Tag Archives: communication

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 1: Communication

Last week’s article on the ‘Top 5’ critical skills in short supply in Banking and Finance generated a lot of interest.

As a result of your feedback, we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at each of the 5 areas of skill shortage in turn – beginning with communication – and give you some practical tips for survival.

For a quick summary of what you can do right now,  see our earlier post ‘The five step skills shortage strategy’.

Without excellent communication skills in all your staff, you will find they can’t:

  • build good relationships with clients
  • provide customer service that meets your clients’ expectations and needs
  • explain things well to clients
  • understand what clients need
  • sell your services and/or products
  • work together productively

From just that short list, imagine what poor communication could be costing your business!  But how can you know?

Signs you might have a problem:

  • customer complaints or (worse) losing clients who just leave without telling you why
  • low levels of business referrals (see previous articles on this topic)
  • lack of cooperation and teamwork, maybe some bullying
  • careless and/or expensive errors
  • losing good staff to competitors

What can you do about it?

1.  Be a positive role model

Communicate regularly and openly with your clients and staff.  Make sure this includes listening to what they have to say to you.

2.  Diagnose communication skills gaps

There are many tools and approaches on the market to help you do this.  We would be happy to help you find the right one for you.

3.  Fill the gaps

This may require drastic action that involves one or all of the following:

  • putting poor communicators where they can do the least amount of damage
  • improving the skills of your existing staff through training and coaching
  • hiring staff with the communication skills you want

If there are communication problems in your team, I guarantee without your intervention things can only get worse.  What do you plan to do about it?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business? (continued)

Following on from our article last week – ‘How referable is your business?’ – see below for a further two tips on how you can build up your referral business.

Step 3 – Acknowledge your clients’ fear and make them look good

Your client may often wonder whether the referral process will take up too much of their time and whether their reputation will be hurt if you don’t follow up properly. Think about the client’s needs first, not yours. The referral process needs to reflect well on them and make them look good.

To overcome these fears, explain your referral process and the outcomes of any introductions. This could include following up referred clients promptly and letting the referee know how it progresses, building their confidence in the process. A successful outcome with a referred client strengthens the existing client relationship and should lead to more referrals.

Step 4 – Get the client to articulate your value

At the end of every client meeting ask the client to articulate the value they’ve received. If they say things like ‘I never thought of that before’ or ‘thanks, that’s a great idea’, this is a perfect trigger to have a conversation about who else may benefit from your expertise.

Importantly, your client needs to tell you about the value they’re receiving so they ‘sell’ themselves into the idea of referring you. You can’t badger them into agreeing with you about the value you think they’ve received!

The Bottom Line

There are multiple, ongoing opportunities to talk with your clients about referrals. Examples include when you solve or prevent a problem, when your client buys from you and when you follow up. The key is to look for ways to provide value to your clients and to have a systematic client contact and referral process that your business is comfortable with and that your clients trust.

If this is underpinned by an awareness of what your clients think about your service, then you will have ‘earned the right’ to have the referral conversation and you will be closing the gap between the number of clients who currently refer business to you, and the number that could be.

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2 – Stop hoping – plant ‘referability seeds’

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

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

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Four simple questions to bring you more referrals

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Who do we help?

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

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

2.  What do we do for them?

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

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

3.  How do we do it?

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

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

4.  Why should they choose to work with us?

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

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

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Looking for fresh ideas? Ask your staff!

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

Are you making the most of yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What makes a good manager?

What makes ‘a good manager’?

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

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

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

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

If you missed anything, we can probably help you.

Contact us to find out how.

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

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Is ignorance really bliss?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you ignoring right now?

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

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

Can we help you?

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

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

We look forward to your feedback!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Top 10 of 2010

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

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

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

We look forward to reading your comments!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Your easy performance management checklist

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

How do you assess the value of your process?

Here’s an easy checklist:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Ten Top Tips from Savvy CEOs

Last Tuesday, the PricewaterhouseCoopers  Master of Business Series hosted a panel discussion on ‘How can I harness the passion of my people to fuel my business growth?’  This is a topic of interest to all managers, so I’ve provided a summary below.

The panel members were:  Steve McCarthy (CEO, Adshel), Tracey Mitchell (MD, Mitchell Personnel Solutions), Paul Jury (National GM Recruitment, Talent2) and Kirsty Rankin (Joint CEO, Pinpoint).  The discussion was facilitated by Russel Howcroft, CEO Australia and NZ, Y&R (and ‘Gruen Transfer’ panelist).

A number of themes arose in the discussion regarding the expectations of today’s employees, including:  flexibility, community involvement and charity, training and development, a reputable employer, leadership aligned with their values.

Here are my top ten tips from the panel:

  1. Keep your promises, including clarity about what the role entails. 
  2. Know what kind of culture you want.  We don’t tolerate laziness, bullying or politics. 
  3. It’s possible to provide benefits that cost very little, such as flexible hours, but give great returns in loyalty and productivity.
  4. You can’t keep giving ‘trinkets and groovy stuff’ to motivate staff.  What they want is authentic leadership.
  5. Nobody wants to work on their birthday, so give them the day off.  Also, let staff take ‘odd job days’ from their sick leave instead of pretending to be sick and taking ‘sickies’.
  6. We found our problems managing ‘Gen Y’ ended when we stopped calling them ‘Gen Y’ and started treating them as individuals. 
  7. Paid maternity leave, followed by flexible work has been worth 100 times the cost because we were able to keep a valuable employee. 
  8. Interviewing is unreliable in selecting the right people because you will get those who look right but are wrong and those who look wrong but are right for the role.  More information results in better decisions.
  9. For innovation and improved processes, ask your staff “What are ten things you are doing that are time-wasting?”.  Then listen, acknowledge and implement!
  10. We want to be a ‘dickhead-free-zone’ because ‘dickheads are why people leave’. 

What tips would you give other managers in response to the question: ‘How can I harness the passion of my people to fuel my business growth?’  Please share your ideas below.

By the way, Steve McCarthy has agreed to be interviewed for a series we are planning for 2011.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy hearing his many insights on leadership.