Author Archives: Susan Rochester

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM CAHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) Member CDAA (Career Development Association of Australia) and NAGCAS (National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services). Distributor of Harrison Assessments in Australia.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Looking for fresh ideas? Ask your staff!

The people working for you are an often untapped source of ideas.  Companies such as Google and Apple are renowned for their ability to use this resource.

Are you making the most of yours?

Tomorrow I’m facilitating an annual strategic planning day for a client I’ve been coaching since 2004.  As an established and successful general insurance brokerage with a stable team, you might assume there’s not a lot that’s new to discover.  Yet this firm continues to innovate and improve, based on the input of all the team.

There are two main reasons:  Firstly, they are in the fortunate position of having a team that are all inventive, as measured by their Harrison Assessment profiles.   This means that each team member is both experimenting (with a tendency to try new things and new ways of doing things) and persistent (with a tendency to be tenacious despite encountering significant obstacles).  Secondly, they actually ask for – and listen to – input!

Even if you don’t know all the natural strengths of your team, finding out what they think about how you do business and what could be improved is easy.  This is how we’ve recently helped three businesses to do just that:

1.  Structured interviews with selected staff followed by a briefing for the partners on the key concerns and suggestions.

2.  A simple 3-question email eliciting (anonymous) feedback for the principal on a specific issue.

3.  An online survey with written and verbal reports and recommendations to the management team.  (See this post for more info.)

The overwhelming response in each case was that staff were very pleased to be asked and more than happy to share their ideas.  Using an intermediary such as Balance at Work to facilitate the process can make it more comfortable as a first step towards more direct involvement of your team in innovation and improvement.

Tip:  Asking is the easy part.  Unless you are prepared to put in the hard work of really listening and trying new ways of working – please don’t bother asking.

As always, I’d like to know what you think.  Please share your thoughts below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The results are in! Thank you for your feedback

A few weeks ago, we asked for reader feedback on our weekly e-newsletter.  Here is a summary of what our readers had to say:

1. How often do you read the updates?

60% read the newsletter frequently or always and 32% read it sometimes.

  • As a small (one man) business I welcome any opportunity to interact with new ideas and curent thinking in my area of operation.
  • Time available determines if I read it immediately and then interest in topic. I know whatever you write will be good stuff  Susan.
  • It is fun to read and you never know what you are going to get from them – generally I can take a little bit of something from each newsletter.
  • I try to read most of them, however, get very busy. I always have a quick glance. I save most copies so I can retrieve when needed.
  • Unfortunately, work load means that I sometimes do not read the newsletters in detail., I do keep them as I see them very useful not only for me but also staff training.
  • Enjoy it

2. How relevant do you find the information in the newsletter?

18% found the content very relevant and 68% thought it was somewhat relevant.

  • Obviously there will never be 100% correlation between my current projects and the information in the newsletter but it always provides some stimulus for my thinking.
  • They are mostly relevant and can be adapted to my circumstances.

3. What is your overall satisfaction with the newsletter?

Very satisfied – 39%, somewhat satisfied – 43% and neutral 18%.

  • Very happy to receive these newsletters.
  • Interesting and relevant information that is in just the right length to read.

4. What can we do to improve?

  • Nothing, and love the way you’ve used this survey.
  • That’s a good question!
  • Keep it to monthly frequency and focus on time and money saving advice.
  • Give me more time in the day.
  • More input from other people.
  • I find most of them very relevant.
  • Send it by snail mail.
  • Would be good to pick on some national themes- dealing with disasters or families week or awards and recognitions, etc.

5. What would you like to see in future newsletters?

  • Some experiences from other small business sources as per the invite in Q.5 above.
  • Real life Stories – and especially about the way your services have benefitted a client.
  • Business tips including marketing, sales and admin as well as time and money saving advice.
  • Successful marketing ideas.
  • Much of the same for now.
  • Overcoming toxic people.
  • What do you do when you’ve appointed the wrong person?
  • More real life stories from people in business. (I know that is a little hypocritical as I don’t have time to provide any content.)

In addition to the above responses, a total of 15 generous people said they would definitely or maybe like to provide content for future newsletters.  Thank you, if this was you! We will be in touch with each of you individually to see what we can arrange.

We appreciate everyone who took the time to respond to our survey.  It is reassuring to know we are doing some things right and we can now act on your input to make the weekly updates even more relevant and useful to you.  If you missed the survey, don’t let that stop you from giving us feedback anytime!

Not a subscriber yet?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What makes a good manager?

What makes ‘a good manager’?

Leadership Management Australasia (LMA) released a summary of the key findings of the Leadership, Employment and Direction (LEAD) Survey in December 2010.

This list of ’22 Characteristics of Good Managers’ makes interesting reading.

How many can you check off for yourself or your managers?

  1. Is trustworthy and open in approach
  2. Clearly communicates where we are going
  3. Gives me the “space” to do my work, but supports me
  4. Listens to and respects my input into decisions
  5. Gives regular and honest feedback on how I am going
  6. Is fair and even handed/makes reasonable demands
  7. Provides the resources I need to do my job
  8. Recognises me for extra efforts/results
  9. Coaches and develops me
  10. Trusts me with challenging work
  11. Supports me in the decisions I make
  12. Takes responsibility for their actions
  13. Helps me with my career development
  14. Has a sense of humour
  15. Provides guidance on how to meet expectations
  16. Sets a good example of work/family/life balance
  17. Respects what is personally important to me
  18. Sees their own job as different but not more important
  19. Involves me in determining my performance measures
  20. Takes my talents into account when assigning work
  21. Openly helps me to resolve workplace conflicts
  22. Helps me prioritise my work

If you missed anything, we can probably help you.

Contact us to find out how.

Thank you to all those who participated in our survey that closed on Friday.

We really appreciated your input. We’ll be reporting on the results in the next post.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Is ignorance really bliss?

“When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” – Thomas Gray, 1742.

We often hear this quote, but would living by it be a useful strategy?

In business and at work, as in other areas of life, we may experience:

1. Blissful ignorance – not knowing you don’t know.  Often comes before a crisis!

2. Ignorance by choice – you know that you don’t know, but you like it that way!  Examples:  Someone who chooses not to listen to or watch news reports, a manager who doesn’t ask for staff feedback, businesses  who don’t survey their clients.

3. Wilful ignorance – you actually know the facts (unlike 1 and 2 above) but you choose to act as if you don’t know.  Examples:  Drivers who ignore road rules, businesses that survey staff and/or clients then don’t act on the feedback.

Ignorance can be risky, threatening the viability of business and your own peace of mind. Ignorance can cost you opportunities, money and relationships.

What are you ignoring right now?

Here are some examples of how clients have used Balance at Work’s  services to identify their bline spots:

  • Pre-employment assessments and interviewing of candidates
  • Staff feedback interviews and online surveys
  • Team analysis and coaching
  • Professional development
  • Strategic planning days
  • Executive coaching
  • Career counselling
  • Exit interviews

Can we help you?

PS.  Last week, we asked for your feedback on our weekly articles.  This is your chance to tell us what you think, let us know what we could improve and make suggestions for future topics.  A big ‘thank you’ to all those readers who have already given us two minutes to complete our online survey.  We are very grateful to you for sharing your thoughts!

Take the survey now – it will close on Friday 4 February 2011.

We look forward to your feedback!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Time for some weeding and pruning?

Doing some gardening yesterday afternoon, I was reflecting on the many similarities between creating and growing a garden and how we live our lives.

There are the obvious steps of planning, sowing and harvesting. Once your garden’s established, most of the activity comes down to what to keep and what has to go.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking or lose weight? These are two examples of powerful changes that can occur based on letting something go – assuming you stick to your resolution, of course.

The same potential for positive change exists in your business life when you take a critical look at those practices, people and work habits that don’t serve you by contributing to your ongoing and sustainable success.

What should you be getting rid of in 2011?

Here’s a short list of suggestions.  If you have others, let me know below.

1. Any project or task where the pain of doing it is not well balanced with the ultimate rewards.

2. Clients who don’t like to pay.  Or whose company you don’t enjoy.  Or who take up more than a fair proportion of your time.

3. Unproductive and time-consuming work habits, like constantly checking your emails.  Remember to ask your team to help you identify what’s wasting their time, too.

4. Fixing work that should have been done ‘right’ the first time by someone else.  Either learn to accept their version, or find someone who can and will do it ‘your way’.

5. Lack of clarity about what you should be doing and why.  Take some time to review where you are, where you’re headed and plan how you’ll get there.

Let me know how your garden grows!

Remember our next webinar is on 2 February – ‘Your Flying Start to 2011’ – for tips and tools to keep you on track this year.  Just click here to register.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Top 10 of 2010

We’re ready for a big year in 2011!  Before we get too far into the new year and a new decade, we decided to take a look back and compile this list for you, of the favourite posts from our blog in 2010.

In case you missed any of them, you can read them right now…

  1. 1 in 3 candidates lie.  Will you hire a liar?
  2. One little word you can’t ignore
  3. The most common hiring mistake and how to avoid it
  4. Networking gets personal
  5. When does a group become a team
  6. Looking for some workplace magic?
  7. Banking on your reputation
  8. Wondering what your team’s thinking?
  9. Can you deliver on your Client Value Proposition
  10. Ten top tips from savvy CEOs

We look forward to reading your comments!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How will 2011 be different for you?

In the previous update, I encouraged you to take a look at what you’d achieved in 2010.  Many readers were pleasantly surprised!

It can be very empowering to put aside the everyday demands on your time and reflect on what’s going well – and not so well.  As you prepare to have a brilliant 2011, this is a good time to take stock of what you would like to change in the new year.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to grab a notebook and write down your regular tasks, performance standards and behaviours under the following categories:

  1. Should be doing less
  2. Could be doing more
  3. Want to stop doing
  4. Would like to start doing

With this list, you now have a starting point for planning 2011.  Already, you have guide to what your goals for the year might be.

To help you refine your goals for maximum business impact and to keep you on track to achieving them, consider engaging a coach.  I find having someone to listen, guide and keep me accountable is invaluable.

You will be more successful working with a coach you know, like and trust.

Here are some questions to ask prospective coaches:

  • What experience to they have? Length of time coaching, industries, types of organisations, specific issues.
  • How is the coaching structured? What tools and methods do they use?  How do they measure progress? Are there alternative programs to meet your individual needs?
  • Is the coaching CPD accredited? Coaching could contribute to your annual CPD point requirements.
  • Who else have you worked with? Ask for the contact details of previous clients.

If all the boxes are ticked and you feel positive about working with the coach, 2011 could be your best year yet!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

December? Already? Really? Really!

It’s common at this time of year for us to wonder where the year has gone…

Perhaps you’re also wondering what you’ve actually achieved this year, especially if you didn’t start 2010 with some clear goals in mind.

As we reflect on the past year and prepare for the next, consider starting a ‘done’ list as well as your ‘to do’ list.  You’ve been working hard all year and it’s a good time for you to pause and enjoy some sense of achievement before you dive into another year.

To start you thinking about your own ‘done’  list, I’ve put together a quick sample of things my clients have achieved in the last year.  I hope it will also be a reminder to them to feel proud of their accomplishments.  (You know who you are!)

Have you done any of the following 2010?

1. Raised money for a favourite charity;

2. Successfully implemented new processes;

3. Discovered new ways to approach work and life;

4. Dealt with challenges that were holding them back;

5. Grew in understanding of themselves and their team;

6. Developed strategic and realistic plans for the future of their business;

7. Mastered regulatory compliance and prepared for future changes in their industry;

8. Recruited and retained staff who are integral to effectively running and growing their business.

What are you most proud of doing in 2010?

Why don’t you take a minute now to write down you ‘Top 3’ achievement for the year?  I’d love to know, so please share your success below.

Feeling good about 2010 now?

Great!  Next week’s article will start you thinking about how you can be in an even better position this time next year, when you’re looking back over 2011.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

It’s the time of the year for the annual Christmas party ‘do and don’t’ list.  You can find our checklist elsewhere on this blog.  We have the kind permission of leadership expert, Stephen Bell of iHR Australia, to share the following article with our readers.

While conceding that it is “tiresome” for HR to send out the regular ‘do and don’t’ statements regarding party behaviour, he says the break-up party “is actually an opportunity for managers to demonstrate their commitment to workplace culture as leaders”.

“This is about state of mind and how we as managers approach the function. Do we approach it simply as a participant or do we see it as an opportunity to increase staff engagement? An opportunity to recognise, reflect and get to know?

“This is without doubt an opportunity to understand more about patterns of team and staff interaction, morale and satisfaction. On the other hand this opens the door for you to ‘muck up’ badly; to embarrass yourself and allow the lines of communication and authority to be blurred; perhaps inflicting long-term pain on you and the organisation.”

Bell, the managing director of iHR Australia and Asia, says managers intellectually and emotionally “sign up” to leadership, “knowing that every now and again [they] risk breaking the contract”.

And he says the Christmas party provides a high-risk environment in which such a break can occur. “We can find ourselves closing up shutters for the year, forgetting that the organisation’s Christmas party is actually the springboard into the next year, and behaving loosely or without consideration for the state of our future relationships.”

He recommends that managers lower their risk and take a leadership mentality into the party.

“Why? Because it provides you with another great opportunity to demonstrate that you are an effective, open, responsible and caring manager – key attributes for building and reinforcing staff engagement.”

Bell offers seven tips for organisations and managers that want to use the Christmas party to demonstrate quality leadership:

1. Understand the guidelines and have a clear mind – leaders should understand the organisation’s expectations of them, Bell says.”Be clear about what the organisation expects in relation to behaviour at any Christmas event.” He recommends “relaxed, jovial and respectful” behaviour instead of just “fun”.

“Also understand the organisation’s position on matters such as drunkenness, cab fares, start and finish times, attendance at events following the Christmas party, and other practical information.” (Bell advises managers not to attend after-party events.) “This all helps for a clear mind so that managers can make any difficult decisions beforehand that might be required on the night.”

2. Set expectations for staff – leaders should set or communicate expectations, and deliver on them.”It’s great to have a relaxed, two-way team discussion before the event about ‘what’s OK and what’s not OK’,” Bell says. “You may well be surprised, if you ask your staff about their own expectations regarding behaviour, how naturally aligned it might be to those of the organisation.

“Furthermore, set expectations in relation to responsible drinking, (if in fact you allow it), cab charges and starting and finishing times. Have a ‘Party Rules’ memo circulated prior to the event.”

3. Turn up – leaders demonstrate interest and commitment to their employees, Bell says.”Many managers tell me they don’t turn up to the annual break-up party because they ‘don’t enjoy being in a room full of drunks’, or ‘it’s too dangerous given modern-day legal risks’. In my view no one should be that drunk at a Christmas party and leaders should understand risk but not be paralysed by it.

“Not turning up out of fear lacks courage and is an abdication of your responsibility as a leader to build a more engaging workplace.”

4. Role model behaviours – leaders should model the behaviours required by the organisation that they commit to.”The capacity and willingness to role model is a key leader attribute. At the Christmas party, the fact that you drink too much, take part in humiliating or belittling behaviours or discussions puts you and the organisation at risk.

“On the other hand if you drink moderately (if indeed you want to drink alcohol), be happy, congenial and respectful you are likely to help set a positive, responsible tone. Self control is a great leadership attribute and a lot easier said than done. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses (especially in social situations) and the triggers that might lead you to behaving in a way that might be regarded as unacceptable by your organisation. For example, if you have a tendency to enjoy drinking with a particular group of males or females with whom you’ve had a long association, ensure that you make a concerted effort to move around the room rather than restricting yourself to this particular group.”

5. Be aware – leaders have awareness of what is happening around them.”Managers need to be aware and coherent. You are ultimately responsible for the safety and welfare of the attendees. Prepare to be an individual respondent in a court case should you fail to observe and act on behaviours that are potentially litigious. For example when ‘tipsy’ Megan and Phil are making publically disparaging comments about Alan because he works ‘too slow’ or Sandra and Kent’s dancing is becoming very ‘dirty’, recognise that this may potentially lead to a harassment claim.”

5. Be prepared to act on bad behaviours and say goodnight – leaders demonstrate courage and are prepared to change the course of events when required.”You should be prepared to respectfully take people aside when you feel their behaviour is a risk to themselves or others. Don’t do it in front of the crowd. Having difficult discussions in front of a team could cause a confrontation that ruins the night or give a ‘smartie’ the opportunity they want to attempt to embarrass you in front of others.

“If people are drunk or behave badly you need to be prepared to say goodnight. Generally a friendly handshake, consoling words about having to leave early and a cab-charge will do the job. If, however, an attendee is obviously at risk to themselves or the community you may need to organise a more ‘door-to-door’ arrangement in relation to getting them home (for example, two managers driving that individual home). If an injury occurs to the individual on the way home and it is deemed that the organisation has contributed to their condition and failed to take reasonable action to ensure the employees safe return home, then the organisation is potentially liable.”

6. Implement the boundaries of the function – leaders do what they say and manage their environment to attain the outcomes they want.”Finally, implement the start and finish times and ensure those attending the party know the boundaries of the party area. You should have agreed these up front. If it’s at a venue where there are a multitude of rooms and parties remember to remind those that constantly leave the designated party area that they are contravening your ‘party rules’ and if they keep leaving your area without good reason they may not be allowed to return.”

For more information on iHR, click here.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three things you should know about yourself

…and anyone you employ!

Talking to a client yesterday about the potential to promote a staff member, I was reminded (again) of the power of awareness of our strengths and limitations.  Whether you’re hiring new staff or developing existing staff, positive change has to start from a point of knowledge and acknowledgement.

Even if you have a strong intention to improve, unless you know what’s holding you back it’s very hard to move forward.  But how do you find out?

One way is by objective assessment.  Here are three examples of  important leadership competencies we can measure for you: 

1. Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy. 

This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.

2. Interpersonal Skills = the tendency to have a balance of traits that relate to effective interaction with others. 

This competency consists of essential traits: Diplomatic, Helpful, Optimistic, Outgoing, Assertive, Frank, Influencing, Self-Acceptance, Self-Improvement, Warmth/Empathy, Tolerance of Bluntness; desirable traits: Flexible, Collaborative, Open/Reflective, Manages Stress Well, Relaxed; and traits to avoid: Defensive, Blunt, Dogmatic, Harsh, Dominating, Authoritarian, Permissive.

3. Provides Direction = the tendency to manifest the traits necessary for a leadership role. 

This is a combination of essential traits: Want to Lead, Influencing, Takes Initiative, Wants Challenge, Enthusiastic, Self-Improvement, Planning, Persistent, Pressure Tolerance, Public Speaking, Self-Acceptance; and desirable traits: Experimenting, Flexible, Frank, Handles Conflict, Helpful, Precise, Organised, Relaxed, Risking, Systematic, Tolerance of Bluntness, Warmth/Empathy.

Do you already know all this about yourself and your team? 

Would it be useful for you to have this information before making recruitment, coaching and promotion decisions?  What else would you like to know?

It’s surprising, but we can get all that information – and much more! – out of one short online test.  If you haven’t tried the assessment for yourself yet, it may be time to click here to register for a free trial.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Your easy performance management checklist

Viewers of last Wednesday’s webinar were suprised to learn that most performance management processes are a big waste of time.

How do you assess the value of your process?

Here’s an easy checklist:

1. Do you have all the information you need to set meaningful goals ?

2. Do all your employees get to have a high-quality conversation about their performance at least twice a year ?

3. Does your employee survey show that your performance management process is effective ? (If you don’t currently survey staff, consider using our Team Health Check.)

4. Does it take you more that twenty minutes to comlete the performance appraisal form ?

5. Do you have a maximum of 3-5 goals for each review ?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all five questions, congratulations!

If you didn’t, it might be time to view the webinar recording and/or get some help.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘Performance + Rewards’ webinar recording

Conducting performance appraisals and rewarding performance effectively can be two of the biggest challenges you face when managing staff.

Are performance reviews something you – and your team – dread having to go through, even to the point of serious procrastination?

Ever wondered how to select rewards that will really excite and motivate your staff?  Have you ever succeeded in this sensitive area of management?

Does the whole idea of measuring and rewarding staff performance give you headaches?

What if you had a straightforward strategy that met the needs of both you and your team?

Watch this webinar to find out more!

Performance + Rewards Webinar from Susan Rochester on Vimeo.

"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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