Tag Archives: mentoring programs

Yes = Yes, No = No. There is No Maybe

ACE your communication!  How to Recognize, REFINE, Resolve Colleague and Team Expectations and Communication Challenges

Lori: “Brad, can you email me that information by this Friday, so the project can be completed?” 

Brad: “I am so busy and will not be at work tomorrow.  I’ll see what I can do.”

This is a common communication exchange in everyone’s life.  Should Lori expect the information from Brad she asked for by a specific date?  Yes?  No?  Whenever we communicate answers that are ambiguous, such as, “I’ll see what I can do”, “I am not sure…”, “I think I might”, “Let me get back to you”, we are not communicating very well.  The above short examples are open ended without any definitive answer in response to the person asking the question that requires a definitive answer.

These forms of communication often lead to frustrations between co-workers, doubts of co-workers, and the typical office gossip between co-workers.  All leads to further break down of communication and work productivity.

  How can someone’s ambiguous response be properly delt with that shows respect, confidence, and  demonstrate the satisfied interdependence for that co-worker; or team?  Whether you are working in a team situation, work closely with specific colleagues, or need to collaborate with someone you do not know yet, the principle of agreed communication expectations is foundational. 

 

Agreed Communication Expectations = ACE

The concept on agreeing on expectations in communicating is not new, not a new religion, not groundbreaking for the 6 o’clock news.   Yet, this topic continues to be written about in books that are on best sellers’ listings.  There still is Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, published in 1936 with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. This book is one of the best-selling books of all time. According to Wikipedia,  it was number 19 in 2011, on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential books. And there are  Dale Carnegie Communication classes now offered.  Another best-selling effective communication book, “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, another New York Times best seller with over 3 million copies sold.  With hordes of e-books, Kindles, Audible and the good old fashion book, combed with living in a society where technology is at our fingertips on our phones, laptops, pads, and desktops, why is communicating with each difficult?  The title of the blog, Yes = Yes, No = No is the giveaway to agreed communication expectations, or ACE.

How ACE Works

The timetable to start effectual communication is anytime: anyone can require this principle, reinforce this principle, retrace this principle in a chronology of communication with another.  Setting and agreeing on communication standards that includes updates, reminders, and to be able to speak up to another when the communication is not clear without being rejected, (as we are all subject to not stating clear thoughts!), that builds the success of communication, which, builds the productivity, respect, and admiration for one another.   Below are 2 examples of how two or more people can agree on terms of communicating without the feeling of misunderstanding or that feeling of ambiguity of whether the expectation will be met or not.

 

EXAMPLE 1

Agree that responses to requests need to be a “Yes” or “No” answer

Of course there are instances when a simple “Yes” or “No” needs to be accompanied by negotiating a different timeline, or amount of information that was requested, or some other difference where the two, or group, can agree and then rely on.  Ultimately you need to answer a “yes” with the appropriate delivery times, or “no, but I can next week, on such n such a day”.

You Cannot be “Just meat and potatoes” for responding to others

If you are the individual supplying the request, and you think you may need more time or cannot supply the entire bulk of information,  then state just that and state the reasons why.  This is where you cannot be that “Just meat and potatoes” person, meaning that short answers or quips is what you are about and that is how you communicate.  When at work, often, you do need to fill many gaps with proper reasonings to others, so they are informed of your request for change of date of requests or amount of information you can provide.   We must take into consideration that in large organizations,  the same department is also divided into silos.  Signifying that just because you have certain knowledge, another team member, or co-worker will not.  We cannot assume others have the same internal knowledge, no matter how trivial, that we have.

 

EXAMPLE 2

Repetition Builds Collaboration Confidence

I remember when matriculating for my physical therapy degree, most of the younger students would whine and complain about hearing the “same thing again”.  What they did not understand was that information repetition was building their ability to use that same information in a variety of ways.  Working situations are no different.  Ensuring that everyone is supplied and has responded to either requests, or changes of information, or changes in timelines are vital for not just the success of a specific project; it builds the success for better working relationships.    People that work well together will accomplish much more and more efficiently.

TAKE HOME                                         

Agreed

Communication

Expectations

ACE your communications!

Ergonomic Assessment Forms

The 7 Deadly Sins of Ergonomic Assessment


If you’re using a standardized ergonomic assessment form (or a set) to gauge the progress or success of your ergonomic initiative, you may not be realizing the total benefits available to you and your employees. You may also not be capturing or addressing the full scope of the issues before you.

This is especially true if you are tasked with achieving X results in a timeframe of Y. Your forms-based approach may or may not deliver results that will produce the metrics that the executive team wants to see. So, what to do?

Here are some of the limitations of forms-based assessments and how you can go beyond those limitations to create a whole new world of change.

1. The floor and ceiling effect. The REBA assessment form, for example, has a limited range within which to measure capacity and incapacity. I do not wish to step on toes, but, how can a previous injury impacting mobility be addressed within this form? Your movement floor and ceiling and my movement floor and ceiling are likely completely different. How can the individual’s unique range of motion be captured? And if the use of the REBA form, or similar forms, is mandated in order to fit into a larger hierarchy of performance, how can you track what’s really going on with a particular employee? Here’s a suggestion: add a detailed addendum to the form that identifies the individual’s particular physicality and its abilities and limitations and create a set of metrics around that. Bringing these metrics to the attention of the executive team and how tracking them has benefited both employees and the company may allow the introduction of a whole new set of metrics to be tracked across divisions/work groups.

2. Only addressing the design of the station. Welding will always be welding, but you can suggest and allow changes that will help address worker fatigue and stiffness. For example, you can build in stretch or rest breaks. Even just 45 to 60 seconds can reset the most used muscle groups.
3. Ignoring future effects. Each change you make will deliver short term, midrange, and long term effects. Are you tracking the effects of your ergonomic changes over time? Some of the changes you put in place may deliver excellent short term results, but might those changes produce poor results in the longer haul? For example, changing a reach at a workstation can create immediate relief for an employee as he or she begins to exercise a different set of muscles. But will the new reach movement deliver a different set of problems over time, or the same muscle fatigue problem you started out with? Thinking through the longer term effects of your ergonomic changes may reveal that additional considerations have to be made.

4. Not training or monitoring your ergo team effectively. If you don’t have an ergo team in place, then that’s step #1. If you do, the way you train that team and measure their results will have an enormous impact on outcomes. Proper training and continued training through developing a critical eye, will allow your team to implement corrections that produce positive results versus negative ones. For example, encouraging workers to stretch throughout the work is great. The caveat to this is whether or not the employee truly understands the hows and whys of stretching. This form of education must be nurtured layer by layer. Don’t assume proper movement patterns in stretching or exercising in anyone.

5. Not defining the role of the ergo team deeply enough. Does the ergo team view themselves as compliance police or teachers? Do they think their job is to enforce or to encourage? Studies clearly show that leaders who show up as teachers and encouragers will develop deeper relationships with their employees and produce better results than those who only try to achieve metrics. When a leader, or change agents, takes the approach of empowering and valuing employees, employees will show up engaged and eager to participate, even becoming teachers and encouragers themselves. The more distributed the selfcare message is—that is, the more often it comes from peers versus the leadership team—the more powerful it will be. Don’t feel like you have the right people in place to provide that training in a powerful way? We have trained many teams in this approach, and they’ve been extraordinarily successful in creating positive results for their employers and employees alike.

6. Not considering yourself a change agent. Many leaders fear that implementing a program focused on helping workers mitigate fatigue, body stiffness, or discomfort will soon have all workers complaining about having pain, and then what? Surely, they’ll demand more pay? Or, worse yet, we could experience higher worker’s compensation claims. We’ve found that concern to be baseless. In fact, our experience is that these programs help employees feel cared for and valued. Emotions expressed as “valued”, “cared for”, “appreciated” are powerful non-monetary benefits all companies can aspire to create in the company culture. This can spur employees to step up and participate in leadership roles, training fellow employees and providing helpful tips when they see the opportunity. Therefore, companies observe decreased worker compensation claims, increased productivity, increased quality, decreased number of days away from work.

7. Using the wrong words to communicate with employees on how they physically feel. Let’s take the word “discomfort”, a popular term in early intervention programs, and a term that OSHA approves, rather than the word “pain.” “Pain” equals an injury in OSHA terminology. Unfortunately, we find that employees often consider “pain” and “discomfort” as synonyms. The goal of Early Symptom Intervention programs is to get to the employee before pain. There are red flags that employees express either consciously or unconsciously well before a description of “discomfort” or “pain” is verbalized. It is here where you can begin to assist employees to make corrections to help and then monitor those corrections. This is an area in which ergo teams can fall short; not because they don’t care, but because the knowledge base is not there. And chances are this technical level of knowledge and application won’t be learned in ergo teams comprised of most current company employees: EHS, assembly team leads, production supervisors, HR personnel. The information necessary is in an entirely different career knowledge base. Hiring outside companies that have this experience to assist in molding, teaching, and mentoring internal ergo teams is highly valued by companies that are now traveling down this path, due to the significant results achieved by doing so.

Avoid these seven deadly sins in ergonomic risk assessment, and you’ll find yourself curing ills you may never have known you had.

3 WAYS A COMPANY CAN DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO ITS MOST VALUABLE ASSET

I have been reading lately more and more articles on LinkedIn and other sites about what is truly most important in a company.   Oleg Vishnepolsky, CTO of the Daily Mail and Metro.Co.Uk posted an interesting experience that gave opportunity for thinking and changing his actions titled, “Your most important assets are not your clients, it’s your loyal employees.  If you take of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”  Then there is Brigette Hyacinth, writer and author about working relationships in companies, who posted on LinkedIn a similar topic, “Why You Should Put Employees, Not Customers, First!”   Great articles to remind us that employees are individuals with high value.

And while this topic is not new, why are there so many articles and books on this topic?  It is obvious that there is a truth behind the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is an excellent company mantra.  For employees are, at the very least, two things to a company:  1) a company’s largest operating expense, and 2), a company’s largest and most valuable resource.  It is, therefore, critical for company executives to be the leaders in the manner they treat employees directly under them, as well as initiating programs that are powerful in the statement of how much a company cares for their employees.  The business we’re in—preventing employee injuries through a multitude of proven methods—is a demonstrable way to say to all employees that the company cares.   The benefits are two sided and valued by all recipients.

You may be able to visualize how the company can and should demonstrate outwardly their appreciation of employees, yet need a few easy methods to begin to institute and grow that care.   Below are three methods that can be used that will send a strong message to your employees about company commitment to them.

  1. Develop and start a strong daily stretch and movement routine. 

Companies that already have morning stretch programs in use, take stock.  It is quite possible that revamping and improving the program is in order.  For companies that have never started a morning stretch program, this method will be a welcomed employee experience.

Why?  Morning stretch and move programs provide not only physical flexibility and protection against injury, but daily educational moments as well.   Executives and managers can use this time with employees to improve their knowledge of physical movement and  fitness.  Not all individuals will have the same knowledge base, and this is an opportunity to bring everyone on the team to the same basic level of understanding.

  • For educational background, our bodies really do not stretch the way we may think of when the word “stretch” is used. Yes, there are elastic components in the tissues, but, overall, the tissues inside the human body slide and glide over each other. In addition, static stretches—the most commonly used type of stretch in many morning routines—should be replaced with what is known as dynamic stretches, or in Physical Performance Solutions parlance, specific movements.
  • Research shows that static stretches used prior to highly repetitious or ballistic movements can actually slow down the muscle firing process in the body for a short period of time.
    • To turn a static stretch into a dynamic stretch, make the stretch more of a movement rather than holding the end position.
    • This type of movement increases the blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, therefore mimicking larger movement patterns that maybe similar to the movements used in the work station.
    • Also add movements that are the opposite of what is used in the workstations. Why? For example, if gripping electric drills all day is a common task, the forearm muscles, both flexors and extensors, become fatigued well before the worker notices fatigue or stiffness. Teaching workers how to move body parts in the opposite direction helps to encourage and facilitate the tissue glide that is normal in the body.
  • Develop and encourage employees to use these movements all throughout the workday. Research in this area repeatedly shows that altering movements is beneficial to tissues of the body in maintaining a proper tissue motion.
  1. Institute a mentoring program for all employees.

In physical labor positions, many employees would like to step up and have the opportunity to expand their skills, yet feel that it’s not possible.  Starting a mentoring program at this level is just as important as mentorship programs that may exist in management or elsewhere in the company.

Mentorships here can take on many forms and be kept simple.  You might consider a reverse mentoring program.   An example of reverse mentoring can be an employee mentoring a production manager on the assembly line.  Managers aren’t doing the work, so they may be missing some important elements that the frontline worker can see.   More importantly, the relationship between a mentor and mentee is something that can foster respect across departments and job titles:  a benefit that money can’t buy.

Another example of reverse mentoring is to couple an older employee with a younger employee.  These methods help to increase the knowledge base across the workforce and build mutual respect.  This reverse hierarchal mentoring is also shown to increase trust, understanding and engagement across departments and across a company’s entire organizational structure.  Additionally, reverse mentoring is a positive method for gaining an accurate pulse of the culture of the company.

Developing a mentorship program:   A H A moments:    Agree,   Hunger,  Appreciate

  • Agree. Each party needs to define their goals. What are the expectations? Both individuals need to agree to these and any additional rules as the mentorship program is designed.  Defining goals and expectations ahead of time helps the two to help each other gain the knowledge each one would like to gain.  This helps to increase communication skills for both parties and certainly increases the work relationship.
  • Hunger. To learn! At certain times, even the mentor will become the mentee.  Especially in reverse types of mentorship programs, both parties are learning new information as they share their ideas and concerns.  All of this helps satisfy each participant’s hunger to grow.
  • Appreciate. Appreciation comes from the new knowledge and perspective that was shared. As I mentioned earlier,  no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.   In mentorships, the building of new relationships builds a new level of acknowledgement and appreciation.  That appreciation can result for many reasons.  The salient point is that more individuals within the company now have a greater depth of awareness—interdepartmentally, intra-departmentally, and across the company’s organizational structure as a whole.  Engagement will increase for the company as a whole.  And, as a whole, the company will succeed! Because more and more employees will be on the same team.
  1. Utilize specific employee surveys.

Employee surveys are not new.  Most medium to large companies use employee surveys to gain insight on what is important to employees in aggregate and also to address specific areas of concerns for individual employees.  We suggest a specific type of survey that will be used to impact the first two suggestions we’ve laid out here:  morning stretch and movement programs, and mentorships.   Via integrating the responses from this more specific survey, these two well-known methods can evolve, stay fresh, and engage employees, thereby becoming a true demonstration of the company’s appreciation of and care for its most valuable asset.