Time Power

Picture of kid dressed as superhero

If you could have any superpower you wanted what would you choose?

This question has always been a great one to get people thinking and talking. For me, the super-power ability to be able to control time would be amazing.  Time is one of those resources that is extremely limited and yet operates in that wonderful paradox where there is so much of it that we don’t value the little we have. When I realised how much difference I could make to my life by managing my time better, it was a key turning point towards a better path and a better version of myself.

However, I have found that in recent times there is something that is far more important than managing time. Time management taught me how to block my time and get key chunks of work done. I still maintain that time blocking is the single most effective form of time optimisation. However, the concept of blocking off an hour to complete an activity - write an article, or to do your calling, or to update your CRM - makes the assumption that you have control over one of the greatest interrupters of your time.  That of course, being yourself.

Technology has made it so easy to get distracted so that doing a bit of research for an article, or researching some key information on a client, or even something as simple as looking up a client’s contact details on the web, can very easily and surprisingly quickly lead to clicking on interesting articles and chasing information down rabbit holes, that consumes all the time we have put aside with nothing to show at the end of it.

In the modern era, it is no longer a case of time management, or time optimisation as we like to call it.  Rather, it is has become an issue of focus management. Our ability to focus and get done what we know needs to be done is what separates productive people from highly productive people. Where would you rate yourself in terms of your ability to focus on something and stick with it until it is done?

There are many tools available to help you to focus, from mindfulness techniques to specially designed music at websites like focus.com. I have found that the best methodology is to make my time blocks smaller to be incredibly clear around what is intended to be achieved in that time block, and to get someone to hold me to account.  This combination of focus, clarity and accountability makes it a lot easier to take ownership and, when combined with seeing clear measureable outcomes, it does make it a lot easier to get the most out of your time.

Fighting The Change Monster

Red origami boat diverts from multiple white origami boats

Change is the only constant in life is oft quoted. 

The challenge this gives, of course, is that many people do not like change. Change means that things are going to be different and human beings have little sayings like "Better the devil you know, so keep the status quo!" to justify why they don't want to do things that would be better.

The reason that many people dislike change so much is it they have had negative experiences involving change in the past and the fear of the unknown looms large.

This is amplified if there is mistrust in an organisation, or if people see the change leading to a potential negative outcome for themselves - even if it could be a positive outcome for an organisation - hence any talk of restructure that might affect salary or earnings or job security will often be met with anger and/or resentment, stemming from fear.

Management often doesn't help themselves by not picking their timing, or their words well. When they do not explain what's happening and why, in a way that people can relate to and connect with, it leaves staff with a negative outlook on the potential change.

If an organisation has to grow and improve, it is going to need to change. Creating change with the team on board and getting their buy-in, their ideas and their vision around how things could be better, is a superb way of helping the change to be a positive experience.

When people understand why something needs to change and what the specific changes will look like and will mean, they are far less likely to resist change.

When making changes within an organisation, really consider if the change is necessary. Like many situations, it is best to start with the end in mind. Create and paint a vision of the future that draws the team forward rather than having them playing on to a known past.

When you can change in a way that looks like you're having fun rather than fighting a monster, the change is far more likely to be smooth, effective and to stay in a way that will allow you to grow.

Here's to your success!

Adding Value

Pumping fuel into vehicle

How do you add value ?

What comparison points do you and your customers use when determining the value you offer?

When was the last time you reviewed exactly what your customers valued about what you offer?

Adding value is the essence of every business. Customers will only pay for things that they value - unless of course the bill comes through as a legal requirement (in this case, the value received is in the privilege of living in a country with a structure that prioritises the protection and provision of its citizens).

Exploring the areas where we add the most value is something that seems to be constantly on my mind and has enabled us to get more and more focused on the areas where the overlap between where we added value and what we enjoy are strongest.

Recently a client commented that the area where they most appreciated us adding value was in the facilitation of robust discussions and strategic guidance among the management team. The client went on to say that he felt this was an area I did so well with that I should focus exclusively on offering this as a service. Talk about eye opening! While very appreciative of the comments and the feedback, my passion still very much lies in training and helping people realise and reach their full potential in their own life.

The comment did, however, make me stop and really think about where we add the most value to our clients. Stopping and actually taking time to think about this has helped me to realise more areas where we could add additional value without overtaxing our current resources.

Some questions for you to think about:

If your competitors undercut you by 10% how many of your clients would leave?

What if they undercut you by 20 or 30% ?

What do you currently give to your clients for free or at a low cost that they would be prepared to pay for?

What could you combine to create something that adds additional value that your customers would appreciate?

Are your clients even aware of all of the products and or services that you could offer them?

When you look at what your clients are currently buying from you, are there any obvious gaps which mean that they must be getting a product or service from somebody else that you could offer them?

Value is something that will remain as long as there is business. Being able to identify what your customers truly find important will allow you to deliver this in a way that increases loyalty, increases spend and helps you to continue to deliver well into the future.

How To Grow People

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When it comes to growing people, there are many different elements to look out for. From the obvious of actually being born and growing up through to the more complex concept of what makes for a well rounded healthy and contributing individual.

There are many articles written on the topic and when you're working with your team members, it is worth remembering that they are more than just the body and brains they bring to work. Every team member has a story and that story is a complex mix of their upbringing, their culture, their beliefs, their education and even their birth order.

Having a better understanding of all of the aspects that make up a person can help you to help your team members grow and become more productive and engaged at work

As a minimum, when you are developing a professional development plan, it is important to look at what people's goals are for work and at home - because it is the whole person that we want to engage. If you do wish to go further with this, helping people to become more self aware and more observant around what makes them up as an individual can enable them to take greater ownership for their own lives and their own development.

When doing this, it is important to think through what aspects of a perso'ns life will impact how they work for you and in your workplace. There are many useful models online that help people rate where they are and where they would like to be on such aspects as their health, their finances, their education and learning, their spiritual space, social space and emotional space.

It is important not to feel like you have to fix all of these things - but rather look at how you can equip and enable people to improve those aspects of their life that matter to them and make them feel better about themselves and what they do; helping people plan by identifying the core values and how those are lived and applied across the elements of finance, career, family, health, education. Once identified, then show them what small steps they can take to improve a little bit in each of these can help someone improve self-esteem tremendously.

Great businesses are built on great people. Leaders don't just find great people - they develop them. What can you do to improve the growth of your people this year?

Here's to your success!

Finding An All Star & Keeping Them Shining

Pic of team hands joining together to create a star

It has to be one of the saddest things of management and of business when a company spend tens of hours and thousands of dollars looking for, and finally finding the perfect person to fill a role and then fails to help them succeed.

I have heard countless stories where businesses have been rejoicing over having found the perfect person and this person is seen as the one who's going to make all the difference and they arrived to huge expectations of immediate performance. They are given the concrete boots, thrown in the deep end - and after a month people began questioning why they hired them. After two months there's the feeling that maybe they made a mistake and after the third month they're wondering why there are no good people to be employed.

Consider it from the employee's point of view. You find me find the job of your dreams and you arrive full of excitement energy and enthusiasm. Stories of induction disasters range from people not knowing you were coming; to arriving at your new place of work and being given several manuals to read through, so they can sign a sheet to say that you've read the health and safety and all other attended documents, before being told to start working, with little or no direction. This is a showcase for disaster and is the flip side of the above scenario - explaining why companies get frustrated that new stuff don't perform to their expectations.

Induction processes are often viewed as nothing more than a rubber stamp process and it is expected that this will be done as quickly and painlessly as possible, so the new person can start work straight away. The reality is that a thorough induction program should be run over three months to even a year. It takes three months before somebody has their head around their role and up to six months before they're performing well, with more complex roles only seeing a return after twelve months.

Here are some things to consider when you are inducting somebody new into your organisation

The clarity of role and the interview process is the actual starting point, where it must be clear to both the interviewee and the interviewer why this person is being employed and how they will help the organisation achieve their goals.

This first step should be reinforced, when ideally the managing director should make some time to welcome the person on board, share the vision and mission of the business along with why their role was created and how their role contributes towards the overall success of the business.

There are many aspects to consider when helping somebody settle into a new role and ideally a business will have a checklist to make sure these all happen (if you would like a checklist please do send us an email and we'll happily share our one with you).

Some of the top things I suggest businesses consider

  • to have a buddy system with somebody from the business comes alongside the new person and help them to understand the culture

  • having clear KPIs and KPAs with a feedback loop showing when somebody is performing and when they are missing the mark

  • an introduction to all team members and ideally a role rotation through the key roles that the employee will be engaging with to help give an appreciation of the work that precedes them and the work that goes after them

  • where appropriate, having any staff uniform, business cards, equipment and/or paperwork already sorted so they can arrive and feel immediately part of the team

There are so many factors to consider if you want somebody to join your team feel a part of it and feel connected to the vision you are striving to achieve. The sooner you get people connected and engaged and the quicker the speed of your feedback, the more likely you are to see success in your future hiring.

Here's to your success!

Learning To Learn

Team in training environment

One of the things which most astonishes me about Mike Clark, is his ability to actually LEARN. I met him in the days when he was travelling extensively and training - that year, of the 365 days in the year, he spent over 230 away from home, sleeping enroute to somewhere else. Yet somehow in that he made time to read constantly and convert those streams of new information into practical actions which benefit both himself and clients all over the world.  This learning lifestyle is in itself a learned practice, and not simply a natural stroke of good fortune.

At the start of our lives, the actual practice of learning comes more or less naturally to people.  We are born without speech or motor coordination and usually within a few short years have learned an entire language, and become adept to various degrees at getting ourselves around.  Driven by internal desires to become more than what we currently are, we shape bumbling words till we are understood, and take shaky steps which soon turn to confident strides. Learning is in our DNA.  There are various attitudes towards learning, which affect the approach with which people take on learning, and the outcome it has.

Four tips on the practice of “Learning to Learn”.

  • Focus On The Goal. While learning can be fun, it is not always so.  Having an end goal which motivates you to press on through the difficulties is critical.  While there are a few people who learn for the sake of learning, for most of us it has a point - motivated in the same way that we were as infants, the goal is to get us beyond our current inability to a place where we are confident. The clearer and more desirable that goal is, the more motivating we will find it.

  • Learn to Use Your Own Process. While learning is a generic term, there are many pathways to the same apparent outcome and not all learning paths are equal.  Mike’s ability to learn via auditory methods (aka listening to narrated books) is superb for him, but this pathway has little value to me as a kinesthetic learner. I have to DO to learn, strongly supported by visual and (interestingly for this introverted personality type) by participating in discussion about the new learning. I have learned to use my own knowledge of myself in my somewhat-sketchy ability to remember people’s names, especially when meeting them in a networking situation where audio (my weakest learning pathway) is the sole means of inputting the new information.  With almost all but the most common of names, I draw a visual picture (a kinesthetic imagination) with the person and their name - for some I “see” the letters of their name being written as I ask how that particular name is spelled, with others I ask for the origins of the name, creating an association in my mind of the threads of that name, and for others, I picture them beside a person or identity of same name, creating a visual similarity that will enable me to draw their name from my memory as I need. In the practice of knowing yourself, the particular value of knowing your learning style cannot be stressed.  Identify what works for you, and use the process to deepen and get the most value from your learning experiences.

  • Choose Your Hard. We all have experienced the frustration of not understanding, or of being in a position which we feel the bitter sting of inability. Sometimes the fear of this keeps us from entering a learning situation. We must use perspective to help us understand the choices in front of us today.  It is hard learning a skill which employers will value - but it is also hard being “on the bones of your bum” so to speak, and unable to get a job. It is hard learning to manage your business as you expand - but it is also hard seeing it crumble because you didn’t make the time. It is hard to make time to exercise and eat healthily - but it is also hard living with the cost of not having done so.  It is hard learning to manage differing personalities - but it is also hard living with the damage that lack of understanding those differences brings. Knowing that we have a choice to not remain in the weaker place is a strongly empowering motivator for learning.

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. I cannot overstate the value of practice - of practicing to the highest standard you can manage. Of going over basics, repeating processes, committing to the discipline of learning.  If you begin something and make no mistakes, you are not learning - you already know how to do it. Learning involves input, measurement, failure, adjustment, retrial, assessment, failure, input, adjustment and so on as we slowly learn the nuances of our field.  Putting priority on the regular practice of this process fast-tracks your growth in ability.

Learning has the ability to set you free. It releases potential.  While not easy, it is both empowering and satisfying to conquer a new discipline, bringing growth and perspective which reaches across other areas of your life in transformational ways.  

Here’s to your success as you choose to grow, and become the best version of yourself possible with the resources at your disposal.


The Value of Alignment

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The teenagers are stretching their wings - testing their independence, growing their world and flexing their capacity to make choices.  The primary children are watching them and wondering why they’re being so weird and intent on changing the status quo, fully present in their current phase and age of being comfortable in their own skin and way of operating.  The young adults are busy stepping into their place in life - dreams are big and reality is an annoying interruption to the difference they want to make in the world. The parents are stretched, managing all the different ages and phases of their offspring with appropriate responses and expectations for where each sector is at, while still keeping a finger on their own dreams and hopes - in a much more realistic way than a dozen years before.

While on the surface, that might not seem like much of a business scenario, one only has to look at the amount of exasperated comments on LinkedIn around millennials or listen to business people talk around the frustrations of engaging staff and managing difficult employees to know that our personal lives have a lot of similarities with what we experience in business.

The irony here, of course, is that there is an oxymoronic tension between wanting the whole person fully present at work, while wanting them to leave personal baggage at home. In order to fully realise the potential your workforce offers, it is important to understand that people do come with their own worldviews, life filters, viewpoints, attitudes and yes, baggage.  It is the mixture of all of these factors that we call experience and it is this experience that holds the true treasure for business, if they can tap into it.

Three quick thoughts for you to tap into this potential.

Create a personal development plan for your team that includes their life experience, education, values set and goals on both a work and personal front.

Realise that your role in business is to remove the roadblocks that stop people being effective. This requires that we are clear on what success looks like, how they are tracking against our success criteria, what might be stopping them, and how we can remove all roadblocks and coach them.

Feedback is most successful when delivered quickly and without allowing personal emotions to get in the way.  One strategy for doing this is to realise that when people don’t perform to your expected standards, it is highly unlikely to be a direct intent towards yourself as an individual, but very likely to be a lack of clarity, understanding and/or being lazy and getting away with doing as little as you possibly can.

While these factors are very simple, what they actually create is a culture within an organisation and we when we focus on creating culture and give feedback from this perspective, realising the long term impact on the individual, their teammates and the business, we will find that we prioritise it as an action ourselves, and follow through on it.

Protect Your Notre Dame

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It will have been very difficult to miss the news that the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris had a serious fire earlier this week.  This iconic cathedral was under restoration and parts of the spire, visible from across Paris, collapsed as a result of the fire. In response to this misfortune, millions of Euros have been donated towards the restoration of this medieval Catholic cathedral, considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

What does this have to do with business?  The Notre Dame is one of the USP’s of France, indeed of Europe.  A point of difference which drew and continues to draw people from all over the world. When your point of difference is so well known that everyone is aware of it without even having to point it out, then it is working for you as a business.  

Imagine if the response to the ruin of the famous spire was “It was just an old church spire - there are thousands of them dotted across Europe and the world.  Why be worried?” For some, this may even ring true as their priorities and values lie in different areas; but for those to who Notre Dame is a part of their life, their identity and their heritage, it is important enough to donate their own hard-earned money to its continuation.

Are you educating your customers on the value of your point of difference?  How are you helping them to know the unique difference it makes to them, the issues it solves, the understanding of their problems and the ease with which you resolve them? As you help your customers to know the value of your product - not just in the product, but the service, delivery and care of them as a customer, you will develop a loyalty and following which becomes a part of your identity as a business.

Protect your Notre Dame.

Practice What You Preach

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"It's not what you preach, it's what you tolerate" is a quote from the book Extreme Ownership and is a principle that I have seen play out in many businesses.

Many managers and business owners spend an incredible amount of time talking about and taking action around company culture. One of the quickest ways to undo all of the time and effort a company has put into creating great culture, is for the leadership team to fail to hold to the standards that they themselves have set

When we consider company values, I would estimate the most common word used across multiple companies would be Integrity. The reason so many people use this as a core value is because Integrity really does matter to them. They know that when they have a team and a culture that operates from a place of integrity, it builds trust and relationship. The irony is that it is this very commitment to Integrity as a core value that results in undermining the very culture that they are striving to build.

Insisting that people update the CRM and keep their actions current and live - then failing to do so in a management role - is one of the surest ways to send a message to your staff that it doesn't actually matter what you say. Team members know that integrity is important to the management. When they see management members not doing key activities - ones that have been identified as important - then if they don't do their own key activities, they have complete confidence that they will not be pulled up on it because management are not setting the example. If ever team members are pulled up by management, they can just point right back at them.

This doesn't mean management members have to be perfect. However, if the company are wanting to build a culture to the potential they are capable of, they must be willing to be open and vulnerable to receive feedback, and mature enough to act on that and change what is needed. It is a very powerful method to use yourself as an example of "how things are not being done" -v- "how we want them to be done" - and then following through on that. It shows a solid commitment to living what you profess, and set the tone for the very culture you want to build.

Actions speak louder than words - and your commitment sets the example of "follow-through on words" to your team will strongly contribute to the culture that is built and maintained in your business.

I Find Myself Disagreeing With Gary Vaynerchuk

Mike Clark looks at Gary Vaynerchuk LinkedIn Post

To even type that title feels like an anathema - almost the equivalent of questioning Richard Branson on business, or Warren Buffett on investing.

For those who do not know Gary Vaynerchuk, he is best known for his work in digital marketing and social media, leading New York–based companies VaynerMedia and VaynerX. I follow him on social media and one cannot question his success - but his latest post on LinkedIn has had me seriously questioning his realism.

The post was simple and audacious - nothing new there. I even "Liked" it, along with over 5500 other people. Then, over the course of the day, my subconscious interrupted the flow of the day with the sheer ridiculousness of what I had read.  

Titled “5 LinkedIn Marketing Strategies for 2019”, point number one reads: Use the $1.80 strategy on LinkedIn. (leave your $0.02 cents worth on 90 comments posts a day in your field).

That sounds logical - with that much activity on LinkedIn you are bound to get noticed!

Do the math however and you need to be allocating 3+ hours a day to find enough stuff worthy of comment, think what to say, type it and respond to replies.

It is sufficiently challenging for myself, doing a post a day and making half a dozen comments and likes. I consider it a huge success when I am able to help clients to see the value of a post a day and feel victorious when their resulting action is regular posting of a few times a week!

Why?

No surprises here - SME business owners are time poor. If they could find 3 focused hours daily, they would be better off working on their business rather than in it, doing solely LinkedIn marketing! As a matter of interest, I went and looked up Gary’s LinkedIn activity for the day he posted that advice. I was somewhat relieved to see that he managed 10 ‘activities’ on the same day (that means that he is human like the rest of us).

The concept is really interesting and my subconscious is continuing to play with the idea but I just don’t see myself investing that much time in one strategy. I have asked Gary how he proposes a busy, mortal human, with no super powers, actually does what he is suggesting and look forward to his reply.

Am I simply naive? Have I missed something? I am interested in your thoughts on this - please leave comments in the section below the blog.

Lessons From Schoolkids

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October 2018 and the hall was packed with eager young adults all keen to be a part of the next Boys High/Girls High school production. Fast forward to mid-March and the Addams Family production has had its final performance - 80 odd people all working seamlessly together to deliver a stellar performance. Having watched and been alongside of our two girls through this experience, I have reflected on many lessons learnt.

Being on the team was a privilege that had to be earned. I was amazed at how clear the play director was on the information evening, around the commitment that was going to be required. He actually stated that he was attempting to put people off before they got carried away with dreams of how wonderful it would all be. The play was to be the top priority - more important than family days out, work commitments, sport commitments or friend commitments.

The play would require total dedication and any deviation from this would see team members been removed from the company. Lines were to be learnt in your own time and team time was to practice and refine the delivery of the play. School work and performance at school was not allowed to be negatively affected by involvement in the production. In the five months build-up to the performance there were many long nights and tiredness was frequently evident. The whole team kept focused and committed.

The amazing thing with a school production is that all of this effort and time is put in by people who will not receive a financial reward! The effort given from a pure point of passion and wanting to contribute and make this production awesome was inspiring. What lessons could you take for your team to get them fully engaged and totally committed?

Some lessons for business: 

Select team members very carefully with clear roles in mind. Get people to perform their task before you select them to ensure they are right and can deliver in their role. Be very clear on the commitment required and the vision that your people are buying into.

Have understudies for key roles so that the vision is not at risk due to one or two key people being sick or absent. In the workplace, this is seen in role rotation and cross training of skills. In the build up before team members are released to do their role, train them thoroughly. Practice and feedback regularly, always setting the bar high so that team members know the standard expected and what they're striving for.

 In the training period ‘rehearse’ often and reinforce what you want more of (rather than what's wrong). Foster and build team spirit. Keep the vision in front of everyone's mind and have encouraging mantras “We will be awesome” was one I heard often. The culture was built around clear expectations and making it fun with regular feedback - I was amazed at the constant communication over Facebook after every performance practice. Practices were regularly filmed to give people the opportunity to reflect and see what needed to be worked on. 

 When we create cultures that allow everyone to bring their best, to come complete with their skills, willingness to learn and passion to excel, then people are fully engaged and any company will excel!

Here’s to your success!

Get It Done - A Template

Hand drawing idea

“Nothing Changes if nothing changes”

“Action speaks louder than words”

“Not just action - the right action”

There is so much said around the importance of action. Nike’s famous 3 word slogan “Just Do It” is often lauded as the rally cry for productivity. The real secret though, lies not just in taking action but ensuring it is the right action.

“I’m just too busy” is an excuse many have heard and used. Busyness does not equal business. It is oft the whirlwind of activity that is responsible for the speed of disappearing days. The well known ‘secret’ to effectiveness is to ensure we work on the important and stick with the task until it is completed.

This raises two key questions: How do we know what is important and how do we “stick with it”?

After a decade of working with companies to answer these ever present questions, I have found that one way to answer this is a simple 90 Day Dash Template. Before using the template it is important to have a goal and a plan - many companies do this, but as Peter Drucker pointed out, “The purpose of information is not knowledge. It is being able to take the right action.”

So your steps are as follows:

Step One - Take time out to decide what is important - A strategy day/session is great for this  

Step Two - Prioritise at a board/management level how you will succeed in reaching these goals - your strategic priority areas

Step Three -  Next work out what is most important now i.e. Your Strategic objectives

Step Four - Decide who must do what

Step Five - Make it easy to know what must be done by when

Step Six - Execute and follow through with reporting and feedback

Where do you get up to in those 6 steps? I see many people doing steps 1 & 2 well and doing ok at step 3 and 4 before it all gets swept away in the busyness of busyness.

To ensure the important gets done break your goals and objectives into 90 day segments (A 90 day dash) and then further break this down into a 30 day sprint which is monitored weekly. This can be done on a whiteboard (one of my preferred methods as it is visible to the whole team and brings in peer accountability) or shared online documents - Google Docs, Smart Sheet, etc

Very simply this is how it works:

State the goal(s) it the goal area (I like to do this on a Post It note as it keeps it short and succinct)

Break this down into the key actions and decide within which quarter the tasks need to be completed

For the current quarter break the tasks down into what needs to happen monthly if we are to complete the tasks

Take the current month and break the actions into what needs to happen in each week and allocate a person to ensure this is done (they do not need to do the actions - they are responsible for ensuring the actions are done!)

The link on this article will take you to a video and downloadable version, should this be a tool you would find useful in your business. Please do get in touch if we can help you through any part of this process.

Here's to your success!

Swan Principle

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“Courage is grace under pressure” is an Earnest Hemingway quote I had hung on my wall for many years. “Grace under pressure” was a virtue I greatly aspired to. For me, however, it resided in as remote a place as another desired virtue: “Patience”.

My awakening moment came, as so many of them do, in the midst of the business of an ordinary day. ‘Everything’ felt like it had gone wrong - a full noise ‘Murphy's Law’ kind of a day. Sadly living in a “what could go wrong, will go wrong state” was a normal. I obliviously slipped into in my boundless enthusiasm to people-please. The result? I was pleasing no-one and stressing myself out.

“Mike! Stop. You are running around like a headless chicken, spreading tension and concern with reckless abandon.” My boss’s words stopped me in my tracks. “I know it is busy. I know you have a lot to do. You need to be team focused and your current state is making them anxious. You need to be a swan”

“A swan?” I asked rather incredulously, more than a little hurt, offended and disappointed at being called a headless chicken and now being told to become a swan!

“Yes. A swan.” he replied with a wry smile, “Beautiful and serene, gliding effortlessly across the water while paddling like crazy with their feet underneath. People don’t need to see the effort to admire the result.”

It was shortly after this that I came across the statement “Your team is one of the greatest reflections of yourself” and I realised how important it is for a team leader to be and reflect what they want to see in their team. This encompasses one’s attitude, discipline, approach to work, and even the language you use on a day to day basis. Contrast the difference between working for someone who is always seeing the worst in every situation and complaining, versus a leader who is goal focused and committed to getting the right outcome through their people with a positive attitude.

“People rarely leave bad jobs, usually they leaving bad bosses”

Some thoughts to help you in this space.

Firstly, be honest with how you are currently behaving from your team’s perspective. If you’re not sure, it can be worth doing a full 360 team review to get a feel for the areas that can be improved. It can also be useful to get a tool such as Officevib.com to get a true understanding of how your team is feeling.

Be careful of how you speak and what you say. Words from leaders carry considerable extra weight and your positivity and confidence that things are going to be alright is very quickly picked up and reflected by your team.

Know how to take time out, relax and recharge.  When the pressure is on, this might literally mean taking a walk outside for a few moments or even taking a deep breath, counting to ten and starting again. Part of recharging is looking after yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep; stay hydrated; eat well and take breaks as you need them even if they’re short and sharp, encouraging your team to do the same by having fruit available and giving the team water bottles or having a water cooler nearby can have an amazing impact.

Understanding that your role as a leader is to remove roadblocks, so check in regularly to get updates on progress, celebrate success and ensure that your team have all they need to keep moving forward with confidence.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I have found that these few pointers mean that I operate a lot more like a swan these days, than a headless chicken.

As always, if we can help with anything in this area, please do let us know.  Here’s to your success!

Are You Gliding Or Clutching At Straws?

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As the pace of life increases we can often feel like it is a sink or swim situation. When everything is all go and you feel you are up to your ears and drowning, one of the helpful realisations is that we have a choice - we can swim and glide through the oceans of work or we can sink.

I have recently been exploring this further as I seek to optimise my time. As I have so often before, I have attempted to do everything and judged my success by crossing everything of my to-do list, emptying my inbox and having the CRM up to date with all KPI’s met.

There have been glimmers of success - successfully emptying my inbox on one day, updating the CRM on another day, meeting all KPI’s on another day. The challenge has been that these days have not aligned. That dreamy place of having it all done seemed so elusive and, with that being the goal, the sinking feeling seemed ever present.

Oddly it was my to-do list - which I never got to the bottom off - that gave me my epiphany moment. It is not how much you do but rather how much of the important that you do that matters.

You are probably thinking, “Well nothing new there. Prioritise - ABC tasks. Do the A1 tasks first” My challenge, and I suspect one many can relate to, is the executing of this. Mid week, this week, I found myself in the familiar clutching at straws position and took a moment to think about where I add the most value to the team and company.

Ruthlessly looking at my to-do list through this lens did not suddenly make all the other stuff disappear but rather made the key things pop forward. As with much of the truly value-adding tasks these ones were not easy and certainly not the ones I felt like doing right then.

I did them anyway.

Curiously the sea of things to do remains but suddenly I find myself gliding through with purpose. The clarity and sense of achievement fueled more similar action. I made myself finish stuff - what gets rewarded gets repeated.

It is so simple. Not necessarily easy but certainly simple. Be clear where you add the most value and pour your focus, effort and energy into doing those activities. It might feel unnatural - bit like your first set of swimming lessons, but the confidence that comes from it changes everything.

Here’s to your success!

How Phone Behaviour Can Help You Leverage the Best from Millennials

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Love ‘em, hate ‘em, they’re here and they’re a significant part of our future.  Millennials are reputed to have many characteristics, both positive and negative.  Often labelled lazy, narcissistic, entitled and given to hopping from job to job, they are also attributed to be flexible, confident, tech-savvy and achievement focused.  Having worked with a number of millennials, and observed their behaviour both onscreen and at work, these are our top tips for getting the most out of them, from our experience.

Top Tip #1 Feedback

Understand that the reason they are fixated to their phone screen is because they get instant feedback. Ensure that your systems and team members have rapid feedback loops.  The feedback does not always need to be good. If something is wrong, something is wrong. In a computer game, when you jump off the cliff the wrong way, you die and then you have to start again. What phone and computer games tell you is that millennials need to know the rules that they are expected to play by, the end goal outcomes, and have instant feedback when they are off track so they can rapidly get back on track.

Top Tip #2 Variety

Sitting in a car with a millennial, listening to the radio; or watching them on any form of screen very quickly shows you that they need variety.  It is pointless bemoaning the fact that they get bored quickly. Accept this and leverage the positive by utilising their adaptability, ensuring that their job has variety.  Interestingly, this variety can include some mundane elements as long as they are well mixed with stimulating work, and especially as they see the significance of the mundane aspects.

Top Tip #3 Millennials are still human

For countless generations the younger generation has always vexed the older.  This generation is no different, despite the label we have given them. When all is said and done, they still need the three core elements that motivate all human beings.  According to Daniel Pink these are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is the ability to be able to do a good job - satisfying work is what I call it. Mastery is the ability to be the best that you can be at what you do (hence why on-screen games always go to the next level). Purpose is knowing that what you do is meaningful and makes a difference. Getting these three (or the potential for these three) right in their roles is key.

When we work from a place of strengths that we see in people, we get the most from them, whether they are eighty, thirty-eight or eighteen. Look for the best in your team, and if we can help, do get in touch.  Here’s to your success!

Who Knows and Who Cares?

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Fourteen phone calls, three postponed appointments, one missed flight, three hours of solid discussion and you’ve landed the sale.  It took two months, but it’s a tenth of your annual target, and you worked darned hard to get it. You log the sale in your CRM and wait for the response.

What would your team members do?

Will they notice when you log the sale?

Will it register on their radar amongst their own heavy workload?

Will they hear your whoop of triumph as you put down the phone and join you in celebrating before you even have a chance to explain?

And if they achieve a similar success in their role, what would you do?

Every team has its own culture, and these are as varied as the people that make them up and the businesses that operate in our amazing country.  How would you rate the culture of your team? The bond that exists between people who have shared the same pain, conquered the same mountain and triumphed over the same challenges is one of the strongest bonds between humans.  When we share our triumphs and disasters, the path we’ve chosen to tread to get to this place, our dreams for the future and the obstacles that get in our way, it gives a deep and lasting empathy.

It is a well researched fact that people do not leave bad jobs but bad bosses.  Contrasting this, people stay in jobs where they feel appreciated, valued and like they are working towards a worthwhile common goal. Every team member can contribute towards the team environment and when this is supported by some simple systems and processes, it can be incredibly powerful.

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The top five things that we have seen work really well are -

#1 Having dashboards visual for everyone to see recording key success criteria such as sales received, invoice value for the day back order value, etc. Dashboards allow people to know what the goal is, and to keep score that they are winning

#2 Having a group chat over mediums like Whatsapp, Viber or Slack allow teams to share information quickly and celebrate success. This is one of the simplest things to set up and yet can give the quickest return on investment.

#3 Daily toolbox or standup meetings where people share briefly a highlight of the previous day, a challenge and their current focus.  This keeps team members on the same page and can help keep the important the important.

#4 Sharing calendars is an incredibly simple thing to do in both Outlook and Gmail. When team members know where other team members are and when they will be available, it makes for far more cohesive team interaction and communication

#5 Having a buddy system at work is very powerful because it is so easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of work that one can feel like nobody knows or cares. A buddy system puts humanity and caring back into the busy and often stressful workday.

As with all things, the above is just information and it is what you do with what you have that makes a difference.  What will you put in place today? And do you have anything that you have found successful that you could share with other people?

Here’s to your success!

The Power of Rapport

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The basis of all relationships is trust and we establish this upon our very first connection with people.  It is for this reason that rapport building is a skill set which is critical for success in every field of one’s life.

Think about the last time you went into a store and had somebody ask you the classic “Can I help you?” question, as against somebody genuinely wanting to connect with you asking a more intelligent question, for example: "What occasion do you want a dress for today?" or "Are you wanting a new kitchen or are you looking for a renovation?" or "Is this for a rental or for your own home?". The ability to connect with somebody very quickly is reflected by how easily they can open up and start to share information with you. It is this sharing that builds and develops trust.

In rapport building, what we are really aiming to do is to find some common ground which will allow us to make a connection with another human being.  It is this search for common ground that leads to most people resorting to talking about the weather. Subconciously we all know that the weather we are all experiencing is something we all have in common with the person with whom we are attempting to engage.  The better you know someone, the more in depth and meaningful the connections/ questions can become. Consider, for example, the difference between “Has it been raining a lot here lately?” or “It’s a really lovely day outside isn’t it?” against “Did you go and enjoy the game last night supporting your team?” or “How’s your daughter doing with her broken arm?”

As we get to know people better, we know what their passions and interests are, and when we connect at this level, people open up very willingly and quickly.  It is this ability to get conversation going and flowing naturally that makes rapport building such a core skill. The amazing thing is that it is not a difficult skill to develop. Whether you are going to a network event, a customer service agent, a tradesman or a sales rep, you know you will be meeting people and therefore you can deliberately plan ahead by developing questions with a bit more depth, thought and care than the "How are you?", "Isn't it a nice day?" or "Can I help you?".

Along with developing questions, some other things you can do are have good eye contact, handshakes and overall confident body language (which obviously includes a smile). Take an interest and actively listen to the person you are speaking to and take notes so that you can refer back to them when you see them again. Being prepared to share some personal information about yourself also creates a degree of authenticity and vulnerability that makes it safe for other people to open up and be authentic with you.

Here’s to your success!

Where Is Your Company IP?

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Do you have trademarks or even patents?

Where is your company knowledge held?

If you lost your three longest serving team members what impact would it have?

I am privileged to work with businesses than believe in investing in their people. However, over the years, what I have noticed is that it is not enough to just invest in your people. You have to make sure that information is shared and that knowledge is transparent and available.

I have worked with businesses that have, sadly, lost some of their best staff very suddenly through an accident; others who have lost their staff because they've had to move on for personal reasons or because they have been offered better opportunities. One of the single biggest challenges businesses then have, is when all the skill, knowledge and experience walk out the door with a person - because the time has not been taken to record what that person knows and how that information and knowledge links into other people's skills and knowledge.

If you were to lose your three longest serving team members, or the three people who knew the most in each section in your business, would you be able to recover?

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When you get a new team member on board, how quick and easy is it for them to learn what they need to know so that they can perform at the highest level? One of the incredible things that comes from having a culture where knowledge is shared and information is openly available, is that people do not hoard their skill and knowledge and what they have learnt over the years as a way of keeping their job secure.

One of the best methods of making this happen is to make an expectation that all staff will have somebody that knows as much as they do, so that they can take leave and have holidays. This allows for job rotation; makes work a lot more interesting and creates a security - the company cannot be held to ransom by a small group of people or single person who for a short period of time has some crucial skillset which only they hold.

The use of a Skills Matrix is one of the best ways of ensuring that this is done effectively. This shows the Core Skills per department; followed by who is able to do the work under supervision, do the work competently and train others to do the work. When this is openly displayed for all to see, it is easy to see where your skill gaps are.

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It is also easy for employees to see who they can approach to help them learn something. One of the great benefits is that we can show people a career path and what they need to know if they want to grow into a new role. This can then be tied into professional development plans and can ensure that your organisation develops a learning culture.

Ensure that your company's future is sustainable and secure by putting into play some basic reporting - creating a culture that allows and encourages people to expand their skillset, share information, to grow and thrive - and in turn help the company to do the same.

As always if we can help in any of these areas please do get in touch.

Here's to your success!

Professional Development

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Are your people really your greatest asset?

Would your balance sheet attest to your answer?

Do you invest as much in developing your people as you do developing your physical assets, your market share, your R&D?

More & more I find that companies that use personal development plans are finding a long term edge in the marketplace. Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson’s classic “The One Minute Manager” held many gems that I have used from the day I first read the book. One of my favourite quotes is “The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” This marries nicely with 2 of my favourite Richard Branson quotes:

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don't want to.” and “Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow.”

PD’s allow people the chance to honestly assess themselves and consider where they want to progress to in their life. Done well, they ensure people are more engaged, feel invested in and are more loyal and productive. If you do not use personal development plans, here are my top tips on what they should include:

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Part One - Personal Self Analysis and Reflection - This can include a brief description of words that shows “who they are”, their education, employment history (not a copy of their CV but rather a short synopsis to show life experience), a space to share their personal preferences, their values and any areas they identify as limitations. Noting current competencies, skills, knowledge, experience is the last part of this section.

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Part Two - Goal Setting  - For some employees this will be the first time they have done this. I encourage companies to have goal setting split into 3 time periods - Short term / 1-2 years; Medium term 3-4 years and Long term 5years+. Each time period should include a section on Personal/Home goals and Work/Business goals. The purpose of goals is to give people something to aim for and measure themselves against and to help people know when they are winning. Clarity = Action so do ensure goals are SMARTER.


Part Three - Identify, Define and Create Action Steps
- Once there is clarity on who a person is and what they want to achieve/who they want to become then the stage is set to work out what the first steps are, when they need to be done and the resources required to make this happen. By comparing Part One with Part Two the gaps will be obvious and this facilitates discussion on development needs and skills required  for current job and future goals.

Once discussed and agreed clear action steps need to be written up and signed off. Ideally these will be reviewed at least every quarter noting if team member is on track/off track with notes and new action steps.

PD’s take time to implement and maintain. The return on invested time is akin to compound interest - the longer it is done the greater the return. I conclude with a quote often attributed to both Henry Ford and Zig Ziglar, “The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is to not train them, and have them stay.”