Category Archives: Motivaton

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.

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

new employees

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.

Why, when and how business owners should ask for help

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

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

Could it be time for a reality check?

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

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

Why ask for help?

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

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

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

When should you ask for help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to ask for help

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

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

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

Things to consider before you ask someone to help you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 secrets for better teamwork

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

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

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

I like to take a more practical approach.

1. Choose wisely

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself:

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

2. Lead the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They also need to be held accountable.

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

3. Get out of their way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tolerating structure v ‘You don’t own me’

career help

The video below really puts a smile on my face. Could it be because I know – from my Harrison Assessments results, at least – that I have a very low tolerance for structure? I’ve learnt from experience that not everyone thinks like this and that there are benefits to having rules and regulations. For one, you wouldn’t want to go out on the road if you weren’t confident that most people follow most of the rules most of the time!

If you’re like me and want to do things your own way, read on for the tips I share below for living in a world full of structure. But first, enjoy the video! Apologies to those who think work comes before fun – you probably don’t need to read any further.

Tips for when structure matters more to others than it does to you

Firstly, I can’t claim to do all these things all of the time. They are just ideas designed to make us feel better about structure.

  • Realise that just because it doesn’t make sense to you, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. It’s fine to question the status quo but at some point in the past what you are questioning was important to someone.
  • Ask questions. As Stephen Covey famously said: “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Practice empathy.
  • Listen – don’t interrupt. When you think you know a better way, your enthusiasm drives you to share it at the earliest opportunity. Keep your ideas to yourself for now.
  • Influence gently. Once you’ve fully listened that is! Show don’t tell. You can demonstrate what needs to change and why.
  • Don’t kerb your enthusiasm. Any change – especially to the ‘tried and true’ – takes time. It’s your desire to make things better for everyone and the persistence that breeds will make the difference.
  • Be patient. Not everyone will want the speed of change and variety you seek, even after you have convinced them that the change is a good thing.
  • Pick your battles. You might not like doing things a certain way, but if it helps to make it easier for others to work with you then sometimes it’s best to keep your ideas to yourself. On the other hand, as the video shows, sometimes it can be harmless to break a few rules when no-one’s looking. But choose them very carefully!

[Tweet “Tolerating structure – it’s all about respect and empathy

You might not follow all these tips all of the time either. The first step is awareness and the second step is practice. Remember, if no-one questioned the way things are done, we’d all still be sitting in caves chewing raw meat. One change in the way things are done that definitely relied on demonstrating a newer, better structure.

Three steps to hiring for the culture you want to create

assessments for recruiting

Have you ever tried to change the culture of your organisation? Wouldn’t hiring for cultural fit in the first place be better?

Some of the consulting work we do centres around changing an organisation’s culture – something which is ingrained and difficult to budge.

But what if you could set the culture from the moment you hire somebody?

If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’, then it’s not beyond your power to design it for your organisation.

One place to start is with your hiring and selection processes.

Technical ability and soft skills usually take pride of place when we hire.

While I don’t dispute these are basic and important, ignoring cultural fit can be where the seemingly perfect match comes unstuck. How can you avoid this trap?

1. Know what culture you want to create

What’s important to you in your work and your dealings with colleagues, clients and suppliers? How do you want the world to see your organisation?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are organisations!

One may focus on delivering their product or service as efficiently and inexpensively as possible.

Another may highlight the importance of staff engagement to deliver the best client and financial outcomes.

At Balance at Work, for example, we pride ourselves on how much we care about our clients and are known for going ‘above and beyond’ to help them achieve their objectives.

This attitude is the foundation of our culture and helps us identify who we want to attract, employ and work with daily.

2. Have a strategy for finding the right people

Once you’ve defined the culture you seek, it’s time to ensure you are seeking staff who align with your culture.

There are several parts of the recruitment and selection process that give you the opportunity to make decisions related to getting the best cultural fit:

  • The advertisement: Make it reflective of your culture, not a cookie-cutter generic ad. Also, be honest. Only use the phrase ‘fun place to work’ if it actually is.
  • Screening resumes: Look for experience, interests and skills that indicate a good fit, including those outside their employment. For example, if it’s important in your culture to help others, then look for volunteering. If teamwork is important, what have they done that shows it’s important to them too?
  • Interview: The interview is your big chance to describe the culture and to ask questions specifically aimed at finding out more about cultural fit. Make sure you are using behavioural questions that give the candidate an opportunity to describe how they work.
  • Objective assessments: Using psychometric surveys that cover values and motivations will help you see how well the candidate’s views align with your culture.
  • Reference checking: Get in the habit of asking referees to describe the culture in the candidate’s previous or current workplace(s). Tip: you also need to ask the candidate why they wanted to leave. Often it’s the culture that has driven them away. If your culture is different, you now have a great way to attract them to work for you if they meet all your other selection criteria.

3. Get help

You can easily get feedback on your culture, what works and what doesn’t, from your existing staff and other stakeholders.

They’re also well-placed to help you identify what you need (and don’t need) in your new hires to build your desired culture. Some questions you could ask:

  • How would you describe our culture to someone who doesn’t know our organisation?
  • What are the qualities you think a person needs to be an excellent fit for our culture?

Armed with this information, you can then fine-tune your recruitment and selection processes to screen for cultural fit.

Want to create the culture of your dreams? It all starts with the right people.

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

Find Your Joy at Work – Relate to Your Boss

Relate to your boss

You know the saying, you can choose your friends but not your family. The same can be said for business, where you meet and interact with all types of people. Being able to work effectively with them is important to getting on with the job and creating a positive work environment. You don’t have to be Richard Branson to know the secrets to career success and job satisfaction are significantly related to the quality of your work relationships. Particularly how you relate to your boss.

It’s a bit like dealing with your significant other or maybe even the kids. It depends on trust, respect, support, guidance and you really need to pick your battles wisely. Keep in mind, however, your boss is in a position of power, influence and status. This is regardless of your own assessment of their experience and wisdom.

Your boss may be brand new, all knowing, micromanaging, a buddy, intimidating, indecisive, apathetic, a workaholic, she may even be working in another location. Whatever characteristics or situations are in play, it is in your best interest to make the relationship work for you and the business. I have experienced a number of bosses and have had an interesting time navigating the personalities with some successes and career limiting failures.

Seek mutual support, trust and respect to relate to your boss

‘Managing up’ is a technique commonly bandied round online and was advice given to me for a new and inexperienced manager. In theory, it sounds OK. In practice, however, it can appear manipulative and self-promoting, and might even label you as a ‘crawler’, or ‘groveler’, if you spend too much time managing only your boss. Instead try focusing on mutual support, trust and respect with a communication strategy that skilfully ensures these are achieved.

A number of years ago I recall getting quite frustrated with my boss, I felt we were having some communication problems. By the way, he is male and I am female. I did wonder if the Mars and Venus cliche was operating at work. If I mentioned an issue he had to fix it when all I was doing was just getting it off my chest. Then there were times I wanted to run a couple of things by him and was keen to get his opinion.

We decided we needed help to clarify our needs so we devised the jelly bean strategy. If I wanted to just chat I grabbed the green jelly bean. If I needed some advice I grabbed the red. It was a bit of fun but just discussing the problem and deciding on a mutual fix improved our respect and reduced misunderstanding.

There will always be differences at work in the ways men and women, manager and team member communicate, solve problems, react to stress, earn respect, and ask for what they want.

Understanding yourself and what makes you different can help you to relate to your boss constructively to reduce conflict and frustration. Then you can develop a working relationship that will be good for the business, but more importantly healthy for you.*

We help our clients work better together with a range of tools and resources. Call us today on 1300 785 150 to find out how!

*Provided you don’t eat too many jelly beans!

What’s Your Story? #13 – Louise Longhurst

What's your story?

Louise is an energetic senior manager skilled in sales, marketing and customer services. As an accomplished leader she is motivated by guiding people to unlock their potential and make their own choices.
Extensive experience in organisational change management has given Louise a healthy understanding of its benefits and impact in the workplace. Its lasting effects are a commitment to the achievement of happiness in both our personal and professional lives.

What’s your current position and what do you do?

Louise LonghurstManager Client Projects at Balance at Work.
I understand the challenges confronting business today, expectations high, workloads ever increasing, results, goals, objectives, targets are ongoing in an environment of change. At Balance at Work our clients are seeking solutions and tools to best manage their people and culture to meet these challenges. My role is to ensure our services are delivered effectively to address our clients’ specific needs and requirements. I am committed to customer satisfaction and service best practice.

What other activities are you involved in?

I have been known to dabble in a bit of community theatre, I have had the great pleasure playing a selfish Inn Keeper, pompous Duchess, desperate Widow, and   ruthless proprietor of the city’s worst public toilet! I enjoy a day sailing in Pittwater, however when we’re racing it’s all about following the captain’s orders, very difficult when he’s your husband. I’ve also been seen horse riding but the post aches and pains are limiting this activity.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No, I saw myself as a nun and then a teacher, I guess that’s what was around me at the time.

What was your first job?

Working in a behavioural sciences lab at university looking after rats and carrying out some interesting tests on the delightful creatures. I had a couple of pets that had the run of the department.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Living in the Solomon Islands for a short time exposed me to a wonderful culture and community. I found a job as a high school teacher in the local school. I scuba dived among the WWII wrecks and got to know some great people with whom I am still close friends. It opened my eyes to new cultures, people and experiences and was the beginning of a yearlong trip across Europe and Asia.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My husband stands out, although he knows I hate being told he has been a rock and is probably one of the calmest people I know. His mother is in the same category and has given me much to aspire to.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

Sailing round the world, meeting people, experiencing cultures.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Be kind to yourself, find your strengths and use them, understand your weaknesses and don’t be afraid or critical of your vulnerabilities. Try lots of different things and embrace change, don’t be scared to of calling it quits when you have given it your best and know it’s not right for you. Sing more.

We’re all in this together

new employees

Some new business owners struggle with how to treat their ‘competition’.  Do you research what they’re doing? Do you try to beat them on price? Do you even try to undermine their integrity? What if collaboration is a better option?

It can be difficult when you’re in start-up mode not to have a negative view of your competitors. They are already established, they already have the clients you would like to have and they may the staff and infrastructure you can only dream of at this stage.

Here’s why:

  1. They already know the market and they’re talking to your potential clients;
  2. They’ve made mistakes you can avoid if you know about them; and
  3. Most people want to help you because it makes them feel good.

Learning from what your competitors do well, and tapping into what and who they know, can be a real short-cut to getting your business off the ground.

Getting to know your competitors (and I don’t mean spying on them!) will be one of the best steps you can take towards having a successful business. Ask yourself: How can I help them? What expertise, tools and experience can I offer that will support their success?

A friend of mine calls this ‘coopetition’. I’ve built my business on close relationships with other businesses that outsiders would see as my competition.

If you are still hesitating about picking up the phone and having that first conversation, give us a call first. We are always open to opportunities for collaboration and happy to help with tips to start you on your ‘coopetition’ journey.

 

"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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