Author Archives: Susan Rochester

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM FIML Susan Rochester has been managing director of Balance at Work since 2006. According to her Harrison Assessment, Susan has a natural tendency to balance analytical thinking with an optimistic outlook to set direction and solve problems. She is an effective facilitator and constantly creates new and more effective ways of doing things, motivated by helping others to achieve their goals.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business?

Lead generation is now more important than ever and client referrals are the most profitable way to build your business. Do you have a systematic referral process that makes it easy for your clients to refer you to others?

Given the volatility in the market and the caution among clients, it is now more important than ever to strengthen your existing client relationships and make it easier for your clients to recognise your value and refer you to others.

80 percent of clients would be willing to refer their adviser.
Yet only 20 percent of clients are actively asked for referrals.

Our research indicates there is an enormous opportunity that advisers are missing out on. Clients are open to the idea of giving referrals – but advisers are not having enough of these ‘referral conversations’.

How much revenue are you missing out on by not getting a referral from 80 percent of your client base on an ongoing basis? It’s time to close the gap between your current ‘referral revenue’ and your goal ‘referral revenue’ – and here’s how to do it…

Step 1 – Don’t stick your head in the sand…find out what your clients really think

Some advisers are worried about asking for referrals because they don’t actually know what the client really thinks of their service – so the first thing to do is find out.

If you’re not regularly hearing either positive or negative feedback, then that’s a sure sign that your clients don’t care enough to tell you and aren’t fully engaged with your business. That’s exactly when you should worry.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, the first step in building a more referable business is to try and uncover client feedback and any complaints through an independent feedback process – most people will be too polite to tell you directly.

Handled proactively, addressing client feedback gives you an indication of who is most open to the referral discussion and is the perfect opportunity to make your business more referable. Our clients have increased their levels of repeat, retained and referral business through this step alone.

Step 2 – Stop hoping – plant ‘referability seeds’

It’s not a matter of asking the question directly and hoping for the best. You need to foreshadow a future conversation around referrals so that both you and your client will be comfortable with the conversation. Do your clients know that you welcome referrals and that’s the preferred method by which you grow your business?

Do you make it obvious through your website and marketing collateral that you welcome referrals? Or do your clients think that you’re too busy already? A conversation about referrals doesn’t make you look desperate. But if you don’t make it clear that you welcome referrals, don’t expect to get them.

See next week’s blog post for more tips. You may also want to visit www.customerreturn.com.au to complete a 2 minute Referrability Self Evaluation. Nathan can be contacted on 0410 471 200 to provide a free 30 minute debrief valued at $150 of your results and suggestions for how to build a more referable business.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Four simple questions to bring you more referrals

A couple of weeks back, I was eating lunch with a business colleague I’ve known for years when she asked “What is it exactly that you can do for my clients?”

We talk all the time about why ‘referral clients’ are the best clients.  We know why we want them and having clients referred to you is a whole lot easier than cold calling, don’t you think?

Like you, I know we have to be worthy of referrals and prepared to ask for them, but there’s also another step that is often overlooked. The clue is in the question above – a question we might be too embarrassed to ask because we believe we should already know the answer. You know it’s true!

Is it possible your clients and centres of influence could be thinking the same question about you, but are too embarrassed to ask?

Here are four simple questions to help you clarify what your referrers need to know about what you do before they can give you quality referrals. The answers are mine, for Balance at Work.  I hope you can use them as a model your own “Referrer Education Program”.

1.  Who do we help?

Established, professional and successful organisations and individuals who are ready to take their performance to the next level. Our clients:

  1. Care about people;
  2. Made poor choices in the past;
  3. Want to change;
  4. Are open to new ideas and
  5. Committed to taking action.

2.  What do we do for them?

We make managing and leading easier with simple tools and programs that deliver benchmarked performance excellence for:

  • Hiring and promoting staff;
  • Developing and coaching individuals and teams;
  • Measuring and rewarding performance;
  • Managing and developing careers;
  • Planning succession.

3.  How do we do it?

We make people management best practices easily accessible and affordable for any organisation with staff.

  • Predictive, flexible and benchmarked online employee assessments. We pick winners and help our clients keep them.
  • Automated online recruitment processes.  Any size organisation can select staff economically and efficiently with our system.
  • Real coaching for real people and real teams. We listen. We don’t try to push clients into one standard model.
  • Advice based on years of experience, observation, study and continuous learning. We remove the guesswork and uncertainty.
  • Referrals to specialists who meet our clients’ unique requirements. When we don’t have the expertise they need, we send them to someone who does.

4.  Why should they choose to work with us?

As one client told us recently: “You do something others don’t do and you do it extremely well”.  We offer:

  1. Excellence, expertise and experience that make a difference; and
  2. We won’t waste their time, energy or money.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  When you have your answers, let us know. We may be able to refer you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you ready for the long goodbye?

Last week’s article on how many employees want to change jobs – and why – had some great feedback.  If you missed the article, click here to read it.

Among the responses to the article was this:

Hi Susan

Sometimes I can’t let your articles go by without comment.

I am stunned at the stats. I thought it was only me, but in all the job changes I have had in my life, the reasons were, those outlined in your article for each and every time I moved on. Of course we don’t say this in case we burn a bridge or two for our future and we don’t want to appear to be the problem so we put up with it for as long as we can then move on to “an opportunity that provides me with the scope to develop” or “one that will allow me to expand my horizons”, or ” a move that will more consistently complement my skills and future goals” and other stupid euphemisms.

The writer later told me he believes people don’t willingly leave a job they really love.  He did so once for ‘a ridiculous amount of money’.  “That was a big mistake!” he said.

Sound familiar?

When it comes to employee departures, prevention is definitely better (and cheaper) than cure.  Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Check that you have put people in roles that suit their unique talents and abilities to ensure peak performance and job satisfaction.
  2. Check  that they know what’s expected of them so you can regularly measure and reward performance.
  3. Check that they feel challenged and valued.

With just those three checks in place, I guarantee you will be well on the way to actively managing staff turnover and avoiding ‘the long goodbye’.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Research bosses should know about

According to the latest annual ‘Hunting the (Hidden) Hunters’ report from CareerOne,  longer hours, inadequate resources and a reluctance of organisations to increase salaries are factors driving workers to hand in their resignation.

82% of Australian workers considered changing jobs last year

37% of employees are actively pursuing new roles

The following comment was posted on the Herald Sun website in response to this research.

I hate my job, passionately hate it! Business owners, CEO’s, Managers, Team Leaders take note! There is no longer inspirational leaders or people in control who work hard to make the workplace one to ‘want’ to come to each day.There is noone to look up to, who has passion and drive! I drag myself out of bed to a workplace that is back in the 50’s era. Although I work in marketing, and it is a small business, I am expected to clean! I wipe over the kitchen and lunch room but it is now expected I do more because I am female! I had to fight to be allowed to have a heater on in winter, my boss doesnt like turning the aircon on too much because it costs, any little job that goes above and beyond is never acknowledge, no thankyou whatsoever, my boss whines when we are quiet and whines when we are extremely busy but does not put on extra staff. I have been accused of not showing initiative which was beyond me because my boss would not know half the research I do, or the little things I organise for the company. It is a job that is pure hell. Part time work is hard to come by so although I am looking elsewhere, it is hard! I bet there are many in the same boat!

Uncomfortable?  What if that person was working in your office?

The factors most likely to motivate an employee to change jobs this year are:

  • not being motivated by management (44%)
  • lack of new challenges (40%)
  • waiting too long for a pay rise (39%)
  • an unclear career path (37%)

People changed jobs for:

  • work closer to home
  • a better team
  • higher remuneration and benefits

With unemployment now back down to 5%, it’s essential to be proactive in attracting and retaining quality staff.  The CareerOne research also tells us what’s important to employees in specific industries.  For financial services, the following advantages need to be emphasised in your job advertisements and discussions with staff and job candidates:

  • flexible hours
  • ability to work from home
  • training and development opportunities
  • potential for pay rises

Administration and customer service staff were less motivated by career potential or higher remuneration, instead seeking flexibility, mentoring and paid overtime.

Tip: It’s one thing knowing ‘what’ needs to be done, a quite different thing to know ‘how’ to do it.  If you are motivated to make changes in your business and you’d like help with the ‘how’, please give us a call.

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.

"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

SUBSCRIBE