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Intentional Communication

How to Ensure Your Team Is “Trimming the Right Tree”

How much time is lost within your tree care company due to the team questioning decisions, trying to figure out their purpose, or understanding the “Why” behind what you are communicating or asking them to do? It may be a difficult question to answer but I guarantee that if you investigate it further, you will identify some areas of your business that could be enhanced by ensuring that the “why” or the reason behind certain things is intentionally and transparently communicated. Intentional communication not only helps to build trust but ensures that your team is always heading in the same direction with a purpose and in an efficient manner.

Imagine sending your best tree crew out to a job site with a partial work order. Perhaps the work order simply said trim the tree located on Main Street for the Jones family. How efficient would that crew be in getting that job done? They would spend all their time trying to figure out which tree you were talking about, and was it Bill Jones at 300 North Main, or Sally Jones at 150 South Main? With a work order such as this, there is a high probability that the job would not be done efficiently, could lead to the incorrect tree being trimmed and the job possibly never getting done because the team would be frustrated as to the amount of time they are spending trying to figure it all out. This is of course an extreme example; however, it is relevant as you begin to work on understanding and improving intentional communication within your company.

Another way of thinking about intentional communication is in this manner, does the recipient of your message have the necessary information to fully understand the why and your intent along with all the information regarding what you are communicating? If you can answer yes, they you have provided them with intentional communication. If you are unsure, then chances are you are leaving them with the opportunity to interpret your message in their own manner. The window to interpret what you are saying in a way other than what you have intended introduces loss time and energy spent by the recipient trying to ‘figure’ it out. To help introduce this concept into your organization I encourage you to look at two aspects of intentional communication: intentional listening and intentional speaking.

Intentional Listening
A mentor of mine once ask me a question during a conversation we were having about a project we were working on. The project was quite complex and was something that I did not necessarily agree with how we were approaching it. During the conversation he stopped me and asked, “Kevin, are you listening to me to understand, or are you listening to me to be right?” As I look back at that conversation now, I kind of laugh because I was totally listening to be right instead of listening to understand. Throughout that conversation I recall constantly thinking to myself, “that is not correct, I would do that differently, and nope that’s not possible” instead of clearing my mind and listening for the intent and the why behind what my mentor was trying to tell me. Looking back the conversation could have taken perhaps 30 minutes instead of an hour which would have given us both an extra 30 minutes back in a typically very busy work environment.

 Intentional listening is all about ensuring that you receive the message from the other person as they INTENDED and are you actively listening for their intention. It is certainly appropriate to ask clarifying questions, but it is important to focus on listening for understanding as opposed to trying to be right or develop a response while missing out on the true context and intent of their message.
Some tips for ensuring intentional listening include:

• Check your perceptions at the door – focus on their intention not your perception

• Check your ego and remove the need to be right or look good

• Ask clarifying questions, but do not make it about you

• Help them create the content by pursuing their context through your listening

• Provide them with active listening by leaning forward, nodding your head, providing eye contact

• Be engaged in the conversation!

Of course, it is a lot easier to listen with intention if the person providing the message is also speaking with intention. Intentional communication is most effective when both parties are providing and listening for intent.

Intentional Speaking
The second aspect of intentional communication is Intentional Speaking. This is even more important as you begin to improve communication within your organization. The key aspect of intentional speaking is to remember that you are responsible for the other person “getting it” or understanding it. This can be done in several different ways; however intentional speaking is most effective by asking yourself the following regarding your message:

• Am I providing the context for what I am communicating – The “why”

• Am I providing them with my intention?

• Am I providing them with what my intention is not?

•Am I communication with the appropriate person as the recipient of this message?

• Is this the appropriate timing for this message?

• Is this the appropriate location and vehicle for this message to be communicated?

A very easy approach to intentional speaking is to ask yourself, am I giving them the “full work order” with my message or am I providing my team the opportunity to interpret my message and “trim the wrong tree?” If you are not providing the context for why you do what you do or say what you say, you are giving others permission to make up a reason why you did it or said it. The recipient trying to “figure it out” can lead to loss time, lower productivity and ultimately lower team morale and trust.

Intentional communication does not happen overnight and requires a personal commitment to the team and each other to fully realize its impact within an organization. However, just like a detailed work order, it will ensure your team is always on the same page, has the context around your communication and decisions, and will lead to a more dynamic and supportive work culture and environment.

Written by: Kevin Martlage

Does My Company Culture Attract Top Talent?

Does My Company Culture Attract Top Talent?

It was hard to find good employees before the COVID pandemic hit, however it has been even harder since. Jobs are plentiful for all trades yet people to fill those are scarce.  Everywhere you look there are signs for “help wanted” and the pay scale for those jobs is rising to just get people in the door.  With that said there are a lot of choices out there for people actually looking for work, so what will make your company stand out? One thing that will help is your company culture!

You may not know it, but your company has a culture – the big question – Is it a culture that will attract the employees that you want?  A company culture refers to the combination of values, goals, ethics, and expectations that govern and influence employee behaviors.  In addition to these values is company trust and communication, as Kevin Martlage taught us in the previous article “Building Trust Within Your Team Using Transparent Communication”. If you aren’t sure what your current company culture is, take a hard look at your safety program and you’ll get a good glimpse of how your company culture will help or hurt attracting top talent.  

Do your employees wear their PPE (are they issued PPE!)? Are employees provided with the appropriate resources to get the job done? Do your employees feel safe working with each other? How many accidents is your team experiencing?  Have negative behaviors have been allowed to develop? As you can imagine, with no guidance or direction, a company culture that supports bad habits will take root.

I have worked with many tree care companies that possessed a positive safety culture and many companies in which the safety culture had a negative impact on the organization.  I can tell you first hand that those companies that have taken the time to develop a positive safety culture are far better off.  They have happy employees that like coming to work, employees trust their managers/owners with their lives, they trust their fellow team/crew members, they have less accidents and efficiencies are gained that improve productivity and the bottom line of their business.

That being said, the companies that have taken the time to develop a positive safety culture, in general, have an overall company culture that will attract and retain employees.

Some quick questions to ask yourself about your company culture:

  1. Do your employees hear more about improving the bottom line or improving customer satisfaction?

 

  1. Do you provide your employees with the resources they need to get the job done?

 

  1. How much or little do you invest in ongoing training, in both time and money?

 

  1. How do you communicate with employees, do they understand the why behind your decisions?

 

  1. Is your company a supportive place to work?

 

  1. What type of processes and procedures do you have in place for new employee hires?

 

  1. Do you treat your employees like you treat your customers?

 

  1. When your company considers adopting policies or changes, are the thoughts and feelings of customers, leadership and employees considered?

Exploring questions like these can provide you with a sense of your company culture.  Be kind and open with yourself when you answer these questions.  If your answers give you pause, it may be time to explore a culture shift or transformation.  

For more help with developing a company culture that attracts top talent, ask an ArboRisk team member how to get started with our New Heights Package today. 

Written by: Peggy Drescher

Building Trust with Transparent Communication

Building Trust with Transparent Communication

Transparent communication and trust. What do those things mean to you when you think about leadership? More importantly, are those common terms used to describe your work culture and leadership style? That may be a difficult question to answer; however, I challenge that it should be extremely easy to answer if we intentionally change our approach to leadership using transparent communication when building a trusting culture.

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to lead numerous teams. Some have been more successful and productive than others, but regardless of their performance my approach to leading them has always been the same. Without an intentional commitment to communication, the team will never truly understand the “why”. Without an intentional commitment to transparent communication, the team will become consumed with the “why” and lose sight of their ability to achieve goals. Without the intentional commitment to using both of those approaches to building trust, well… it really will not matter.

How much time and energy are spent by work groups each day questioning the “why” behind what they are doing? I have witnessed firsthand a loss in productivity due to a lack of trust and transparent communication among a work group more times than I care to admit. While it may be difficult to put a number on the productivity lost in untrusting situations, the only thing that matters is that something was lost, and that loss could have been avoided or at least minimized. I am certainly a realist in that it is difficult to achieve a perfect world where trust, communication, and transparency peacefully and properly coexist, however it is the intentional pursuit of that end goal where incremental success can be realized while building trust.

Imagine an environment where a team of employees are considered highly effective and model what “good” looks like on a consistent basis. They consistently exceed all their goals, and there is really no need for performance counseling or discipline. There is very little organizationally that the team is not aware of, and they intimately understand the impact their daily responsibilities have on the overall mission of the organization. When a new directive comes from the CEO, the Director of the department rolls out the information in a way that connects it to the mission of the organization and the “why” is always discussed and understood. This allows the team to adjust to ensure the directive is exceeded while also keeping up with their already busy daily schedules. In this situation, the leader has built a culture of trust using intentionally transparent communication that has fostered a positive and nurturing work environment.

What happens when that culture of trust is compromised or tested with adversity and how does that team react and respond? In a trusting and intentionally transparent environment I would challenge that a team would be far more sustainable through those periods of adversity than a similar team who did not operate in the same type of culture. The team may certainly still question or spend time trying to understand the situation, but they would be trusting that the adversity or decision was happening for a reason and be focused on trying to help the organization move forward. A culture of trust built on transparent communication helps members of the team understand their responsibility to their team, colleagues, and the organization. Trust promotes efficient and effective productivity as opposed to lost time worrying about the “why”.

A team functioning in a culture where trust and communication is not intentional and transparent would find themselves in a constant state of flux, questioning the direction and the “why” with a lack of focus on the end goal. They are not trusting of the leadership and decision due to a lack of transparent communication and this could lead to a loss of productivity as they spend time questioning the decision and the reason behind it. A lack of transparent communication surrounding a decision could also have a significant impact on any trust that may have already been built, requiring additional work to rebuild any lost trust up to the pre-existing level.

The first step to building trust with your team is making an intentional commitment to transparent communication to help your team understand the reasons behind your decisions. If you are not providing that transparency and context, you are giving your team the right to make up their own story which could lead to lost productivity and an unsustainable solution. It takes commitment by the leaders of any organization to ensure intentionally transparent communication is at the forefront of their leadership style when properly building a trusting culture. This type of work culture will allow the team to focus on each other, the team, and the goals of the organization instead of becoming too consumed with trying to understand the “why” behind your decisions.

Connect with an ArboRisk team member today to begin intentionally building trust through transparent communication.

Written by: Kevin Martlage

Virtual Conferences – Get the Most Out of Them

Virtual Conferences – Get the Most out of Them

As our professional conferences shift from in-person to online events, learning how to get the most out of virtual conferences will take some time, but will be vital to continuing to improve within the tree care industry. Therefore, I created a few tips to consider for you and your time to get the most out of these virtual conferences.

Before the Conference

• Make Your Plan and Be Intentional. Don’t let a conference happen to you. Make the most out of it by making a plan beforehand. This is even more important with a virtual conference. Use these questions to develop your conference strategy.

• What is the primary goal of this conference for you and your team? It could be simply to get as many CEU’s as possible, or it can be to talk to a certain equipment vendor or to learn what ArboRisk’s Thrive is all about ;). Whatever your goal is, be intentional about it. This takes planning with your team to identify what you truly want everyone to get out of the time that you are spending there.

• What sessions will be most valuable for you? Look at the agenda carefully before you go. If there are multiple sessions that you want to attend at the same time, send one of your team members to one of them so your business can get as much information as possible.

• Who do you really want to talk to at the conference? Reach out to them before to set a specific time to meet. Virtual conferences will get really busy for everyone. Having a predetermined meeting time with a key connection is a great way to have the conversation that you want. Make a list of the questions that you want to ask each person to capitalize on the meeting time you have with them.

During the Conference

• Block Your Calendar. With a virtual conference, it will be very easy to try and schedule other tasks during the conference that would not be able to do if you were physically attending a conference. Make sure to block out time specifically for the conference to accomplish all of your goals that you and your team set when planning for it. Discipline is key here and don’t fall into the trap of showing up for a session and leaving the conference because of an “emergency” that just happened within your business. Act like you are physically at the conference and you will be rewarded with a much more fulfilling experience.

• Be Early. Sign in as soon as you can when the conference starts so you can acclimate yourself with the software. Each conference will be utilizing similar software, but there will no doubt be differences amongst the platforms.

• Be Active During Sessions. It may seem more difficult to participate in an online presentation, but each virtual software should give you the ability to ask questions or provide comments through a chat field. Without having visual feedback, the presenters will most likely ask for participation from the audience to make sure they are on topic. Help everyone have a better session by participating when asked by the presenter. Being engaged with the content will help you retain the information better and help you think of ways to incorporate the message into your business. Also, if you take solid notes, you’ll be able to share the information with your team at a later date.

• Socialize. Being social at a conference might be easier in person, however, you can still accomplish this in a virtual setting. Look for discussion or chat rooms to visit and interact with other attendees. I always feel that the best conference experiences for me were the ones that I got to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. Remember, even in a virtual setting, the next person you talk to could be your next employee or a referral partner or a future mentor.

 

After the Conference

• Follow-up. If there were people that you enjoyed talking to, send them a post-conference email or LinkedIn request. Ask them an additional question that you had from your conversation.

• Plan for Next Year. If you enjoyed the conference, make even a better plan for next year. Think about what went well and what you would like to do differently next time.

Conferences have provided me with the ability to gain great friendships, advance my career and make wonderful memories, however, it did not happen without my efforts. Even though conferences will be a little different, be intentional with your time to get the most out of them.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Learning from Peers

Learning From Peers

One of my favorite ways to learn is to listen to and interact with peers of mine; those that have gone through or are going through the same issues I am. I feel that done correctly, one can learn so much more from your peers than by researching an issue on your own or simply attending a seminar with one speaker offering only their knowledge/opinion to the audience. 

However, learning this way takes practice and must be done with intent to be successful at it. Below are my four tips to conquering how to learn from your peers:

Prepare – As with most things in business, being prepared is critical. Whatever you are attending; a conference, networking meeting, webinar workshop, take time beforehand to create questions that you want to ask others. This is especially important if the event you will be attending has a facilitated roundtable discussion. Jot down the issues you want help with so you can get your questions answered during the discussion

Contribute – Givers Gain. I truly believe in that statement. The more that you offer and contribute to the success of others, the more you will benefit personally. It may simply be from the satisfaction of helping someone else, but that positive energy will bring great things to you and your organization. However, a word of caution on this; don’t contribute with the sole purpose of your betterment. People will sniff out this insincere attitude right away and you won’t get the gain you had hoped. Be genuine with your intent to help others and you will prosper. 

 Respect – Don’t be like our politicians today. If you disagree with something that someone says, respectfully allow them to have their opinion and leave it at that, especially in front of other people. If their viewpoint could potentially cause unsafe or dangerous consequences, find a private time to talk to that individual alone and ask first if you could talk to them about it as you want to learn why they feel that way. In a non-confrontational setting, you both may be able to learn and help each other out. Basic respect for your peers is easy to do and will propel your ability to learn from others. 

 Connect – After the event, seek out another attendee that you enjoyed listening to and make a one-on-one connection with them. Perhaps schedule a call to follow up on a question that you had or to simply turn a colleague into a friend. Most of you will agree, that this is definitely the most rewarding part of attending events and building relationships in business. Yet doing this intentionally, will build your roster of unofficial advisors, confidants, and friends. Who wouldn’t want a stable of people to turn to for help within their business?

If you are looking for opportunities to interact and learn with your peers, seek out your local ISA chapter, TCIA and continue to follow ArboRisk, as each of these organizations have plenty of ways to learn from others. Personally, one of my favorites is ArboRisk’s Become Extraordinary Workshop, where you get 5 weekly topics to discuss amongst a small amount of tree care owners and leaders.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Knowledge Transfer to Better Your Business

Knowledge Transfer to Better your Business

According to a study from the Work Institute, the estimated costs of employee turnover ranges from 33% to as much as 200% of the departing employee’s salary. Costs include lost revenue from reduced human resource levels, project delays, accidents, recruiting, training and on-boarding new personnel. The range of cost is affected by the skills and experience (knowledge) lost with the employee. Consider the difference between losing a seasonal employee to the cost of replacing a long-term retiring employee with advanced skills and years of experience with the company and the profession. With the later, the loss to the company is not only an employee but the knowledge that employee provided to the success of the operation.

Understanding that knowledge loss is the major casualty of employee turnover is the first step towards better employee management.

Researchers began studying the impacts of knowledge loss in the early 1990’s. The concern was related to one generation retiring and the knowledge lost as retirements increased. From that research the concept of knowledge transfer developed. Knowledge transfer is a method of sharing information, abilities, and ideas across different areas of your business. It helps capture the knowledge before it leaves the organization and is then used to train replacements, expand service offering and or cross train employees to increase efficiency.

One of the major benefits of a structured knowledge transfer process is uncovering the ‘special sauce’. People who have mastered their job have skills and experience that make them more successful. In addition to having the knowledge, they know when, where, and how to use that knowledge to work effectively…the special sauce.

Googling ‘knowledge transfer’ will give you a whole host of resources, however, the Knowledge Maverick is a free web resource which can assist you with understanding the concept of knowledge transfer and how to implement it within your company. They have developed a series of questions to get you started. The questions were developed to be answered in a conversation between the person with the knowledge, and the person interested in receiving the knowledge. The conversations will help develop more questions and productive discussion. They are also a good framework for employee mentors.

Lastly, there are knowledge transfer professionals that can assist you in developing a transfer system. Because the loss of knowledge within your company represents a large risk to the health of the organization, ArboRisk has created a Knowledge Transfer portion of Thrive to lower this exposure. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the ArboRisk team to learn more.

Written by: Jim Skiera