Category Archives: People Management

What you see is not always what you get

 

One thing we all have in common is unconscious bias or implicit association.

A simpler way to describe it is that we have ‘blind spots’ in our attitudes to other people that lead us to assume certain things about them.

It can be a mental shorthand we use when making decisions and it can lead to the wrong decisions.

If you don’t think this applies to you, I strongly encourage you to try this quick quiz!

On this White Ribbon Day, drawing attention to domestic violence in Australia, let’s take a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Domestic violence exists, be it against women, children or men, because of a belief held by some people that in our society some people are less worthy than others.

This happens because of the assumptions we make about other people, often based on nothing more than what we’ve been told about them.

Here’s an excellent illustration of implicit association at work:

 

What are the beliefs you are projecting onto other people?

And how is that impacting your interactions not only with strangers but with your family, your friends and colleagues?

Being aware of our own biases and consciously making an effort to change will simply make us more compassionate.

I might be biased, but I think our homes, workplaces, communities and planet could use more compassion right now. It starts with us.

How to leave your business in good hands

As a business owner, your succession plan is one of the most important plans you can have — but most leave it far too late.

A comprehensive succession plan will include financial, legal and other factors that set out what will happen as you move out of the business and someone else takes charge.

Understanding them is vital to making sure you have the best chance of leaving your business feeling satisfied with what you’ve achieved.

1. Start early

The main purpose of starting early is making sure you have a plan under all circumstances because sometimes circumstances dictate that you leave a business hastily.

Ideally, you’ll have a nice, smooth transition away from your business — but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes you need to sell a business for financial reasons or to spend more time caring for an ill family member. Starting early ensures that you have a plan to fall back on.

Starting early also allows you the time you need to review and refine your plan as the business changes or more information becomes available.

But it’s important to note that a succession plan can take several years to execute, so being thorough is a must.

2. Choose the right successor or buyer

What each of us looks for in a successor will differ, so it’s important to think about what’s most important to you.

In every succession or sale I’ve seen, the most important part of the exit strategy for the departing owner was to believe the same level of service would continue for their customers well after the owner leaves the business.

That can’t always be guaranteed and is often an unrealistic expectation.

When choosing your successor or a buyer, there’s a lot you need to consider beyond pure technical ability:

  • Financial benefits (and costs)
  • Ease of transition
  • Continuity of service standards
  • Future staffing requirements
  • Personality and cultural fit

Some of these factors are easier to measure and predict than others, but they all need to be taken into account.

The more time you take, the more questions you ask, the more likely you are to make an accurate assessment.

The challenge here is to discover what is right for your needs and the future of the business.

Be as clear as you can about what the right things are for your business, even after you’re no longer a part of it.

3. Let it go

This step is particularly important and extremely difficult for most entrepreneurs.

You conceived and nurtured your business. It’s your baby. It can be very hard to trust that anyone else can care for it as well as you do.

Early in the life of Balance at Work, an adviser did me a great favour by asking me what my exit strategy was.

It was a confronting question because if you haven’t been asked the question it can be painful to be forced to consider the harsh reality of your business continuing without you.

If you’ve thought about your exit but avoided putting any structure around it, your plans are no more than wishful thinking.

Knowing how you would prefer to manage the transition is essential in any succession plan.

Whatever the circumstance, it is likely you’ll end up working in your (former) business alongside the new owner for a period.

The loss of authority might require a change of mindset for you, and for them if they were one of your team members before.

By agreeing on guidelines for managing the transition from owner to your new role, if you plan to stick around for a while, will help you avoid future tension and misunderstandings.

Starting early and knowing your goals will make it much easier to let go when the time comes.

By allowing enough time and choosing wisely, you may walk away with confidence and pride, rather than a sense of dread.

Are you ready to start your succession plan?

It’s never too soon!

Take a look at business.gov.au or business.govt.nz for excellent free resources to get you started. Then seek professional assistance to help you flesh out your plan.

Know your succession goals, enjoy the process and good luck!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Boosting the impact of career planning

Boosting the impact of career planning: Strategies for getting the most out of your programs.

Executive summary

(Click here to view research highlights and download the full 16-page report.)

Today’s HR professionals know how crucial career planning is but their organisations often fail to act on this knowledge, according to new research conducted by HR.com in partnership with Harrison Assessments.

Our survey analysis also revealed a number of critical findings that relate career planning to issues such as employee retention, engagement, recruitment, assessment and leadership development. Below are some of the key findings from the research:

1. Career planning has grown more important in the last three years, suggests the data. About nine out of ten respondents said employee career planning is either more important (48%) or as important (43%) compared to three years ago.

2. Few organisations approach employee career planning systematically, despite its rising importance. Just 11% of participants say employee career planning is a serious initiative in their organisations.

3. Employee career planning has a large impact on other critical talent management areas, according to many of our respondents. Participants believe career planning has a very high or high impact on employee retention (60% of respondents), employee engagement (58%), and recruitment of high-quality talent (45%).

4. Few organisations make data-driven decisions related to employee career management: About 60% of the participants use competency models for leadership development, but less than
one-in-four participants use behaviour assessments in career planning.

5. Most participants report they are either already facing or will face soon talent gaps in leadership: More than one-third (35%) of the participants say they already face a leadership talent gap. Another 20% say they will face a leadership talent gap within two years.

Download the full report.

Find out how Balance at Work and Harrison Assessments can help your organisation meet career planning challenges.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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