Play To Your Strengths

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Work is serious business. Are you having fun? Do you know what makes work enjoyable? 

Do you know what you enjoy and what your team enjoys?

Staff engagement is one of the best known metrics when it comes to measuring potential output from a person or team. So what affects engagement is a great place to start.

Many factors can affect engagement, although possibly the greatest one is how much somebody is enjoying what they do. Enjoyment is greatly increased when we are working in an area at which we are very good at and where our natural strengths and abilities are utilised. Knowing your team's strengths helps you to ensure that the right person is doing the tasks that they are best at - which helps them to be more effective, as well as more engaged.

A great way to define a strength is to look at tasks that you are not just good at, but great at. Oftentimes you will know these because you look forward to doing them and it is easy to get lost in once you start in the flow of work. Probably one of the best indicators, other than sheer enjoyment, is the level of satisfaction and quality of work that you are able to turn out - work that leaves you feeling satisfied and motivated.

Some of the many ways to find out what your strengths are:

Make a list of work you really enjoy doing and look for common themes

Look at your hobbies and what you choose to do to ‘relax’ when you have spare time

Ask your friends what they have observed

Consider tasks you really do not like doing - look for trends

What work do you find yourself volunteering for? 

What makes you happy when doing it?

What stretches you and challenges you while also satisfying you when completed?

What situations, relationships, jobs are you naturally drawn to?

Make a list of what you think your strengths are and check the accuracy of it against what you do over a week of work.

Do a Strengths Finder test.

All of the above work, to varying degrees. Like most information, it is what you do with it - what action you take as a result of having it - that makes the biggest difference.

If you or a team member is not enjoying work, discuss whether it is just a patch that needs going through, or if it is something fundamentally deeper. I love the "Steve Jobs philosophy" of “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Working in your areas of strength is not only more enjoyable and engaging - it is actually a life altering and improving stance. What steps do you need to take?

How Do You Rate On The Fun Scale?

Business team laughing

How do you rate on a fun scale?

Here are some simple activities for you to test your fun and productivity levels:

Give your employees a quiz and ask them how much fun they have at work. What do you think your average rating would be? Run a poll on the number of meetings you have and which ones people would attend if attendance was optional. 

Results from fun quizzes like these help to show the levels of engagement your team have. The more engaged the team, is the more productive they are likely to be and the higher your retention rate of staff is likely to be.

In the excellent book "Fish", Stephen Lundin noted that having fun at work was one of the four key elements of a great culture. Here are some of the creative ways I have seen teams having fun at work: 

Celebrate wins in a way that involves the whole team. E.g. ring a bell when there's a sale.

  • Do planks for morning meetings.

  • Have a funny Friday where people can dress to a theme on Fridays.

  • Have a social club and encourage people to do something together outside of work at least once a month

  • Celebrate birthdays - have cake!

  • Have a whiteboard with a theme for the week where people can write up fun inspirational quotes, thoughts and pictures.

  • Aim to catch people doing things right and compliment them when they do so.

  • Be appreciative.

  • Look at the decor in the rooms where people work and see what you can do to brighten it up and maybe swap it around on a regular occasion.

  • Have a sports team and or create internal competition around a pool table or dart board or something similar.

  • Have a board with employee pictures on it and fun notes about them and what they enjoy.

  • Celebrate work anniversaries and add a personal touch with candles and cards and a little something to make someone feel special.

  • Have a time during the day to stand up walk around, play a bit of music and deliberately have a bit of fun.

  • Have a community focused charity that you support either through time or finances and get and share feedback on the impact it is having.

  • Engage employees to look for content that they can share with the team, whether it's a riddle to solve over the week or a motivational video clip that really resonated with them.

If you get ready stuck it is actually worth looking at doing something along the lines of a happiness committee or even putting in place a 30-day happiness challenge. You'll be amazed at what it can do.

Here's to your success!

Integrity In A Green Washed World

Picture of Green Planet with Recycle Symbols in Business hand

Some years ago there was a big article in the paper around the green taxis in Wellington who gave the impression that they were environmentally friendly and yet when it was checked out, they were not. There is such a big expectation upon businesses to be environmentally friendly. The social pressures through social media, public interest groups and the news create a growing necessity for businesses to comply. One only needs to look at the impact Greta Thunberg has had by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament demanding change on climate laws and how this been picked up and emulated around the world. Closer to home, we have seen the ban on plastic bags and the growing demand for the removal of all plastic or at the very least an end-to-end solution.

With the public demand for companies to be environmentally and socially responsible, it is very easy to see why so many jump on the bandwagon to capture the ground-swell of people who make their purchasing decisions based on the demonstration of this responsibility. And yet so often we are finding that businesses are taking shortcuts - one only needs to look at the BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler scandal for an example.

If a business is to have integrity and demonstrate this, then any environmental initiative they undertake must be transparent and up for scrutiny because it is inevitable that the public can and will scrutinize it. You do not want to be found lacking. Integrity means testing, trialing and retesting until you get it right and then, and only then, do you go and announce it to the public and show what you are doing and get their buy in and their support and from a business sense, their loyalty and their referrals, testimonials and their business.

Being socially and environmentally friendly and responsible involves a lot more than just talking about it and stating it on social media and then your marketing material. A word to the wise, or at the very least to those who will listen, ensure that you have tested and proven your offering so that when the furnace of public scrutiny comes upon you , you will not be found wanting.

Integrity is about doing what you say you will do. If you are going to claim that you are environmentally and socially responsible then ensure that your actions backup your words. The public is very unforgiving when companies fail to walk the talk and the time it takes to recover from such a faux-pas is much better spent just doing it right the first time.

Here's to your success!

What to Blog?

Person writing

It is no longer a question of "to blog or not to blog" but rather what, where, when and how often. We have been doing a weekly blog for over 4 years now and one of the most common questions I get when doing any form of marketing training is around what to write and how often. 

Encouragement shouts out "You know more than you think you do! You have more to share than you dare allow yourself to believe! You can bring a unique perspective to people who want to hear from you!"

A few keys points:

-Write to a specific someone - your ideal client - the person you are best set up to serve.

-Get inside their head and look for all the gaps that you are most qualified to fill.

- Think about where they look to find information that you can bring them.

- Consider all the things that they 'don't know that they don't know' and that would make a positive difference to their life if they did know!

- List all the problems you can help them solve, all the benefits you bring, all the nuances of your industry that you take for granted.

These are great starting points (You can of course ask people what they want you to share - we did this for a weekly Learning BITES video clips and got over 3 months worth of suggestions and requests!) 

As with everything in business, the key lies in adding value.

Value needs to be seen from the customer's/readers/audience perspective. While you might be writing about something that you are knowledgeable and passionate about, it is always important to remember but you are not writing for you but for an audience. 

Add something to their day. Make the investment of their time and attention in reading your blog worth their while. This means giving serious thought to what it might be that they are looking for. Always aim to leave people grateful they made the time to read your article.

Look to add something that they are lacking, something they need to learn, look to challenge a perspective, offer a different opinion, offering insight that shows them things in a different light and gets them to thinking differently. Be the expert - leverage your knowledge.

Unique content is obviously best. Avoid just regurgitating, re-framing and rewording stuff that's already out there, as you will fade into one of many rather than being a reference point worth coming back to that is ultimately going to make a difference to 'me the reader.'

Emotive, exciting, entertaining, educational - whichever way you look at it you need to ensure that what you write has something that people can connect with and that stirs emotions. If I am not moved in thought and heart I will not be moved into action!

When we share with people we give them a piece of us, and like good company we want to do it so well that people enjoy it and come back for more!

Role Play for Profit

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In training there are certain things that can make people start to groan and generally not want to participate. Probably top of all of these has to be when you announce role-play. It has got to the point where I now introduce that we are about to do an activity and explain the activity exactly the same way as I would explain a role play activity without using the word. It is incredible how merely dropping a simple phrase can make such a big mental difference.

In this blog I wanted to briefly touch on why it is so powerful to do role-plays - even if they make you initially feel like you would rather run for the hills or set your hair on fire.

The human brain is designed primarily to keep us alive and anything that it perceives is dangerous, it will generally tend to avoid. Role-plays are often perceived to hold a lot of danger: the risk of embarrassment, there's the risk of looking silly, of messing up, you've been asked to do something you don't know how to do etc. It is for this reason that so many people want to avoid it. However the human brain is also an incredible creation and once it has done something once and ascertained that it is both possible and not fatal, it has an amazing knack for being able to do the activity again a little bit quicker, a little bit smoother and more effectively.

I recently have had a number of clients attend expos, field days and trade shows. There are three parts to this: there is the preparation before-hand, the actual event and, of course, the follow up after the event. For teams who put the effort in before the event and practice role-plays, the effect of the result speaks for itself. Ironically the very thing that people fear inside of a role-play is totally eliminated in real life if they have practiced well. What so many people (who dread what a role-play might bring) end up finding is the reality of being prepared in a real world situation with real customers when it really matters.

Doing a role-play allows us to fully understand who we are and what we bring to the situation. It gives us an opportunity to understand the value that we offer and why people might be interested. It also enables us to practice how to engage, how to answer questions and how to use the short space of time we have effectively for both parties.

An effective way of doing role-plays is to set some clear goals for the salesperson and then have the customer come on stand with a backstory, as well as the interests that they have. For example, they could be the buyer for a large organisation who is under a huge amount of pressure to find a new supplier who can deliver on time because they have been badly let down. However the main KPI on a day-to-day basis is the GP. Added to this, the person could be having troubles at home with the kids and maybe has just received a request to go and see the doctor after some results have been received in and they are are worried what this might mean.

The rest of the team then observes how the role-play pans out. The Rep obviously guides the client through the stand that is on display in the practice room and asks the questions that they've got prepared. The rest of the team observes and makes notes. It is important after a role play to ask each party what they believe was done well. I often find the people immediately want to jump to what was done badly but we need to rewire people's brains to know that they have done things well. You get more of what you focus on, so focus on what you want more of. The very fact that they have done it, is good and so therefore the only feedback we want to know is: "What did you do well?" and "What will you do differently and or better next time?".

Ideally the salesperson should have uncovered that the key driver for the person was around reliable delivery and while price was important, it wasn't the deciding factor. Depending on the amount of time you have in the role-play - whether you are planning for a face-to-face meeting, a presentation or an event, being very clear on the design and outcome is important.

Once you've done this a few times it becomes easier and easier to do. When it is acted out in reality, the confidence levels it gives will often see role-plays being added as a stable part of a sales meeting - which is what indeed they should be. If you've never done them before, I strongly encourage you to give it a go before your next big meeting, presentation or event and watch the results speak for themselves.

Here's to your success!

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!