Hire Our Heroes!

Today, we celebrate the courageous actions and valor of the servicemen and women who served in our country’s armed forces. Let us take a moment to thank them for their service and sacrifice in the name of freedom this Veteran’s Day and every day.

After last week’s post offering advice to recently returned veterans, I have been inspired to take it one step further. Hiring managers, I am talking to you. The large pool of skilled and accomplished veterans is some of the top talent available. Many of you may ask what skills and traits military personnel have that are applicable to your businesses.

There are many!

Veterans hold specials sets of skills that are so engrained in their being, they have become second nature. Determination, dedication, and drive are some that come to mind — all three highly valued qualities that any business owner, supervisor, or hiring manager would hope to bring to their teams.  I could go on and on, but I will simply highlight the top 10 reasons why you should put our veterans on your payroll!

  1. Leadership – The most successful military personnel are incredible leaders. They have the traits and characteristics to inspire and motivate those around them. The ability to lead and get the best from the members of the team is a priceless attribute.
  2. Global experience – Veterans have experience in a wide variety of regions around the world. They are used to adapting to different cultures and experiencing life/business from other viewpoints.
  3. Exceptional learning curve – Upon entering the service, military personnel must quickly master a series of skills and competencies that are required for survival. This experience allows veterans to quickly adapt and accomplish tasks that may take others months to achieve.
  4. Teamwork – Individual and group productivity are required in the military setting. Servicemen and women are familiar with working together as a team and understand the importance of personal responsibility to one another and accountability in a group setting.
  5. Ability to deliver results under pressure – Resourcefulness and adhering to tight time schedules are common occurrences in the military. Veterans are trained to organize and tackle priorities no matter what difficulties they are faced with.
  6. Respect for authority and procedures – Military vets understand the importance of structure to an organization. They value and encourage a clear set of rules and regulations that help maintain and support strategy.
  7. Integrity – This is a characteristic that is hard to come by in today’s environment. Veterans understand the value of hard work, persistence, honor, and honesty. Many have been involved in missions that require high level of secrecy and security clearance.
  8. Adherence to safety standards – Safety is a major concern in the military with regard to fellow servicemen and civilians. Military personnel believe in maintaining a safe and healthy environment; protection of colleagues and equipment is a top priority.
  9. Working knowledge of technology and machinery – Veterans are trained to effectively use the latest computers, machinery, and technology to achieve goals and accomplish tasks. If they are unfamiliar with a piece of equipment, I’ll bet my favorite set of knitting needles that they will be heads down until they can operate it with their eyes closed.
  10. Positive outlook – Even under the most dire circumstances and grim futures, military veterans have the intrinsic knowledge and skills to triumph over adversity. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, drive, determination, and the desire to achieve greatness and success for the team are of the highest priority.

As if all that weren’t enough…  thanks to the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, employers will receive tax credits for hiring veterans —  40% percent of the first $6,000 in wages (up to $2,400) for short-term unemployed vets and 40% of the first $14,000 in wages (up to $5,600) for vets who have been unemployed longer than 6 months.

Employers, what are you doing to recruit and hire military veterans? If you are uncertain of hiring veterans, what is your reasoning?

Here is a video sharing the many ways that you can help support our veterans.

Building a Beneficial Brainstorm

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Sharing Strategic Leadership

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I have been hearing about strategic leadership a lot lately. From what I have read, it seems like a pretty great leadership technique, but I need more information on the topic. What can you tell me about strategic leadership and what it can do for my team?

Thanks for the question. It appears that strategic leadership is one of the new buzz words in business. People are always looking for ways to become better leaders for their company and develop innovative plans to get ahead of the competition. So you want to be a strategic leader, huh? Here are few key points about this type of leadership and what you need to do to make it successful.

Strategic leaders are growth- and goal-oriented. They strive to get the best from their employees. Encouragement, equal Leadershipexpectations, and lead-by-example strategies are what make these leaders the most successful. A sense of equality is rarely seen in large well-established corporations. Employees are more likely to put in the extra effort and go the extra mile if they feel their contributions are being appreciated, recognized, and having an impact on the company and their peers. With this increased input comes a greater level of output in the form of higher productivity. More productive workplaces are much more efficient, cost less to operate, and have an improved rate of return. The increased productivity encourages best practices and streamlined process that are in the best interest of the company as a whole.

Future planning and awareness of the industry are key components to being successful as a strategic leader. You will develop a keen ability to foresee future issues due to growth and expansion. To prepare, additional funding should be invested in educating and providing opportunities for your staff to take responsibility of their future and execute their Leadersrole in the company as changes begin to occur. The employees will learn to act, think, and work in ways that have the best interest of the company in mind. With proper training and skill maintenance, decisions that may have previously needed additional management approval or second opinions can be made in half the time without expelling and wasting additional resources.

Coaching and mentoring  staff is one of the many blocks found in the foundation of strategic leadership. By presenting an inexperienced or new staff member with suggestions and guidance, an entrepreneur can mold and shape this individual into exactly the correct fit for the job. Contrary to managerial leadership, strategic leadership focuses on the potential of the individual and how to best utilize their skills and talents in the long run. The best employees are those who excel in their environment and have a sense of pride in their job.

This video from Carolyn Stevens will help you get more answers to your questions.

I hope this brief overview of strategic leadership gives you a better understanding as to what it is and how you can put it to good use in your office. For fun, take this quiz from CNN Money to see if you “Are a Good Leader?”

Readers: What do you think are your strongest leadership qualities? What types of management styles do you admire most?

Wishing you luck in leadership,

Anita

Rewards From Retreats

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I have a team of about 10 people who have been working incredibly hard over the past few months. I want to reinforce their positive attitudes and keep the group productivity and focus flowing through a department retreat. But I am in need of some pointers to make sure the outing is both rewarding and beneficial to our group. Please help!

Dear, Retreat Ready,

Department retreats are a great way to step out of the office setting and focus on reinforcing strengths of a group or addressing areas for improvement. They help
re-center and boost creative thinking and break through the monotony of daily activities and tasks, so your employees will return to work feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the change of pace. Retreats also promote team unity and strengthen the commitment of the group toward a common goal. I suggest you schedule a retreat at Handsleast once or twice a year.

To make a retreat produce top results, your group must be comfortable, the presentations interactive, and the topic relevant. Here is a list of things you can do to put together a fun and productive staff retreat:

Provide breakfast or morning snacks, such as coffee or muffins. Your employees will appreciate the gesture. Added bonus: Now they will not have an excuse for low energy while participating in the activities.

Encourage participants to dress comfortably and on the casual side. It can help set a tone of relaxation and remove any stuffiness that should be left at the office.

Ask your team to be prepared with real-life work achievements and issues. Sharing successes and troubles will help the group come together as one to revel in wins and to find solutions to obstacles standing in the way. Make sure you give your team enough time to prepare before the meeting – don’t spring it on them in the room – and make sure they know you expect them to participate in the discussion.

Start the retreat with an “ice breaker.”  To start your meeting off on the right foot, play a fun game or activity that brings your team closer together. The more fun and crazy, the better! One example is to have each person share something about them that is not work-related. To keep everyone at ease, be sure to make a point to say that sharing is encouraged but not required. Check out this list of funny questions to integrate into your ice breakers. My personal favorite is “If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?” Some may disagree, but I am going along the lines of a chili. I like to think I am spicy!

Get people involved. Create a space for open discussion and creative thinking. Challenge your team to stir the creative juices and really think outside the box. Sharing thoughts with the team and encouraging feedback and input are where great ideas are shaped and big accomplishments take place. Keep your eyes out for a post I have in the works about hosting a successful brainstorming session.

Don’t just stand there; get up and move. Plan to have lunch off-site from the retreat. It will give your group time to stretch their legs, socialize with group, and develop relationships outside of the office. Make sure to pick a place that isn’t too loud and has a little something for everyone in attendance.

Provide visuals whenever possible. These are great for keeping the energy up and tstimulating the creative parts of the brain. Plus, I wouldn’t want to listen to me yap all day long. Throw monotony out the door and bring some images and videos into the mix.

Build in some competition and some prizes. Offer some goodies for good ideas shared, the quickest right answer to your question, and more. People love to win free stuff, and it will get your group talking and volunteering information faster.

End with a bang! People will most likely be starting to wind down after all the fun activities and discussions you have had during the day. Give everyone a little something to take home with them that ensures things end on a positive note! A card acknowledging their hard work and dedication to your team and a bag of M&Ms is just the right thing to accomplish this.

Managers, what interesting activities or ideas have you come up with to create a rewarding retreat? What were your results?

Employees, what types of activities have you participated in that worked well and others that fell short?

I can’t wait to hear from you all.

Best wishes until next time,
Anita

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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