What Causes Quiet Quitting?

Your employees don’t have a commitment problem. You have a leadership and culture problem. 

Quiet quitting, in case you haven’t heard, means doing exactly what you’re required to do at your job and not a bit more. It’s really just a trending term for disengagement. Folks don’t outright quit but they fail to do more than the bare minimum, and they may or may not be quietly looking for a new gig on the side. And we even see a trend in schools with students who are burned out or overwhelmed.

Some senior leaders (read: Baby Boomers, or even Gen Xers that are my age, I admit) want to blame this on the same old thing they blame everything on: Today’s generation of workers are entitled, lazy, and want the world before they are willing to get any work done.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I worked in the corporate world before striking out on my own, I always used to tell my managers that the minute they needed to start worrying about me, was the minute I stopped being squeaky wheel, asking how we could do things differently, or playing devil’s advocate. And it was true. Ask anyone: I worked my a** off and delivered results, but I could be….well,” tenacious” might be a kinder word for it!

I remember the jobs and bosses that completely disempowered me. That never appreciated my contribution, or that robbed me of control over my career destiny. In those jobs, I started shutting up and looking elsewhere.

When employees are engaged and feel they are seen, heard, and valued – when they know their extra efforts have an impact – there is nothing they won’t do for you. 

Here’s the great news: Quiet quitting is not new – it’s just a trending hashtag now. (TWEET THIS!)

And it has never, ever been about the employee’s work ethic or talent. It’s always been about the environment they found themselves in and the people they work for and with. A smart person knows they should not give us their time, energy, or effort in a paid job unless they are receiving something in return. To call quiet quitting “laziness” or entitlement is just laziness and entitlement on the part of a MANAGER who wants to shift the blame.

Lead with empathy, actively listen, reward equitably, honor your people as human beings and proactively create an environment where employees can make a real impact and you will not have to worry about anyone quiet quitting on you. Full stop.

Photo credit: Charles Deluvio

More resources you may love:

Let’s Redefine Kind in Business

3 Leadership and Innovation Lessons from 100 Podcasts

Rebecca Friese on The Empathy Edge Podcast: How to Build a “Good” Culture

What Does Empathy Look Like at Work?

We all agree more empathy is a great idea, yes? Companies have grand plans to create inclusive cultures and we as leaders take empathy workshops to strengthen that muscle and boost innovation, collaboration and engagement.

But what does empathy look like at work? Like, in action at work? And how can we avoid slipping into unproductive sympathy when we make those attempts?

When expressing sympathy, for example, you might say something like: “I’m very sorry for what you’re going through.” Empathy, however, sounds more like: “I understand how you’re feeling; please know that you’re not alone.”

Here are three examples of what empathy looks like at work and how it differs from falling into the sympathy trap:

Sympathy Play: “Oh, I feel bad for my colleague in her wheelchair! That’s just awful, poor thing. 

You think you’re being nice, you think you’re being empathetic. Instead, you are making assumptions that your colleague is unhappy and “less than.” Her life may be amazing but you have made all kinds of assumptions. While sympathy might feel good to you, it diminishes who she is and what she can contribute.

More empathetic: Does the site we’re considering for our team meeting have access ramps and elevators? Are our restrooms ADA compliant? Are our tables and desks the right height for her wheelchair to comfortably fit? Empathy is seeing things from her point of view and being proactive. Thinking ahead.

Think ahead and focus on proactive adaptation, not pity, to increase inclusivity and exhibit empathy at work. (TWEET THIS!)

Can we find a new location or change out/adjust our office furniture? Maybe a ropes course is not the best team building idea. Let’s ask her out to lunch and find out how she is able to drive with us – is her car fitted to her needs? Let’s drive with her and ask her or research on our own which cafes are ADA accessible. 

Sympathy Play: “The new hire has autism so let’s be sure to be extra nice to him and not give him too many taxing projects he can’t handle Also, I’m gong to speak v-e-e-e-r-r-y-y-y slowly to him.”

While this new colleague may need some accommodations due to how he best interacts with others, communicates, and learns, assuming he can’t handle his job is insulting and doesn’t help him learn and grow in the role. Stop making assumptions and instead get to know how he best operates. Neurodiverse people often have skills that make them extremely valuable in the workplace as a result of, not in spite of, their neurological or developmental disorders Assuming you need to speak to someone because of your limited knowledge of his reality is also not winning you any charm points. 

More empathetic: Have an honest conversation with your new colleague and get to know him. Share that you know about his neurodiversity and want to support him. Autism is a broad spectrum. Ask him what types of projects he enjoys, and how he best works, learsn, and communicates. Empathy comes when you then adapt appropriately to enable him to be the best version of himself at work.

Sympathy Play: You feel really bad for a new mom returning to work who is feeling flustered, overwhelmed and suffering from a bit of brain fog. But that’s where your support ends.

More empathetic: if you’ve been a new parent, you can say “I understand how you’re feeling right now. You’re not alone so please let me know how I can best support you.”  If you’ve never had kids, you can try to put yourself in her shoes and  say, “I can imagine what you’re going through right now. I’m here to listen if you need to talk. You’re not alone.” Save your judgment and pity and reach out to take action instead!

When you notice the subtle shift from sympathy to empathy, that’s when you can truly create an inclusive culture that welcomes all types of people and helps them bring their best selves to work every day.

Here’s a great video from a Brene Brown talk that amusingly shows the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

3 Ways to Practice Empathy at Work

3 Ways to Practice Empathy at Work

At a book signing, the panel moderator told me that she recommended my book, The Empathy Edge, to her friend – let’s call her Jennifer. Jennifer was in a really bad work situation with what she deemed an out of touch manager. Her boss treated her badly, didn’t listen to her ideas and generally acted like he was too busy to be there for his team. Jennifer was pretty fed up by this point, and knowing her worth and value in the market, was about to walk away. But she did like her job so she was eager to read my book.

Jennifer read my book and loved every word (the moderator’s words, not mine!). She promptly marched into her boss’ office the next day and before he could say a word, shoved the book in his hands and said, “I’m not happy with how you manage me or the team. It’s so hard to come to work everyday, but I love this job. I’m asking you to read this book and in a week, we can sit down and discuss it. If you don’t, I’m leaving.”

Her boss was stunned. To his credit, he did as he was asked.

They ended up having a great conversation. He had no idea how his actions were being perceived or the emotional toll it was taking on Jennifer. They made a plan to change how he treated the team, how he communicated, and also how the team responded and worked together to address his concerns as well.

Jennifer stayed in her job,

I have no idea if Jennifer is still there, but I love this story so much. It shows how much we can gain by communicating and being vulnerable when we have nothing left to lose. Her boss recognized many actions and intentions in himself from the book and, wanting to be a better leader and build a high-performing team, was willing to have the conversation.

Showing empathy at work is not as complicated as you think. (Tweet This!)

Here are 3 ways you can practice empathy at work:

  • Ask questions and actively listen: Whether you are the manager or just on a team of colleagues, start defaulting to “I’m right and you’re wrong” and instead ask questions first. “Tell me more about your idea. What makes you believe it’s the way to go? How do you see this meeting our goals?” 
  • Find common ground: In high-stakes situations, establish the common goal you both have, however basic, so you get on the same side of the table, rather than acting like two opposing forces. “We can both agree we want this campaign to succeed and drive more leads, right?” Even if it seems obvious, it’s a great way to diffuse tension and remind yourselves you are both on the same team. 
  • Check in with people: Before diving into the business end of the meeting, take a moment for everyone to ground themselves and share what’s going on for them. One CEO does this with his exec team every Monday, and they share how their weekends went, if they had fun, if they’re having a difficult time with their kids, etc. This gives others context to know where people are coming from and what they might need. It avoids assuming someone is being rude or testy because they don’t like your idea when the truth is that they stayed up all night potty training the new puppy.

Discover more actionable ways to be a more empathetic leader and create a more empathetic culture in my book The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success. And learn from other innovative leaders on The Empathy Edge podcast!

Photo Credit: Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash

Why Passion is Great for Your Business

09.22.15 Why Passion is Great for Your Business (Blog)

If you do not follow social media expert Jay Baer on LinkedIn for subscribe to his Convince and Convert email newsletter, you should check both options out.

Recently, I joyfully read the transcript of his Content Marketing World keynote. He delivered it without slides or fanfare and seemed to have just spoken from the heart. His concept of The Mom Test is a rallying cry to marketers and businesspeople to stop turning content creation into a machine and focus on making connections.

Damn, I love that.

One of his gems: “Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer.”

And building that bridge requires more than spreadsheets and plans and analytics. It requires HEART.

Another gem: “Competition commoditizes competency”.

Meaning, if you use the same hacks, tools and systems that your competitors do, all your marketing and content will start to look the same. So, the only thing you have to differentiate what you do is your people and your passion. They can’t copy that, no matter how much they try.

They can copy form emails. They can copy price promotions. They can copy sales pitches. But if you believe in what you do and create content that improves lives in ways great or small­–whether helping fight global disease or even just giving a busy mom a moment of rest and reflection­–they can’t replicate that passion and brand fire.

From Jay: “But they can’t duplicate, they cannot steal if you fundamentally care more than they do. About content, and about content’s role to improve the lives of real people.

So I ask you a simple question, an existential question really:

Do you love content enough? Are you making content, or are you making a difference?”

It’s not about passion for passion’s sake. “Follow your bliss” makes for a lovely inspirational slogan but you have to marry passion with purpose. (Tweet this!)

What value does your passion offer to others whom you’re trying to turn into buyers, readers or donors?

This reminds me of an email conversation I recently had with a friend and online marketing rockstar who writes the most exuberant (and useful) content. I literally devour her words and look forward to her musings, even if she’s pitching me something. Doesn’t matter how crowded my in-box is that day – I make time to read her content.

I asked her how she organized her content marketing calendar. Her answer? She doesn’t have one. According to her: “Editorial calendars make me one sad panda.”

And you know what? Despite an editorial calendar being a great tool for staying organized and efficient (and one I recommend to my clients, in all honesty), she’s kind of right. Her content is super useful and it’s addictive because she cares. Her passion shines through every word.

Do whatever you need to do to stay on top of things. Use tools, templates, automation where it makes sense. You want to strive for consistency. But more importantly, when it comes to any marketing efforts meant to amplify your message and boost your brand, don’t just crank things out to simply check them off your to-do list.

Focus on the passion to deliver true value. Speak from the heart to attract raving fans.

How do you build your passion into your content, marketing or work in general? In one sentence, what is the passion that drives your business? Please share in the Comments!

Image credit: Ahmed Rabea via Flickr

How to brand your brick and mortar business

If you are fortunate enough to own a sweet little boutique on Main Street or a bustling restaurant along the wharf or a funky pet store in the city’s hippest arts district, I have to admit my jealousy. Brand is just as important to service- providers that survive on a laptop as it is for physical businesses. But there are oodles of possibility for boosting your brand when you have a tangible location to decorate, staff and gather your tribe.

Here are 9 ways you can boost the brand of your brick and mortar business:

  1. Build your online community – and then gather them together for a Fans Only event: Whether you host an exclusive wine and cheese Tweet-Up or invite Instagram followers to a seasonal sale, use your space to host real-life events to not only treat your loyal fans like royalty but to create memories and connections rooted in your physical store. Nothing endears people to your brand more than remembering a good time they had making new friends that was all because of you.
  2. Decorate with intent: While many of us only have websites as our main customer storefront, you are lucky. You have a whole physical space in which to convey your brand in a way customers can see, feel, smell, hear and taste. Carry your visual identity into the store with paint colors, signage in your official fonts, and brand imagery throughout. Trying to create a fresh, airy, calm brand vibe? Lay out your store in a similar way. Stock merchandise and create a floor plan that delivers the brand promise to your community in a real, live way. Choose appropriate music and even lighting schemes and scents. If you can, choose a location that extends your brand. If you’re all about being hip and funky, can you rent renovated warehouse space with brick walls or exposed steel beams? If you’re all about adorable, frilly and cute, can you find an old Victorian and give it a fresh coat of lively colors, inside and out?
  3. Collaborate with “The Enemy:” Befriend competitors or neighboring businesses and exponentially reap more rewards for everyone. Can you host a sidewalk sale with all the businesses on your street, share expenses for some entertainment and ads, and draw more foot traffic for everyone? Can you partner with complementary businesses to offer a “crawl” of some sort that take people from place to place as one package deal, like a food tour or yarn crawl (something I recently learned small local yarn shops do). By joining forces, you can do something bigger than any of you could do alone – and not only create more category awareness as a whole but reach a heck of a lot more people. And this collaboration will only spark amazing brand goodwill in the eyes of all customers involved.
  4. Support a cause: Do you love animals? Support a local food bank? Contribute to the fight against cancer? Partner with a local non-profit and host a charitable event at your location. You can offer 10% of all net sales to the charity for the night or ask customers to bring a canned good to get $5 off their purchase. Not only is it brand magic (and good karma) to give back and align with a worthy cause (especially one that compliments your brand, like a pet store hosting a mobile animal adoption event or a women’s boutique raising money for breast cancer), it can attract new customers and perhaps garner you some killer press.
  5. Sponsor targeted events: If you’re an athletic apparel store, sponsor the city’s annual 10K Holiday Run. If you’re a pet photographer with a lovely studio, contribute a photo session package to the Humane Society’s fundraising auction. If you’re a spa, sponsor a local women business owners’ luncheon. Similar to #4, this involves going out into the community to support a worthy cause or event related to your target market, rather than bringing people to you. And you can often provide a goodie bag item or some other tchotchke that gives people a reason to visit your location when the event is over: a discount, a free sample, an exclusive invitation.
  6. Offer live classes and educational events: You’re lucky enough to have a space so use it. Just like you promote valuable educational content on your blog, you can also give people a live experience. If you’re a yarn store, offer Knitting 101 for Beginners. If you’re a pet store, conduct a seminar on proper dog and cat dental care. If you’re a book store, bring in a local business book or cookbook author to present a mini-seminar. If you’re a hair salon, ask one of your product reps to educate on the benefits and proper usage of some of their most popular products. Offer attendance incentives, serve some nice appys and beverages and keep the selling soft. Nothing endears your brand more to people than when you give them something useful. They will remember.
  7. Develop a signature touch: OK, so the Tiffany blue color is taken, but what little touch of class can you add that will become your brand signature and delight customers? A local coffee shop places a single chocolate-covered espresso bean on the lid of every drink. Totally unexpected, totally cool. A home décor store wraps your purchased items tissue paper enclosed with a delicate raffia ribbon. Felt like a gift to yourself every time. Examine your business from every customer angle: Can you do something with the packaging, check-out process or even in-store displays that can become a brand differentiator for you? Maybe all your shelves are a unique recycled wood, maybe your hangers are all purple velvet? Get creative.
  8. Hire right: With the unique ability to convey your brand in the physical world comes great responsibility. Just one negative experience in your shop with an employee will ruining your brand forever – and with social media, you don’t want to take the chance of that one unhappy person influencing thousands. Hire good brand ambassadors. Will they support your brand values and leave the right brand impression on customers each and every time? Do they treat people who don’t buy on a visit just as well as the treat the ones who do? Just one employee has the ability to make or break your brand, since that one person represents your entire business to the customer at that moment. Hire people you know will live out the brand when they pick up the phone, turn around a disappointed client or ring up the next person at checkout.
  9. Remove all barriers to purchase: This sounds obvious but I’m constantly shocked by how many times small businesses get this wrong. Make it as easy and seamless as possible for someone to buy from you. This experience will make or break your brand. This means accepting cash AND credit cards (sorry folks, cost of doing business), investing in a really great and easy-for-employees-to-use POS system to expedite checkout. Clearly labeling all items with the right SKU’s. Posting the right pricing information near the product (don’t make me guess). Making sure you staff well enough so people don’t wait forever in line and change their minds because it’s too much hassle. I hate when I’m ready to buy my stuff and the cashier has disappeared for a spell. Ensure your staff is trained well so they can truly serve the customer and are not just some hired monkeys scanning a bar code. I’m always uber-impressed with bike shops. My husband is a cyclist, so we’ve been to many and we never fail to find that any staff person we may grab is super passionate and knowledgeable about cycling. They attract the right people, invest in training and ensure there is no reason for the customer to leave without exactly what they are looking for, unless they don’t happen to carry it. And if there’s ever a wait, a staff member will always drop whatever they are doing to assist in almost every bike store I’ve seen. That’s quality.

If you have a brick and mortar business, how have you branded yourself? What has worked for you or been less successful? Do any businesses you love have a signature touch? Please share your wisdom in the Comments!

You love PR: Do your employees know how important it is?

Had to share this gem with full credit to Steve Harrison at Reporter Connection. If you don’t subscribe to it, sign up today – it’s free press queries delivered right to your inbox so you can pitch the media and get your story heard. Here was his juicy advice:

Here’s another PR don’t from a journalist friend of mine. Researching a story for a major magazine, she called a store and asked to speak to the owner. The person who answered told the journalist that the owner was out of the store. The journalist asked to leave a message. After a big sigh, the employee said, "Can you just call back tomorrow?" Not surprisingly, the journalist never called that store again. Think about that. Who answers your phone? Have you told them that if a journalist calls, they should not only take a message, but make sure that they get that message to you immediately? If you haven’t told your employees how to handle media calls, do so today.

YOU may care about your brand and your marketing goals – but do your employees or partners know what most matters to you? Don’t assume they do….communicate with them often so everything is going in the right direction.

What is your weakest brand link?

We’ve all heard the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” And that is never more true when it comes to branding.

You know what I mean. You have a  bad experience with one clueless customer service rep and you talk trash about the company as a whole. You get bad service from one waiter at a restaurant and you never again go back. You get snubbed by one clerk at a local independent bookstore (as I recounted in my book) and you judge the whole business as  unfriendly and rude.

Seth Godin just wrote a great post about the worst voice of the brand representing the entire brand. And it’s true. It may take years to build up brand value and loyalty and just moments for it all to be wiped away.

Granted, if you have a strong, consistent brand, people will be a little more forgiving of a faux pas. The mark of a power brand is that it has enough “brand capital” built up to withstand some PR gaffes and mistakes, as we’ve seen with JetBlue and Apple.

But too many businesses do not hire the right people who will embrace their brand. More accurately, they don’t “train” them on the brand at all. They assign them a desk, show them how to use the cash register, or review their benefits but do not offer a “Brand Education.” Mostly, this stems from many businesses not documenting their brand strategy and values somewhere. But it also stems from devaluing this important aspect of your business.

If you want to be a friendly, playful or approachable brand, you’d better hire people that embody that. If you charge premium prices and hide behind the name of a famous chef you’d better have the best waitstaff around, not clumsy and inconsistent customer service (this happened to me last weekend: The waiter didn’t come to out table for 10 minutes after seating,  I had to ask for a coffee 3 times and they also brought the wrong meals to our table). If you value making he customer happy at all costs, then you’d better ensure your store staff are empowered to make decisions on the spot and not have to get 9 approvals for a return.

What is your weakest link? How can you strengthen it? PS: You may want to attend one of my upcoming Brand Strategy Retreats in Seattle or San Francisco to get some guidance on clarifying and documenting your brand for your employees or partners.

How to Parlay Your Personal Brand into Your Business Brand

This is the number one brand challenge I hear from small business owners. “But so much of my business is tied up in my own personal reputation and who I am. How do I ensure the company builds its own brand, independent of me, so I can expand?”

Take a tip from Warren Buffett, who announced his heir for Berkshire Hathaway as an unknown 39-year old named Todd Combs. He is quoted in the WSJ as saying, ‘He is a 100% fit for our culture. I can define the culture as long as I am here. but we want a culture that is so embedded that it doesn’t get tested when the founder of it isn’t around.”

A culture that is embedded. Ah, Warren: a financial and branding genius.

Companies do this all the time, so it’s not as hard as you think. The company brand reflects the values and philosophy of the founders, but in a way that applies to the corporate entity. See Disney, Nordstrom, McDonald’s, Facebook, Microsoft, Nike, Wendy’s. Many of these companies end up with very strong brand stories about their founders’ passion and values and serve to further attract customers.

Here are some tips on how to inject your personal brand into the DNA of your business so that it lives on even if you are not at the helm:

1) Depersonalize: The biggest thing about personal brands are the values and attributes that the founder shows as a human being. Take those and make those the values and attributes of the company as a whole and how you do business. If your own reputation and image is based on honesty, integrity and straight talk, then bake those attributes into your company’s standard operation procedures, policies and visual identity and make sure they live somewhere that the entire company can see. Turn what you are known for into what your company is known for. I also call this “operationalizing your brand.” If people come to you because you are the type of gal who always returns calls the same day, then make that a company policy that any call is returned within 24 hours, no matter who received the call.

2) Document: You can’t measure and manage to something that is just inside people’s heads or inherent in only your own personal actions. How is that repeatable? Once you develop your values, mission, and the brand attributes for which you want to be known, write them down. Revisit this brand playbook periodically – it may need to evolve as you grow. This playbook can then start to inform all of your brand communications: visual, verbal and experiential. This is the whole premise by which I consult with my clients and why I wrote my book. Ya gotta WRITE IT DOWN if you want to standardize it.

3) Hire Right: Warren Buffett and others understand that brand informs culture, and culture informs how you hire and who you hire. Do you recruit people intentionally who understand and embrace your brand? (Hint: if it is not documented anywhere per #2 above, that’s your first problem) Or do you just hire the marquee names and checklist of skills on their resume? I recently heard a recruiter talk about how they hire by the Iceberg principle. Meaning, above the waterline, you look for the right skills and resume from a candidate. But it’s the skills below the surface – if the person embodies your brand, culture and values – that matter even more to success and longevity of the company. She said more often than not, the problems occur because of misalignment on these “below the water” soft skills and attitudes. If you have personal values and a reputation that is the number one reason people do business with your company, then you’d better make damn sure you’re hiring people who reflect that same work ethic and brand. See Mr. Buffett’s quote above. Use your brand strategy to guide hiring decisions – not just to decide upon your colors or packaging.

Photo credit: Brooke Lark, Unsplash