Category Archives: Coaching

5 reasons to reduce ‘clutter’ and grow your business

A recent visit to a local boutique was a stark reminder of the main drawback of trying to be all things to all people…

This shop is filled with many beautiful pieces of clothing, jewellery, accessories, giftware and even food. But there’s a problem:  too much to choose from! The ‘noise’ of all the possible options meant the choice I made was to leave the shop in search of somewhere less cluttered and less overwhelming.

OK – so I’ve never worked in retail but I have had decades of experience as a shopper! It surprises me how hard some retailers make if for us to actually purchase from them. Everything from overcrowded displays to lack of staff are barriers to actually handing over the cash.

What about your service business?

“You can’t please all of the people all of the time” was something my father used to say when I was disappointed about something. If he was still around when I started in business, he might have reminded me to be more selective about the services we offer our clients.

Over the years – and it’s an ongoing process – I’ve gradually applied greater discipline to what we will and will not do as well as who we will and will not do it with. I’m constantly reminding myself that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

What’s the situation in your business? Is it easy for a prospect to know exactly what you can do for them?

In my work with professional service firms, I understand the anxiety they often experience when confronted with the prospect of being more finely focussed regarding who they serve and what they do. Once they push through that anxiety, I’ve seen a number of related benefits arise for business owners:

1. Freedom to have the business they want to have, instead of the business they think the should have.  (This is most important because it’s closely linked to the freedom to be themselves.)

2. Prospects make faster decisions about working (or not working) with them, shortening the buying cycle.

3. Staff have more clarity about what the business does and their role in it.

4. They have more confidence to say ‘no’ to the wrong clients and more enthusiasm when saying ‘yes’ to the right clients.

5. By becoming experts in their specialty, they grow in business knowledge, skills and reputation.

All these things have a positive impact on the business productivity and profitability.

What will you do to make choice easier in your business?

Not everyone wants to learn, you know…

Have you ever tried training someone and felt like you were getting nowhere?

This was one of my early HR lessons: We can’t assume everyone wants to learn and develop their skills.

In some workplaces and some roles, you will find people who just want to get on with the job they were employed to do. They may even see training as an added imposition from the employer, rather than an opportunity to grow their skill set.

Sometimes, they will be learning in another area of life, perhaps a hobby, that is more fulfilling to them. Work is just the means to earn the money to fund what really matters. For them, work is not a way to grow. Work provides for their basic needs so they can grow in other areas.

If you value life-long learning it can be a challenge to see this perspective. Even more challenging if you are the manager of someone with this attitude – especially if you’ve hired a person for their cultural fit, confident that through training they will acquire the skills they need.

How does it happen?

Part of the difficulty is that this lack of motivation to learn is not always apparent or articulated. Imagine the salesperson who is not meeting budget but continues to believe they are doing all they can to bring in the business. When their manager suggests making changes, the salesperson pushes back, blaming the market, lack of support and other causes rather than reflecting on what they could learn that would improve their performance.

The salesperson above is likely to be quite self-accepting, feeling good about themselves. This is how we want a salesperson to be. On the other hand, the self-acceptance needs to be balanced with a recognition that they can still improve but developing further. If the desire to become better at what they do is absent, the result is a tendency to respond defensively to constructive feedback.

Have you tried to manage someone like this? 

Would it be useful for you to know why they act in this way?

We can help you find out – even before you hire someone – and prevent the frustration you feel. Contact us for more information.

 

Why are you wasting time?

We all know ‘time is money’ yet we are sometimes willing to throw away time to an extent most of us would never consider throwing away money!

Did you know, that if you spend just half an hour each day dealing with junk email, interruptions and other time-wasting activities, you are essentially throwing away over 3 weeks a year! What would you do with those 3 weeks if you could have them back? I’m guessing you wouldn’t spend them reading junk email…

Here are some reasons why you might not be getting to the important stuff that will really contribute to your success – and what you can do about it:

1. The not-so-important stuff is quicker and easier (and usually more fun).

Solution: Time for you to revisit – and use – the Urgent v Important time management matrix.

2. You are constantly interrupted.

Solution: Whose time is it anyway? There are ways to set clients’ and colleagues’ expectations about when you’re available and how quickly you’ll respond to their requests.

3. That important task is so big it’s overwhelming.

Solution: Work out how you can ‘eat the elephant’ one bite at a time. My favourite way is to just start. I set the timer on my phone for 45 minutes and do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes. Sometimes when it does, I’m so absorbed I just keep working.

4. The important things don’t seem urgent enough.

Solution: Create urgency for yourself by setting milestones and deadlines. It often works to plan to reward yourself when you’ve met the milestone. For example, you might go for a walk and get a coffee after you’ve called five clients.

5. You’re out of synch with your natural productivity cycle.

Solution: Get to know how your energy and focus levels change throughout the day and work with nature, not against it. For example, if you know your best time for concentration is early morning, do your big thinking in the first part of your working day and save routine tasks until later.

You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself.

These are just a few of the many useful skills you can learn from our latest workshop.  Please contact us for more information.

And please let me know below how you stop yourself from wasting time!

Finding tomorrow’s leaders

You are probably confident you know a leader when you see one. But how do you identify leadership potential?

Anyone with leadership potential is probably already a leader in many ways…

Do they:

  • Willingly help others without patronising them?
  • Speak up in meetings, offering original ideas?
  • Dare to challenge the status quo?
  • Express their ideas clearly and logically?
  • Volunteer for challenging projects?
  • Naturally gain respect and cooperation from others?
  • Speak enthusiastically and with conviction on the things they care about?

What would you add to this list? Please comment below.

Your observations of these characteristics are important in assessing leadership potential but they won’t tell you the whole story.

Before you invest in developing these potential leaders, we can help you confirm you’ve picked a ‘winner’. Contact us to find out how.

A lesson in valuing your intuition

Employee on the way out

When you have a decision to make, do you put more emphasis on analysis or intuition?

If you believe decisions must be based on logic, it could be time to listen to your heart a little more often.  That niggling doubt could be a sign you need to pay more attention to your intuition.

Initially trained as a biologist, I tend to put a high value on rational thought, reasoning and analysis.  These skills were important when I was trying to measure native snails’ eating habits or cotton plant growth.

Not so useful on their own in other areas, like solving problems and making decisions.  In fact, most of the ‘wrong’ choices I’ve made in life were made when I had switched off my intuition!

To give equal weight to intuition as I give to analysing facts is a skill I’m yet to conquer, with an unfortunate choice of holiday accommodation being my most recent lesson.

The best quality decisions are based on a balance of feeling and facts.  Dr Dan Harrison, founder of Harrison Assessments, illustrates this as one of twelve paradoxes.

When both the left and right brain functions are used, we are able to sense what is important at the same time as we analyse the situation.  Good insight is the result.

To find out more about enhancing the quality of your decision making, please get in touch.

To read more about the power of paradox, click here.

Have there been times when your intuition has saved you when analysis alone could not?

Giving feedback? Remember the other F-words

Feedback is one area some people struggle with when managing staff.  Remembering some other f-words could make it easier!

Here are some quick tips to giving feedback that will be well received and acted upon:

1. Always give feedback face-to-face.

2. Giving feedback on a frequent basis makes it normal and expected.

3. Be fair and consistent.  Take the time to recognise good performance, not just problems.

4. The feedback conversation requires you to focus on the person with you, without distractions.

5. Stick to the facts and don’t let emotions influence how you deliver feedback.  If you are feeling angry or upset, wait until you’re in a better frame of mind.

6. Have a plan to follow-up on your feedback to see if it’s been effective.  If you were expecting change and it hasn’t happened, try again.

You will have other tips you can add to this list.  Please add your comments below.

Three situations when coaching is a waste of time

Have you ever looked at someone you’re coaching – either a team member or a client – and  felt you just weren’t getting anywhere?

What is it that gives us that uncomfortable feeling?  Looking back over my experiences, there seem to be three main factors at play when coaching just isn’t going to work:

1.  They really don’t want to be coached

Even when a client has committed cash to being coached, there is sometimes a resistance to accepting there are things that can change and they have the power to change them.  For employees who have had coaching ‘thrust upon them’ this resisitance is even stronger.

2.  They actually hate what they’re doing

Many managers will try to coach/coax better performance out of staff when it’s clear that no matter what you do there’s one thing only the staff member can change:  How they feel about their job.  If it’s not a good fit, no amount of coaching will improve the situation.

3.  They expect you to tell them what to do

Much as we would like to be, coaches are not knights in shining armour arriving just in time on our white charger!  The ‘Prince Charming’ expectation applies equally with men and women.  Anyone who is waiting to be rescued from their situation by a coach is probably not going to make much progress with coaching.

For all these reasons, getting to know the person you will be coaching before any intervention is essential.

Even with good preparation and planning, the manager/coach can find themselves with the sinking feeling you get when you know you’re wasting your time.  You’re not going to get anywhere so why keep trying?

You have more productive things to do with your time.  The sooner you give up on your lost coaching cause, the sooner you’ll get to do them!

The 2 main reasons you don’t delegate

In my years of coaching and observing managers, one of the main obstacles I see the majority of them face is delegation of their work.

If I was to nominate one characteristic that would make the biggest difference to their chances of success (or stress) it would be the degree to which they are able to enlist the cooperation of others to get things done.

For most, the inability to delegate comes from one or both of these two main core beliefs:

1.  Nobody else can do it as well as I can.

2.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Here are some signs that delegation is not working:

  • Customer calls are not returned because of reliance on one person to know what’s going on;
  • Employees feel uncertain about what to do and keep escalating issues;
  • Important tasks get missed or forgotten because the team’s relying on the manager to make it happen.

The lack of delegation poses the biggest threat to a business in times of stress so pre-emptive action should be taken to avoid it getting to that point.  You can start by taking a closer look at those beliefs above:

1.  Nobody else can do it as well as I can

Is that really true?  If it is, I recommend you review your hiring and training practices.  More than likely, you do have staff who can do the job – so give them the opportunity to show you how well they can do it.

Until the work you do can be done by robots, accept that all humans are fallible (even you).  In most businesses, mistakes aren’t life-threatening and the sooner you learn to live with them the better!

Other people might do things differently from how you’d do them.  Isn’t that exactly what a business needs in order to adapt, grow and thrive?

2.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness

If this was really true, there would be no need for service industries to exist.  We’d all do what needed doing for ourselves, from installing antennas to running our own court cases.

Clearly that’s ridiculous, so why be so selective in getting things done that need to be done?  It doesn’t have to all be up to you!

Of course, you can choose to struggle along doing work to which you’re not really suited but how much better for you, your staff and the ‘Gross National Happiness’ if you’re mostly doing what you love and your team are given opportunities to excel at tasks they enjoy?

If I’ve achieved one thing with this article, I hope it’s that the next time you think “It’ll be quicker/easier if I just do it myself” you take time to challenge your beliefs and think about delegating instead.  Will you?

 

Hazard reduction, backburning or putting out spot fires?

As we experience our first bushfires of the season in the Blue Mountains, I think there’s a good analogy between the practices above and how managers behave.

Hazard reduction is the practice of burning, clearing and other practices done in advance of the fire season with the aim of reducing the impact of any future fires.  Back burning is when a fire is lit deliberately in the path of a bushfire with the aim of reducing the fuel load and slowing or stopping the progress of the fire.  Spot fires happen when a fire is underway and embers get carried into unburnt areas.

“I’m always putting out fires!” is a common complaint from managers.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

What if we use the bushfire analogy to avoid those management ‘fires’?

1.  Hazard reduction

  • skilled staff with the right attitude doing work they enjoy
  • adequate infrastructure, training and resources are available to do a job well
  • appropriate remuneration and benefits
  • clear and consistent policies and procedures
  • performance management systems in place
  • adequate insurance

2.  Backburning

  • disciplinary procedures
  • defined exit process
  • many team/morale building exercises, because there’s already a ‘fire’ when they’re implemented

3.  Putting out spot fires

  • immediate, on the spot decision making to avoid, contain or reduce damage
  • dealing with unplanned absences
  • summary dismissal
  • resolving client issues

Of course, just as with bushfires there are no guarantees but perhaps it’s time to ask:

What would you rather be doing?

Are you ‘success-oriented’?

What does it take to be successful in business?

Research published by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute surveyed the attitudes of 1100 small business owners (2-99 employs) in the US in May 2009.

What they found, according to the Institute’s director, Mark D. Wolf, was that “Success-oriented small business owners are a special breed of highly motivated, caring and curious individuals.  They effectively balance their personal and business goals, take advantage of others’ expertise and continually see to learn the best practices exhibited by peer companies.”

Here’s a summary, from the report, of the six dimensions that characterise success-oriented small businesses (emphasis added):

1. Collaborative

Success-oriented small business owners understand how to delegate effectively to
others within their business as well as build strong personal relationships with their
management team, employees, consultants, vendors and customers. They are more
committed “to creating opportunities for others.”

2. Self-fulfilled

Success-oriented small business owners place a high value on the personal fulfillment
and gratification that their companies provide them, relishing the self-determination and
respect that comes from being their own boss and being in control of their personal
income and long-term net worth. They are more desirous of “doing something for a
living that I love to do,” “being able to decide how much money I make” and “being able
to have the satisfaction of creating something of value.”

3. Future-focused

Planning for both the short- and long-term future are key traits that characterize
success-oriented small business owners. They are more focused on cash flow and more
likely to have “a well thought out plan to run our business for years into the future” as
well as “a well thought out plan to run our business day to day.”

4. Curious

Success-oriented small business owners are more open to learning how others run
their businesses. They actively seek best practice insights regarding management, business
innovation, prospecting and finding/motivating/retaining employees.

5. Tech-savvy

Technology is a key point of leverage for success-oriented small business owners. They
more intensely value their company’s website and are significantly more likely to “rely a
great deal on technology to help make our business more effective and more efficient.”

6. Action oriented

Finally, success-oriented small business owners are more proactive in taking initiative
to build their businesses. They are more committed to “taking the business to the next
level,” “differentiating ourselves from our competitors” and “having something to sell
when I’m ready to retire.” They also see adversity as “a kick in the rear to help move
you forward.” Not surprisingly, they are less concerned than other small business
owners about the overall state of the economy.

Success Tips:

1.  Most of these factors can be quantified using an objective measurement (eg.  Harrison Assessments), allowing you to clearly see your own – or a team member’s or successor’s – success orientation.

2.  Coaching is the most effective way for business owners to gain best practice insights through tapping into others’ expertise and experience.

3.  We have a copy of the full report for you to download here:  SME Success Orientation

Tell us what you think!

Leave a comment below or contact us .

Online coaching now available for small business owners

Have you noticed what I’ve noticed about small business owners?

In coaching small business owners since 2003, two things stand out for me…

1)  The most challenging issue they face is balancing their work with the other things they want to do in their lives

and

2)  They nearly all recognise the benefits of having a business coach but are often reluctant to commit resources to engaging one.

My desire to help as many people as possible achieve ‘balance at work’ led me to create a new way of delivering the benefits of coaching to anyone willing to commit some time each week to achieving their goals.

Click here to review our NEW ONLINE COACHING PROGRAM.

As always, I value your feedback.

And I also appreciate your help in letting others know about the program!

PS. IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

The program runs for 10 weeks and can be started at any time.

Online small business coaching is just $220 for the full program.

Most of us will probably spend that much on coffee in the next 10 weeks – I promise this is much better value for money!

How’s your balance?

A recent conversation with Thea Foster of Added Value Corporation prompted this article. Thanks for the inspiration, Thea!

We all know that to run a successful business, department or team requires consistent achievement across several disciplines.  Typically we need to perform well across finance, marketing, sales, service delivery, planning, technology and people.  And it’s quite common to see one or more areas get more attention, while others are neglected.  Thea calls this ‘playing favourites’ and most of us do it.

To find out if you play favourites, make a list of the outstanding issues in each aspect of your work (use the list above as headings if you like).  If you have a good balance across your scope of management, you will have roughly the same number of outstanding issues under each heading.

Perhaps you found one or two areas with a longer list of outstanding issues?

My prediction is that those are the areas of management you feel least comfortable handling.  It’s human nature to tackle the easy stuff first.  What comes easily to us will naturally be attended to first.  Unfortunately, that often means a log-jam of other issues that build up and stop us from moving forward.

You are not alone.

‘John’ is just great at finding new prospects (marketing), converting them to clients (sales) and providing them with all they could ever expect (service delivery).  You could say these activities are his favourites.  What John enjoys less is budgeting (finances, planning), dealing with IT (technology) and involving his staff in the business (people).  John knows these things are all important, but for him it’s more fun to be out there talking with clients.

Have I just described someone you know?

Or you might know ‘Jenny’.  Jenny has elegant systems in place to keep track of every action (technology, service delivery, people, planning) and every dollar (finances).  What she doesn’t like to do is tell the world about the amazing services she can offer (marketing, sales).

Both John and Jenny are not realising their full potential because the unaddressed issues are holding them back.

Here are the steps for improving your balance

1. Identify your ‘favourites’ – the tasks that you find easier than others activities.

2. Decide whether you are prepared to spend less time on your favourites so you can spend more time getting on top of issues in other areas.

3. If yes, identify your priorities, allocate the time and start taking some action now.

4. If you prefer to continue working on your favourite activities – which is where you will be happiest and most productive, take the time to identify what you should get someone else to do for you and how.

What are you avoiding right now?  What’s it costing you?

Once you’ve been through the exercise above, change will only happen if you make it happen.  Finding a coach or mentor to guide, support and keep you accountable will certainly help you to reach a better balance – sooner.

Remember to let me know how you intend to improve your balance.

 

"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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