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  • 10
    MAY

    What Makes a Great Culture?

    There are clear benefits to having a great corporate culture.

    For example, a great corporate culture can set the right tone within an organization.  If your corporate culture is one that values respect, etiquette, and formality, then the people who work for your company are more likely to treat each other politely, show up on time, and work within a recognized chain of command. 

    Or if your corporate culture is one that values risk taking and thinking outside of the box, then employees are more likely to develop creative or unconventional solutions for themselves or for customers.

    A strong culture also can help with retention.  A culture that makes people feel like they belong or that they are part of something special is likely to convince employees to stay with the company for the long term.

    In addition, corporate culture can drive sales by enhancing brand identity.  In other words, if customers see your company as an enthusiastic, generous group of people, then they may be more attracted to do business with you, simply because of your corporate culture.

    These benefits are desirable and easy to see.  But what, exactly, makes a great company culture?  How does any manager know if he or she has created a great culture?   And what can managers do to achieve this?

    Great culture happens when people are empowered.

    Great leaders create more great leaders.  By giving other people the power to lead, you expand your reach.  There are four ways to do this.

    First, treat others as equals.  If you don’t, they’ll suspect they’re not empowered.  And they won’t step up in your absence to fill a void.

    Second, listen actively.  This lets you learn from other people.  When your team sees you learning from other people, your team will know that others are truly empowered.  They’ll be willing to learn and teach, as well.

    Third…share life stories.  When you show people that you’re open and vulnerable, they feel empowered to share their stories and uncertainties with you.  Resolving uncertainties is a must if you want to empower others to act upon your behalf. 

    And fourth, articulate a mission.  Otherwise, the question is, “Empowered to do what?”

    In great cultures, individual contributors — with all of their talent and experience — synchronize and become passionate about a mission.  It’s worth whatever effort is necessary to achieve such an aligned environment — including cutting team members who don’t support the mission. 

    Great cultures allow the person with the best idea to trump the person with the highest pay.

    Three words that can kill enthusiasm in a culture: “not invented here.”

    When management teams or departments adopt that attitude, they signal to others within a culture that generating or submitting great ideas is futile. 

    Instead, there’s a word for cultures that inspire great ideas from within.  The word is “intrapreneurship.”  A phrase often attributed to Steve Jobs, “intrapreneurship” gives people from all walks of a company the opportunity to contribute to the mission — or to alter it with great ideas. 

    Great cultures are willing to put mission in front of profits.

    There’s nothing like purpose for a strong, sustainable, scalable, and meaningful corporate culture.  A purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits, alone, never will.  Note that I’m not suggesting corporations ignore profitability — or even that they always put purpose in front of profitability.  Rather, I’m suggesting that companies willing to put purpose over profitability are those with successful cultures.

    To try this, figure out how to offer a social service while creating economic value.  That's the sort of thing employees can get behind and feel proud of within their culture, even as they work toward a common mission that does — ultimately — involve charging fees for a product or service.

    Great cultures foster great teams.

    Make no mistake.  It’s difficult to build teams.

    That’s because people bring everything about who they are to teams.  This includes opinions, knowledge, values, past experiences, upbringing, educations, goals, aspirations, and a hundred other things likely to conflict with what others bring to the team.

    So how do great cultures do it?

    Let’s start with how they don’t.  They don’t do it by retreating for a couple of days each year.  They don't do it with planning sessions, seminars, or team-building activities. 

    While those may be useful tools, great cultures don’t use gimmicks as substitutes for actual team building!

    Instead, great cultures build teams by systematically forming them to solve real work issues…issues with the potential to affect everyone.

    When people have something important in common — a mission, goals, something to achieve, something to avoid — people spend their energies on the shared project, rather than devoting too much energy on figuring out how to consolidate their varied backgrounds, values and beliefs.

    You show me a culture with great communication, and I’ll show you a great culture.

    To see how this last element works to build great teams, all you have to do is watch any great team play any sport.  Athletic teams work together, encourage each other, and spend as much time communicating on the sidelines as they do in the game.

    If anyone puts herself or himself ahead of the team, coaches deal with that behavior swiftly. 

    Most of the time, teams perform best when everyone is in the know, when members are feeding and playing off of each other, and when communication is broad enough to enable everyone to succeed.

    Put these principles to work, and it won't be long until your company is reaping the benefits of a great corporate culture.

  • 27
    FEB

    How to Choose Your Team

    Whether you’re simply surrounding yourself with good people or you’re actually choosing a team for a start-up, a corporate project, or an executive management group, here are a few ideas to help you choose the best team possible.

    Choose People Who Offer the Best Fit for the Team

    We hear that often, the notion of hiring for “fit.”  But what does it really mean?

    Hiring for fit means hiring for cohesiveness.  Cohesiveness is the degree to which teams stick together in pursuit of a common goal.

    Cohesive teams are better able than most to focus on processes, instead of people.  They assume everyone on the team has good intentions, and they give each other credit for wanting the same success.  There are no hidden agendas on cohesive teams.

    Cohesive teams fully commit to decisions and strategies, and they hold each other accountable.  And because cohesive teams are, generally, comprised of people who like each other, open communications and a friendly environment are usually hallmarks of such teams.

    Highly cohesive teams are incredibly committed to goals, happy when team members succeed, and feel part of something significant — all of which lead to greater performance.

    Choose People Who Offer the Best Fit for a Role

    Sometimes you just need an accountant — or an astrophysicist.

    The point is don't hire a young, fresh, highly-motivated recruit that everyone likes and wants to see succeed — if what your team really needs is a skilled or educated veteran.  Enthusiasm can make up for lack of experience, but not always.

    Be honest with yourself and your team about what’s needed, and seek new team members accordingly.

    Choose People to Expand Access or Influence

    Some people are just more connected than others.  Sometimes you or your team will need access to those connections.  When possible, recruit people who enhance the team’s access or influence — internally or externally.

    Candidates with large networks often know how to get things done, or they know where to turn when the team finds itself in unfamiliar territory.

    Choose People for Character

    A foundation of any successful team is character.  So when in doubt, hire for character.  You’ll find it’s easier and more fun to work with positive, accountable people who take responsibility for their behaviors.  This type of candidate is almost always an asset to a team.  Whether they’re young and coachable or experienced and willing to mentor, people of character are people on whom you can rely.

  • 16
    FEB

    The Most Important Leadership Trait

    When we think of leaders, several characteristics or attributes immediately come to mind.  Charisma.  Honesty.  Strength.  Communication.  Enthusiasm.  Confidence.  Attitude.  Creativity.  Vision. 

    And let's face it…  Any of these can become a springboard to great leadership.  Ronald Reagan was widely praised for his charisma.  Abe Lincoln for his honesty…  Winston Churchill for his strength…  Jack Kennedy for his communication… The list goes on and on.

    Yet there's an attribute, often overlooked, that makes good leaders great.  That attribute is known as, "Humility."

    Many of the aforementioned characteristics are important for long-term success, but I'd go so far as to say humility is necessary.

    Arrogant leaders cannot connect.  They serve themselves instead of others.  They build walls or ivory towers between themselves and those they intend to lead.  They mistake power for leadership.  And there's nothing able to destroy a team faster than a leader on a power trip.

    Humble leaders connect.  They build up other people.  They listen.  They learn.  They serve others.  They open hearts. 

    They make their living providing comfort to others, bending when necessary, and living to fight another day.  Like palm trees, humble leaders are a beautiful thing.

    Here's why.

    Humble Leaders Are Open to Others' Ideas & Opinions

    Humble leaders seek input to ensure they are making decisions in the best interest of their companies.  These leaders recognize that seldom does one person have all the answers. If you think you do, then it’s probably time to rethink the way you lead.

    Humble Leaders Serve Others

    Groups perform better when they are certain leaders are looking out for them.  I'm not talking about handholding.  I'm talking about clearing paths.  Humble leaders — leaders interested in service — make certain their teams have the resources necessary to succeed.

    Humble Leaders Admit When They Are Wrong

    As difficult as it can be to admit when you're wrong, there are three great reasons to do it.

    First, admitting mistakes earns respect.  People don't expect you to be right 100 percent of the time, but they do expect you to be honest that often.  Admitting mistakes is a fantastic indicator of honesty.

    Second, vulnerability is good for business.  Vulnerability brings attention to gaps in capability, opportunity, knowledge, and expertise.  It helps organizations understand their shortcomings and begin to build remedies that make everyone stronger.

    Third, admitting mistakes builds a culture of trust.  Trust, in turn, builds confidence.  Any corporate culture marked by confidence and trust is a culture that will foster innovation, entrepreneurialism, and a healthy amount of risk taking. 

    With mistakes come learning.  With learning comes competitive advantage.

    Humble Leaders Practice Self-Reflection

    Years ago I began keeping a journal.  It was a good decision.  By keeping track of what has gone well or gone wrong — what has worked throughout my career and what hasn't — I'm better able to learn from mistakes and focus on improvement.

    How can we improve anything, really, if we don't reflect upon our mistakes, remain humble about them, and make every effort to improve results?

    Humble Leaders Delegate

    There's a certain type of leader who believes she must do everything herself.  You know what?  Sometimes that's true.  Sometimes the leader is the best at a particular task.  But leaders who think this way are exercising a form of hubris that will prohibit their organizations from scaling.  Hubris among leaders is a growth killer. 

    It takes humility and an interest in seeing others succeed to admit that your way isn't the only way to accomplish something important.  Humble leaders accept this truth and empower others to work for their companies and customers. 

    When leaders are humble — when they serve the people they lead — employees are happier in their jobs, more productive, and better able to achieve the outcomes leaders are charged with attaining.  Be a humble leader.

  • 30
    JAN

    Channel Products: Growth, Expansion, and Purpose

    One of the most effective ways to enhance your future is to take a fresh approach to your life, today.  Each of us can benefit from growing, expanding our horizons, and advancing with purpose.

    That's something as true for businesses as it is for people, and it's one reason we work so diligently at Channel Products to make certain we're keeping our business modern and up-to-the-minute.

    Each bold step we take is designed to make our customers' products the best in the world, while enhancing the lives of the end users we help them serve.

    It's why - throughout the past year - we've expanded our Controls Business in China, adding new capabilities, capacity, and relationships to make our company a more attractive partner, worldwide.

    It's why we're constructing a new corporate headquarters building, complete with a state-of-the-art research and development center, training facilities, and an innovation lab.  

    It's why we created Channel University, a comprehensive development program devoted to fostering personal growth among our employees, as an expression of our values.

    We're reinventing our company, advancing our capabilities, upgrading our facilities, and better equipping our people...all with a single-minded obsession of wildly thrilling our customers.

    I look forward to keeping you informed about each of these initiatives, among others, throughout 2018, and I invite you to join us in recognition, celebration, and benefit of our growth.

  • 17
    JAN

    Leadership vs. Management: Mastering Both Means Knowing When to Apply Each

    Utter the phrase "process management" in a room full of leaders, and heads will nod comprehendingly.  But ask the same folks how to best manage process, and I suspect you'll get a variety of answers.

    There are people who resist what they think of as "process management," because they abhor controls or see themselves as "people oriented."   I've also heard too many leaders refer to themselves as "process guys."

    In my experience, the trick for leaders is to ensure they're leading people and managing process.

    When process managers overstep boundaries by attempting to control critical activities instead of enabling them, that's no longer process management.  It's micromanagement.  And nobody loves a micromanager.

    Micromanagers can annoy the experts responsible for critical tasks, and those experts — being human — may rebel (or worse, apply the perspective of the micromanager over their own), leading processes to collapse. 

    That's precisely what leaders want to avoid.  And it's where the essence of leadership enters the equation.

    Trade Authority for Empowerment

    Once you have solid processes in place and a system to manage them, all that's left to do is lead the people responsible for execution of critical tasks.

    Fortunately, while leadership can be challenging, it's not complex. 

    The best advice I can give you regarding how to lead experts is to suggest that you look for opportunities to trade your authority for their empowerment. 

    They're experts, after all.  That's why they are responsible for critical activities. 

    Communicate a vision.  Instill values.  And get out of the way.

    Develop relationships with experts.  Learn what turns them on and makes them tick.  Ask them questions and really listen to what they have to say.  And, above all, make sure they understand you trust them to execute their very important roles.

    Effective process management — effective leadership — recognizes that the success of any process rests with those most qualified to perform and complete its critical tasks.  With strong leaders and a robust process management system backing them, experts will thrive, and outcomes will impress.

    I'm not suggesting you abdicate responsibility.  Rather, I'm suggesting you know your role as a leader.

    It's still your job to articulate a vision, convince everyone to pursue it, and to inspire everyone to deploy a set of shared values toward solutions when obstacles arise.

    For the sake of leadership, though, respect your people enough to recognize this:

    Control is not leadership.  Management is not leadership.

    Only leadership is leadership.

    And leaders devote their efforts to vision, values, and inspiration.

    The next time you hear someone tell you to lead people and manage processes, don't make the mistake of believing managers can't be leaders.  Smart managers use process management as the driver behind critical activities.  They allow experts to address the most important steps in any process.

    They understand the differences between process management and leadership.  They exercise both to create new, expert leaders within their organizations.  They free themselves to innovate, to focus on creating competitive advantage, and to leverage diversity of thought for continuous improvement.

  • 16
    OCT

    Promoting Teamwork Requires Standards, Not Rules

    Much has been written about the importance of teamwork; however, the steps for taking a collection of independently talented people and guiding them to become a cohesive team aren’t always obvious.  There are many factors to consider, but one key factor is the use of standards as a substitute for — or, at least, to supplement — rules. 

    Before I get too far on this subject, I should say, there’s a place for rules.  Rules are missives that usually come “from the top,” and everyone is expected to follow them.  They’re typically quite specific in nature, and it doesn’t take much principle to know when they’ve been violated.

    Here’s a rule, for example: “When cutting metal or wood, always wear goggles.”

    That’s an important rule.  We can’t have people getting hurt.

    Here’s a similar standard, “If you see an unsafe act, stop it.”  This one requires some judgment. 

    The first example illustrates how to help people stay safe.  The second illustrates how to build a culture of safety awareness.  That’s why I like standards, not rules, for team building.

    The process of developing rules reveals what’s important to senior management, while the process of developing standards gives everyone a chance to contribute to what’s important.

    Try it.  Pull your group of talented individuals together and ask them to share what’s important to them, with regard to how your company does business.

    You’re likely to hear ideas such as:

    •  Trust and believe in each other.
    •  Exercise collective responsibility.
    •  Be on time and be prepared.
    •  Tell the truth, even when it’s difficult.
    •  Always represent our brand.
    •  Confront problems with a sense of urgency; don’t let issues linger
    •  Keep each other informed

    A group that develops a list such as this is a group that is making commitments to each other.  It’s a group that will hold each other accountable and a group that will let one another know when standards haven’t been met.  Sounds a lot like a team to me!

    Involving team members in the development of such a list of professional standards gives them more ownership in the creation of shared guidelines, principles, and values.  It contributes to personal commitment.  Remember: don’t throw your rules or procedures away.  Rather, acknowledge that they may have been written long ago and may not have evolved with changing personnel, capabilities, and capacity for decision making. 

    Agreeing upon a set of professional standards gives everyone an opportunity to refresh and to bond as a group, which is a key component in the process of building any great team.

  • 20
    SEP

    Reminder: Team Building With a Purpose

    Want to make everyone in your organization cringe?  It's easy…  Just announce a team-building exercise that will add to their workload, force them to do things they won't enjoy, and disrupt the natural ebb and flow of their other activities.

    It's true.  No one likes "busy work."

    But you need to build a team.  Why?  Because engaged employees go the extra mile, not just for customers, but also for each other.  That's the whole idea of a team — a group of people willing — not, just willing…dedicated — to propping each other up, covering for each other, and working toward peak performance.

    So how do you accomplish team building without creating "busy work?"

    There are many answers, of course, but one approach is to design team-building opportunities around a group of shared values.  If everyone's doing something they value, then nobody is wasting his or her time. 

    Much has been written about the development of corporate values.  So I won't try to write a primer on that process.  (Not, here, at least.  Maybe another day.)  But I will say that whether formally or informally, it's important to identify some values that everyone in your organization can buy into.

    Whatever your group's shared values — customer service…personal growth…a commitment to flawless quality…social responsibility…or even the ability to have fun while you work — those values become the guideposts your organization can use for decision making, including decisions about how to approach team building.

    Imagine a group that has decided that "giving back to the community" is a shared value, for example.  Now your team-building exercises can include opportunities to do exactly that.  Instead of a company picnic for the sake of "team building," organize your company picnic around a benefit to the community or to some charity or organization everyone can get behind.  Instead of a group outing to a restaurant or event that will interest some people, consider an outing to a place or event in support of a charity everyone believes in.

    Or imagine a group that has selected "customer service" as a shared value.  Instead of a team-building contest designed around something you think is fun, design your contest in a way that rewards the shared value of customer service.  It's worth repeating, if everyone is working on something they value, nobody will think of it as wasted time.

    At Channel Products, we recently organized a Saturday picnic dedicated to helping a young boy achieve a lifetime goal in association with a well-known charity known as Make-a-Wish.  Because all of us had previously agreed that supporting such organizations is a value everyone at the company shares, participation in the event was outstanding.

    Many folks voluntarily took on roles to raise money in support of this child's dreams, to make the picnic more lively, and — generally, speaking — to make the event a success.  Our employees brought family members, and there was a genuine sense in pride associated with our event.

    Because of its authenticity and relevance to our shared values and culture, I doubt anyone thought of it as an exercise in team building.  But I did.  And I don't mean that in a sneaky or stealthy way at all.  I mean it sincerely.  By engaging — together — in an event that meant something to all of us, our group became just a little bit closer.  A shared sense of purpose contributes to team building in a natural, automatic way.

    Add activities, events, contests, and other opportunities into your culture in a way that everyone can get behind, and team building becomes a habit, not an exercise.  It becomes something as consistent as building your product, providing your service, or looking after the needs of your customers.

    No one minds doing something they believe in.  And few things bring teams together like the opportunity to act upon true, authentic, common values and beliefs.

  • 5
    SEP

    Keeping Your Website Fresh for Online Success

    So… you've designed your new website, updated your content, and launched it for the world to see.  Think you're done for a while?  Not really.  Keeping your website fresh is critical for attracting new customers and keeping existing ones.

    Here are three more reasons to update your web content regularly.

    First, updating your website boosts your search engine rankings.  Companies like Google, Bing, and Duck Duck Go regularly shift the websites their search engines regard as most relevant to search results.  One of the criteria they use is the freshness of the content.  New content is often considered more relevant to those surfing the Web; therefore, search engine algorithms place a high value on fresh or unique content.

    Second, companies that update tend to communicate those updates.  So updating your website gives you a worthwhile reason to reach out and remind customers you're "here for them."  The more often you update your website with something interesting, the more likely you are to interact with active or dormant customers or prospects.

    Furthermore, the more lively your website content, the more likely you are to attract inbound links as your customers and other constituents notice your content and link to it from their own websites and social media accounts.

    In short, updating your website gets your website noticed.  And when that happens, your company gets noticed, too.

    Third, it's important to make sure your customers know you're staying busy. 

    Is your most recent update from 2016?  Older than that?  If so, you risk having customers and others who are interested in your company thinking you're not up to much — or worse…maybe even that you've gone out of business! 

    Instead, let your customers know that your company is evolving or thriving.  Share news about new products, services, capabilities or people as often as possible.  An active company is an interesting company.  And interesting companies have interesting websites.

    Here are eight things you can do now to make your website more modern and fresh:

    • Incorporate a blog
    • Add a news section
    • Add new photos of your people, products, or facilities
    • Share videos
    • Add or update client testimonials
    • Add interactive features
    • Integrate social media platforms
    • Create new ways for visitors to interact with you or arrange an introduction
  • 1
    MAY

    Wildly Obsessed...

    When we look at the components manufacturing industry today, we see quite a few companies vying for attention.  One important quality that  that can set a company apart is the ability to connect with customers on a deeper level.  Sometimes a quality product, on-time delivery, and good service aren't the only things a customer is looking for.  Sometimes customers seek a more meaningful partnership.

    To impress upon customers our desire for closer relationships, we've stopped talking in terms of "a commitment to customer service" and begun speaking about our "wild obsession with thrilling customers."  What that means to us is that we want customers to have a positive reaction to Channel Products at every interaction...every touchpoint.

    By setting the standard higher, we're continually reminding our culture of the need to provide an outstanding customer experience — one customers will remember, talk about, and want more of.

    To that end, we've also founded "Channel U," an internal training program designed to enhance opportunities for employees while also teaching and furthering our cultural belief that only people can create the great experience we want for customers.  That experience is what happens as a result of getting things right.

    By aligning employee training opportunities with cultural goals, we're ensuring that our values aren't just something that rest on a poster, hung on a wall.  Rather, our values are more likely to permeate everything we train for — quality, engineering, decision making, leadership.  This is just one of the many ways we're working to make Channel Products the type of company people want to do business with.

  • 3
    APR

    Results Matter. A Message from Teresa Hack.

    I've always believed in the adage, "If you put in the work, results will come."

    It's been a while since I reached out to update you on our business, because we've been "putting in the work."

    Over the past year at Channel Products, we've streamlined engineering processes, invested in human capital, and added technical resources to make ourselves better. The results have come, too.

    We've expanded operations in China and Europe to increase our global footprint for our customers, growing more than 200% with our largest customers and achieving a 43% increase in revenue, overall.

    We've achieved a 98% quality performance rating and 99.5% on-time delivery.

    We've filed for six new patents.

    We've launched a successful community outreach and social responsibility effort known as "Channel Cares," already having completed more than 100 random acts of kindness within the communities where our employees live and work.

    I'm telling you this because I believe in the notion that results matter.

    Results are at the bedrock of things here at Channel Products. They're the reason we work. And they're the reason those who know us are getting more and more excited about what Channel Products stands for and the contributions we're making to customers and the industries we serve.

    Word is getting out. Smart Business Magazine recently named Channel Products as a "Smart Culture" honoree, identifying us as an organization whose culture offers a sustainable competitive advantage. I'd like to congratulate everyone at Channel Products for earning this recognition and achieving these results.

    And I'd like to thank you for supporting our growth, providing us with opportunity, and helping us convert our enthusiastic work to results that benefit both you and us.

  • 27
    FEB

    Fill This House

    There is a large movement focusing on children and teens within the foster care system. Funds are available, mentorship programs are provided for those who would like the opportunity to take part, and the children have a base, however small, of support to turn to.

    But what happens when these teenagers become fully emancipated or "age out" of the system?

    They are often left with little to no resources, no place to live, and no mentor to turn to for direction in education, career, or lifestyle. This is where the organization, Fill This House, steps in. They currently serve Cuyahoga County youth who have been living in group homes or numerous foster homes, have few belongings, and very limited support. They raise funds, purchase items, and conduct collection drives in the communities to provide the essentials to these young men and women who often have nothing.

    This year, our Channel team was excited to take part and fill two apartments for two young women in need of a fresh start. We collected new items company-wide as well as monetary donations used to purchase the rest of the items on each list, and were overwhelmed with the desire of our team to support and provide.

    On the delivery day, four of us took part and our hearts were full as we met and spoke with members of the Fill This House team and both women. We quickly realized that while we go about our day to day routines, the hardships of those around us are often overlooked.

    Supporting Fill This House was an incredible learning experience and it was an honor to serve our community in this way.

    *Note: All informational content was found on the fillthishouse.org website.