Get Inspired!

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Are you inspired?

Are you fired up?

Are you on top of your game every day?

Many of us want to be in an inspired fired up and ready to perform mode and it would be wonderful to think that we could leap out of bed every morning in the state. While there are many things we can do to help get into that state, a constant commitment to excellence requires effort on a daily basis. Common focus areas which can help your overall physiological state are

  • eating well

  • sleeping well

  • having a routine

  • planning a day

  • exercising

  • focusing on breathing techniques

  • journalling

  • having an attitude of gratitude

Among the thousands of people I have worked with, I have observed that people who are constantly on top of their game are doing all of the above or at least many of them. They are also being very careful around what they allow to influence them. This involves being astute in the people you surround yourself with and the people you seek advice from. It also involves what you choose to read, watch and listen to. The information that you are feeding your brain is the information which it draws upon to determine your state of being, state of mind and your overall experiences. How deliberate are you around

  • what you watch?

  • what you listen to?

  • who you choose to spend your time with?

Many people will scroll through the news or social media; flick through magazines and invest time with people who do not build them up and challenge them in a constructive way. If you calculate how much time you spend scrolling through social media and reading and listening to things that don't really answer your life, how much time do you think it would total? If you chose to focus that time more deliberately onto topics, areas and people that align with your core values, your belief structure, your purpose and your goals - what difference would that make in your life?

Are these thoughts are striking a chord with you and making you think about how you might do things differently? If so, a useful exercise is to spend a week doing what you normally do and take a deliberate note of where your time goes and what you do with it. In the following week, be very deliberate and intentional about making sure you read, watch, listen to and spend time with people and in places that help you to become more of who you want to be. 

For myself, the decision to begin to take the following actions:

  • read a non-fiction book a week

  • to invest my watching time on TED Talks and other inspirational and educational material

  • to spend quality time with the people I value and people who want the best for me

has been incredibly rewarding and positively life changing.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? It would be great to hear from you and to share positive resources that can make a life-changing difference.

Do You Know The Strength Of Your Team?

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Do you know the strength of your team?

Are they fully engaged at work do they bring the best of their abilities everyday?

These are the sorts of questions I get to wrestle through with teams and leaders on a regular basis. This is also the reason why I found and completed Strengthsfinder Coaching training.

It is quite incredible to see the difference in productivity, enjoyment and culture when team members are doing what they do best; when they are working in the area where they find their best flow or as some people like to say in the zone.

Every job has an aspect of it which we don't particularly enjoy. For many of us we will find ourselves procrastinating and doing all we can to avoid getting around to doing that part of the job. Can you relate to this?

If you can, something for you to consider is what happens if your entire job happens to feel like that? How engaged and productive do you think you will be? A great way to know the levels of engagement and productivity your team has, is to listen to the way they talk about the work they do. Do they talk about how they enjoy it? Do they talk about how they find it satisfying and rewarding? Do they use phrases like "I have to go to work." compare to the more positive "I get to go to work"? When people are fully engaged and productive, their output can be significantly increased, as can their loyalty and attitude. If you've never done Strengthsfinder testing before, I recommend that you look into it today. If you need any help in this area, as always, do get in touch.

Here's to your success!

Window Seat Is Best

Window seat on plane

How do you stay innovative?

Is your business ahead of the industry?

Where do you look and what resources do you tap into to stay current and relevant?

Things are changing fast. We have VR, AR, AI and now Elon Musk is looking to wire the human brain to your personalised microchip. Stable industries are being shaken, challenged and changed by technology. New industries are being created, redesigned and reimagined in an ever-evolving  cycle.

Some things beautifully contrast this by being, thankfully, very constant. Sunrises and sunsets. Beauty of mountain ranges covered in snow, young kids laughing out loud in public, simply because they have found something funny. Travel is a kaleidoscopic mixture of technological change and traditional normality.

This is especially true of air travel.  As engines get better, auto pilots get smarter, check-in becomes cloud based app and automated self service, it is still a people driven (or maybe I should say flown) business. The smile of the crew members,  their friendliness and professionalism, the cleanliness of the airport and plane all make a difference. Sitting on seat 16D for my flight to Auckland (best seat for view of the mountain!) I look out at a view I have see hundreds of times before (and still take a photo of the spectacular Mt Ruapahu).

In the same way, an essential business survival practice is to both look internally and be inspired externally - look beyond the current state to what is happening (or about to happen) in the wider world. Do you stay aware of the inevitable changes happening in your industry? How? Are you looking at the same view from an up-to-date perspective? A useful tool is to use is PESTEL. This acronym encourages people to look at their business through the multiple lenses of

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Political

Economic

Social

Technological

Environmental

Legal

Use additional perspective-expanders: ask customers and suppliers what they need, want and have heard seen and are aware of; go to trade shows; read books and articles; research papers; do your own research & development internally and with clients and suppliers.

Dream big and add a dash of crazy in there. Consider how you could deliver what you do with half the resources in half the time at half the cost. Look from all angles and you might just spot  something so incredible it changes your business, the industry and the world!

Here's to your success!

Creating Loyal Customers

Woman Pointing To Five Stars - Hotel in Background

There are so many different ways to engage customers. How many of them are you using?

Do you do customer surveys, joint R&D with customers, joint strategy meetings , involve customers in training - both giving it to them and bringing them in to train your team on how to service them as customers, joint market research, getting feedback on marketing material, expanding your offering so that you are able to supply them with more?

These are just a few ways I have seen clients engage with their customers over the years. There are so many benefits - key among them is the understanding that "the closer you are to your customer, the better you can understand them and what they need."

Client engagement is really a matter of caring and showing that you care. When we really care about our clients' success, we look for as many creative ways as we possibly can to help them succeed:

  • We work with them to educate them and show them what is actually possible and available.

  • We encourage them to give us feedback so that we can better understand their business their industry their clients and with this knowledge.

  • We change and craft our business so that it remains best set up to serve theirs and them.

I will be exploring these in more depth in the weeks ahead. For this week, I encourage you to look at how you can involve your customer in improving your marketing. Your website has been created - not for you, but for them. When was the last time you asked your customers:

  • what they like about your website?

  • what they find frustrating?

  • which other websites they find useful?

  • what do they like about other websites that you could incorporate into yours?

When was the last time you asked your customers to give you feedback on your catalogue, your pricelists and other printed marketing material? After all, all of your marketing is there for their benefit.

If you get regular feedback from customers, and act on that feedback, you may find, for example, that your catalogues will change with every print to become more and more user friendly; perhaps even becoming the industry go-to standard, because it is the industry that has helped write it.

This kind of responsiveness to customer feedback has a double benefit: your marketing improves; and your customer feels connected to it because they know that it has been written for them. It increases the loyalty of your best customers and gives them a clear message: you are set up to serve them! It tells them you want their input, because everything you create, you are creating for them. You could be amazed at the difference that this makes, both in the quality of your material and the loyalty that you get from customers.

Here's to your success!

Focus Everything On Your Ideal Customer

Boy in supermarket reaching for food

What if you were to focus everything you said and did on only one customer? Imagine if you were to look at your client base and use the 80/20 rule (or maybe even the 90/10 rule) and give 100% focus on the best 10-20% of customers? You would need to answer some questions:

Who are you best set up to serve?

Why do they choose you?

What do people buy from you? (Hint: It is not what you sell)

What to your top 10-20% value the most about your product and/or service?

How do you stand out from your competition?

These are questions I have asked and written about numerous times. I remember the first time I felt particularly challenged by this whole concept was late 2000’s. We had been training on key account management and the 80/20 rule - particularly focused on the fact that 20% of your customers give you 80% of your income. One individual so bought into the truth of this that he went and ‘fired’ his bottom 80% of customers and only took on customers that fitted his top 20%. It is the stuff legends are made of. I was a huge mixture of breathtaking admiration and terror. His business boomed. 

A few years later, during similar training, a client lit up with the reality that 20% of his products gave him 80% of his income. I cautioned that sometimes the 80% give us the right to sell the 20% e.g. A hardware store needs to sell nails even though it is a very small contributor to sales. He was unswayed. He crunched his numbers and massively rationalised his product range. The focus gave him a niche that he owned and opened him to previously unimaginable opportunities. At the time I remember being very challenged by this laser focus.

Just seeing and hearing does not make a difference. One has to act. Over time, if you don't act, the impetus to make a change rapidly disappears.  Experiences such as these serve as a great reference point and example - providing the spark often needed for others to follow in their footsteps.The reality is that a stroke of genius just does not go away. The power of its message keeps flashing up in stories of other people doing the same thing.

Every time I use Google I am reminded of their one purpose: Make my search experience easy and effective. I keep coming back, I only use Google. The focus of Uber, Air BnB, Hnry, Xero, and the list goes on. The beauty of this, of course, is that from a place of dominance in an area it is so easy to branch out - Nike is a classic example as they moved from shoes to clothing.

I leave you with a thought for the week. How focused are you? What opportunity are you missing in your desire to try and keep all the people happy all the time? How much better could you do if you focused on doing everything for your ideal client(s)?

Here’s to your success!

Practical Steps to Wellness

Fields, grass, wellness

Wellness is the current buzz topic and the current governments focus on it is doing a lot to highlight both the needs and resources available.

Practically applying the principles does make a difference - the secret of course lies in the application. Living WELL and enjoying the benefits of wellness lies in finding, creating and maintaining a balance. With all the competing demands for your time, attention, skills and abilities from family, friends, work, social groups, clubs and more it can be a challenge to ensure you take time for yourself.

Here are a short quick checklist for you to refer to for some physical and mental tips to apply to keep yourself WELL and operating at optimum all day.


W

MIND

Watch your thoughts - You get more of what you focus on, so be deliberate about focusing on more of what you want. Make your mind your friend - speak well to yourself and about yourself.

BODY

Water is an essential part of who you are - about 60% to be more precise! The brain and heart are composed of 73% water and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.) Drinking a couple of glasses of water when you wake up re-hydrates your body, flushes out toxins, improves metabolism; Increases brain power, boosts the immune system. Keep a bottle of water on your desk and aim to drink more water than coffee.


E

MIND

Exercise your mind! Your mind is a muscle and responds well to exercise! Make it fun - word games, chess or scrabble competitions at work are great. Have team members bring in a weekly challenge or put a daily challenge up on a white board. Eat brain food - health snacks enjoyed through the day can keep energy levels and mental alertness up.

BODY

Exercise can be fun. If the gym is not for you, consider what you could do to be more active at work - biking to work, standing desk, skipping, games room with table tennis. Have fun team challenges such as “most steps competition” or form a work team for frisbee or volleyball. Offer a prize to the winner(s). Include weekly updates. Take a before and after survey how employees feel after each challenge. If you're not into exercise at all - work on breathing well! Exhale deeply! Simply changing your breath while sitting at your desk can help reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. Extending or lengthening your exhale triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (This is the rest and digest part of our nervous system). Start with 5 breaths and work up to five minutes and work towards making your exhale twice as long as your inhale. This simple technique can quickly change your physical and mental state.


L

MIND

Listen to internal dialogue and ensure that the incoming messages you receive throughout a day are healthy. You do not have to accept all that is said to you - notice how you respond to it - be aware of your emotions. “Feelings” are merely messages to the brain - if you do not like the feelings consider the Face-it, Trace-it and Replace-it technique.   Look at your surroundings - posters on wall, filing system, desk top etc - create a work-space that is good for your mindset

BODY

Listen to your body - diet plays a huge part in how you feel. Taking multivitamins can ensure anything your diet might lack is covered. Ergonomics helps ensure your work space is set up well - from desk height to how you sit. It is worth getting someone in to look at this for you. Have a timer and take breaks. Stretching regularly is a great way to stay supple and help blood flow.  

Self awareness is a key part of emotional intelligence and if you find yourself stressed a useful acronym to remember  is: HALTS - avoid making key decisions when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stressed.

Getting good amount of sleep (7-8 hours is recommended), eating healthy food and staying hydrated are the basic building blocks for being well.


L

MIND

Learn stuff! Learning keeps your mind active, gives you something to work on and look forward to. Learning can be applied to a skill - like a musical instrument, or a language or simply expanding your knowledge. I love watching Ted Talks and reading self improvement books. Host “Lunch & Learn” style sessions and get your team to share from their interest points or bring in people on a monthly basis to help your team learn about nutrition, ergonomics, financial wellness etc

Body

Laugh - make time to enjoy life and friends and the beautiful country we live in. You can involve the whole team and create a fun culture by theming some of the days - Mindfulness Mondays and Wellness Wednesdays and do something around the theme.

Look for things to be grateful for - this actually rewires your brain creating an attitude of gratitude


Trust these are useful - would love to hear some ideas from you.

Here's to your success!

Innovation Is Not An Option

Model T Ford, Edison Quote, Modern Ford

“The only thing constant is change” is something that is proving truer by the day!

Advancements on every front is creating a ripple effect of change that is permeating every industry, society, group and person. Change is not always good - nor is it always bad. Change is what change is - CHANGE.

Resisting change is a futile exercise that will leave you exhausted and defeated - much better to work with this and be innovative. Some thoughts around this:

Challenge yourself as a matter of course: “What would my competition have to do to steal my best clients?”; “What disruption does this industry need?” (Think AirBnB & Uber) What is the biggest ‘bug-bear/irritation’ in the industry and how can you remove it?

Highlight key points in customer feedback - look for common themes and explore ways of doing more of elements that delight. Reduce/eliminate the factors that irritate. Customer feedback is key because these people are already paying for the service/product.

Adopt a continuous improvement culture where new ideas are welcomed and it is safe to make mistakes. Innovation is largely exploring what does not work, on the journey to discovering what does work.  

Notice the trends. Make it a point to stop at least quarterly and discuss trends:- PESTEL is useful here- Political Economic Social Technological Environmental and Legal. Many changes and opportunities for innovation are identified in the ground-swell of new trend - smart phones, fashion, online reviews, hover vehicles, etc

Goals can help keep some focus and ensure follow through. It is important to remember that it is people who are innovative, not organisations - set clear parameters. These act not as restrictions to innovation and change, but more as rules in a game - to give structure, sense and guidelines.

Execute - Kill the bad ideas and follow through on the good ones! An ability to focus and select 1-2 winning ideas that you can ‘own’ and take to market is much better than a dozen great ideas that take so long to come to fruition that others beat you to it. Apple uses this highly focused approach to win and excel in a few fields rather than develop hundreds of good products.

What do you need to do to ensure your business stays relevant and current? Innovation is a culture and an attitude - it enables highly responsive teams to lead the field, be early adapters and maximise the opportunities by being first to market.

Here’s to your success!

Living On Purpose

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How many people in your organisation could tell you why you exist, what your vision is, and what values the business is run by? 

I had a very interesting experience recently. I had the after lunch session. I was working with a business who had just been presented their vision in their morning strategy session and when I asked them what it was, they said, “We can't remember it because we've only just heard it.” My reply to them was simple - if you cannot remember it after only having heard it an hour ago then there is absolutely no way you will be remembering it and living by it in a week or a month’s time.

If after only an hour the vision could not be remembered it obviously was not exciting. They had not spent the lunch break inspired, discussing the mission and vision, and reveling in the privilege they had to work together, as a team, towards achieving this.

I asked them if it followed the age old formula of “We want to be the best in (fill in the blank) and lead the industry by (fill in the blank)”. They rather sheepishly said yes.  No surprises it was not remembered. A vision is there to inspire and propel a team forward. It should fuel motivation and internal drive so people NEED to make it happen. 

If you're creating a vision for the sake of doing it, because everybody else has done it and you keep getting told you should, you will actually do more damage than good, because people very soon realise that you were just talking a talk. Action speaks louder than words and your team will watch you to see if you really meant it when you shared your vision. They will especially watch when you have to make a tough decision - one that follows the vision for the sake of the long term ideal or whether you compromise for the short term rewards - a quick sale, a placating compromise. If you are not “walking the talk” you begin to create a culture where everybody knows that what is said is not really what is meant, and that is a very dangerous culture to have.

Your ‘purpose for being’ as a business should be clear and every team member should be able to articulate how their role feeds into that purpose. Every team member must be able to feel like the purpose and vision resonates with whom they are, what role they have and the job that they do so that they can see how what they do relates to the greater purpose. This is then supported by your value.

Your values should act is an absolute guideline. When team members know (and live) your values and understand your vision, it is not actually possible to make a major mistake in your organisation. This is because the vision is the guiding light, showing what we are aiming to achieve; and the values act like the banks of a river - guiding and steering all the thoughts and activities of individuals towards the end  goal.

Passion comes from having a purpose. People need a purpose - they need to know that what they do matters and that it makes a positive difference. The more people can connect with this, the greater the levels of engagement, enjoyment, loyalty and productivity. 

Check in with your team and see if you need to be clearer on what difference it makes having them on your team!

Here’s to your success!

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.