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NXT Gen Reflects on 2020 Lessons Learned

NXT Gen Reflects on 2020 Lessons Learned

Like many small, minority and women-owned businesses, 2020 left us feeling frustrated and stunned.  Before the end of the second quarter, the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the U.S. and in particular small and minority-owned businesses. From February to April 2020, the “active” number of small businesses in the U.S. dropped from 15 million to 11 million, a 22% decline. During that same timeframe, African American entrepreneurs experienced a disproportionate decline of 41% in their businesses.  Our business goal for 2020 became obvious – avoid being a declining 2020 statistic and focus our energy on transforming our overall business model.  Two things became clear to our business early in the year:  1) the business model of the past which naturally and effortlessly relied on traditional business, training and consulting interactions was no longer sustainable, and 2) the ability to survive and compete in this new era required a thoughtful, but quick pivot to a virtualized, digital support model with “pandemic-proof” training tools and resources.

Armed with three of our core values – Passion, Innovation and ResponsibilityNXT Gen addressed the challenge of a business model transformation.  Admittedly, we occasionally felt ill-equipped, ill-prepared and lacked the resources needed for transformation. Grants were evasive and revenue streams proved limited as our current and potential clients simultaneously experienced their own pandemic challenges. But as Mark Cuban once said, “Wherever there is change, wherever there is uncertainty, there is opportunity”.  

Headwinds aside, our approach shifted to seeking power-collaborations and high opportunity partnerships with companies with proven track records in delivering sustainable training and learning technology, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI).  After several months of consulting and collaboration, NXT Gen has successfully partnered with TTEC, an industry leader to develop and deliver AI training and simulation technology.  Our digital partnership will allow our clients to experience practice tools which reinforce learning, provide consistent feedback, as well as personalized coaching in a digitally interactive environment. 

As we approach 2021 and beyond, our passion and mission will remain the same – “to maximize employee talent with creative, sustainable training solutions”.  NXT Gen’s commitments to our clients and community include:

  • Helping our clients and colleagues understand, assess and agree on “what does success look like” and how it can be achieved for their business.

 

  • Showing businesses how to extract and capitalize on the potential of people to create an organizational culture where talents, experiences and creativity are harnessed to maximize productivity.

 

  • Supporting our clients to strengthen their workforce and invest in the NXT Generation of leaders.

 

  • Guiding organizations to place value on diversity while creating real opportunities for inclusion and equality in the workplace.

 

  • Helping organizations consistently deliver better service, better outcomes and better quality of life for employees and customers served.

 

  • Partnering with organizations and minority and women-owned businesses to knowledge share and overcome barriers to build stronger communities.

 

Source: The National Bureau of Economic Research, Robert W. Fairlie, http://www.nber.org/papers/w27309, June 2020

 

 

 

Leading Through Crisis:  A Framework for COVID-19 and Future Challenges   (The New Normal)

Leading Through Crisis: A Framework for COVID-19 and Future Challenges (The New Normal)

 

COVID-19 is here and when it’s gone it will have changed the world as we know it. The change is everlasting and will transform the way we do business.  Every sector of our society including governments, businesses, hospitals and school systems have revolutionized how they work overnight.  Employees now work from home, collaboration technologies have replaced meeting rooms, the cloud is the new premise, and in many cases, students are being educated virtually at home. 

As a leader, have you stepped back to ensure that:

  • You are prepared for the continuation of a virtual workplace culture?
  • You and your staff are equipped with the mindset and resilience to handle the change permanently?
  • Are you ready and conducting coaching, feedback and performance management remotely, distance-based or virtually?

There are 6 key support elements that every leader should pay close attention to as you navigate through these unprecedented times:

  1. Change Management – Don’t ignore that your company or organization is experiencing change and that it will continue for months to come. Creating a strategic plan with tactical actions to achieve short, medium, and long-term goals are keys to success in this environment. Additionally, planning for the future should include finding new techniques and tools to help improve job performance and productivity.
  2. Empathic Leadership – As a leader, do you understand how you and your teams have been affected by change? Pride should become secondary to humanity. Leaders must find ways to balance productivity with decency.  We call it H.E.A.R.T. ( Here, Engage, Ask, Respond and Take Action).
  3. Emotional Intelligence and mental resilience – Leaders must manage differently. The office is now beyond the walls and managing a virtual team requires a different psychological approach.  You and your team will experience highs and lows and need to focus on incorporating time into your daily schedule to step back and reflect on how to manage emotional change, burnout and the isolation that may come with working remotely.  Encouraging your team to set-aside time to reflect and celebrate small successes is an essential best practice of leading in this new environment.  And, recognize that your team becomes a mirror of your actions and behaviors.  So, how you cope with stress either positively or negatively will be reflected in your team’s approach and behavior to stress management.
  4. Relationship Building – The art of building relationships with superiors, peers and team members, while seeing them less in-person is essential for today’s leaders and their teams. Virtual networking is more vital than ever.
  5. Business Preparedness – You may never experience another pandemic in your lifetime. Yet challenging situations will occur.  Using continuity checklists and protocols along with practice drills will help ensure you are ever-ready for rapid change.
  6. Company Culture – Your culture has changed. You may not realize it.  It has. Have you defined the new post COVID-19 culture versus having it define you?

 

NXT Generation guides and supports organizations through the change that comes with the change.  It starts with an assessment of your current environment.  Based on our findings you are provided with strategic and tactical measures to achieve your ideal state.  NXT Generation can support you with digital training and assist you through the transition to your new normalcy.  For more information on how our company can help you, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Balancing Care and Performance

Balancing Care and Performance

"The essence of leadership is holding your people to the highest possible standard while taking the best possible care of them." Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

How to build a culture of high standards and accountability while taking care of your employees.

"The essence of leadership is holding your people to the highest possible standard while taking the best possible care of them." Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

In many cases, leaders view having high standards and employee accountability as a form of controlling their employees, when in actuality it is quite the opposite. Holding employees accountable and setting high standards allows your business and those who are willing to perform at their very best. 

When building a high impact, employee centric team or organization, these 5 steps can help. 

Step 1

Be an “Inspirational Leader”

Leaders with high standards of accountability pull more than they push. When employees are supported and understand the importance of the work that they are doing they operate at higher levels.

Step 2 

Build trust with your employees 

Do what you say and say what you mean. You must first realize that like with any relationship, trust is not built overnight. Being a trustworthy leader has much to do with being approachable and delivering on your word. Be consistent and make sure that what you say aligns with your actions. Model the behavior that you would like from your employees. If you say that collaboration is important, make sure you set positive examples of interaction and collaboration with your peers and other leaders. 

Step 3 

Set stretch goals and recognize performance 

Achieving the unachievable! Most employees are not satisfied with performing at mediocre levels. Leaders should create an environment in which their employees want to do and achieve more. When employees are given clear goals and are recognized for their performance they become more engaged and higher contributors.

Step 4

Communicating and knowing your employees 

Communication is more than talking, it’s listening and seeing. It allows leaders to deliver critical information and to understand what employees have to say to them both verbally and non verbally. 

Step 5

Don’t be afraid to hold your employees accountable to performance standards

 

Leading with Influence

Leading with Influence

What does it mean to lead with influence?  Leading with influence is the ability to facilitate, inspire and motivate a group of people to accomplish a common goal. The ability to achieve desired results through others without intimidation and to create followers who desire to be led are key traits of influential leadership.  

The ability to influence outcomes or performance requires more than relying on a leader's innate abilities and job title. Many new organizational leaders assume their position or title automatically gives them influence over the actions, behaviors and opinions of others.  New leaders quickly learn that position or rank has little impact on others.  The essential leadership skill that differentiates an organizational leader from a manager is influence.   

Developing skills and competencies to influence others takes time and practice.  Here are 7 essential strategies and tips to help you become an influential leader:

Develop trust with your co-workers.  Leaders must be trust-worthy and convey this trait in every interaction.  This involves being consistent in your behaviors and actions and keeping your commitments.  Saying one thing and doing something else will swiftly and permanently destroy a leader’s credibility and ability to influence. 

Know your team or co-workers.  Getting to know your co-workers will go a long way toward developing effective, trusting and lasting relationships.  This doesn’t mean developing close personal relationships, but it does mean tapping into what motivates them, as well as their career aspirations and accomplishments.

Be authentic.  Developing genuine, sincere and honest working relationship helps build credibility and earn respect from others.  When co-workers believe they have access to the "real" leader, it reduces fear and feelings of deception.  

Develop empathetic listening skills.  This skill goes right along with building trust and requires the ability to place yourself in a position to understand the other person’s point of view, their problem and how they feel without judging them.  Leaders who practice this skill will ultimately develop trust, cooperation and collaboration from others.    

Promote others through mentoring.  Other employees who exemplify strong leadership qualities need mentoring and a safe environment to practice leading.  Whether its giving them more responsibility or allowing them to lead a project, investing in their future shows your willingness to produce new leaders.

Be a positive force in your environment.  Positive behavior is contagious.  Leaders who are consistently positive and encourage others are respected and in high demand during crisis or change management situations. 

 

 

The Importance of Employee Engagement

The Importance of Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

"Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.”  Timothy R. Clark

What is employee engagement? Employee engagement is the creation of a workplace environment that results in a culture in which all employees are committed to carrying out the company’s mission and values and to giving their best effort on a daily basis leaving them to feel good about themselves and their contributions.

In reality, employee engagement is one of the most important factors in the success of your organization. It is critical to retaining employees, increasing profitability and improving efficiency, productivity and customer satisfaction. When employees are engaged and have a sense of purpose, they are happier and contribute at higher levels.

So why do companies get it wrong? Quite often when leaders make decisions critical to their success, they place emphasis on shareholders and customers and not on the individuals that are accountable for carrying out their mission. Without the inclusion and buy in of their employees, performance outcomes will be less than desirable.

3 Strategies to Create an Engaged Culture

       1. Communicate the importance of employee engagement starting with the executive   

            leadership team

       2. Understand the basic principles of engagement

    • Commitment
    • Transparency
    • Action

       3. Find ways to formalize and measure employee engagement levels

Tips to Help Improve Employee Engagement

Engage your employees regularly, not just when convenient. Most company's use annual surveys to gather feedback and ideas from their employees. This method often provides inaccurate or tainted data because employees tend to respond based on how they are feeling in that moment or based upon the issues that are occurring during that timeframe. When feedback and engagement occur on a regular basis, employers will receive more balanced feedback and gain better insight on how to best move their organizations forward.

Think of creative ways to engage your employees. One of the most common mistakes that employers make is assuming that engagement tools have to be formal. In contrary, engagement can be simpler than you think. Employee engagement can be exercised during team meetings, town halls, one on ones and reviews.

Make employees feel comfortable when asking them for their input. Provide them with a safe environment and flexible tools that will allow them to provide you with feedback anonymously and confidentially. This will enable your employees to give their honest views and not what they think you and their peers want to hear.

Display the results and take action. When feedback is given, identify areas where action can be taken immediately for quick wins. Display and keep them informed on how you are progressing on long term items. Make sure that your employees are aware of how their feedback and involvement in decisions has helped the organization.  This will keep them engaged and motivated.

    

Leaders and Emotional  Intelligence

Leaders and Emotional Intelligence

Today’s top executives pursue leadership talent capable of delivering high impact results across the organization.  It’s a well-documented fact that leaders who master the ability to manage and self-regulate their emotions are more effective and productive in the workplace.  This shifts Emotional Intelligence (EI) from a buzzword to a foundational skill for organizational leaders. 

Several researchers including Talent Smart and the Journal of Vocational Behavior report that 90% of the top performers in the workplace have high EI.  Numerous publications report a direct correlation between EI and salaries, notably employees with high EI make $29,000 more annually than their low EI counterparts. 

All of this is great news for leaders in today’s fast paced, rapidly changing and complex digital business environment.  However, it takes more than hammering industry knowledge and technical skills into the minds of leaders to help them achieve goals and enhance the performance of others.  Emotional intelligence is a critical performance competency and a transformational skill that every organization should embrace and include in their learning toolbox. 

EI includes at least 5 key characteristics for individual mastery:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.   We’ve captured some useful tips and techniques to help leaders understand, improve and maximize emotional intelligence skills in these areas:

Be persistent and intentional about understanding your emotions and the resulting behaviors.   Remember: “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” (Charles Swindell).  As leaders, it may not be possible to control the words or actions of others.  It is possible to control how you react and respond. 

Take stock or inventory of your own emotional intelligence.  Complete an assessment tool to better understand your EI strengths and weaknesses.  Use the scores to create an action plan or checklist.  Be sure to set both short and long-term goals for improvement and track your progress.

Keep a daily journal of emotions, both comfortable and uncomfortable. The process of assessing the cause and effect of your emotions and their impact on you and others will help enhance your personal performance.  The “Five Why’s” is a great tool to help you dig deeper to uncover the why and how you respond in certain situations.

Be a good listener.  As a listener, your greatest asset is to hear and see the situation from another person’s perspective without judging.  After listening, be prepared to ask clarifying questions that will help resolve conflicts and move the situation forward.

Invest in yourself with training and skill practice.  Ask your organization if EI training is available or invest in online learning tools.

Identify trustworthy and knowledgeable accountability partner(s).  Solicit the support of co-workers, a boss, friends or family members who are willing to give candid and descriptive feedback about your display of helpful and unhelpful emotions and the impact on others.  Use their input to create an action plan or checklist.

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