People attend the Entrecon convention at a brick lined venue

10 Key Leadership Tips from EntreCon 2017

by Morgan Milbradt, on November 16, 2017
Twenty four.

That's how many pages of tips, tricks and words of wisdom I jotted down over the last two days at Studer Community Institute's EntreCon. For those of you who haven't heard of EntreCon, it's a business conference held in downtown Pensacola for local entrepreneurs, professionals and leaders to come together, network and learn from each other.

Whether your title was CEO, Human Resources Director, Vice President, or (like me) Marketing Specialist, EntreCon offered some great advice that anyone can take back with them to the workplace.
Here are my top ten takeaways in no particular order:

1. Beware of "The Working Dead."
EntreCon is probably not the first time you've heard that the majority of the American workforce is unengaged (And if it is the first time your hearing it, you have some catching up to do). Speaker Kevin Sheridan coined the phrase, "The Working Dead," during his "Building a Magnetic Culture" presentation on Tuesday morning. He was the first speaker at EntreCon and he did not disappoint.

Roughly 60% of the workforce can be described as "The Working Dead," as they just sort of exist in a job - nothing more, nothing less. They're not stimulated, they're not challenged, and in return, they're not engaged.

So what can leaders do about it? Here are Sheridan's 3 tips for engaging your workplace zombies:
1) Have them volunteer for things at work that don't have to deal directly with their day-to-day tasks
2) Be (or find) a mentor for them
3) Recast them --> I loved this word "re-cast." We as leaders need to start asking our employees if they actually like their job! Chances are, they're not in the wrong place, they're just not doing something they love or that's a good fit for them. If you can, help them find a place in your organization that makes better sense for everyone.

2. Identify who is being carried. Thanks, Justin Beck of Beck Properties. This is a big one if you manage a team. Now, Mr. Beck doesn't suggest you go on a witch hunt, but chances are you already have an idea of those employees who are being carried. When your team is forced to carry the extra weight of that person (or people), it can be extremely stressful because their pressure is being pushed onto others. Hold all of your team members accountable and you won't have to worry about "carrying" the extra weight.

3. Speed wins.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this at EntreCon and other conferences I've attended this year, I'd have, well, probably around $7.50. I think sometimes we get so bogged down in trying to make things "perfect" or make the process "perfect" before we are comfortable rolling something out that we forget the value of SPEED itself.

From an employee perspective, there is nothing worse than waiting. That wait time for a decision to be made can feel like forever - and you start to get the feeling that maybe nothing is happening. Great leaders make decisions and do so quickly. Why? Because you can always go back. If the decision you made was wrong, you can change it. Remember, a wrong decision and a pivot in plans is still better than no decision made at all.

4. WOW is not big, WOW is personal.
I love this one. I think we are always trying to make big WOW moments happen for our clients, and are always waiting to feel that heroic WOW moment when we do something big for our customers.

But in reality, WOWs happen every single day - they're just the little things that we don't notice! The things that don't seem extraordinary to us, might be the most extraordinary thing a customer has ever experienced --> Like a nurse grabbing a family member a cup of ice as she sees them sitting in the hall opening a soda. We think we need to feel that "heroic" feeling to wow others, but really, we just need to be more personal. Humans are more important than hardware, and they're the ones who make all the difference through personal touch!

5. What you permit, you promote.
This one is a no-brainer, but a good one for leaders to remember. Negativity, low performance, sub-par management - If you're permitting any of these things inside your organization, you're promoting them.

6. Stay green.
"When you think you are green, you will continue to grow. When you think you are ripe, you have already begun to rot," was the quote that Brad Israel told us all Wednesday morning. Remember to keep your company, your processes, your team and yourself green. There is no good idea that can't be improved upon, and there is no time in your life that you should ever think you know everything. Keep learning. Keep growing.

7. Share your vision.
With your team. With your customers. On your website. Through your social media. Vision is what makes people want to follow you! As a leader, you can instruct people to follow you all day long. Don't ask questions, follow me because I sign your paycheck. Don't ask questions, follow me because I'm higher on the org chart.

But a shared vision is what really unites a team - and the best leaders know they have to explain (and continue to remind) their team members how their day-to-day job fits into that vision. You've probably all heard the NASA janitor story. When asked what he was doing, he responded with, "I'm helping put a man on the moon." Now your employees can easily think of their hard work as "marketing" or "sales" or "answering phones" - OR, they can see the bigger picture and think of their work as an important piece of a bigger picture. Tell them their work matters, and explain how it's an integral part of the mission.

8. Be decisive. "Leaders make decisions," Liz Jazwiec shouted as she walked across the stage during her "Women in Leadership" presentation. Side note: She was one of my favorites over the last two days.

She also noted that most subordinates that ask you (the leader) what they should do already KNOW what they should do. She gave a great tip for helping your team make the decision: Ask them "What would you normally do?" As the leader, make the decision (or have your team answer it for themselves by using that question) and stand by it. They'll appreciate your decisiveness!

9. Give away all the credit.
This was number nine on the list of things successful people do given by Bert Thorton of Waffle House. Liz Jazwiec also mentioned it in her talk as well: As the leader, give away all the credit and take all the blame. Think of it this way, when a football team loses, what does the coach say? The coach will say it was the team who carried them to success (not, it was my lovely coaching that brought us the W). On the other hand, if the team loses, the coach will say they were outcoached.

10. Experiences are what sets your company apart.
Alright, I'm going to admit it. I definitely teared up during best selling author Dan Heath's "Creating Moments" presentation. It's no longer enough to simply "sell a product" or "provide a service." Every company does this. What will set you apart is creating experiences: Customer experiences, onboarding experiences, patient experiences, employee experiences (I could go on, but I think you get the picture). Most of our experiences working or buying from a company are forgettable. Focus on making those experiences remarkable, and you'll soar above your competitors.

If you want to watch the reason why I basically started crying, you can watch the video here. Watch how a regular bank turned an average experience into the ultimate experience and literally changed some lives - all through an ATM!

Feel free to add anything that I missed in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Studer Community Institute.

Thank you to Quint, Nicole, Rachael and the rest of the Studer Community Institute team and volunteers who made this opportunity possible, and thank you to LandrumHR for letting me attend. Thanks for reading!
Morgan Milbradt

Morgan Milbradt grew up on a farm in the cornfields of Minnesota, and has called Pensacola, Fla., her home since 2013. She graduated from Minnesota State University - Mankato in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in mass media along with minors in communication studies and marketing. She currently serves as the Sales and Social Media Specialist at LandrumHR. Morgan prides herself on her creative marketing brain, eye for design and organizational skills. Her professional interests include employee development, leadership, millennials in the workplace and workplace innovation. She was most recently named one of InWeekly's 2017 Rising Stars. When she’s not at work, you can find Morgan at the beach or lounging on the couch watching movies with her three favorite beings: Her boyfriend, Noah, and her two rescue cats, Luna and Grace.

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