Tag Archives: leadership

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

We’re all in this together

collaboration

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

Seven key questions to ask about your team

 

Do you have your ‘dream team’ working happily and productively in your business or your department?  Perhaps you feel there’s still room for improvement.  Below are seven questions to help you identify the gaps in your team’s effectiveness, with ‘best practice tips’ for your consideration.

1.       Do we know what we’re trying to achieve?

Does everyone on your team understand the strategic plan and how the team’s successes (and failures) impact the achievement of the organisation’s goals?  How involved were they in setting the goals of your team?  Could they explain the goals to others?

Include the team in planning and clearly communicate how the team’s performance will contribute to the organisational goals.

2.       Is every team member committed to our joint goals?

You will know the answer to this question through observation and questioning.  Having a common goal is not enough in itself to ensure success, commitment is also required.  Sometimes lack of commitment can be due to a clash between the goal and the individual’s expectations.

Check in with your team members that the goals are consistent with their personal values and aspirations.

3.       How likely are we to achieve our goals?

Do you have the best combination of competencies for what you’re trying to achieve?  If not, how will you add these resources – through training, outsourcing or hiring?  Have you set clear expectations for both work performance and behaviour within the team?

Build teams for future as well as current needs.

4.       Do we understand and value our individual strengths?

Do you know in detail the experience, skills and talents of each team member? Are they respected for their specialist knowledge? Do they get an opportunity to use their strengths?

Delegate tasks and responsibilities to individuals in their field of expertise to give them a chance to shine.

5.       Do we communicate well?

Does the team leader effectively and appropriately share relevant information in a timely manner.  Does every team member get to express their opinion in an environment of respect and openness?

Introduce practices, such as meeting agendas, that allow all members of the team to contribute without feeling threatened.

6.       Are we all willing to lend a helping hand?

Is there a spirit of cooperation, with team members going out of their way (and outside their designated roles) to get the work done to achieve your team objectives?  Are team members happy to collaborate and share information and resources?

As with communication, a good team leader will model the behaviour that is expected from the rest of the team.

7.       Are we having fun?

Work is work and it can’t always be a party, but if people genuinely enjoy the work they do and the company of their team, you will achieve a lot more.

Celebrate your successes and when things go wrong, avoid blaming others.

What do you think?

Reflecting on these questions may have prompted some thoughts about how to improve your team.  Don’t let them be lost! 

Your next step is to decide on what actions you can take and plan how you will implement those actions.  Write it down, share your ideas and ask for help from both inside and outside your team.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Where’s all this leadership leading us?

We had leadership programs running constantly, but when a decision had to be made everyone stepped back and waited for someone else to make a move.

Evidence of crises of leadership fill our news feeds daily. Yet leadership development, coaching, books and seminars are a growth industry.

With all this education, why aren’t we getting better decision making from our leaders?

The opening comment was made to me by a former executive of a major bank. I have no doubt the situation is the same in most big institutions.

This is what I think is happening:

  1. Lack of personal direction   Instead of being guided by an internal compass aligned to corporate goals, quasi-leaders’ values are conflicted.
  2. Lack of personal consequences   Apart from a few noticeable exceptions, quasi-leaders get away with bad decisions, or no decisions, many walking away richer.
  3. Fear   When the going gets tough, quasi-leaders look to the past instead of the future.

Instead, we should expect the following from our leaders – and be selecting, training and supporting them accordingly:

  1. Values   – that produce decisions that serve the company and the community.
  2. Accountability   – acceptance of the responsibilities of being a leader.
  3. Courage   – to make the difficult choices.

What do you think?  What would you change?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Two surprising reasons for poor performance

Sometimes a person or team just isn’t achieving, even though their skills, knowledge and experience indicate they should be doing well.

What’s going on?

Often, the answer is deceptively simple. By taking time to diagnose the reason, you will be in a better position to fix poor performance – fast!

1. Don’t know

– what’s expected, what’s important, where to start, how to start…

Some possible reasons and solutions:

  • Too short a time in the job – address the ‘don’t know’ factors
  • Too long in the job – consider other options

2. Don’t care

– they know what’s expected, but they’re not motivated to do it…  (this one is harder to fix)

Some possible reasons and solutions:

  • Purpose not articulated – do it now
  • Purpose articulated, but doesn’t excite (the ‘so what’ factor) – move on, recruit more carefully in the future

How do you fix performance problems?  Please let us know below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three steps to successful collaborations

collaboration

This post is part of a series on collaboration. See this previous post for more on how working together can work for you.

A recent article on the dangers of collaboration started me thinking of the proactive steps we can take to avoid the risks inherent in a collaborative effort.

Like many people, my experiences range from significant disaster to sucessful win-win relationships. You can learn from my mistakes.

Here are the ‘success factors’ that I believe can make all the difference:

1. Identify in advance what the pay-offs will be for each party from the relationship

Unless both parties stand to gain equally from a joint venture, there will always be an unequal distribution of effort and interest to make it work. This is one factor you can’t neglect and which needs to be monitored, evaluated and renegotiated as you go along.

2. Know who you’re working with

This seems obvious but how well do you really know the other person? In particular, do you know how they will react to stress?

As we court potential joint venture partners, we are usually at our politest and most agreeable. You also need to know what might happen if it all goes ‘pear-shaped.

Also get to know the personnel of your potential joint venture partner. Who will be responsible for what? Who will you be working with closely?

3. Set clear expectations – for everything!

You need to consider everything – from the time you expect it to take to respond to an email to how profits will be shared.

Business collaboration is a unique relationship. You are both client and supplier to each other. This requires you to observe the same professional standards you follow with your other clients and suppliers.

Collaboration in any venture can add diversity, interest, personal development and contributes to the overall stock and sharing of human knowledge. For me, working with a co-author on a current project has been challenging at times. However I know the result will be of much higher quality and originality than if either of us worked alone.

Could you create successful collaborations using these steps? What benefits could be awaiting you?

As usual, I’d love to hear your story. Please share your experiences (good, bad and ugly) with collaboration, so we can learn from you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Succession: Your people plan

People are the key to a successful business succession plan, but do we always pay enough attention to the human side of this critical business process?

For example, planning for a transition period should include knowing in advance:

  • How well will you get on with your successor(s)?
  • What are their beliefs and attitudes around money?
  • How are they likely to treat your clients and your staff?
  • What will be their role in your business before you depart?
  • What are their strengths and how will these benefit them in your business?
  • Ultimately, would you trust them to run a business well without you?

If you find yourself in a succession planning phase without satisfactory answers to these questions, my advice would be to get the answers you want or don’t proceed. Going ahead regardless will invite unecessary stress into your life and limit the chances of your business surviving.

We help our clients work their way through the human factors.

You’ve heard the horror stories about business succession. Don’t add yours to the list!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

A lesson in valuing your intuition

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?

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

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?