Nov 11

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Take advantage of online classrooms for professional development

online-classroomsThe Internet is more than a research tool — it can also be a virtual classroom that helps you expand your experience and add credentials to your resume.

Best: You can take online classes from any place with Internet access, making them much more convenient than traditional courses.

Reality: But online courses aren’t necessarily easier or less time consuming than traditional ones. Many people don’t realize that online classes still come with lectures, reading materials, and lengthy assignments.

While many people will thrive in an online classroom environment, disorganization and procrastination could destroy your chances for success. Try these tips to help you stay on task:

Dedicate A Workspace

The problem with online courses is that you can attend from your desk or your living room couch.

Good idea: Rather than working from random spots, designate a work area that you will use during every class. Make sure that you choose a quiet, neat space that will help you remain focused.

Know How You’ll Take Notes

Online courses are notoriously tough and the last thing you need is to worry about where you stored last week’s notes.

Try this: You might prefer typing directly into a word processing system, but you’ll waste time toggling back and forth. In this instance, you’re better off using paper and pen to jot down information.

Bonus: This way, you can study your notes even when you’re away from your computer.

Set Up A System

As with any independent work, you need to establish an organizational system quickly that will work for you and keep you focused.

Example: Write all important course dates — such as when you’ll take an online quiz or turn in an assignment — on a calendar that you keep with your notes. You should also print out any key information, such as your professor’s contact information.

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Oct 28

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Develop your staff to boost your biz

boost-your-staffYou could spend your days scrutinizing and questioning every decision your employees make. Or, you could provide them with the training that will allow them to make decisions you can trust.

Micromanagement is usually a symptom of a manager’s inability to judge whether her employees can perform well without her input. You can avoid this mistake by investing your resources in your staff, as well as in your products.

Problem: Most micromanagers don’t even realize what they’re doing. Look for these warning signs, then combat them with our suggestions:

Red flag:You often perform employees’ tasks for them to ensure the job is done well. As a manager, it’s your job to develop your staff so that they can perform their duties. Completing their tasks for them doesn’t challenge them and it doesn’t increase their skills.

Training solution: Devote at least one third of your budget to employee development. Use that money to send your employees to seminars and workshops that will enhance their business acumen and critical-thinking skills.

Best: After your staffers return from their educational workshops, ask them to train the rest of your staff on the new information.

Red flag:You block employees from strategic planning sessions. Micromanagers often don’t include employees in strategic planning and, therefore, fail to see potential stumbling blocks until it’s too late.

Training solution: You can gauge your employees’ strategic thinking by including them in planning sessions before disaster strikes. This way, you learn to trust them and they learn to look for potential problems that you may not see.

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Aug 07

CUSTOMER SERVICE CORNER: 5 strategies to get the most from training sessions

training-classHow many times have you gone to a training session or inservice, came away energized from what you learned — but ultimately didn’t change your behavior as much as you hoped? It has happened to all of us. But you can maximize the results — and improve as a customer service professional — if you take advantage of these five tricks:


  1. Read handouts before the training session. You’ll get more from the session if you’re not distracted by reading while the instructor is talking.
  2. Focus on takeaways. Don’t try to take notes on everything the instructor says. Instead, zero in on information that has an immediate practical value for you.
  3. Keep your notes concise. Don’t get bogged down in the details –you could find yourself missing key points while you’re still scrambling to write. Instead, use outlines and key words to keep you on track — you can always flesh out your notes later.
  4. Review your notes right after the class. What you learned will stay with you longer if you review your notes while the training session is fresh in your mind. Best bet: Rewrite your notes so you’ll be able to make sense of them weeks or even months later.
  5. Use what you learn right away. This is the most important tip of all — make a list of action items and tape it to your monitor so you’ll remember them throughout the day. Once you’ve started doing them regularly, what you’ve learned will become second nature. For additional confidence, check out these tips from the United Cerebral Palsy Web site at
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Jun 26

CUSTOMER SERVICE CORNER: Go back to basics for sales training

Your sales team can know everything there is to know about your products and services — but that doesn’t mean they’ll convince potential customers to plunk down cash.

That’s where sales training comes in, says personal development consultant Sheila Mulrennan. “Training gives sales people communication, people and professional skills,” she says.

Best:Your well-trained staff will be the go-to representative for your products and a trusted consultant for your customers. And, you don’t need new-age tricks to hammer home age-old tactics. Create an unstoppable sales team by going back to basics.

Understand the sales process. Before you can sell anything, you must grab your customers’ attention, spark his interest and then build that interest up so that the customer desires your product or services. This must happen during a series of conversations — not just one hard sales pitch.

Sell yourself. Your products aren’t the only thing customers must buy into. They must also trust that you have their best interests in mind and that you understand what they need to make their jobs easier. You are selling your experience and judgement as well as your company’s services.

Take the time to ask questions. You shouldn’t steamroll customers with information. Rather, probe customers for information. This will help you get to know them, as well as show them that you are interested in their personal needs.

Sell the benefits, not just features. While you may be focused on ensuring that people hear about what you’re offering, they’re usually more interested in the outcome of your services. You must outline how your products will benefit customers’ daily lives rather than just run down a list of features and services. You must link the two.

The bottom line: Your sales training must make your teams more attuned to how their interactions with customers make or break a sale. Sales people must walk away from training prepared to sell themselves and your company as the experts in both your product and you customers’ needs.

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