Author Archives: Colin Rochester

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Top 5 feedback failures and how to fix them

For most people, giving negative feedback is the last thing they want to do – but if you do it badly it causes pain on both sides.

The point of giving negative feedback is to create a change in behaviour to improve performance. If you fail to deliver the feedback effectively, you will fail to meet this objective.

There are five common ways managers and supervisors fail at giving negative feedback.

Know what they are and what to do to avoid them, and you can avoid the consequences of feedback failure.

1. Too fast

A lot of people just want to get the act of giving negative feedback over with as quickly as possible.

This means that you may go into the conversation unprepared, and there won’t be enough time for adequate conversation.

If you rush, the person on the receiving end may just wonder ‘what just happened?’.

If they can’t ask questions or explain the situation from their perspective, it’s far less likely they will be able to act on your feedback.

Instead:

  • Set aside adequate time to explain the feedback and your reasoning
  • Allow the other person time to give their point of view
  • Take the time to discuss and agree on what should happen instead

2. Too late

One of the guaranteed ways to diminish the impact of feedback is by waiting too long to express it.

If you hold onto criticism for too long it has a way of festering, and by the time you get around to giving it the party on the other end of it may end up bewildered or shocked by the magnitude of it.

Remember, they may be completely oblivious to the fact that they’ve done anything wrong.

READ: Timely feedback leads to better performance

Rather than providing your team member with guidance, you are more likely to create a defensive reaction.

What to do instead:

  • Give the feedback as close as possible to the time of the behaviour you’ve observed that you’d like to change

By doing this, you will have the comfort of getting it off your mind, and the other person gets feedback at a time when they can reasonably do something about the issue.

3. Too emotional

Feedback given in the heat of the moment is more than likely to fail in its objective.

You may also find you get an emotional reaction from the other person, resulting in an escalation.

Feedback given in these conditions won’t help anyone. Nor will it improve employee motivation, engagement or performance.

What to do instead:

  • Don’t be tempted to ‘fire from the hip’
  • Take time to consider all relevant factors that may have created the issue, including your part in what happened
  • Then choose a time to have the conversation when you have had time to settle your own emotions

4. Irrelevant feedback

Sometimes it’s tempting to give negative feedback to a person for a reason that’s not relevant to the situation at hand.

It might be because you’re not getting what you want from one person but rather than addressing the issue with them, you take it up with someone else.

Or it may be that you’ve chosen to focus your attention on what appears to be an easy problem rather than one that will be tougher to solve.

In both cases, the stress you’re under could cause you to stop thinking clearly, causing you to choose the wrong target for your feedback.

What to do instead:

  • Do your research
  • Reflect on your motivation
  • Is this the person who can solve the problem?

5. Useless feedback

Of all possible feedback you can give, the most useless will be feedback that doesn’t lead to the changes you’re seeking.

For feedback to be useful, it has to be within the power of the person receiving the feedback to act on it.

Can you imagine how it would make someone feel if you give them negative feedback and they can’t do anything to change the situation?

What to do instead:

  • Before giving your feedback, make sure you’re telling the right person and that they can act on it
  • Ask if they have the time, resources and training to make the changes you’re expecting?

For feedback to be successful, it must be timely, prepared and rational.

Take your time and do your research. Most of all, be prepared to be open to other interpretations of the problem.

Then you’ll have the best chance of your feedback achieving your objectives instead of failing to be heard.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Busting the myths about changing your business culture

Changing your business culture is one of the hardest things to do – and buying into myths about the process can make it so much tougher.

As a concept, ‘culture’ can be held up as the foundation of progressive thinking and innovation within a business – or cop the rap when things go wrong. It’s not easy to nail exactly what culture is, which makes it difficult to measure.

Culture change seems to be the flavour of the day in management, and everybody has their own spin on how to manage it.

But before deciding to launch into a period of change in your business, make sure you’re not buying into any hype.

So what are the myths about culture change?

1. Changing culture is the solution to all your problems

There are other causes of poor performance and discontent.

While not denying the huge impact culture can have, don’t assume that it’s at the heart of every problem.

Instead, consider alternatives and do your research before launching into culture change.

READ: 3 steps for hiring the culture you want

What if the cause has less to do with your culture and more to do with your processes? Here are just a few examples:

  • Customer service complaints due to one team member lacking the necessary skills to do their job properly
  • Late deliveries caused by an outdated system
  • Falling revenue because of poor market intelligence and lack of innovation

TIP: Analyse the problem before blaming ‘culture’

2. Employees will see the need for change

So let’s say that after analysing the problems in your business, you’ve come to the conclusion that you do need to change the culture.

Never assume that you and your employees are on the same page about this.

Even a culture that outsiders would describe as toxic can be invisible to employees who have adapted to it over time.

Don’t assume that because you see the signs that culture needs to change that your team has seen them too. You may need to persuade them of the need to change.

TIP: Collect evidence.

3. Everyone will embrace change

Some people love change. Others hate it. They may also hold well-founded fears about the unknown future.

Those who resist change, especially if they’re influential in the business, could derail your efforts to change culture before you even begin.

If you don’t take steps to make them feel safe, they will never support the change.

TIP: Address fear.

READ: How to get the best out of your employees

4. Culture will change easily

There’s nothing easy about changing the culture of a business.

Think of it as a journey from one place to another with many different options for routes, directions, start and end points, and modes of transport – all while conducting business as usual.

The culture you have in your business evolved gradually.

It won’t be changing overnight just because you’ve decided it needs to.

TIP: Plan for the long haul.

By falling for any of these myths, you can start destroying a culture you intended to improve.

It’s counter-productive to point the finger at your team’s performance without addressing the underlying problems of processes, resources or skills.

Until you have clear, convincing evidence that the culture in your business needs to improve it will be hard to engage others in the change project.

Even then, success is only likely if you understand the potential challenges and have plans to address them.

Always keep your eyes open and proceed with extreme caution down the culture-change road. Seek expert advice before you start to avoid the predictable detours and delays that lie ahead.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How I won more business by being less corporate

Once upon a time I believed to be successful in business, I needed to look, act and think in a corporate way. That was a mistake.

It didn’t come naturally but I tried to live up to it anyway.

On more than one occasion the disconnect between who I thought I was expected to be and who I was led to disastrous consequences for the business.

I didn’t deliver my best work, and I wasn’t invited back. A hard lesson learnt.

Over the years my beliefs and behaviour have changed. Here are some reasons why.

1. Doing business with real people is more fun

My company, Balance at Work, exists to help people find more joy in their work. That includes joy for me and my team too.

Business for us is always ‘human to human’.

It’s not B2B or B2C.

If we were more corporate, we’d be attracting people who value a corporate attitude and approach more than we value those things.

Working with them might benefit us financially, but how could it bring us more joy?

READ: Is the future of work…less work?

2. You can’t fake different

Organisations and individuals looking for the services we provide face a vast array of pre-packaged options, but we want to be more than just another standard option.

But we’re not different just for the sake of difference.

We’ll tell clients what we really think. We’ll also tell them if we don’t think we’re a good fit for them.

Recently, I was planning a leadership development project with the MD of a long-standing, successful organisation in financial services.

When he told me they pride themselves on being ‘non-corporate’, I knew I was in the right place.

We stand out because of who we are and what we do, not because of who we think you want us to be.

3. You can’t fake real

Being corporate goes against our purpose, our ‘why’.

There are business suits in my wardrobe, but I rarely wear them. I also don’t wear heels because I don’t like them. Or make-up. Or dye my hair.

Not one of these things gives me joy, and I’m fortunate to have choices.

Could you make choices that better reflect who you are? Here are some suggestions.

Be yourself

The biggest benefit will be that you’ll get to spend more of your time working with people whose company you actually enjoy.

Build bridges not walls

Trying to be something you’re not creates an artificial barrier that pushes people away.

Your discomfort feeds their discomfort, and you don’t get the chance to know them. Build generous connections instead.

READ: Are you killing the business you love?

Welcome rejection

You can learn to love rejection. Really!

Be grateful if you lose a client because you’re not corporate enough for them. If you’re anything like me, that relationship wasn’t going to work anyway.

Appreciate the learning and move on.What has being less corporate meant for our business?

  • Working with us is not for everyone. And everyone is not for us.
  • We’re easy to connect with and trust because we pass ‘the celery test’.
  • We know how to find our joy at work, so we can help our clients find theirs.
  • Life is less stressful. Even when we stuff up, it’s easier to admit our mistakes.
  • Clients are loyal. Instead of being one of the crowd, we are in the wings encouraging them to take centre stage.

Remember: You don’t have to be ‘corporate’ to be professional, and by being true to yourself you’ll find more joy in your work.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Building an agile culture

You’ve probably seen all sorts of things about the benefits of building an agile culture – but wanting one and building one are two very different things.

When the agile manifesto and 12 agile principles emerged in 2001, they related to project management for software development, but their appeal has widened since then.

An organisation with an agile culture would be a place where:

  • Individuals and interactions are valued over processes
  • A functional, positive working culture is more important than documentation
  • Activity is centred on customer outcomes
  • Change is welcomed

If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’ then changing what we do – becoming more agile – will usually mean changing the culture.

Whether that happens by accident or design is up to leadership.

Culture is the key to success in becoming agile

Whenever there’s a mismatch between new initiatives and the existing culture, the culture usually wins.

What needs to change will depend on both your organisation’s interpretations of agile and on your existing culture.

The more clarity you have on these concepts, the better chance you have of succeeding.

It’s about clearly articulating what agile is and how it will benefit the organisation.

To ignore this communication will create friction and misunderstanding that takes the focus off the customer outcomes you hoped to achieve through introducing agile.

READ: Why Culture Day is my favourite day of the year

Just undertaking ‘agile’ activities such as stand-up meetings, sprints and retrospectives won’t magically turn your culture into an agile one.

Those are simply tools which are symptoms of an agile culture rather than the cause of an agile culture.

As such, there’s no set roadmap to agile culture. It’s about building a culture and a mindset which results in behaviours — the tools and processes will follow.

To start your organisation’s agile journey, ask the following questions:

  • Is our main focus on values that serve our customers, or shareholder value?
  • Do we operate from a fixed mindset or growth mindset?
  • Are we more ready to allocate blame when things go wrong or to learn without blaming?
  • Do we value both speed and stability equally or are we stuck because we value one over the other?
  • How can we communicate the reasons for the change?

3 steps to building an agile culture

While agile works within looser structures, there should still be structure in the way you approach culture implementation.

1. Start with the end in mind

The perfectly agile culture – like perfection – probably doesn’t exist.

Instead, aim for a culture where the right thing happens most of the time and for the right reasons.

Be prepared to experiment.

If something you try doesn’t work, admit it and move on.

It’s up to leadership to set the tone and direction. In doing so, be careful with the language you use. Your goal is to create a shared understanding, not to confuse.

2. Design your desired culture

When we work with clients to define and design culture, we use the culture map process.

This tool helps organisations identify the behaviours and levers (enablers and blockers) that influence the outcomes they get.

To design your new agile culture, look first at the outcomes you want, then the behaviours that will support them.

Once this context is defined, the challenge is to acknowledge and deal with the blockers that currently exist, be they values, attitudes or processes.

READ: Why culture just became Uber-necessary

3. Apply agile principles to culture change

If you were to use the 12 agile principles as the basis for building an agile culture, you would

  • Focus on customer requirements
  • Welcome changes to requirements
  • Adjust quickly to change
  • Value collaboration between business units
  • Support and trust employees to do their job
  • Facilitate effective communication
  • Promote sustainability of projects
  • Focus on excellence
  • Keep it simple
  • Establish self-organising teams
  • Reflect on successes and failures and fine-tune behaviours

Applying the agile principles to culture change results in an iterative process of continuous improvement and learning.

This approach requires transparency and accountability. It also relies on a willingness to admit when something isn’t working and move on.

Culture is a mysterious and constantly evolving creature.

You can analyse, poke and prod it but ultimately – as with everything else in business and life – your success comes down to the people involved.

Culture change is not easy.

If being more agile is your aim, then as a leader it’s up to you to make choices about what needs to be done, then to clearly communicate why.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

3 reasons your clients lose trust in you

All professionals depend on the trust of their clients, and unfortunately when clients lose trust it takes a long time to get it back. So how do you avoid losing the faith of your clients in the first place?

Trust is the thing which makes a client want your advice, pay for it and follow it.

It’s a fundamental bedrock of a business relationship, but much like termites eating a structure from within you may not know you’re losing trust with your clients until it’s too late.

Many of the things we do to lose trust with clients, we do unwittingly. We’re only human, after all.

But there are things you can do to recognise and, more importantly, rectify faltering trust before it’s too late.

Here are some warning signs to look for in your business if you want to avoid losing clients or gaining a bad reputation.

READ: Building a business on trust

1. Your own house is not in order

You’re probably familiar with the expression ‘the plumber with a leaky tap’. It’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t apply to your business – even if you aren’t a plumber.

Is there anything your clients pay you to do for them that you don’t get right in your own business?

If you’re an accountant, are the invoices and statements you send your clients 100 percent accurate?

If you’re a graphic designer, is your branding constantly updated and appealing? If you’re an HR consultant are your internal staff management processes best practice?

None of us is perfect, and mistakes happen, but your attitude to your core business activities will reflect the quality your clients expect in the work you do for them.

Would you be happy to put your accounts in the hands of the accountant who sends you inaccurate bills?

2. Your clients see style over substance

A recent survey found the following occupations were rated as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty by just 25 percent or less of the Australian population: Car Sales; Advertising; Real Estate; Insurance Broking; Stockbroking; Politics; Journalism; Financial Planning.

They’re all seen as jobs that can be lacking in substance – where style and profile is put ahead of providing value to clients.

Are you someone who puts a lot of effort into presentation, branding and profile?

On their own, there’s nothing wrong with putting effort into those areas – but if it’s not matched by a commitment to deliver value for clients then you risk eroding the trust of your clients.

How you present yourself and your business will have less impact than how you behave when it comes to clients’ trust levels.

READ: Forget sales. Focus on trust.

3. You’ve forgotten who number one is

Without clients, your business doesn’t exist.

There’s no value in what you sell – products or services – unless you have a paying customer.

That’s why the customer is always the most important part of your business.

You may believe this, but do you and all your team act according to your belief?

Look at your business from a client’s perspective.

If you were a client of your business, would you know you were more important than anyone else? Or, would you feel the business has other priorities more important than your own?

Some banks, telcos and retailers are notorious for ignoring the importance of customers and putting their own interests first. You can no doubt think of your own examples.

How far would you trust them to look after you? Be careful you’re not going down the same path.

Is it time to do a ‘trust audit’ of your business?

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you killing the business you love?

Killing the business you love

Killing the business you love involves mistakes, misdemeanours and stunning failure brought about by business owners who didn’t know their limitations – so how do you avoid similar pitfalls?

Often it’s the step from entrepreneur to a public listing and becoming accountable to a board and shareholders that brings people undone.

Often SMEs fail to thrive or just fail completely because their founder fails to recognise that what got them to where they are is not what will get them to where they want to be.

As owners and CEOs they can be slowly, without realising it, kill a thing they love: their business

Each stage of the business life cycle requires a different type of leadership.

The five stages of business

1. Creation

Innovators who have a vision or have spotted an opportunity are the reason a business exists and the best leaders for the earliest stages of business.

They have passion and perseverance, and because the team is usually small, their contagious enthusiasm will power the business.

2. Survival

Sales are the most important driver once the business is launched successfully, so the leader at this stage has to be committed to growing market share and revenue.

READ: 3 steps to predicting sales

Sometimes the initial enthusiasm that created the product or service is enough to do this – but a business can get into complications because the business owner is more committed to the product than growing the business.

3. Growth

At this point, it’s essential to build an effective management team and generate scale based on the success of the previous stage.

Leaders at this stage need the skills not just to grow the business but build the structure, systems and processes required to deliver on the promise of even greater growth.

It’s at this stage that many entrepreneurs lose interest, confirming the importance of having a good management team in place.

4. Expansion

A business that has successfully grown its market share is now ready to strategically expand into new products, services, markets or niches.

The leaders now have the dual role of looking outward to explore new opportunities, while simultaneously ensuring internal governance stays on track.

This stage requires a high level of tolerance for complexity along with strategic acumen.

5. Maturity

Business at this stage is all about protecting an asset.

A leader will do best to focus on consolidation and cost containment. While some refining of the operations and offer will continue, this is not the time for drastic innovation and ongoing change.

READ: Are you an innovation gambler?

While it’s important not to slip into stagnation, leaders at this stage are required to provide stability and confidence.

3 challenges a leader will face

It’s tempting to think we can lead our business through each of these growth stages.

Crises often mark the transition between growth stages, and they’re a great way of alerting us to the need to change or make changes.

An effective leader knows how to deal with the challenges that arise.

1. People

In any business, not just startups, it’s often when a technically competent manager assumes responsibility for running a team that we notice them struggling.

The challenge of motivating a team to love your business as much as you do can be hard. A leader can learn to manage and motivate people.

READ: 5 budget-friendly ways to reward your staff

It’s often only the recognition that they need to learn that stands in the way.

2. Money

The bigger the business, the higher the responsibility for the people in charge to know what’s happening with the finances.

As a business grows, it’s no longer sufficient for one individual to keep track of the bank balance.

Knowing what your numbers mean, accessing adequate funding, having competent staff and a great accountant make all the difference.

3. Systems

For a business to thrive, it needs reliable, scalable, flexible systems and processes, including financial systems.

READ: The what, when and how of an ERP system

It’s the leadership’s responsibility to ensure systems are understood and used. The goal is to build an organisation where others complete the bulk of decisions and tasks without your input.

That way, the business will be able to meet demand as it grows, but taking your hands off the wheel can be a challenge.

My experiences as a business coach and mentor have shown me that for most entrepreneurs this is the most difficult step.

Are you willing to make the changes you need to make to lead your business not just to survive but thrive?

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why accountability is the new black in management

Management trends can come and go, and a few can even re-emerge after lying in wait. One idea to re-emerge in recent times is accountability. The buck needs to stop somewhere.

Slowly, organisations have started to re-invent the concept of accountability.

Accountability is back on the agenda

The value of employees having autonomy, mastery and purpose to their work has been a popular idea, as has been aligning employees on a central ‘why’.

The result was a more consultative style of leadership, combined with an expectation that all team members will be intrinsically motivated by the goals of the organisation and their own work ethic.

READ: Why your employees need purpose

However, while those are worthy ideas I’ve seen the pendulum swing too far from the ‘command and control’ style of management to the consultative, where everybody gets a say.

Now it’s starting to edge its way back to a happy medium, where organisations have started to realise they still need their managers to lead people effectively to reach their strategic objectives.

You can’t just fill employees with a central purpose and let them go.

Instead, knowing what’s expected of employees by their manager and getting regular feedback on progress is driving employee engagement.

Invariably, that means accountability.

Research by Gallup shows that employees want to know what’s expected of them – so how do you keep people accountable without micromanaging them?

1. Decide on your destination

Note the use of ‘decide’, not ‘consult’ or ‘agree’.

There is a place for collaboration on goal formation because it increases engagement, but at some point a manager needs to make decisions and provide direction.

This, after all, is why you’re the boss.

Whether you work to OKRs, KPIs, KRAs, SMART goals or another acronym, is irrelevant.

READ: Get SMART to measure your business goals

Your team needs to know the outcome they’re meant to produce and it needs to make sense to them.

Your role as manager is to clearly articulate the desired outcomes and inspire your team to achieve them.

2. Point to the guardrails

Confusion and anxiety can be paralysing.

If your team doesn’t have some general guidelines about how they are expected to operate, you can waste a lot of time getting to your destination.

Guardrails may prevent your staff veering onto a path that won’t lead to the outcome you want, swerving into a ditch of overwhelm or ploughing unwelcome into other people’s special projects.

Where are the guardrails?

Look to your company values, policies and strategic direction and make sure they are clearly understood.

You can decide how wide or narrow you set the guardrails, but don’t forget about them. Crashing into something because you’ve ignored its existence will still hurt.

3. Install regular checkpoints

Imagine a business as a highway.

A manager may assume that a team may travel on the best route available if they know the destination they’re trying to reach – but of course it rarely works that way.

Instead of assuming smooth motoring all the way, I suggest using an early-warning system of trouble ahead.

The best way to do this is to hold regular one to one meetings with everyone on your team.

The meetings can be quick and simple, or you may choose to use a program like 15Five to make them even more efficient.

READ: How to run effective team meetings

Your meetings need only to consist of your own version of the following questions:

  • What are you most proud of achieving (in the last week)?
  • Where are you stuck?
  • How can I help you right now?

The last question is your opportunity to coach your team member in the moment on whatever issue arises.

Don’t feel tempted to take over a task that’s challenging them. Instead, ask questions to help them find their own solution.

The checkpoints exist to help you build trusting relationships, not just to check for obstacles on the route to your destination.

When fear of being a micromanager causes a leader to take their hands off the wheel, they can leave their teams bewildered and lost.

Activity will still happen, but it may not always produce the results the organisation needs.

Holding people accountable in a modern workplace is not about putting them on tram tracks where they must stick to a set way of doing things and depend on signals from you for their every move.

Instead, with a combination of clear direction, guardrails and checkpoints, you will reach your destination sooner with engaged and productive staff.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Get SMART to measure your business goals

Business goals

Many businesses set goals, but don’t know how to measure their progress against them – and that’s a problem.

Goal setting is generally important, but in too many instances business goals are made vague – such as ‘I want to improve my revenue’.

If you improve your revenue by $1, does that mean your goal is hit?

Instead, I’ve advised clients to use SMART goals.

These are goals that are:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resourced and Time-framed.

Take this SMART goal from US President John F Kennedy:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

I should note that this speech was a plea to Congress to fund the project, so while it didn’t qualify as ‘resourced’ the goal was ultimately achieved with the moon landing in July 1969.

Such is the power of a SMART goal.

Our business goals may not be as ambitious as JFK’s goal above, but they have an equal chance of achievement if we know how to convert them to action.

1. Break it down

What needs to be done to move you closer to this goal? Here are some of the possible options:

  • Increase prices
  • Make more sales
  • Introduce new products or services

Then break each option you choose into tasks you and your team can start to work on right away.

For example, to “make more sales” you may:

  • Improve your marketing
  • Find different sales channels
  • Make more sales calls
  • Meet more prospects
  • Outsource any of the above

2. Look for the links

Following the process above, you will have a list of tasks under multiple headings that may seem overwhelming.

As you look at your list, natural links between tasks will become obvious.

For example, it seems reasonable that making more sales calls and having more meetings would be ongoing tasks and can be started right away.

Developing new products, changing your marketing strategy or outsourcing may take longer.

Anyone who has been in business for a while will know that these types of tasks are never-ending and always evolving as you grow your business.

Having a SMART goal to keep you on track is what ensures the tasks are all leading to something and not happening for their own sake.

3. Allocate responsibility

Once you’ve decided what needs to be done, then it’s time to answer the ‘by whom’ part of the equation.

Focus on your goal and what needs to happen to get you there; don’t cherry-pick tasks in isolation because they are easy.

If you miss the step of allocation for every single task on your list, I guarantee if you do achieve your goal it will be more through good luck than good management.

4. Keep track

A natural progression will, hopefully, have become obvious for most of the tasks, where you can see that for B to happen, A has to be complete and you can schedule them accordingly.

Other tasks will be daily, weekly or monthly.

Consider a desire to increase revenue by 25 percent in the next financial year.

This is a project which can made of up several sub-projects. Underneath that is a series of tasks, each with a due date.

We keep track of our tasks and projects with Asana, one of the many simple online tools available.

For client-based sales tasks, we keep track in OnePageCRM, again one of many options available now.

5. When all else fails, work backwards!

If you’re not sure where to start, try imagining that you’ve already reach the end.

Imagine what the last action you could have taken before you got there, and then write that down.

Don’t overthink or even believe that these steps are possible — you are simply working your way back to where you are today.

It’s worth trying a new way of thinking when you feel stuck because while you’re stuck, you’re not taking action.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

7 steps to bring new employees on board

succession

Many quality new employees can leave an organisation within the first few months if an organisation doesn’t have a structured onboarding process.

Like any relationship, it’s likely that your new hires are deciding whether they’ll stay or go within the first few months.

Can you afford to have them leave when you’ve just invested in hiring them?

Why do new hires decide to leave?

Common reasons employees decide to leave within the first few months are:

  • They don’t receive clear guidelines about their responsibilities
  • They thought they should have received better training
  • They found coworkers were not as friendly or helpful as they expected
  • They felt they weren’t recognised for their contributions
  • They weren’t included in an effective onboarding process

You can lessen the chances of having key talent walk away within the first few months with an effective onboarding process.

It’s not something to be left until the day your recruit starts work.

Get the early steps wrong, and you may find you’re the only one showing up on their first day.

Before you recruit

1. Create a guide to working in your organisation

You don’t need to make it too detailed or heavy. What’s most important is to let people know about what you do, why and with whom.

Describe the company culture, including what it takes to be successful in your organisation. This guide will also help you during the recruitment process to articulate why candidates would want to work for you.

2. Be clear about the role

If you don’t know what this job is about, how can you give candidates an accurate picture of what the work entails? Don’t fall into the trap of believing a good recruit will work it out for themselves, bringing their skills and experience to bear.

A few stars may do this, but the majority prefer to know what they might be committing to before they start.

During recruitment

3. Tell the truth

Paint an accurate picture of your organisation, the role and your expectations. If you’ve completed steps one and two, this will be easy. If not, it’s not too late.

Just make sure you avoid the temptation to ‘talk up’ the job and organisation to attract an outstanding candidate. Down that path lies disappointment for both parties.

4. Choose carefully

Selecting a person for a role who doesn’t fit your culture may work in the short run, but sooner or later you will find yourself recruiting again.

No matter how skilled or experienced the candidate, if their values, attitudes and personality don’t align with those of your organisation, you are sabotaging this important new working relationship before it starts.

READ: Calculating the costs of hiring the wrong person

Once they start

5. Provide a warm welcome

Introduce your new hire as early as possible to their coworkers and key stakeholders, including customers. Promote their skills and why you’ve hired them. From the outset, treat them as a valued member of your team.

For example, listen to and value their opinions, and ensure you include them in all relevant communication and social events.

6. Get the basics right

Starting a new job can be quite daunting. Make the transition easier for your latest staff member by making sure of the following:

  • All the equipment and software they need is available, accessible and working
  • Information resources such as policies, procedures, checklists and FAQs are up to date and easy to find
  • They know who they can ask if they need help. Consider providing a buddy or coach for the first month.

7. Plan the experience and follow through

Set up a schedule before they start that includes adequate time for goal-setting, work hand-over, training, and reviewing progress and performance.

Include the names of people responsible for each step, and share the schedule with your new employee. This way, you will show you’ve thought of all the steps above and start on a positive note

Most importantly, set aside time to spend with them — not just on their first day but on a regular basis. You might be surprised how much you will learn from them!

There are many reasons employees leave a job, but poor onboarding shouldn’t be one of them.

These seven basic steps are easy to implement, and could make a positive difference in your employee turnover.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

3 signs an employee is on the way out

terminating employment

Losing an employee is the most obvious indicator of engagement in your organisation – so how do you know one is on the way out before it happens?

A recent figure from Gallup show that only 34 percent of workers in the US are actively engaged in their jobs. Other studies put the figure even lower.

Historically, the figures for Australia and New Zealand have been around five points lower than the US.

In the decade or so that I’ve been writing and speaking about employee engagement, the proportions of engaged, disengaged and actively disengaged employees have remained remarkably steady at around 30 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent respectively.

What does this mean for you?

It means there’s a good chance you have in your business right now people who are getting ready to move on.

They may be already looking for another role (actively disengaged), or they may be waiting for a reason to leave (disengaged).

In both cases, it helps if you can read the signals they’re putting out and take appropriate action.

Here are the most obvious signs that you might be about to lose someone.

1. Erratic work attendance or performance

Poor attendance or work errors from an otherwise dedicated and attentive employee are two big warning signs!

Sometimes these changes are temporary, and you can adjust for a short time. When it reaches the stage where you’re wondering why, don’t be afraid to ask.

2. Reduced motivation or interest

In any workplace, there will always be people who are less likely to speak up in meetings and share their ideas.

It may be that your leadership and culture encourage working this way and it suits your organisation.

What you need to notice here is someone who is now quiet and withdrawn when they previously contributed to discussions and were enthusiastic about the goals of the organisation.

If you do notice this, have a quiet chat with them as soon as possible to check in on what is going on for them.

3. Unreasonable demands

One of our clients recently had a team member who showed both of the signs above for quite a while before their unreasonable demands rang the alarm bells with management.

If you have someone asking for extra leave, more money or other conditions above and beyond their entitlements and your standards, it’s a pretty clear sign that they’re not happy and they’re testing what it’s worth for you to have them stay.

Have you seen any of these signs?

Never ignore them in the hope they will go away!

Instead, it’s time for you to decide what to do next.

Your action plan will depend on where the team member sits on the spectrum from ‘star performer’ to ‘better off without’.

Considering the cost to the organisation of losing a star performer, now is the time to have an honest discussion with this person.

If they’re definitely on their way out, you’re then in a good position to plan the transition.

Unless you have reliable and detailed evidence of the pay and conditions in their new role, don’t be tempted to make a counter-offer. Even if you do decide that’s the best action for you to take, be aware that most staff departures are rarely just for the money.

Experience shows they will still move on. You may have delayed them leaving and bought some breathing space.

If you can buy them back with a higher offer, the next offer that comes along and tops yours will be even more attractive to them.

While you probably hope anyone who’s thinking of leaving will be honest with you about their intentions, sometimes it will be hard for them to tell you.

Sometimes they may not know themselves.

What they do know is that they don’t care that much anymore about the work or the organisation. By being able to read the early warning signs you have an opportunity to find out why and to avoid a potentially damaging situation.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why, when and how business owners should ask for help

Most entrepreneurs share a natural optimism with a belief that things will turn out for the best – but this can seriously hold them back when it comes to asking for help.

Have you fallen into the trap of feeling you have to ‘cope’, ‘just do it’, ‘go it alone’ or any of the other phrases we associate with the heroic business person prevailing despite all obstacles?

Could it be time for a reality check?

Unfortunately, our business culture and narrative is full of hero stories that make it seem as if all successful people somehow achieved what they accomplished with little or no help.

Is it possible a result of this hero myth is that you could be comparing yourself to an impossible benchmark and judging yourself as somehow deficient if you have to get help?

Why ask for help?

The most obvious answer is because you will at some point need it.

However, it also has the added benefit of building a good business relationship. If done right, seeking out and asking for help can demonstrate humility and show that you’re human.

It also allows others to connect with you on a different level, and they feel good about themselves if they can end up helping you.

When should you ask for help?

The time to ask for help is after you have tried to go it alone, but before you feel so overwhelmed, you give up.

The tricky part is knowing when you’ve reached that point and not persisting too far down the ‘overwhelmed’ path.

You’re not looking for someone to rescue you. You’re looking for a partner for this part of your business journey.

If you’re working alone on your business, it can be a very lonely journey.

Surrounding yourself with trusted advisers, like your accountant, can be a great source of help and support.

My accountant has brought me back from the brink a few times over the years. Sometimes all I needed was someone to listen and ask the right questions while I worked out myself what I should do next.

How to ask for help

Do you know someone who seems to be trapped in helplessness and wants the world to make it all better for them?

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t want to be like them.

Here are some ideas about how to ask for help, now we’ve identified why and when.

Things to consider before you ask someone to help you:

  • Do you already have a healthy established relationship with this person?
  • Are they more than likely able to provide the help you need?
  • Will they feel comfortable to say no if they can’t help you?

If you can answer yes to all three questions, then asking for help is easy.

You’re approaching a friend who will not be overburdened by your request, so adjust your language accordingly.

You don’t need to plead for their assistance or to demand it.

Instead, start from a mindset of building a stronger relationship based on mutual help and reciprocity. How you ask will follow naturally.

One final tip: If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help for yourself, start by asking for help for others.

There’s no better way to be convinced that most people are delighted to be asked and will do what they can to assist.

I’ve been reminded of this lately as I put together a mentoring program for the young staff of a not-for-profit organisation.

So far, I have approached ten experienced (and busy) business people to act as mentors, and all but one have jumped at the chance to be involved.

Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

By being conscious of your capacity and needs — and the needs of others — asking for help will grow your business in unexpected ways.

You won’t get this experience until you take a chance and ask.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

3 secrets for better teamwork

One common complaint we hear from managers about their staff is that there’s a lack of teamwork – but it can be taught.

It’s almost as if they think teamwork is some secret, magical quality their staff are lacking.

Perhaps they think there’s a wand we can wave and teamwork will miraculously appear.

I like to take a more practical approach.

1. Choose wisely

There are certainly personality traits that enable people to play well together, like having a preference for collaboration.

Being productive requires more than a will to collaborate, however.

Before you form a new team or hire a new team member, take the time to consider how they’ll contribute as well as how they’ll fit in.

For example, you might have the brightest mind in your field on the team, but if they’re intimidated by others and don’t speak up, they may as well not be there.

Ask yourself:

  • Do they have the level of technical expertise we need to get the job done?
  • Will they be willing to do what’s needed to make the team work? For example, they may need to feel uncomfortable occasionally and share an opposing view. Productive teams don’t agree on everything, and that’s a good thing.
  • Are they bringing to the team skills and potential we don’t already have on the team?
  • Will their preferences help or hinder the team’s productivity? If your team is high-velocity, but this person prefers a slower pace — or if they love to be well-organised, but the team tends to be more fluid — you might be building tension into the team. Tension’s not always a bad thing!
  • How will they react when things go wrong?

2. Lead the way

Can you name many sporting teams that have succeeded with a poor captain?

As the leader, you set the tone for the team both regarding how they behave towards each other and the wider world.

You also give them direction, so they know what they need to achieve. They’ll also look to you to model how they can be productive.

If setting the context and giving the team a vision of what winning will look like feels too hard, it could be because you have the wrong team. Or it could be time to work on your skills.

There’s no better way to develop skills than by using them, as long as you are open to feedback and learning.

Isn’t sharing your learning a great opportunity to model appropriate behaviour for your team?

To function well, have healthy interactions and be as productive as possible, your team needs to feel safe and supported.

They also need to be held accountable.

This TEDx talk by Amy Edmonson provides insights into the importance of providing both psychological safety and accountability for your team.

3. Get out of their way

This is when the magic happens. But it won’t happen if you try to micromanage the process or control the outcomes.

As a manager, you now need to step back and let the team get on with the work you’ve selected and guided them to do.

Some managers make the mistake of assuming they can go straight to this step.

If you think that way, I can tell you that back-tracking to fill in the gaps you’ve missed by not choosing wisely or showing leadership can be arduous and painful.

It’s the bread and butter of our consulting practice, so you can believe me when I say it’ll cost you a lot more time and money than you saved by assuming all would be well without your input in the early stages.

I’m sure most of us have had the experience of sitting in a team meeting thinking there are so many better ways we could be using our time.

Either our talents are not being utilised or we don’t know what we’re supposed to achieve — or both.

That sense of futility is a sign that the secrets above have not been applied.

Sometimes the elusive ‘teamwork’ just happens like magic. More often, it takes work to have a great team.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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