Secondly, his humility impressed me. All of his speeches formed humble pictures, many tributes to others. The elegance and grace of his words spoke to a time when American understood that political stance and divisive behavior moved aside post-election.

Lastly, his ability to connect with others, some of whom were former opponents, clearly spoke of leadership qualities.

I made a video discussing my impressions of these leadership characteristics and how business people may parlay them into qualities for success. Watch it below.

 

Business Leaders, Take Note

There are several lessons to be learned from this. CEOs and business leaders who understand the power of kindness and a gracious approach to their everyday interactions with their peers and subordinates tend to achieve better results than those who act dictatorially towards their staff.

Research bears this out. A study from the State University of New York at Binghamton demonstrates that leaders with a benevolent style tend to achieve stronger result than those with a dictatorial style. In other words, nice leaders finish first.

Are You Afraid to Be “Too Nice?”

I’ve heard that so often in my career – leaders saying they put on a mean mask to prevent others from thinking they are ‘too nice.’ They think that if subordinates view them as nice people, they will be viewed as weak and others take advantage of them.

St. Francis de Sales, a 17th century bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, wrote, “Nothing is as strong as gentleness, and nothing is as gentle as strength.” Be gentle, kind and firm, and you will achieve the best results. Consistent guidance, clear communication, and a kind approach to human relationships will always take you further than you anticipate.

 

Stopping Workplace Gossip

Stopping workplace gossip may be impossible, but it should be among your priorities as a leader. Workplace gossip wastes time, ruins reputations, and generally does more harm than good.

I’ve written a new piece for Medium this week Gossip in the Workplace – Stop Before Someone Gets Hurt.

I know that it is human nature to gossip, to share, to communicate. But I also believe that gossip can be the root of many workplace evils. It certainly wastes time. It can ruin good people’s reputations and cause damage that takes a long time to get over.

As a Virtual VP, a manager who heals and energizes teams for companies worldwide, I know that gossip flourishes in a culture of fear. Excessive workplace gossip is often a sign of poor communications. Employees, starved for accurate, honest information, speculate and share their guesses (gossip) for validation and feedback with coworkers. The result? Gossip, a lot of incorrect guesses, and a corporate culture that thrives on rumor. When the rumor mill takes over and is the best source of information in a company, you’ve got an unhealthy company environment that should be fixed.

Continue reading “Stopping Workplace Gossip”