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What kind of a leader are you? by Next Step |   posted: 02/25/2015

Autocratic Leader:

  • An autocratic leader (boss-centered) is one who tends to centralize authority and derives power from position, control of rewards and coercion. The autocratic leadership style is considered the classical approach where much power and decision making authority remains with the manager. Employees are neither consulted nor allowed to give any input but are expected to obey instructions without any explanations. This type of leadership is used in situations where the task is relatively simple or decisions have to be made quickly. This leadership style can result in low staff morale and has been greatly criticized during the past 30 years. Some studies say that organizations with many autocratic leaders have higher turnover and absenteeism than other organizations.
  • Autocratic leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group. Normally this style should only be used on rare occasions. To gain more commitment and motivation from employees, you would best adapt to a more participative leadership style.

Democratic Leader:

  • Contrary to the autocratic leader, a democratic leader is one who delegates authority to others, encourages participation, relies on subordinates’ knowledge for completion of tasks and depends on subordinate respect for influence. Democratic leadership is participatory with authority often delegated to others. The democratic leader keeps his or her employees informed about everything that affects their work and shares decision making and problem solving responsibilities. This sort of leadership can produce high quality and high quantity work for long periods of time. This is because employees enjoy the trust they receive and respond with cooperation, team spirit and high morale.
  • While democratic leadership has been described as the most effective leadership style, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or time is of the essence, democratic leadership can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects. In some cases, group members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make quality contributions to the decision-making process.

Do I Lead or Manage by Next Step |   posted: 01/28/2015

“Are Managers Always Leaders?” being a manager is often a part of the Leader’s role but the Leader’s role goes far beyond the role of the manager. In a high performing organization, both roles are critical but it is important to distinguish the difference between those chartered to manage and the organization’s leaders.

Some of the guidelines include:


  • Set clear goals, provide clear directions, support people as they need it, delegate and empower followers, give feedback on performance, have a flexible leadership style.
  • Recognize the need to motivate, inspire, and empower their teams to achieve organizational goals
  • Leaders inspire loyalty and are able to energize an organization
  • Drive and impact strategy and vision – gaining commitment to it from others


  • Know how each layer of the system works and guide others to follow the direction of the leader.
  • Focus on accomplishing their organization’s tasks and capturing metrics/milestones/ while documenting and communicating progress
  • Lead an effort and implement the strategy

While they each fulfill different roles, ultimately both are critically important to an organization’s success!

Increase Productivity through Contractors with Benefits by Next Step |   posted: 10/23/2013

Why hire a contractor?

As the economy improves, managers are challenged with matching the right skills to fluctuating market needs. Since the use of contractors allows companies to engage talent quickly and flexibly, the “contingent workforce” is growing exponentially. For many Next Step clients, having a pool of qualified contractors address requirements “just in time” provides a strategic advantage.

Attracting and retaining contingent workers 

According to the Freelancer’s Guild, one-third of the national workforce is comprised of contingent workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 10.1 million self-employed workers nationally.  These “freelancers” may contract directly with a company or work through one or more consulting firms or agencies.

Increasing demand for quality workers raises the question

How can a manager attract the best contractors, maximize their productivity and develop long-standing relationships with them?

Historically for many contractors, the challenge with contingent work has been the lack of “benefits” such as health insurance.

Through research conducted with our client, Teaching Artist Guild Next Step identified several benefit options that allow contractors to receive benefits – while working for various organizations.

Contractors with benefits 

One of the five options identified for US companies was leverage of the Affordable Care Act. Contractors (even those with previous health challenges) now have increased access to affordable health insurance that is not tied to an employer. Each state’s health insurance exchange website describes plan options and costs. For a small business (which might be comprised of multiple contractors with complementary skills) there are also new options available for coverage through the small business exchange (SHOP).

Other options available to the contingent worker either on his / her own or through an agency include:

  • dental and vision plan discounts through an affinity plan or third-party insurance company
  • clearing houses offering discounted health services
  • group insurance through membership in a guild
  • membership in a union or professional association
  • group plans for liability and other business insurance

Use of a contingent workforce can allow fast response to market changes, greater productivity and long-term company sustainability. Don’t let the question of benefits stand in your way of growth – contact us if you would like more information on options to leverage top contractor talent immediately.

How to build effective work teams? by Next Step |   posted: 06/20/2013

Challenges of Teamwork


Having successful teams in your organization is a valuable asset, but what are some challenges that you can run into?

Personal agendas being priority

For most of our life we are conditioned to do things by ourselves, such as passing exams, Depositphotos_3215772_lsmfinding a college, finding a job, and securing a promotion, to name just a few. We therefore get used to pursuing our personal agenda. To get results in a team you need to create conditions where success or failure depends on the team as a whole. If only one individual can achieve his or her outcome, the team will always come second.

Using conflict

Conflict in teams is inevitable and conflict is not a bad thing. What is important is that conflict is productive rather than destructive. Used well, conflict can be channeled to stretch the boundaries of what is possible, to encourage creativity and ultimately to achieve a better outcome.


Teams achieve more when all of the members are fully engaged and focused on the outcome. The challenge is to avoid situations where people on the team become disengaged. Look out for signs of those holding back or not offering their views and find ways of getting their views heard.

Silo thinking

This is a particular challenge where you have people in teams from different roles, functions or departments within the organization. It is all too easy for people to drift into analyzing what it will mean for their particular role or department and to start viewing things in win-lose terms. In these situations, it is key that the benefits from the team as a collective far outweigh any benefits that could be obtained on an individual basis.

Lack of clarity

Achieving anything starts with being clear on what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. As a leader of a team, it is important that the team as a collective has clarity on the outcomes and why they are so important.

Tips for Planning Sales Training by Next Step |   posted: 01/09/2013

Take Note of Changes that Occurred in 2012

Concern over the economy affected our daily business practices in 2012. When making your first quarter sales training plan you might want to take some time to review what we have heard from our clients as what has been effective in 2012.

Focusing on the Investment in Training
Some of the major trends in 2012 that were noticeable in the investment of sales training were:

  • Companies started to clearly define competencies within sales training.
  • Companies emphasized measurable results as a way to track sales training effectiveness.
  • A more hands-on approach occurred with management teams becoming more involved.

All three of these trends in sales training directly align with Next Step’s sales training methodology.

Contact Next Step at 650-361-1902 to learn how we can help your company achieve real and measurable results through your upcoming sales training.

Focus Areas for Employee Retention by Next Step |   posted: 12/21/2012

Attracting the Best Talent is Not Enough

According to Next Step, there are three primary categories that managers need to pay careful attention to in order to achieve high retention rates. The categories are defined from an employee perspective, which include being valued, supported, and engaged. When an employee feels that these categories are sufficiently met, then he/she will be both more effective and find more satisfaction in their jobs. Employees that are valued, supported, and engaged stay at organizations longer.

‘Questions to Ask Employees’
Below are a few key questions that an employee needs to be asked in each of the primary job satisfaction categories of value, support, and engagement:

  • Do I enjoy what I am doing, and am I effective in my role in the organization?
  • Do others recognize my contribution to the organization, and do I regularly receive feedback from my superiors?
  • Am I provided with the opportunities to grow both personally and professionally?

All three categories are important components for achieving high employee retention rates. Employees want to feel valued and be supported by your organization, in order to be fully engaged and productive. In fact, an engaged employee is fully committed to their work and the company and can deliver 200% greater results — including bottom line profits.


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