The Power of Rapport

Business People Giving Thumbs Up

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to your success!

Where Is Your Company IP?

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Do you have trademarks or even patents?

Where is your company knowledge held?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's to your success!

Professional Development

team of people in meeting

Are your people really your greatest asset?

Would your balance sheet attest to your answer?

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

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

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

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

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

definition of goal

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


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

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

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




Making Training Stick

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Is training worth the investment?

When we launched Learning BITES back in 2016 this was the question we tackled and touched on the topic of making training stick to be effective and see an ROI.

After as I enter my 10th year of full time training I have given further thought around the long term impact and would love your comments and insights:

1) Cascade training is something we encourage on every session we deliver. Getting people to share what the training was about, what they took from it and what action they believe they and/or the team need to take is effective way to ensure people look for actions that can be applied.

2) Accountability make a difference. Involving team leaders in the pre and post training discussion increase their buy-in and adds valuable insight. Team leaders can:

a) write up what areas they believe the training can be applied to

b) the current state of the area

c) the expected/desired state if the training is 100% successful and then

d) a follow up in 1-2 months post training to see what was implemented and the impact to the organisation

3) Send a survey out pre and post training (using something like survey monkey) asking team members/clients/organisations to rate you/themselves on some key metrics and identify improvements

4) Ask for written testimonials from participants - - their willingness to do this and the points they raise will show the current attitude towards the training

5) Create 'champions' and give them some additional training. When the champions are well trained the training is more likely to be effective. (Tip: It is better to keep champion training to short time blocks to minimise effect of having these team members away from the workforce.)

6) Measure the training impact and effectiveness. Some additional thoughts:

Do you currently have an "Gauge" for office tempo? - https://www.officevibe.com/  is a programme some of my clients use to great effect.

In line with Donald L Kirkpatrick’s "Four steps to measuring training effectiveness” - (This model uses four separate stages for the evaluation of the effectiveness of a training program being: Reaction; Learning; Behaviour; Results - As above we gather feedback at the end of each training session; encourage "Cascade Training" after each session; Incorporate individual actions into peer accountability, management feedback, reporting and reviews and measure customer feedback. )

Measure customer satisfaction as this is the ultimate key driver  (NPS scores; surveys; call backs after service delivery)

Measure key metrics - what really important factors does your business hinge on - e.g  response time, DIFOTIS, return rate?

(Share this information across the whole team)

Do team member personal development plans and measure their progress.

Do a departmental skills matrix.

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Measurement is one of the most important factors in leadership, management and exceptional team performance. "You can only manage what you measure" is an oft used quote but there is more than just measurement:

- You have to measure the right things

- You have to share and feedback the information - speed of feedback and willingness to receive it is vital

- You have to reward what you want more of - "What gets rewarded gets repeated!"

How do you let your team know they are winning?

Here's to your success!

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Customer Experience - The Insatiable Desire For More

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Things change.

Expectations move.

If you are smart you are driving the change.

If you are progressive, you are looking at the current landscape and seeing that the internet, mobile apps, augmented reality and artificial intelligence is speeding up the pace of change, feeding and nurturing the insatiable desire for more. Customer service, which for years has been a point of difference for companies who want to stand out from others who merely supply products and services, has reached maturity and is now an expected rite of passage to even be considered as competitive in the current marketplace.

The goal posts have moved from service to “experience”. It is no longer just about how well you serve me - No, no, now you have ensure I ‘feel’ great and feel like engaging in business with you was good for me.

This self centric view is fueled, encouraged and constantly fed by the increasing reliance of us all on social media ratings and reviews. I remember reading in September 2016 that ratings and reviews were going to become a key part of the Google algorithm - if people did not share their experiences when interacting with you then you were doomed to be removed from the oasis of first page rankings and cast into the desert of page 2 and beyond.

If this dawning realisation is becoming evident for you and you are wondering about a way forward here are a few things to consider:

Your internal culture will always be directly reflected in the external customer experience. One of the best ways to get a quick gauge on this is to listen to how people in your team talk to each other and about each other.

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Consider where you put your focus. You get more of what you focus on, so focus on what you want more of. Do you operate on the old adage of “no news is good news” or have you advanced to the point where you are aiming to catch people doing things right?

Do you have a team charter and clear service promises that the whole team knows, lives and is committed to? While good, old fashioned politeness goes a long way in creating a good experience, it helps when the whole team is intent of ensuring your unique experience is felt and enjoyed by every customer who encounters your business.

People process information based on their personal knowledge, skill, experiences, culture, faith, schooling, upbring and so much more. All of these create filters that will often cause us to act and react in a certain way. Well trained team members know that they are not responsible for other people's actions and reactions, only their own.

The customer experience is no longer the next frontier but rather the one you must face now or forever be left behind to fade into the sea of mediocrity.

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What Defines You?

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“Rather than setting New Years goals around what you will do - set on them around who you want to be!” is a quote shared by a friend that profoundly changed the way I approach life as well as New Year's resolutions.

Who are you and what defines you?

Is it what others say?

Is it what you say (& what are your reference points?)

Is it who you are or what you do?

Is it your impact or your legacy?

These questions apply as much to companies as individuals. Companies with inspiring visions engage their team because work becomes so much more than a job. It becomes about who you are and what difference you are making. A vision for our business and our life sets our course, determines our choices and decisions and pulls us ever forward, sculpting and defining you with every passing moment.

One of the most challenging facets of vision-casting is that there is no one ‘right answer’. In working with companies I find this wrestling with vision and purpose to be one of the toughest and most rewarding parts of my work. People’s visions are as varied as the characters that make up this cosmopolitan kaleidoscope of life that we have the privilege to live in.

Indeed to live in a country, where we have the choice to choose what we want from life, is a freedom many take so much for granted that the magnificence of this brilliant opportunity is lost in an eclipse of comfort and entitlement.

Leonardo DiCaprio captured this well, “If you can do what you do best and be happy, you’re further along in life than most people”.

Are you happy (at least most of the time anyway)? How do you want to be remembered? What footprints do you want to leave on the shores of life?

footprints on beach

Exploring this topic afresh led to much profound and varied wisdom:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” - Thomas Jefferson

“Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything” - Imam Ali

“Define yourself; you have the monopoly on your life’s dictionary.” - Matshona Dhliwayo

“It's the way we deal with what fate hands us that defines who we are.” - Lisa Graff

“Never defend yourself, but define yourself with your imagination and actions.” - Debasish Mridha

“Strong people define themselves; weak people allow others to define them.” - Ken Poirot

“Our past may shape us, but it doesn't define us.” - Alyson Noel

“When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment, or the moment defines you” - Kevin Costner

“Judging a person does not define who they are...it defines who you are” - Anon

“The chances you take, the people you meet, the people you love, the faith that you have. That is what is going to define you.” - Denzel Washington

“What defines you as a person is not the life you were born in to, but what you made of it.” - Shahid Kapoor

Make the time to do the tough work of thinking through and answering these challenging questions. For me, I found my defining identity through my faith. The answer gives a depth of meaning to life that is hard to define and explain - rather like trying to explain to people who don't have kids the joy of having children, or the privilege that freedom is to those who have lived in the ‘free world’ their whole life.  

Think. Act. Be.

Here’s to your success!

Spread the Love

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There are so many studies and suggestions around what makes a life well lived, worthwhile and enjoyable. One of my favourite pieces of advice was that the 3 necessities of life are “To love and be loved, to have a reason to get up and to have a purpose worth pursuing.” At this time of year we often get to reflect and remember all the people who are special to us.

Movies and programmes with a love theme or romantic undertone abound, in a plethora as innumerable as the stars. This is for good reason - we all want and need love. Humans are social creatures and we derive much from connecting with each other and while you might be 1 of 7+million people, to some people you are their world.

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves."

Be sure to take time to tell and show those near and dear to you that they are special - we never know when there won’t be a tomorrow.

Enjoy your time these holidays and strengthen the bonds of love and friendship - “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." May you find and create much strength and courage as you spread joy and peace.

Thank you for being a part of our world and we look forward to connecting again next year.

Getting Some R&R

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Many people look longingly at retirement as the time in life when you will finally be able to relax with no pressure. In the interim, we have holidays. The risk is that it is used as ‘catch-up’ time rather than the rest and recuperation we tout it as. Whether we are rushing around catching up with family and friends, or attending social functions, or using the quiet time to clear emails and “just” finish that last little bit of a project that “will allow me to come back next year a lot fresher!”

The illusion of retirement is rose tinted by hectic holidays, giving it a heavenly hue of a serene paradise. Speak to anybody who has been retired for any length of time and you will quickly have a much clearer picture - without purpose, the days drag on interminably. Many people wish they had developed a hobby, sporting interest or group of friends or something while they were younger.  Time waits for no-one and looking back wistfully is something many of us have an opportunity to avoid.

How do you live with no regrets? There are many wonderful ideas around this but for this time of year I thought I would share one: REST

Relax - Plan to do something (ideally lots of) whatever helps you to relax. Some people like to read a book, others love to travel and see new and beautiful things, some are active relaxers - choosing to do something physical and rewarding that helps them disconnect from work. “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Escape your routine. Do something a little different. Break the normal mould and routine of your life. A change is as good as a holiday. “Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down the rainbow.” Douglas Pagels

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Stillness holds magic. In a world where survival often feels like it is dictating the need to become the perfect ‘human doing’ there is a deep joy to be found in being. “When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing - just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?” Ralph Marston

Think about different things. Allow your mind to rest and be creative, to solve a puzzle and day dream, to marvel at the wonders of creation and do nothing more than watch a cloud float across the sky. “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” William S. Burroughs

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However you relax do take time over the holidays to rejuvenate your body mind and soul and bring your best self into 2019.

Here’s to your success!

New Stories Replace Negative Definers

We are the result of all our experiences and how we have processed these and, more importantly, how we continue to process these. 

Recently I did a psychometric test and was told that 20-40 minutes would be required. Having done many similar tests in the past I started with full gusto and sailed through the first section which was a fairly typical personality profiling batch of questions. 
The next section was a timed section on language comprehension. I ‘saw’ myself react to the concept of being timed - I am a teeny, tiny, tad touch competitive and have a slight tendency to rush unthinkingly when feeling under pressure. The quote “more haste, less speed” could have been written for me.” I then reassured myself I was good at English, took a breath and went through methodically. That section went well. 
Next section. Timed again. This section - maths. “I’m hopeless at maths. No use even trying here,” was my first thought as I looked at the question and just circled any old answer with little to no thought. I then remembered I was paying a decent amount for this test and the results would be shared with my team. The thought was enough to make me slow down, read the question and actually think. 

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Those little voices in our heads massively impact our confidence. They can inhibit you or enable you.

Oh, the best bit - it’s your head, your mind, your voices - you get to choose which ones you listen to and which ones define you.

“I’ll NEVER do that again!” Have you ever made a promise to yourself like that? At the time, in that moment, with those circumstances, that might have been a ‘reasonable statement’. Normally it is made to keep your future self safe. When training people to speak in public most have to overcome huge fears. 

Fears come from stories we tell ourselves. There are many acronyms for FEAR. 

Finding Excuses and Reasons
False Emotions Appearing Real
Future Events Appearing Real
Failure Expected And Received

The common factors in all of these is that fear is emotionally driven and sees the future in bad light based on historic knowledge and experiences. You can redefine your experiences and even redefine fear. 

FEAR = For Everything A Reason.

What can you learn from this experience? Where do you need to grow and stretch outside your comfort zone? People often look back to who they have been and project that forward to define who they are. 

When we learn to look at all experiences as opportunities to grow
into who we want to be we can approach everything with so much more confidence. 

You realise you can never fail again - you will either win or learn, and that is a recipe for a life far more deeply enjoyed, far more rewarding and satisfying - because, as I discovered in my psych test - we are all far more capable than we often allow ourselves to believe! 

Here's to your success!

3 C's of Teampower

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Here are three short exercises to share with your team to help them understand the importance of clarity, communication and commitment when working in a team.  Using these simple and practical illustrations, you can help them develop a mindset which allows them to adjust their practices and move towards successful practices both in their work and personal lives.

Clarity

Grab a pack of tiny waterpistols, and hand them out to your team. (You can choose whether to load them or not!) Give the following instruction: “Pick up your waterpistols and fire!” Notice how some fire will fire at you, some fire at their friends, a few fire at their enemies.  Rarely will any fire in the same direction. As the laughter dies down, without saying a word, draw a target on the board and repeat the instruction. Over 90% of the people will aim at the target.

What is your business aiming for?  Does everyone know and are they all aiming at the same thing?  When we have clarity in our objectives, it gives clarity to the work we do and why. Aiming to get better profits? Or to increase your turnover by 30%? One is a big goal, the other is much more clearly defined.  The more clearly you set the goal, the more clearly you can describe the outcome you’re looking for and the more likely you are to achieve it.

Communication

Give each of your team a piece of paper and ask them to follow these instructions.

Respond positively to questions, clarification or repetition of the instructions. (This encourages people to use feedback loops to learn!)

  • Draw a circle with diameter 5cm.  

  • Draw a circle in the centre of that with diameter 1cm.  

  • 45 degrees up and to the left of the centre of the inner circle, at distance of 1cm from the centre, draw a dot .  

  • 45 degrees up and to the right of the centre of the inner circle, at a distance of 1cm from the centre, draw a dot.

  • Beginning at the circumference of the outer circle, vertically above the left dot, draw a line on a 45 degree angle up and to the left of the circumference, 1 cm long

  • From the outer edge of this line, draw a vertical line down to the circumference of the circle.

  • Beginning at the circumference of the outer circle, vertically above the right dot, draw a line on a 45 degree angle up and to the right of the circumference, 1cm long.  

  • From the outer edge of this line, draw a vertical line down to the circumference of the circle.

  • What have you drawn?

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Usually, you will get vastly different pictures from the same set of instructions. People hear the same thing, but interpret instructions differently. If it’s that easy to mess up drawing a picture of a pig, think about some of the complex information that we sometimes need to communicate, and respectfully use the tools of repetition, questioning, slowing down and feedback to ensure you are being understood.

Commitment

Ask people to stand up and stretch as high as you can. Once they have done that, challenge them to stretch 10% higher.  Who gave their commitment to the first instruction?  Who gave more on the second instruction?

Find the things that motivate you to give that little bit extra and ensure you practice giving your all to the very best of your ability. You will find your ability increases incrementally in proportion to both the amount of effort and consistency of effort you put in.

Success comes from hard work and a can-do mindset. Clarity, communication and commitment are fantastic tools to get your organisation there a little easier and faster. Let us know how you get on using these exercises with your team!

Here’s to your success!

3 Tips Learnt from Fighting with Technology

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To update or not to update - the dreaded question!
Next dreaded question... How long do you attempt to fix the problems yourself before calling IT support?

I had successfully avoided the latest Windows 10 update following articles about a bug that deleted user files. Eventually though the time came when an update just had to be done and that was when the "Irrustratration" started (One of my favourite words for moments like these! I wrote an article some time back on this wonderful word my kids created  for those moments of intense irritation and frustration).

Two points of reflection for this blog: 1) The power of social media and 2) Lessons learnt

The first pain point was MS Word saving all documents as read only - after a few days of thinking I was going insane I jumped online and found a solution in the screeds of similar laments. 

It is so easy to share one's frustrations and in the heat of the moment people tend to vent flamboyantly. Social media gave a swath of thoughts, feelings, viewpoints and emotions on the latest update. Thankfully included in all that was some ideas suggestions and solutions! 

While you cannot stop people being people on the internet, you do have full control over the way you respond! You are in control of your actions and reactions - “play nice” as my Nana use to say! Your response will carry far more weight than a dozen frazzled rants.

Next pain point – our new printer would not print - many uninstalls and reinstalls later I called the service desk (and yes you are right - I should have called them waaayyyyyy sooner!)

The last time Windows 10 did an update I Iearnt to check the web for common problems associated with the latest update before pressing the update button. The learning for me this time around, was 3-fold:
1) Know where I add the most value to the organisation and work in that space most of the time - DO NOT spend time doing stuff where you are not adding value 
2) Don't waste time creating 'work-arounds'
3) Ask for help sooner

What is your top tip when facing IT frustrations?

If you need to look at a team event to review this year and plan for the year ahead do get in touch - we would love to facilitate the day for you!

Aim to Team Think not Group Think

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Having facilitated another company team day, I have had cause to reflect on what makes for an exceptional team. There are, of course, many factors. 

Team days are such an awesome way to help team members get to know each other more and work more effectively together. The opportunity to brainstorm possibilities and explore how to tackle challenges, utilising the whole team's knowledge, skills and perspectives, creates powerful buy-in and innovative solutions IF the team is free to express their thoughts.

Groupthink is a term coined by Irving to describe his influential theory of group decision making that he called groupthink. The idea is that groupthink is a kind of thinking in which maintaining group cohesiveness, harmony, conformity and solidarity is more important than considering the facts in a realistic manner.This can result in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making process and outcome. 

To get the most from a team, they need to feel safe to discuss, debate, agree and disagree. The enemy is artificial harmony. Team Think occurs when a team of people have an agreed common goal that they are committed to achieving. Team Think is characterised by a mindset that is eager to participate and collaborate. There is a sense of unity and the team sees and refer to themselves as a unit - “we” rather than “you and me”

Team Think is focused on adding value (contrasted with group think which is focused on the individual and being valued). One of the most powerful aspects of Team Think is common alignment to a clear goal - this allows the team to focus on the ‘prize’ as against the cost. 

The whole team needs to think right, if they are to act right and get the right results. This thinking, however, has to start at the top. Very broadly speaking Team Think has 5 key elements:

Team leadership - How the leaders think set the tone and creates the culture

Team identity - from this culture the team forms its identity. When the ‘team’ as a unit becomes more important than the ‘individual’ team members that make up the team the team can transcend to new heights.

Team purpose - Strong leadership and culture combine as core elements to build a strong sense of purpose. People need to know that they matter and that what they do makes a positive difference. People with purpose and on a mission will often outperform higher skilled teams.

Team prize - The purpose give people something to aim for. This sense of striving for a prize fires people up to give more, do more and be all they can be.

Team energy - When teams have the above elements they can create an almost self perpetuating energy that allows the to operate at higher levels and outperform their peers.

What could you do to enhance the latent potential inside your team?
If you need to look at a team event to review this year and plan for the year ahead do get in touch - we would love to facilitate the day for you!

TIME

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Time is personal. It is yours and you alone decide how you will use it. The word is made up of the personal words “I” and “ME” and, while others might tell you what to do with your time, you choose how much effort you apply.

Want to make the most of your time? You need to own it! Talk with words that show you know you have options and choices; allow your words to clearly show your decisive and deliberate choices. “I get to work” not “I have to work”, I choose to either spend or invest time.  

Central to time is the personal pronoun “I” – lets explore the 3 ways I reflects in time making decisions. There are 86400 seconds is a day. This gift is equally offered to all humans. The use of each precious moment in time determines the abundance or lack of ‘fruit’ for a day.

IRRELEVANT – how much time disappears in this black hole? The trivial, the unimportant, the scrolling of news sites and social media, the ‘deja vu meetings’ where the same discussions go around and no decisions are ever reached, procrastination, task switching, interruptions. The list goes on, taking precious seconds with it - sometime a few at a time and often in great swathes that leave days empty and drought ridden.

IMPORTANT – The area we like to focus in. People pay us to work here. We see fruit from this time that satisfies the moment and the current day. Time spent here appeases our conscience, gets stuff done, moves the dial forward.

IMPACTFUL – Time invested here feeds our soul. There is a deep satisfaction and joy found mining this space. Time here gives life purpose and meaning. We see the fruit. From making time to be with family and enjoying the growing relationship, to time invested in calling clients to find who needs your product and services – we intuitively know this time produces bounty. Not necessarily immediately but inevitably.

What’s planned for today? When we take count of the time that is ours alone to decide, when we review the use and give account to the person in the mirror staring back, will we make a Return On Invested Time?

5 Basic Sales Techniques

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In the world of business, the core activity is sales - without these there are no customers, no income and no business. Time spent to train your sales people well gives one of the best returns on investment any management can make. Run your sales team through these basic techniques and see how you can lift your game, serve your customers better, and get more sales.

See and hear your customer. Do role plays and/or observe people selling. Be aware of body language e.g. eye contact and stance. Notice how 2-way the conversation is. Be interested in them and why they’re there, more than in what you can sell them. Practice looking at them and identifying information about them that can help you to engage with them in a way that they’ll know you care.

Ask intelligent and engaging questions from outset. Eliminate “Can I help you?" or "Are you alright?" "Are you just looking?” and “Hi, I just touching base,” from your vocabulary and replace them with intelligent questions that will help your customers know you’re there for them. “What are you after today? A …. Or a ….?” is far more engaging. In business to business setting, going in with clear purpose to add value shows from your first question.

Know your products thoroughly - where, what, who, how, why and when of your features and the advantages of them. You’re the expert - they can research, but they’re coming to you for a real experience consultation - give it to them. Relate the features and advantages they are interested in and show them how they will be of benefit.

Make recommendations. Yes, it’s their choice, but they’re in your space to get help. Have an opinion and be able to show alternatives. Once you have gone through connecting and asking intelligent questions use your knowledge, skills and experience to make recommendations based on your client’s needs and wants.

Cross-sell on every applicable occasion. It is your duty to ensure your customer is informed and knows what is available. Don’t let them get home with the video camera to discover they need an SD card to take photos. Tell them what else they need so they can make informed choices.

Genuine interest, intelligent engagement and great product knowledge are basic areas of expertise. When your customers know your people are there to serve them, they will travel further, spend more and bypass opposition with identical product to work with you. Work as a team to constantly upskill in the core areas.

Create The Ideal Customer

Silhouette of Potential Customers - Create the Ideal Customer

Marketing is everything you do to promote your business. Done right, it grabs people’s attention, creates interest and stimulates desire for your product that leads people to taking action. The better you understand your market, the better you can serve them. Do you know who your ideal customer is?

Who are you best set up to serve? Don’t say everyone! As Seth Godin said, everyone is not your customer! Of course, businesses are generally willing to take whichever clients that come, but you should ensure that you know what your ideal client looks like.

Think of your best client right now. Write down their name. If it’s a business, write their name and the name of the person you deal with. Are they male or female? How old are they? What are the main products/services they buy from you? What problems do you solve for them (with your product? What other problems do they have? What is their average spend? How often do they use you? Do they have family? What interests do they have?

Repeat this process with your next best client until you have 5-10 “best client” profiles. The more detail you have, the better. Now look at the profiles, and look for the patterns - what is common? Begin to build a picture of your ideal customer. Find their likes/dislikes, interests, hobbies, places they hang out.

customer choices with ideal one identified

As you create this picture, you are identifying your target market - a picture of the “person” you are best set up to serve. Once you’ve identified your target market in this way, you can ensure that your marketing is effectively reaching towards that person.

Take This Sales Test

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Test The Team - Product Knowledge 
Ask your sales team to list all the products and services the company offers - most can’t or struggle to remember without prompting.  Next, run their sales figures on which products they sell the most of. No surprises for guessing that most reps fall into the 80/20 rule - 80% of their sales come predominantly from only 20% of the range offered. 

The surprise here for many reps is that their 20% is rarely the same as someone else’s 20%. There is overlap on the popular sellers but each rep has his/her favourite. Get your reps to share with the team why they sell what they sell. What pitch do they use? What features, advantages, benefits (FAB) roll off their tongue? What stories do they have? What has fueled their belief and passion of the product/service? (You want to unpack this because success fuels success.) 

Learn From The Best
Find the rep with the lowest sales of a particular product and get them to be the client with all the objections they have ever heard in relation to the product. Then have the top sales rep sell them this product while the rest of the team watches and learns. 

It is amazing how often you will hear “Oh wow, I did not know that!” “That is such a great story!” “Oh, I never thought about it like that”; etc. 

Knowledge Equipping Strategy
Challenge every team member to learn one new thing every day. Create a game where team members challenge each other with “Tell me something about our offering as a company that I do not know”. Knowledge builds on knowledge. Like pieces of a jigsaw they suddenly come together to reveal a true picture of what you a capable of offering a client. 

Make it a regular section in sales meetings to have team members share/demo/pitch a product to the rest of the team. Invite in suppliers to do the same - many will be delighted you asked and often have very comprehensive training. Video all these training sessions to build a knowledge library.

SOURCE: HOW PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE AFFECTS SALES
MIKE CLARK, APRIL 2017

Master the Monster - 5 Keys to Managing Email

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I am a huge fan of continuous improvement, and have significantly improved my life by applying the principles across all aspects of my life. One area, however, refused to be compliant. Actually, truth be told, it did not just lack compliance, it actually wielded a whip that had me sapped of energy every time I encountered it – which was daily. The monster?  My email inbox …..

Despite years (over a decade) of different techniques, approaches, methodologies I found myself drowning in an inbox that, on occasions, ran into the 1000’s.  I used to say to clients, “If I have not replied within 48hrs, please hit the fwd button and this will pop it to the top of my inbox and I will see you have fwd it and prioritised it.”  Besides admitting my inability to control my in-box all this did was increase the mail I received.

2018 was the year I drew a line in the sand. I saw a lovely quote in an article that said, “Email is other people's priorities for your day.” I laughed in despair. This year, with the help of Kiri, and the below 5 steps I have tamed the monster:

Empty your email – Do not use it as a to-do list. Only open mail you intend to deal with and then decide and act on it. End the day with an empty inbox!

Make folders. You can either have a full-on folder system or a simple one with: Processed, Awaiting response; Block Time work. Once an email is actioned – file it (rules can help with this)

Allocate time to check and clear – master your inbox, do not let it rule you. Use mailbox rules. Overcome your fear of missing out FOMO and unsubscribe from newsletters you do not read.

Involve your team to have block time to clear emails and ideally have an agreed company methodology e.g. Only put people who have to action in the “To” field and FYI in the “CC”. If appropriate, have a PA to help you stay on top of your mail.

Learn what works for you and work it! If you often have to take action on emails use a tool called followupthen  

Be radical and take action. This is not a monster that will tamed with half hearted effort – all or nothing.

Best of luck – here’s to your success!


Facing Challenge Utilising the Power of Resilience

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Life throws the most incredible challenges at us over the course of our days.  Without resilience, people are swamped, thrown off course and overcome by these challenges.  As you look around the people in your team, you know their faces, and in good teams, you will know the person behind that face, with some of the challenges and difficulties that they encounter personally as well as at work.  How resilient are they? How resilient are you?

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Resiliency is the ability to bounce back in difficult circumstances, the flexibility to bend with constant challenge but not be broken by it.  The picture comes to mind of a massive storm, with driving rain and wild winds. In the storm, the oak which has stood tall for dozens of years has many branches snapped off, whereas the tall grasses growing alongside it remain intact and unharmed in the wake of the storm.  The difference? The oak could not bend its branches, whereas the grasses could flex and be laid almost flat, yet bounce back upright as soon as the wind subsided. Resilience is the ability to keep on going and to bounce back, even after the toughest storm.

Resilience is characteristic of successful people - they seem to be able to use the challenges and setbacks that beset them as stepping stones to the next thing rather than allow themselves to be crushed by them.  What is it that enables them to do this, and how can we develop this characteristic in our own lives?

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A basic requirement to the development of resilience is challenge - reaching beyond your comfort zone to conquer things which you’ve not yet mastered.  Some of us have been thrown into challenging circumstances through no fault of our own - think of the dread challenges of cancer sufferers enduring treatment in the hope of conquering the disease; of longsuffering parents managing the pain of a critically ill child in the hope that their suffering be alleviated.  Others have unwittingly created our own predicaments - taking a position in a business where we end up having to work closely with someone of opposing personality; buying a vehicle which turns out to be a lemon and have continuous mechanical problems. Still others create difficult circumstances deliberately - yes deliberately.  Signing up to an exercise/health programme which will enable them to lose weight and become healthier and more able; taking a business to the next level by setting a goal for the team to increase the turnover significantly over the next five years.

One of the keys to resilience is our ability to see the problems as something to be worked through to a greater goal on the other side, as opposed to something which is happening that we have no control over and which will bring us no positive outcome.  Another key is our capacity to share our responses honestly with supportive people who have our backs, and can give us courage and perspective to work through the situation we are in. A third key is found in the mindset that no matter what, you will gain from this experience. This tenacious determination to find some good out of any loss, and be focused on that good rather than be consumed by the bad, is a key factor of resilience. You’ll find a fourth key to resilience in flexibility and adaptability - the ability to shift focus, develop new skills and use the resources available to you to keep on going.

The Wright brothers in their development of flight; Helen Keller learning to communicate with the world from a blind, deaf and dumb state; Kate Sheppard’s campaign to allow voting rights to New Zealand women, the two Steves (Steve Wozniack and Steve Jobs) creating Apple from their garage-based beginnings, Oprah Winfrey born into poverty to a teenage single mother - these are famous examples of men and women who display the characteristic of resilience.  

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We all face challenge - how can you work with what is within you and around you to transform this challenge into the stepping stone that takes you forward to a better place?  How can you shift focus to see the potential for good, and use that to armour yourself as you move through the difficulties? Are you working to develop deep relationships which respect, accept and encourage growth, so that when you - or they - are faced with the hard stuff, there are people who will stick together and support through it.  Do you deliberately allow manageable challenging circumstances to develop resilience in yourself - maybe by learning a new skill, or stepping into a new area of service?

Having a mindset which welcomes challenge comes more easily to some of us than others - and yet this mindset is often deliberately developed and key in the ultimate achievement of our goals.  If you are in a steady and comfortable period of your life, take what resilience you have and make it more - it will serve you in good stead. If you are in a particularly challenging period, focus more on the goals which sustain you rather than the problems which trip you up, while still seeking solutions to those problems. I don’t say this making light of the incredible difficulty that many people are enduring, but with huge respect and desire to make the path a little less steep and to give courage to continue taking the next step.  If there is any way which we can support or direct you to help, please do get in touch.

Here’s to your success.

SPRING CLEANING

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Select what you want to keep (and what you want to clear out)
Prioritise where you need to focus first
Rationalise what you need to keep and why
Inspect the systems and processes you are using to stay organised
No! You probably shouldn't keep it if you haven't used it in the last year
Get clearing quickly

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Clean up after you’ve done the clearing
Leave each area the way you want it to be before moving on to the next area
Educate the team on how to keep the area crisp and uncluttered
Allow for setbacks and act quickly to put things back on track
New layouts and systems should be clearly communicated
Initiate a daily check to help develop new habits and keep things organised
Nominate champions to care for areas
Give regular affirmations and celebrate success

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What Skills Do You Need?

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What is your greatest point of difference as a company?

Whenever I ask this question, inevitably I get a similar answer - the one thing people cannot copy. It’s not your product, or your systems, or your processes - it is your people and the culture that they create which enables them to be the best and deliver the highest quality of work. It is this characteristic that makes organizations stand out.

Are you getting the most out of your team?

Do you have a culture where people feel enabled and empowered to give the very best?

Do you invest in your team members and help them to increase their skills so that they are able to give even more?  When I ask this question with business owners and managers, one of the responses I often get, is that they are not sure who to develop and in what areas.  How do you select which team members you will invest in and develop and how do you ensure can you get a return on the investment in your people?

Firstly, whoever you choose must actually want to develop.  Some people are very happy just the way they are, doing what are they are doing and don't actually want any more responsibility or to do anything other than what they are currently doing.  This is, of course, their choice.

Secondly, it can really help to have a succession plan in place so that you know what skills you need to meet the growth plans that you have outlined in your business plan. Any business plan needs to have a people development section - it's who people bring the skills and the time which we need to grow internal capacity.

Thirdly, it can really can help your succession plan to create a skills gap analysis.  This is simply done by dividing your business into its relevant departments and then breaking down each task within each department and indicating which people are able to do that task unsupervised. Also, which people are able to train others to do

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that task and which people are able to do the task under supervision. One of the benefits of this exercise is that it can often show big gaps in skillsets within your organisation and your over-reliance on certain individuals in certain places.

Fourthly, it is incredibly motivating for your team to have a personal development plan created for each person. I strongly recommend that your PD plan includes both future goals for work and for home, as this shows people that you care about them as a whole person - they are not just what they can do for you in a work environment.

My final recommendation comes from years of working in this industry and it's simply this. Make sure training methodologies encourage people to cascade train after every training session. You can find out more about cascade training on our website: www.thinkright.co.nz/cascadetraining/  We find when people come to training with a sense of expectation, they pay more attention and they are actively looking for takeaway action points they can share with the team. This shared team approach helps people to take more action.

If you need any help in working out how to best develop your team to ensure you are maximising their engagement and enjoyment at work as well as their ability to produce well, please do get in touch.