Mindset

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?

What to Blog?

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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!

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!

Learning To Learn

Team in training environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Value of Alignment

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

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

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

Three quick thoughts for you to tap into this potential.

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

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

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

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

Lessons From Schoolkids

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

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

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

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

Some lessons for business: 

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

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

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

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

Here’s to your success!

Get It Done - A Template

Hand drawing idea

“Nothing Changes if nothing changes”

“Action speaks louder than words”

“Not just action - the right action”

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

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

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

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

So your steps are as follows:

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

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

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

Step Four - Decide who must do what

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

Step Six - Execute and follow through with reporting and feedback

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

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

Very simply this is how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

Here's to your success!

Are You Gliding Or Clutching At Straws?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did them anyway.

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

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

Here’s to your success!

How Phone Behaviour Can Help You Leverage the Best from Millennials

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

Top Tip #1 Feedback

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

Top Tip #2 Variety

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

Top Tip #3 Millennials are still human

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

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

Who Knows and Who Cares?

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

What would your team members do?

Will they notice when you log the sale?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to your success!

The Power of Rapport

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to your success!

Where Is Your Company IP?

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Do you have trademarks or even patents?

Where is your company knowledge held?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's to your success!

Professional Development

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Are your people really your greatest asset?

Would your balance sheet attest to your answer?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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




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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