Accelerate Institute: A Participant’s Perspective - Courtney Wiher, Crisis Prevention Institute

Learn more about the Accelerate Institute from a recent graduate’s perspective. Get a sneak peek into what goes on inside the Accelerate Institute and learn more about the personal experiences from the participants. In this video, Courtney Wiher shares her thoughts on the program.

There is still time to register for the Accelerate Institute. The first session will be held on September 13th. To learn more, contact us today.

Accelerate Institute: A Participant's Perspective - Scott Juedes, City on a Hill

Get a sneak peek into what goes on inside the Accelerate Institute and learn more about the personal experiences from the participants. In this video, learn more about Scott’s journey through the Institute.

There is still time to register for the Accelerate Institute. The first session will be held on September 13th. To learn more, contact us today.

Accelerate Institute: A Participant's Perspective - Jenny Weeden, Accelity Marketing

Get a sneak peek into the Accelerate Institute! In this 2-minute video, Jenny shares her takeaways as a new manager at Accelity Marketing and how the Accelerate Institute helped in her role. 

Registration for our next cohort of the Accelerate Institute is now open! There are still spots left for our September start date. Do you know a rockstar high-potential or emerging leader? Do you have a new leader on your team that wants to take their skills to the next level? Are you one? Register for the Fall cohort today

Accelerate Institute: A Participant's Perspective - Caleb Smith, epikos Church

Continue to get to know the talented leaders who have graduated from the Accelerate Institute. Learn more about our participant's journey from beginning to end through the Accelerate Institute and get a closer look into what goes on inside the program. In this video, learn more about the experience of one of our participants representing a non-profit organization. 

There is still time to register for the Accelerate Institute. The first session will be held on March 7th. To learn more, contact us today.

Reducing the Cost of Transition

In our latest video, Matt Meuleners of FOCUS Training discusses the increased cost of going outside your organization to fill a leadership role. Internal hires shortcut challenges such as clarifying roles on their team, establishing relationships, and navigating the corporate culture. 

To learn more about building leader capabilities, join us for our next HR Summit on September 15th. Heidi Brookes, Director of Organizational Development and Learning at Charter Manufacturing, will be our guest presenter. Click here to register for the event.

Motivating Employees: Leverage Expectancy to Drive Action

Do you ever find yourself running some quick calculations in your head when your boss asks you to take on a new project? Most of us do a bit of mental math to decide whether to take action. Matt Meuleners, managing partner at FOCUS Training, talks about using Expectancy Theory as a management tool for motivating employees:

  • Expectancy - will my efforts be successful?
  • Valence – will success actually lead to rewards?
  • Instrumentality – are the projected rewards desirable to me?

    Click here to view the video. 

Forward-thinking leaders can manage the factors to move the needle towards action. To learn more about Expectancy Theory and motivating employees, join us for our next HR Summit on July 26th. 

Motivating Employees: Internal Support for a Happy Culture

Betsy Barnich, Client Relations Director at FOCUS Training, shares tips on how to support your colleagues to increase effectiveness and efficiency: 

A friend of mine recently asked me, “how is it possible that you LOVE your job so much?" Apparently I had been going on and on about how great my company and team are… again.

I forget sometimes that not everyone feels the way I do about my job. When I was forced to really sit back and think about it, I think the difference is that my colleagues feel like a family. To me, that means they are “my kind of people.” We don’t always get along, but we care about and for each other. We have fun, share our lives, celebrate milestones and traditions.

We all spend such large amounts of our time working – who you work with (and for!) can be a HUGE variable in your overall daily happiness. How can we as employees and colleagues support one another and increase our effectiveness and efficiency at the same time?

 1)      Allow for differences. I’m the first to admit that I like things the way I like them. But over the years, I’ve learned I can with relative ease, like things the way other people like them too. It’s simply not a deal breaker if someone who is helping me out with a task forgoes the oxford comma in their writing. Would I skip it in my writing? Never. But that doesn’t make it wrong. The meaning of the message doesn’t change, the outcome is same, and most importantly, the task is complete.

2)      Laugh with them. Do you remember your first day at a new company? I do. I was terrified. It felt like the first day of high school all over again. But then it happened… someone said something funny and we all laughed. That shared experience was exactly what I needed to feel more comfortable. A shared laugh in a cubicle or even a brief smile when passing in a hallway says “I’m glad we’re on the same team” – even if you have no idea what part of the team they are on or what role they play.

3)      Treat them like family. Show an interest in them as people – not just coworkers. Maybe inviting your whole company over to Sunday dinner is a little too outside of the box for your situation, but simply asking them how their weekend was during the Monday morning meeting is not. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes a difference.

What it comes down to is this: I love my job because I love the people. I look forward to coming to the office because I can’t wait to see them, and work alongside them. If that is not how you feel, remember that it can start with you.

Tips on Being Coached

Being coachable allows for employees to succeed and grow within their careers. While being coached may seem like a simple process, it is important for employees to learn the skills they need to succeed at it. Alyssa Chang, lead trainer at FOCUS Training, shares three tips on how to be coachable:  

1. Be present.
Actively listen to what your managers have to say.

2. Reflect.
Think about what your managers say and your reaction to it.

3. Don't take anything personally.
Be open to the constructive criticism that your managers give you.

To learn more about coaching, join us for our next HR Summit happening on May 19th.

Coaching through a Role Change

Changing professional roles can be both exciting and stressful. Often, when a person is promoted due to success in a particular job, he or she is moved into a position that requires a completely different set of skills. For example, a talented salesperson may not have the management skills to lead a team. One way of reducing the learning curve is to work with an experienced coach.

Coaching through a role change requires the coach to dig deeper with the coaching recipient. Coaches should consider using a SWOT analysis to guide their coaching approach:

  • Leverage Strengths - A coach can help a recipient by identifying strengths that were developed in a previous role and finding ways to use these in the new one. If the coaching recipient previously utilized strong interpersonal communication skills in her role but didn’t have the opportunity to lead meetings or deliver presentations, the emphasis should be on using existing communication skills in a new way.
  • Minimize Weaknesses - Coaches should be direct about the limitations they believe will hinder the progress of the coaching recipient in their new role. Identification of weaknesses and creating mastery experiences to develop the needed skills to succeed is an important part of the coaching process.
  • Identify Opportunities - A new role will likely come with many opportunities. It is best to limit the coaching recipient to one major opportunity and one or two smaller ones. Seek out internal and external opportunities.
  • Eliminate Threats - Threats during a role change can take many forms. Avoid fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The person in a new role will want to exude confidence so as to establish a position of strength.

The most effective coaches focus on tactical changes that lead to better outcomes. By organizing interactions through the use of a SWOT analysis, a coach will add value and improve ROI. To learn more about coaching, join us for our next HR Summit happening on May 19th. 

Coaching for Results

It is essential for leaders to distinguish between three roles that are often confused: that of a manager, mentor and coach. Todd Gehrmann, CEO at FOCUS Training, focuses on the role of a coach and shares strategies that successful coaches use on a regular basis to get results.

  • Look for and focus your attention on a desired outcome.
  • Get as specific as you can.
  • Give feedback early and often.
  • Balance positive feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Manage expectations.
  • Learn what motivates the individual with whom you are working.

To learn more about individual performance coaching, join us for our next HR Summit happening on May 19th. 

Coaching to Eliminate Errors

Matt Meuleners, Executive Partner at FOCUS Training, shares tips on how to coach employees to reduce and eventually eliminate repeated errors: 

A manager I meet with regularly called me to vent this morning.

"I give up. This new tech I hired is just not getting it. I've showed him again and again, but he keeps making the same mistakes. How do I get through to him?"

This frustration is common among managers and leaders everywhere. We want our people to succeed... and the work to get done well. 

If you find yourself in this scenario, start by asking some clarifying questions:

  • Are these actually the same mistakes each time? Or is the employee discovering new ways to err as they repeat the process?
  • Are these actually mistakes? Or are they subjective choices that you prefer would be different?
  • Are these mistakes the fault of the employee? Or are there environmental factors that could be causing the errors?

A "no" to any of these questions does not mean there isn't a problem to overcome. However, it is a different problem than the one we are discussing here. The process of coaching an employee to reduce and eventually eliminate repeated errors is challenging because it typically combines two forces that the coach needs to impact:

1. How the employee learns
Sometimes the root cause of repeated mistakes is exactly what we like to assume - they aren't getting it. Before you blame the learner, take a hard look at how you are attempting to teach the process. If you just sat down and told them how to do it, you delivered the equivalent of a lecture. Learning experts will tell you this is one of the least effective teaching methods, particularly when teaching an individual a complex task. Instead, try talking it through, then modeling it for them to observe, and then asking them to try it while you observe. Follow that up with a bit of Q&A. This is a greater investment of time, but makes it much less likely that you will have to go through it again. In the end, you will save time (and anxiety) with a more robust teaching approach.

If you are exhausted by having to repeat yourself about how to do a process correctly for the third or fourth time, consider that this might also be part of the problem. If your teaching approach didn't connect with them last time, simply repeating yourself is unlikely to move the needle now. Try mixing up your teaching approach – a sample project, a case study, or a round of shadowing another employee are all possibilities.

2. How the employee is motivated
There are times when the barrier to improvement is not skill but desire. When an employee knows how to do the process properly, but continues to make the same errors, a skilled manager will look to the drivers of motivation. What sorts of forces help the employee to make progress in other areas, and how can you apply them here? This could mean something as simple as asking to see a preliminary report before they complete the task, which adds some personal accountability earlier in the process. This could also mean walking the employee through the impact that their mistakes are having on their coworkers, which connects their results to a social force.

In these cases when the error is really stemming from a lack of care (or self-awareness), motivating the employee to invest extra thought in the process is key. Leaders should remove as many barriers as possible to help. For example, limiting distractions or conflicting priorities for the employee on the day when that process needs to be their focus.

These are just two considerations to help an employee learn from and eliminate errors in their work. Like any performance issue, the willingness of a manager to patiently coach is a significant factor. Take a deep breath, think about your approach, and try again.

Coaching Success in Employees

Some employees lack the confidence it takes to achieve success. If you have an employee who isn’t feeling assured about their job, there are a specific steps you can take to help. Melissa Goltra, managing partner at FOCUS Training, shares three ideas on how to help your employees build confidence in their positions. 

1. Break down job responsibilities.
A great way to establish goals is to create a list of job responsibilities of the employee. Allow time for that individual to do a self-assessment, measuring his or her own competency for each responsibility. It’s important for you, as their manager, to do an assessment for them as well.

Take time for regular meetings to check on progress. During these meetings, discuss successes and opportunity areas. Looking back at the list will allow for a visual representation of the progress made over time. This way, your employees will understand what they need to do to exceed at their job.

2. Celebrate small wins.
If you see an employee doing something great, take the opportunity to congratulate that person, no matter how big or small the job was. Celebrating all successes will allow your employees to build confidence.

3. Allow the opportunity for input.
Many employees do not always feel comfortable sitting down with a manager to share their feelings. Take some time with an employee to ask how they’re feeling about their job – do they have the resources you need to succeed? Is there more you can do as their manager to help them achieve success?

If you follow these three steps, your employees are sure to become more confident and ultimately succeed in their jobs.

Negotiating a Compensation Package: Part 2

Matt Meuleners, Executive Partner at FOCUS Training, offers three more strategies for negotiating a compensation package in this second of two videos. Here's what he has to say: 
4. Be honest - with them and yourself. If you are really unhappy with an offer, don't commit. You will only be frustrated later. At the same time, don't push for more than you believe is right just to "win."

5. Ask for a little time (a day) to consider any offer. Unless it is already everything you need. 

6. Ask for clarity on any promises, particularly related to timing. If you are being told that some of your increased salary will come "later," what does that mean? You can prevent a lot of frustration by aligning expectations very clearly up front. 

Finally, remember that this is simply a conversation with your colleagues - hopefully featuring mutual respect. Keep it pleasant. Ask for things rather than demand. Focus on your desire to be here and make an impact. Have some fun with it.

Negotiating a Compensation Package: Part 1

Negotiation is a topic that many high potential employees are thinking about. Being able to successfully negotiate can make a big difference for employees’ overall contentment and engagement. However, many wonder how to effectively navigate this. Matt Meuleners, Executive Partner at FOCUS Training, offers three strategies for negotiating a compensation package in this first of two videos.

1. Know your market value. Check out sites like Dept of Workforce Development, Wage Project, Indeed,, and Glassdoor. Take your experience into account when comparing yourself to the averages. It is even better if you know the "standard" rates for this type of position in your organization. 

2. Negotiate your benefits. Some organizations have a hard time paying more, but they might be able to make that up with your overall package. Be flexible but clear with your "deal breakers." 

3. Be prepared to talk about what you contribute. Most managers want to hear about the measurable value that you have actually impacted, rather than visions of what you could or might do in the future. Along the same lines, use this opportunity to ask questions about how your performance will be measured in the new role. 

Click above to watch the video, and stay tuned next week for the second part of this video series. 

Changing an Established Culture

An organization’s culture is built over time and is influenced by the people, products, environment and more. Culture can feel like a big, immovable object but with the right tools and the right approach, even the most ingrained culture can be changed. To create change within your organization, it's important to keep the following in mind: 

1. Find the Feeling
Data can be very powerful when used properly, but a good story can change minds in a way that data never will. Emotion is a powerful driver when it comes to change. It’s can be difficult to care about numbers on a spreadsheet, but when those numbers tell a story about impact, people are hardwired to care and are willing to make a change. Remember, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care. “

2. Create Alliances
Passionate and informed people often drive culture change. A small group of like-minded people can make a big difference. If you believe that your company holds too many meetings and these meetings are having a negative impact on productivity, it is likely that others feel the same way. Seek out people that share your beliefs and work with a team to create change.

3. Get Organized
You may get the attention of decision makers with a powerful story, but including the data to back up your story makes change more likely to occur. Document examples of what you believe to be good and bad cultural practices. Try to make the recommended change a win-win for the company and the employees.

4. Use Technology
Technology can change the way people work. It can make employees more productive, build connections, and improve the bottom line. For example, try video conferencing instead of conference calls. Use standing desks instead of sitting for a healthier culture. It’s also important to know when to limit the use of technology. Consider leaving cell phones outside of all meeting rooms to remove distractions.

To learn more about culture change, join us at our next HR Summit happening on March 16th. Click here to register.

Creating Sustainable Change in the Workplace

Todd Gehrmann, CEO of FOCUS Training, shares knowledge on how to create sustainable change within the workplace. Culture can change given the right amount of time, resources and desire. At FOCUS Training, we recommend a three-step process: 

  • Assess the organization’s current culture environment and employee performance.
    • Evaluating why the culture is a certain way
    • Identifying the sources of investment 
  • Align a culture that allows all employees’ voices to be heard.
    • Valuing both new and long-term employee perspectives
    • Fostering innovation 
  • Act in ways that positively affect the culture.
    • Hiring the right people
    • Teaching and training current employees 
    • Empowering managers to understand their employees
    • Rewarding success 

To learn more, join us at our next HR Summit focusing on Culture Change on March 16th. Click here to register.

Implementing Cultural Change in the Workplace

Changing an established culture is one of the most difficult tasks professionals face in the workplace. Company culture is the personality of an organization, made up of the organization’s mission, expectations, and work atmosphere. Company culture determines how the employees and management interact. Ultimately, culture is one of the most critical factors in creating success for the organization.

Creating or preserving a healthy company culture can encourage solutions or innovations that may not have occurred in a more negative environment. When employees feel valued, productivity is likely to increase. However, when culture change is needed, both top leaders and employees must be the drivers of it.

A great example of implementing culture change comes from a Chicago-based company*. When they found employee burnout increasing, the company saw an opportunity to boost morale. Here are ways they went about it:

  • Creating an employee-appreciation day (this company named it "Hero Appreciation Day." They even wore capes!). 
  • Making morale-building a part of their routine. This includes giving their employees free pizza, going to happy hour, hosting a talent show, and having a de-stress room. 

By finding ways to make employees feel valued, they see the value in their work. One of the best practices FOCUS Training teaches managers and emerging leaders is to manage a culture where employees feel appreciated and motivated. An organization is more likely to gain success and build a great reputation when the culture is aligned with its goals.

To learn more, join us at our next HR Summit focusing on Culture Change on March 16th. Thomas Schultz, Manager of HR Consulting at Schneck SC, will be our guest presenter. 


Investing in Employees Improves Engagement

Matt Meuleners, lead instructor at the Accelerate Institute, shares three ways to help keep your employees engaged in the workplace. Help your top talent see that you appreciate their work by:

  • Providing regular and specific feedback
  • Including them in discussion and decision making
  • Supporting their career growth by pairing them with a mentor

To learn more about keeping employees engaged, view the video above and check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training. Our next Cohort begins in February.

Improving Employee Engagement: Keeping Employees Motivated and Productive in the Workplace

Keeping employees engaged is one of the most important aspects in fostering a productive work environment. Yet, only 32% of employees are actually engaged in the workplace*. Employee engagement is one of the top issues for employers, but what does this really look like?  

For many employers, it is easy to tell when their employees are engaged. Engaged employees are those who are fully involved in their work. They also care about the future success of the organization, and are willing to go above and beyond to for the greater good of the company. But what about those who are not as regularly motivated? Here are three tips to keep in mind when trying to increase employee engagement:

  • Show employees you value them by recognizing their achievements and contributions.
  • Encourage employees to bring ideas forward and provide responsive feedback.
  • Provide professional development opportunities for employees and their managers. 

One of the best practices FOCUS Training teaches managers and emerging leaders is to invest in employees in order to retain them. It is likely that employees will be motivated to work harder when their bosses show appreciation for their work. 

To learn more about keeping employees engaged, check out the Accelerate Institute by FOCUS Training. Our next Milwaukee Cohort begins in February.